Monday, December 28, 2009

Bariloche or Bust

Bariloche Hike - Day 1

"Keep close to Nature's heart... and break clear away, once in awhile, and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods. Wash your spirit clean." - John Muir

We spent the week before Christmas in Bariloche, Argentina, a mountain town in the heart of the Andes. Surrounded by snow-capped mountains and lying in the heart of Argentina's Lake District, Bariloche has been dubbed by some as the Lake Tahoe of the South America. For Annie and I it stood as a reprieve from the sometimes maddening congestion of concrete, people and diesel air that is Buenos Aires. For me personally it was a chance to go out on a four day solo trek in the mountains.

25 Hour Bus Ride
25 hour bus ride.
Buenos Aires to Bariloche.
Concrete to mountains.
Height by floors
to height by altitude.
Rolling out across the plains,
and more plains.
Double decker bus.
Three meals of ham sandwiches,
and duche de leche cookies.
Into Patagonia
and the endless expanse of chaparral,
and nothing.
Nothing and dust.
Dust and cattle bones.
Cattle bones and powerlines.
Sticky sun-baked bus stations pass.
The windows feel warm.
We rock and sway.
Dip and curve,
through brick and tin towns.
Sporadic sleep.
Book pages turn.
Movies fill the monitors.
The first in English.
Then two in Spanish.
The last in Japanese?
And we're there.
Real. Mountain. Air.

It took us 25 hours by bus to get to Bariloche. My time there would highlighted by a solo excursion in the surrounding mountains. While Annie relaxed in town, my big green pack and I went off the grid on a four day trek that took me through forests, both dead and alive, and above the tree line in the rock and snow. It was the heart of the spring melt and flowing water was not only a near constant sound, but a frequent source for me to quench my thirst. I would spent two nights sleeping alongside clear blue alpine lakes, and one in the solitude of a damp and flowing green valley. Not only were the wooded valleys and snow capped mountains I traversed interesting, but so were the hikers from Austria, Germany, Scotland, Australia, Argentina and the United States that I met along the way.

Bariloche Hike - Day 1

We walk, pack laden.
Over gnarled stone
and through tombstone trees.
On the ridge we stop for water.
I hear only wind
and plastic bottles.
And then Danny's harmonica.
Dead forest blues.

All and all it was a solid trip. One of physical endurance and mental rejuvenation. Lungs filled. Thoughts expanded. I left wanting more.

Check out all the photos from the trip on flickr here.

The book that made the hike with me:
The Best Short Stories of Jack London
by Jack London

Currently Listening To:
Song: Baltimore Blues, No. 1
Artist: Dear Tick (myspace) (iTunes)

For more on how I first ended up in Buenos Aires check out the first post of Harmony and Dissonance.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Sketch of the Day: San Telmo Bass

San Telmo Bass
The above sketch and haiku were inspired by a visit to the big Sunday market in San Telmo, a barrio of Buenos Aires.

San Telmo market
Street performer serenade.
Cobbled and alive

Currently Reading:
Confederacy of Dunces
by John Kennedy Toole

Currently Listening To:
Song: Zebra
Artist: John Butler Trio (myspace) (iTunes)

For more on how I first ended up in Buenos Aires check out the first post of Harmony and Dissonance.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Sketch of the Day: La Boca

La Boca
The above sketch was inspired by a visit to the neighborhood of La Boca in Buenos Aires, specifically the area of it known as Caminito.

La Boca

Next to the murky waters

of an old port canal
we walk on cobblestone

through corrugated tin colors.
Accordians and meaty grills

waft in the damp air.

Vendors line the streets

selling tourist trinkets.
I look for something

amidst the pulsing square.

Something that isn't frill.

Finally I find it

hovering like a ghost

in the reverence

of an old man

and his polished violin.

