Monday, August 25, 2008

An Overflow of Experience

Life has been evolving here at a lightning pace. Weeks pass like they were days, and the days are overflowing with not only the experience of the new, but also with discussions of the old... Kerouac, Frank Lloyd Wright, Michelangelo, Dylan, Hermann Hesse.

We went to our first milonga (tango gathering) last week. Even though it was a Monday night the doors didn't open until 11pm and the band didn't start till 1:30 in the morning. Buenos Aires is no doubt a city of the night. I find myself looking at the clock here at 4 in the afternoon and feeling like it's still morning. The city does that to you. Time seems different, skewed - as if I were looking at it's reflection in a fun house mirror.

We had friends over for dinner the other night. Our first dinner party in Buenos Aires. Guests included two sisters from Chile, two Americans (via Austin and New York), and my Canadian friend and his Lebanese wife. I still find myself amazed at the eclectic mix of people we find ourselves amongst out here. So many fascinating stories and so many extraordinary paths.

My friend Brian mentioned the culture shock he encountered upon returning home from his honeymoon in Hawaii not to long ago. It made me think about what my first visit back to the States might be like after living here in Argentina. I can't even imagine. By that time I will most likely have been gone for at least a year. It will be so different to me. I envision the places I know to have grown infinitely smaller, and the supermarket aisles to feel so incredibly vast. I am forever changed by what I'm experiencing. I stare out into a night window and realize that the place I am growing used to, the place I am calling home, is so far removed from my last 5 plus years spent on the beach in California and the Wisconsin corn fields I played in as a child.

My thoughts drift back to something I wrote the other night: Sometimes when you are in the ocean floating about, with the horizon hidden and revealed by cresting waves, it is difficult to see the big picture. Alternatively, when you are on the outside looking in there is no way to know what that mighty blue mass is all about, unless for a time, you have submerged yourself within it and rode in the shadow of its waves. It is "the experience of the experience", of an ocean in a sea of oceans, with winds that both howl and echo, and marvelous days that always die at the unbending hand of time, in the face of partially revealed truths.

Currently Reading:
Narcissus and Goldmund

by Hermann Hesse

Currently Listening To:

G. Love & Special Sauce
Yeah, It's That Easy

(I fixed the issue with leaving 'comments'. Anyone should be able to leave a comment now regardless if they have a google account or not. Also, I shaved off my pork chop sideburns last week. Thought you should know.)

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Vodka and Stripes

I find myself beginning to catch a rhythm here. After 6 weeks the word 'Dissonance' is starting to loose some of it's punch. As I look in the mirror at my frailties as an immigrant, I find my strengths as a person being reflected back at me through the friends I've met here who are also living abroad. The weaknesses feel fleeting, less consuming and a sturdiness holds itself better to my disposition.

This weekend may have been a turning point. Kind of like when you start a puzzle and you finally have just enough pieces laid down to recognize what you're building. These few random answers that made their way to me were not to be found in books, or the ink of my leaky pen. It was not in the wise words of a friend or in the triumph of a goal achieved. Instead it was found amidst one too many vodka drinks, a striped mask, empathetic laughter, and in the unjudging eyes of one close friend.

Friday, against my urge to keep working and studying, we accepted a friend's invitation to go out, and for one night we just let go. I drank in life, both distilled with age and colored with sentient voices. At the top of an iron spiral stair case, in a home I've never been, I was given vodka drinks mixed with traveled lemon twists of ambient life. And later on, under the red and blue lights of a sugar coated bar, I found my voice and my words dancing still into the raspy early morning hours.

I walked home slightly skewed, but there was a boldness in my boots that's been asleep in my shadow for some time now. I don't know if it's awake, but I at least know it's waking up.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Harmony, Dissonance & Frosted Flakes

For this first month and a half in Buenos Aires we are staying in a 3rd floor lofted apartment located in a more Bohemian part of the city. Living one floor above us is a professional opera singer, and most afternoons she warms up by practicing the piano. Her ivory key marches are followed by the most beautiful harmonic vocal scales. Even though her sounds are muffled immensely by the concrete that separates us, what does resonate through brings a calm abinding to this small loft we call home. In contrast, the city streets below carry traffic and noise that is less than calming. The roar of diesel buses and the sounds of daily late night trash collectors permeate dissonantly through our windows. It is these two things that helped to bring me to the words harmony and dissonance.

As we persevere through the first few weeks of acclimating to a entirely new culture South of the equator, those two words stand rich with meaning. They will represent my triumphs and my failures. My understanding and my ignorance. The reciprocity of life.

In these early weeks of living here though it is the things that are dissonant relative to where I came from that stand out in my mind more often than not. Examples include: I can't believe the extraordinary amount of mullet haircuts I've scene down here, including one that I thought only to exist in the mythical world of hobbits and unicorns - the dredlock mullet. It will be years I think before I get used to winter being in the middle of July. I have forsaken Google Maps for a paper map of the city that I've used so often it's falling apart at the creases. They have boxes of cereal with Tony the Tiger on them, and while the contents seem to be exactly the same, they're called Zucaritas. Eggs are not refrigerated in grocery stores and the milk we buy comes in bags. Restaurants don't open for dinner until 9pm.

I list these things not as complaints or as things that I wish were different, but rather as things that are out of harmony from what I've known to be norm for so long. And I remind myself that normal is a word that as my years go by I become less and less fond of.

With each passing day, slow but sure, harmony is seeping its way in. Just like our shower here that drains onto the bathroom floor every time we use it, I know over the course of time these things will all become increasingly more and more transparent to my mind's eye. My first few showers here were followed by a 'what the f@#k?' in reference to the draining water. Now the cleanup has already become a part of daily life that I give little or no thought to. I imagine that to be the same for the Zucaritas, the bagged milk and all the much deeper cultural differences we find ourselves walking amidst here. I will say this though - if a mullet finds its way to my head I guarantee some part of me has given up.

Currently Reading:
The Pearl
by John Steinbeck

Currently Listening To:
Into the Wild Sountrack
Eddie Vedder