Sunday, November 23, 2008

The Ghosted Beach Town of San Bernardo

Journal Entry 11-20-2008 3:34pm

For the first time in many months I am sitting and writing before the ocean blue. It's actually more brown than blue here but the endless waves are calming to the soul nonetheless. This time ocean is the Atlantic, which seems in my mind slightly less romantic than its Pacific counterpart I used to live next to, but that argument holds up for only a few seconds. It is crushed by all of the places my mind wanders to when I gaze out past the waves towards the Eastern horizon.

I am not home. Far from it. I couldn't tell you where I am from a non-geographic standpoint, and I guess for what it's worth that is something special in itself. If we were to look on a map the name of the place we find ourselves is San Bernardo, Argentina. It resides on the Atlantic Coast, a 6 hour bus ride south of Buenos Aires.

It's been almost three months since we've ventured out of the Buenos Aires. As the months compile without us having left the city's borders the idea that something actually exists beyond all the concrete and cobblestone seems less and less plausible. The shear immensity of the city is apparent whenever I climb to roof of our apartment 25 stories up and gaze at the endless sea of buildings that extends as far as the eye can see. Grasping the view up there is one thing, but riding the energy below is a whole other, thus our necessary sojourn. With money tight right now as we try to figure out what exactly it is we are doing here in Argentina, our options for escaping the city for awhile were somewhat limited. Thankfully we were fortunate to have a friend offer us the keys to his family's beach house here for a few days, while it sits empty before the big summer rental season that steadily approaches.

San Bernardo is an interesting place. In my eyes it stands as a ghost town on the Southern Atlantic whose layers of paint flake and crack in the faded sun of its soul. With it's lifeblood only really flowing during the two peak summer months of January and February, it stands as an old weathered amusement park that's seems like it's been lying dormant for years. Apartment buildings rise up everywhere on the city's three mile stretch of beach front, yet it is a task to find one with shutters open. Nearly all are vacant rental properties. Of the dozens of restaurants we pass, only a few that are open for business. A handful of people walk the streets, most of whom seem to be business owners preparing for the tourist season. Fresh coats of paint waft up from nearly every block. In ratio to the amount of people, we see just as many, if not more, stray dogs wandering, lying and gimping around. Most of the dogs, as friendly as they are, have seen better days. They remind me of the ghosts of lost children who forever haunt the streets and beaches in longing for the golden years of this amusement park town, in hopes of maybe scrounging up one more peso out of their parents pocket for an ice cream cone or another shot in the arcade. Like a handful of orange trees haphazardly planted with an apple orchard, old concrete structures stand erected with no facade amidst the newer apartments, sometimes 15 stories high, abandoned as skeletons before they were ever finished. In other places rebar grows from crumbled concrete like ancient, petrified, rust seedlings, frozen by weather, time and circumstance. It is unclear how 'golden' the golden years might have been here. The town has had to weather not only mother nature but the turbulent times of its country's past as well. Like looking at rings on tree, it's clear some years here were more nurturing that others.

The old warped boards of these sun-dried stairs I sit on along the beach seem to long to know their place here in this South American world just the same as the shifting shadow that follows me. The footsteps that brought me here across the sand have already blown away as the relentless ocean wind howls it's persistent tune. These are not the easiest of times, but they are beautiful in all of their unconventional ways, beautiful just like this empty little beach town. I can say with certainty that I think I would like this town less if its streets were buzzing with tourists and the fading remnants of yesterday were absent from its framework. It has character and that is something time has not taken away.

I am thankful to be here walking amongst the humble ghosts of this old amusement town, breathing its fresh clean ocean air and having one of my biggest worries be how much its sand I collect in my shoes.


The old stairs on the beach where I sat and wrote.

Saying a long overdue 'hello' to the ocean.

Annie walks with her new friend.

One of the many old neon signs found up and down the street.

Abandoned and newly constructed buildings
are woven together in the fabric of the town.

Remnants on the thoroughfare of another time.

Sunrise on San Bernardo.

Peering at new apartments through the remnants of an old store front.

More neon.

Much like an amusement park, the city is accented
with color everywhere. It was a welcome change
to the grays of the big city.

One of the old empty amusement lots on the city's main street.

An empty amusement park quietly waiting for the summer months.

An old out of commission go-kart track on the ocean's edge.

Annie makes 3 more friends as we wait for the bus back to the city.

Currently Reading:
The Old Patagonia Express:
By Train Through the Americas
by Paul Theroux

Currently Listening To:
Song: Nightblindness
Artist: David Gray

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