Currently Reading:
Fight Club
by Chuck Palahniuk

Currently Listening To:
Song: Juicy
Artist: Emily Wells (myspace) (iTunes)

For more on how I first ended up in Buenos Aires check out the first post of Harmony and Dissonance.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Stand By Me (in the Cemetery)


To me some of the most fascinating aspects of modern civilizations are the structures that are abandon for decades and left in disarray. Fragments of what were once functioning parts of a municipality but because of technology, economy, war or any other number reasons, have been discarded and left behind with only a few people around who know the whole tale of their past. Places where mother earth has been slowly breaking down and taking back what was once hers. An amusement park on the outskirts of town. Old grain silos near the port. It was recently though that I discovered abandoned piece of Buenos Aires that was slightly more macabre.

My friend Nate and I recently took a trip to Chacarita Cemetery, the largest cemetery in Buenos Aires. Unlike Recoleta Cemetery, a popular tourist attraction in the heart of the city, Chacarita sits out near the end of the red subway line, Linea B. Similar to Recoleta is houses many open above ground tombs where caskets sit in plain site, however, a large part of it also exists underground. Throughout the grounds marble stairs descend down into immense corridors full of vaults. These underground hallways are spread out underneath the cemetery like an underground college campus.

The cemetery owes much of its immense size to the yellow fever epidemic of 1871. Even much of the concrete wall that encircles it is stacked full of vaults, and in some places they are stacked 25 feet up in the air. What most people don't know, and Nate and I discovered that day, is that there is a back part of the cemetery that is abandoned, hidden from view behind an inner wall of vaults. It was here that I experienced one of the freakiest moments of my life.

This area is accessible to anyone, a person just has to walk far enough to see opening in the wall that leads in. In this abandoned area sits the remnants of an old mausoleum about 15o meters long and with almost all the vault doors missing. It stands forgotten by the city and forgotten by time. When we first stumbled upon it we stood in awe. All around the structure lay fragments of marble vault doors, pieces of weathered coffins, and the shiny crucifixes that once adorned them. Above us, like out of a Hitchcock movie, birds flapped and fluttered, disturbed by the unusual presence of people, or at least living people, near their graveyard home. As we walked amongst the debris it was only a minute of two before we started discovering human bones. A vertebrae here. A femur there. We were speechless.

As we surveyed the perimeter of the structure we noticed large glassless windows at the base and peered in through the iron bars. Underneath the crumbling mausoleum was a corridor of vaults that sat in greater disarray then what lie above ground. We decided to search for a way down, while keeping an eye open for maintenance workers. The main stairwell down at the center was bricked off with shards of broken glass splintered across the top to prevent intruders from climbing over. The second stairwell on the far end was bricked and glassed as well however in part of the wall there was a rusted metal door. If we were to get down there this would be the way. We gave it a tug. Birds flapped out of the archways above scaring the hell out of us. It was unlocked. We caught our breath, checked one more time to make sure no one was watching us, and then made our decent.

I won't describe in detail on my blog what we saw in shadows underneath that mausoleum. What I will say is that what was above ground paled in comparison to that which was below. The 15 minutes we spent walking down were 15 of the eeriest moments of my life. Nate and I both agreed, it was like we we're in a horror version of the movie Stand By Me. And that is how the painting at the top of this post came to be. It is derived from a climatic scene in the movie that takes place not long after a group of friends discover a dead body along the railroad tracks. When I look at it I think not of the four kids in the movie, but rather what Nate and I discovered one day at the cemetery.

Here's preview of pics from the cemetery (click to enlarge).
Check out the rest of the pics on flickr.

The abandoned mausoleum

Currently Reading:
Lord of the Flies
by William Golding

Currently Listening To:
Song: Dead and Done
Artist: Bobby Long (myspace) (iTunes)

For more on how I first ended up in Buenos Aires check out the first post of Harmony and Dissonance.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Raiders of the Lost Park


For a couple of months now my friend Ty and I have been planning a bike ride to an abandoned amusement park, Parque de la Cuidad, on the outskirts of Buenos Aires. Spring rain had canceled our last few attempts to get there, however, a few days ago, under a warm South American sun, we finally made it happen. According to maps the ride would take us through some sketchy parts of town so we packed light, and did our best to not look like outsiders. Unfortunately there's only so much two 30-something white guys over six feet tall can do to not look conspicuous in a part of town that doesn't get to many imports. It probably didn't help either, at least not while on the bikes, that we both had decided to wear white t-shirts and camouflage shorts that day, although later on I would be thankful for my choice of garments.

Parque de la Cuidad first opened in 1983 and based on what I've found online was open less than 10 years, making it left for dead for almost 20. When Ty first discovered this place a couple of years ago a security guard was posted at the main gate however people were still free to meander through the ramshackle never never land. Unfortunately when we arrived a few days ago we were saddened to see that the gates were gated and locked. Hating to have biked an hour just to see the outside of some old park we made the executive decision to lock up the bikes near the property line and jump the fence. We had no idea if security guards still patrolled inside and there was of course the chance our bikes wouldn't be there when we got back, but we decided to chance it anyway. The two hours after jumping the fence were probably two of the most surreal hours of my life.

(left) a sea of trams | (right) atop the big drop

Check out all of the photos Ty and I shot at the park on flickr here.

What transpired inside? The day after walking through the park I wrote down some of what happened. Below is what leaked out of my pen...

Raiders of the Lost Park - November 5th, 2009

Bike riding,
through city and shantytown.
On the outskirts of town.
Destination vacant amusement park.
Destination faded fun.
Main gates locked equals
time to jump the fence.
And we're in.
No sign of security.
And time stands still.

We walk through images of youth,
frozen and rusted over.
Void of people,
but full of brown flaking steel,
and sun-bleached plastic color.
Full of awe just the same.
Everything green is overgrown.
Birds squawk and holler everywhere.
Parrots, hawks, a sanctuary.
No sign of security.

We walk and we climb.
Climb on everything your not supposed.
Over turnstiles.
Up maintenance steps.
To the top of the giant coaster drop,
and back.
We climb on tracks.
On top of coasters.
We cut every imaginary line.
No sign of security

Nothing works,
and everything works,
in our heads at least.
We push moving parts.
They shriek and squeal.
We laugh.
We snap open Heineken's.
Two beers equals
part of "packing light".
We chill on a plastic and metal,
outdoor table for four,
next to the tower,
the "space needle".
We move on.
No sign of...wait.

"Down" says Ty under his breath.
We lie flat,
beers in hand.
75 yards away,
he's traveling by scooter on the access road.
He didn't see us.
We wait.
We sip.
He's gone,
and we're up,
heading in the opposite direction of 'him'.

Another roller coaster.
More jungle gym climbing,
and then to the carousel.
We push it,
like a merry-go-round.
It creeks, groans,.
and reluctantly spins.
We leave our beer cans on the revolving steel mass.
Our sign that life passed through today.
Off to the bumper cars.
We move 'em,
and blacken our hands
on decaying rubber.
Manual collisions.
Ty scrapes his arm.
Tetanus shots? We're both good.
No sign of security.

On through a figure eight go-kart track,
and its petrified go-karts,
parked like cars after the apocalypse.
We survey other no-named caged rides,
and survey the sun.
It's sinking.
We could spends days here,
but we gotta jet.
while there's still light.
Back to the bikes we head.
No sign of security.

We arrive at the tree line.
The property line.
Near the fence.
And a taxi.
Are the bikes still there?
We hide under the cover of trees,
and our camo shorts.
Why are they here?
How do we get out?
Deep breathe. We wait.
The cops leave.
A window of opportunity.
We head for the fence,
for the quick escape.
In haste I snag my hand on the barbed wire.
Is it bad?
Not sure. Gotta jet.
We unlock the bikes in negative 5 seconds
and were outta there,
both with minor injuries.
Battle wounds.

The hand's tender, but ok.
Just scratched up.
The taxi?
He saw us but no worries.
He was in a fender bender.
Thus the cops.
Just ironic timing and location.

I arrive home an hour later.
After dark.
I soak my wounds,
tell some stories,
and sleep like a rock,
or rusted roller coaster.

The sign of security.

(Two things - 1: There's no way I would have gone out there without Ty. It wasn't exactly in the best part of town nor open to the public (at least not when we were there). 2: Were it not for the previous bike explorations of my friends Jen and Ty I would never have heard about this place. Any photos I shot or things I make inspired by the trip are a direct result of their awesomeness.)

Currently Reading:
Monkey Wrench Gang
by Edward Abbey

Currently Listening To:
Song: Outlaws
Artist: Joe Purdy (myspace) (iTunes)

For more on how I first ended up in Buenos Aires check out the first post of Harmony and Dissonance.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Bringing Halloween and Frankenstein to Life


This marked our second Halloween is Argentina. An interesting facet of living abroad is the loss of experiencing holidays as we know them, and the gain of a slew of holidays that are void of personal meaning. These "special" days combined with reversed seasons (summer in winter, etc.) are just enough to continually perpetuate the bizarro-world feeling that lies just under the surface of daily life. A kind of cultural limbo. We do our best to add some normalcy to the Holidays we grew up with. For our friends Jen and Tyler that meant carving watermelons. Yep. Pumpkins are out of season here so they found the next best thing. As for us, while there were a handful of expat halloween costume parties happening, we decided to avoid the thunderstorms that were drenching the city and just kick it inside. We threw Pulp Fiction in the DVD player and I set out to paint something that fit the occasion.

Say hello to "Frankie". Brought to life Halloween 2009.

Photo used as reference:
Boris Karloff as Frankenstein

Currently Reading:
Monkey Wrench Gang
by Edward Abbey

Currently Listening To:
Song: Borne On The FM Waves
Artist: Against Me! (myspace) (iTunes)

For more on how I first ended up in Buenos Aires check out the first post of Harmony and Dissonance.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Rusty Piece of Crap Awesome Bike

Sketch of the Day 10-26-2009: Plaza San Martin
Sketch of the Day: part of a sculpture at Plaza San Martin

Took a break from the studio and cruised the city on two wheels the other day. Found half an abandoned submarine, an abandoned 10 meter diving platform, saw a guy pee in the middle of Plaza San Martin, ate lunch next to three mullets at a street vendor in Puerto Madero, crossed the widest street in the world twice, went through Plaza De Mayo, past Congreso and made it home unscathed. All in one gear on my rusty, piece of crap, awesome bike.

(above) half a submarine

(above) a piece of the old city stuck in the middle of the new

Currently Reading:
Monkey Wrench Gang
by Edward Abbey

Currently Listening To:
Song: This Coastal Town
Artist: Reed KD (myspace) (iTunes)

For more on how I first ended up in Buenos Aires check out the first post of Harmony and Dissonance.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

A Sketchbook Entry

Sketch of the Day 10-20-2009: Casa Rosada

A balmy Tuesday.

The sun is warm.
Reading Edward Abbey,
Monkey Wrench Gang.
Wanting to burn down billboards
and desert mountain roadtrip.
I want to paint rebellion on suits
and dance to banjo blues.
Heading out into the city soon.
The concrete abyss.
Museum bound via subway.
Past a big pink house (Casa Rosada),
to put new noises in my head.
- Jimmy Danko 10-20-2009

We took a trip to the Fortabat museum in Buenos Aires the other day. The collection, which among others, includes the likes of Rodin, Dali, Klimt, Chagall and Warhol. My favorite piece of the day though was by an Argentine artist named Carlos Alonso. It was a portrait of Van Gogh on a bright red background called La Oreja (The Ear).

my latest sketchbook and favorite pen

I've been thinking lately about how I'd like to post my blog entries more frequently, at least on a weekly basis, so today (above) begins a new idea. In addition to my normal entries (that help save the world from imploding), I've decided to start posting some of the journal entries/sketches that find their way to the pages of my homemade coil bound books. Kinda like a weekly stream of consciousness.

Almost always I have a sketchbook with me. With exception of the metal coil, they're completely reconstituted from materials destined for recycling bins at the last advertising agency I worked at. Over the 3 years span I spent there I saved enough scraps to make almost 2 dozens sketchbooks, most of which sit waiting to be filled. When filling them the one rule I have is this: try to remember there aren't any rules. The cover of the current one is made up of pieces of newspapers from some of the cities I was in during a trip back to the States in July. Combined with a couple of text files on my computer, the pages inside exist as parking spaces for the traffic jams of thoughts that pass through my mind, well...the ones that both resonate and refrain from incriminating me anyway. The process of putting them down somewhere allows me to let go of them upstairs, making room for new crazy shit to fill up the space. I can come back and reference them anytime, but I don't have to mentally carry them with me. A way of putting order to the chaos. Method to the waves of madness.

So this is the first of hopefully many glorious and magical world-saving sketchbook entries to come. Thanks for reading. Hope you liked it.


Currently Reading:
Monkey Wrench Gang
by Edward Abbey

Currently Listening To:
Song: Evelyn
Artist: Gregory Alan Isakov (myspace) (iTunes)

For more on how I first ended up in Buenos Aires check out the first post of Harmony and Dissonance.

Monday, September 28, 2009

The Remodel Revisted

When we moved to Buenos Aires in July of 2008 the plan for living here was always open ended. We had no idea where life would take us and how long we'd stay. In some cases that hasn't changed, however slow but sure we've recently been hearing the States calling us back, and last week we decided to put our home here on the market. What does that mean? I'm not really sure since moving anywhere revolves around the sale of our home. Plus we have no idea where we'd even be moving back to, so a great deal of uncertainty stills abounds in our daily lives. In the meantime I figured I should at least share the before and after pics of the apartment I said I'd post while we're still actually living here.

Eight months of our time in Buenos Aires was consumed by the remodel of this place. When we found it, it was nothing but an empty space with concrete floors and pillars, on the top floor of a 25 story building. The bathroom was a closet with a broken toilet. There was no kitchen. What it did have though was an unobstructed view of the city and amazing potential. It was a blank canvas.

The eights months that followed were challenging ones. Anywhere a remodel can be a stressful and difficult undertaking, but doing one in a foreign country where they don't speak your native language complicates things even more, e.g. dealing with different construction techniques, different tools, etc.

During the final four months of the remodel we lived within it. Definitely not a strategy I recommend for staying sane, but in the end we survived. When we first moved in the windows were yet to be installed allowing the wind to come through unabated. Our kitchen sink was a 5 gallon bucket on the terrace, and battles with concrete dust, or 'muthaf##king concrete dust' as I often referred to it, were a daily occurrence. At night we slept on a single size bed split in two. I took the box-spring and Annie got the mattress. Eight months of construction didn't exactly help us make any fans amongst our neighbors either. One of them, an old retired cop, even went as far to call us his enemigos (enemies). I've never had someone tell me I was there enemy, and in Spanish no less. How awesome is that?

In the end though it was an experience I am thankful for. It was extraordinary interaction with the culture here where I learned not only a great deal about Argentina, but also about myself in relation to having the world around me flipped upside down for months at a time. As for the home, since it's completion I've come to think of it as a piece of artwork. One that I helped design and work on for many months. Until we move on it also remains, not only our home, but the place where I create, hang and share my newest work - Gallery 24B. Gallery 24B is open by appointment, and if you're interested in stopping by just send me an email and we'll figure out a time to make it happen.

Remodel Before and After pics (click to enlarge).
More info our place can be at

Currently Reading:
by Peter Matthiessen

Currently Listening To:
Song: Pet Elephant
Artist: The Traditionist (myspace) (Daytrotter)

For more on how we first ended up in Buenos Aires check out the first post of Harmony and Dissonance.

other DANK links:
Check out my artwork |
Facebook | add him as a friend
Twitter |
follow Jimmy (on his quest to take over the world)

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Got Sumo?

A few days ago I had the chance to go see a sumo wrestling exhibition. Serious. Yes, I agree. In my mind, going to see a bunch of mostly overweight men slam dance in a 10 foot ring while wearing not much more than a giant thong seems likes a freakish thing to go do. I imagine that statement holds true almost anywhere in the world outside of Japan. Ok, maybe anywhere it's true, however, the thought of seeing it in Buenos Aires seems even more incongruous to me. In a city that's best known for its tango night-life, empanada-filled coffee shops and grilled meat, going to see sumo wrestling exists not in the realm of something freakish to do but rather in the realm of fantastically awesome. Something that in ways seems so wrong but through extreme obscurity becomes so right. Who would have guessed that in this giant South American city a small band of men, and two women, would routinely congregate in a secluded, concrete-walled courtyard, behind a martial arts academy and gloriously battle in the name of sumo. Not me.

#72 on the life 'To Do' list - GO SEE SUMO WRESTLING. Check. I'm sure the vast majority have already seen live sumo wrestling, but in case you haven't, here's where to go to see it in Argentina.

Currently Reading:
A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius
by Dave Eggers

Currently Listening To:
Song: Fault Line
Artist: Black Rebel Motorcycle Club (myspace)

For more on how we first ended up in Buenos Aires check out the first post of Harmony and Dissonance.

other DANK links:
Check out my artwork |
Facebook | add me as a friend...I dare you
Twitter |
follow Jimmy (and his newly acquired sumo style)

Sunday, August 9, 2009

There and Back Again

After 3 weeks in the States I find myself in Buenos Aires again. It feels both weird, and good to be back. Home. Hmmm. To tell the truth, I can't say I really know where home is anymore, but this where my paint brushes and t-shirt collection reside, so I guess we can call it that for now.

While back in the States I tried to explain to friends what the three week trip to the U.S. meant to me. I told them that I felt like a battery on low needing to be recharged with Americana and the smiles of friends. And that's more or less what happened.

Geographically the trip started with a few days in San Francisco, took us up into the Sierras around Lake Tahoe, and then from there road-tripped us down the coast to San Diego. The following are some of the thoughts and experiences that stick out in my head from the journey. To put some of them in perspective, they come to you from the viewpoint of an American who hadn't been in America for over a year.

  • The first night in San Francisco I remember walking into a Walgreens in The Mission, and getting lost in sea of choice. My mind was overwhelmed by how much different shit there was to buy inside one store. No, I didn't need a quart of motor oil, a half-gallon of soy milk, my film developed, or a new hunting knife, but the fact that those things were all immediately available to me seemed fantastical.

  • A year is not a long enough time to forget how to drive. It is a long enough time to worry that you forgot. It is also a long enough time to forget I am part of an elite, highly adept group of 14 or 15 people who actually know how to drive.

  • In And Out. Double Double. Animal Style.

  • There is something in the pine trees and elevation of the Sierras that makes me want to disappear into the mountains, live off the land and periodically get into skirmishes with tourists and local law enforcement. Kinda like Rambo.

  • While standing in front of the infinitely long wall of cereal boxes at the grocery store, and knowing that this was my chance to choose the box of cereal I missed eating the most, I chose Life. (How awesome would it be if there was a cereal called Death?)

  • The foods I miss the most are sushi and Mexican. In that order.

  • Monterey is a beautiful place but I can't help but wonder what Steinbeck would think if he knew all the coffee shops there close at 6pm, all the park benches awkwardly double as tombstones, and Cannery Row is now an outdoor Disney-esque shopping mall.

  • There are few things in this life that are on par with being able to sit around a table with a group of friends you haven't seen in over a year and know subconsciously that those friendships haven't skipped a beat.

  • The drive from L.A. to San Diego is seldom uneventful. This time it included a pickup truck pulling a 5 foot trailer full of 20 feet of flames.

  • Going for a ride in your friend's two seater airplane and doing a complete loop is better than riding any roller coaster...on acid...with your Mom.

  • My dentist in San Diego, Dr. Joe, is the greatest dentist...ever.

  • On our final day in San Diego I got up at the crack of dawn, and drove on the empty Sunday morning freeways to the beach. I stripped down to shorts, walked through the cool sunrise sand and I went for a 20 minute swim/body surfing session by myself in the ocean. In a sense it was my way of saying goodbye to California and Pacific for awhile. It stands as one of my favorite moments of the trip.

My three weeks in the States were important ones. They were a reminder I can always go back. To all the friends old and new I saw on the trip...thank you. I carry your energy with me now as I walk once again on a different continent far away.

My friend asked me a couple a days ago in an email to define the word 'romantic'. I told him this: To me 'romantic' is getting to a place in life where you have no idea where home is anymore, and quietly knowing that when 'home' want's to, it will find it's way to you.

I have no idea where home is anymore, but I know it's out there looking for me.

Currently Reading:
A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius
by Dave Eggers

Currently Listening To:
(on this recent trip I had a chance to see a friend from my San Diego days play gig at Slim's in San Fran. She was good when I left, but she's kicking even more ass now. Check her out.)
Song: All The Same To Me
Artist: Anya Marina (myspace) (
twitter) (iTunes)

For more on how we first ended up in Buenos Aires check out the first post of Harmony and Dissonance.

other DANK links:
Check out my artwork |
Facebook | add me as a friend...I dare you
Twitter |
follow Jimmy (and the rise of the Gorilla Empire)

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

28 Hours Later

"This is your Captain speaking...Welcome to the United States of America."

After 28 hours that included a 45 minute taxi ride, 3 planes, one three hour delay on the tarmac, crossing the equator, flying from the East Coast to the West Coast, the cities of Buenos Aires, Washington D.C., Los Angeles, and San Francisco, a 20 minute ride on the BART, and a 15 minute walk to a friends house will all the luggage, I am finally taking a deep breath and breathing in Californian air. During this crazy long trip these are some of the things I've noticed:

  • It's warm here.

  • I have a love-hate relationship with my u-shaped airline neck pillow.

  • It is amusing to see the contents of a seven year old girl's pink Barbie bag dumped out and checked for WMD's by a large mustached security guard.

  • It was good to see the good ol' brown skies of L.A. and the augmented views beneath it.

  • I can speak to strangers English.

  • It's 2009 and I could be 10 feet away from the gate agent talking on the PA system and the speakers still make it sound like she's sending communiqué from Saturn...through her ass.

  • 3 take-offs, 3 landings, and 3 "single-serving friends" is probably too much for one day.

  • It's good to see black people again. America is an incredibly diverse country.

  • I'm kinda over using airplane bathrooms for awhile. I don't understand how can have to go so badly in my seat, but after I make the grand isle walk in front of everyone, and I'm standing in that sanitary plastic, vibrating, slanted-ceiling closet in the sky I have to spend three and half minutes talking myself into letting go of all the terrorist-free bottled airport water I've been drinking.

  • After one day in the confines of a secure cookie cutter airport community, I feel ok about blogging about going to the bathroom.

  • I feel called to complain about arriving 6 hours late in San Francisco but then I remember the comedian Louis CK and think about how I just jumped the eqautor and like five fucking time zones, not to mention the fact I was flying there the fucking air, I guess I got some time to spare.

  • And lastly, I need a shower.

It's good to be home...

Currently Reading:
A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius
by Dave Eggers

Currently Listening To:
Song: Nick Drake Tape
Artist: Clem Snide (myspace)

For more on how we first ended up in Buenos Aires check out the first post of Harmony and Dissonance.

other Dank links:
Check out my artwork |
Facebook | add me as a friend...I dare you
Twitter |
follow Jimmy (and the rise of the Gorilla Empire)

Saturday, July 11, 2009

A Trip Home

In a few short days I will set foot on American soil for the first time in over a year. Three weeks along the coast of California. In many ways the idea of that is hard for me to comprehend.

For over a year I've been disconnected from many of the people, places and things that have helped shape who I am today. For the majority of my time in Argentina when I would be returning home for a visit remained up in the air. Because of that uncertainty of return I learned to hold the things that I missed most at a cautious distance. I think of it as a survival technique more than anything. Buenos Aires is a vast flat noisy concrete city. If I constantly thought about how much I missed the Sierras in California and the solitude that can be found within them, my mindset here would be clouded, heavy and lack the focus that would enable me to take in all that is beautiful and different here.

As months went by that cautious distance became a way of life. I learned to muffle my longings, i.e. eating good sushi, having Thomas' Honey Wheat English muffins for breakfast , slicing open a juicy pomegranate or seeing the face of an old friend on a bar stool next to me. It never meant those longings weren't there or that I didn't invest time into staying connected with friends, but I had to choose how tight I'd let the grasp of those things be on me day to day in order to maintain the health and stability of my own smile. When we purchased our airline tickets about a month ago that wall of cautious distance began to slowly come down. I started thinking more and more about all that I missed because I knew soon I would have access to again.

For all the beauty and growth that has come to me during my time in Argentina, it does not negate the fact that after a year away I miss home (the U.S) something fierce. To be around the culture that flows innately through my blood, the language that drips from my pen, the landscape that's worn out the soles my favorite brown boots, and the friends that road-trip through my highway of memories.

I wonder when I return if there will be parts of home I won't recognize, or if home won't recognize parts of me. I imagine on some level both those things will be true and that is how things are supposed to be. Nothing is static except change. I also imagine this first trip home will be the most moving just because it is 'the first' and I have no previous experience that I can relate to it.

What I wonder probably most though is what it will be like to step off the plane in SFO, see a friend for the first time in more than a year, and know that I'm home.

Currently Reading:
Cannery Row
by John Steinbeck

Currently Listening To:
Song: California Stars
Artist: Jeff Tweedy


Sunday, July 5, 2009

One Year in Buenos Aires

Exactly one year ago from July 5th I left the United States to give this whole 'living abroad thing' a shot. I can't say at the time I really knew all that I was getting into but I guess at heart of it all that was kind of the point. To enter the abyss of the unknown. To attempt to see the world from a different perspective. To immerse myself into the art world of Buenos Aires. To learn.

When I look back it doesn't seem like a year. More like 2 or 3. It hasn't always been easy either. In fact there were times, like when we were living amidst the concrete dust of a never-ending remodel, that I'd climb atop the water tower on our rooftop, lie on my back despondent, and wonder what the fuck we were doing here. As Winston Churchill said though,"If you're going through hell, keep going." And we did.

Living here has given me a new appreciation for the word immigrant, and how difficult it can be to be one. I look at my Grandparents and Great Grandparents, who moved to the U.S. from Poland and Slovakia before the time of internet, email and Skype, and marvel at the spirit they must have held to be able to leave their homeland, venture out across the Atlantic into a big unknown world, all while knowing their were most likely on a one way trip. If they were around today a million questions I would have for them. They spoke little or no English, yet just like countless other immigrants, each played their own small part in making America, a country of immigrants, what it is today.

During my year in Buenos Aires I have also learned to live without certain things. DVD's and books have taken the place of cable TV. Email and Skype are my cell phone. Buses, taxis, the subway, my bike and my feet have taken the place of driving a car. I still find it hard to believe though that I haven't driven in over a year, especially with how much I love a good roadtrip. Eventually, I know one day I'll have these things back again in varying degrees, but I imagine I'll hold them in a different light next time around.

Definitely the high-water mark of our year here came this past Friday, July 3rd. After 9 months of remodeling the place we bought, followed by 2 straight months of me sitting in front of my easels, we opened the doors to our home/gallery, Gallery 24B. It was a special night, one I will not soon forget. The perfect culmination to one year of living here. We figure around 100 people came through our doors, many to see my art, some to see our home, and a few who had no idea why they were there, but were willing to celebrate anyway. I think of it as the pinnacle of our time here thus far, but for me, it was the realization of a vision that's lived a life that's extended much longer than one year's time. I think back to when I was a kid. There were two things that made sense to me more than anything else - creating and exploring. I loved getting lost in my ice cream bucket of crayons as much I liked getting lost in the corn fields that surrounded my childhood home. That desire for exploration, both creatively and geographically, grew more with each passing year. Thus to be on the top a building in the Southern Hemisphere, standing in a room filled with my art and people who had come to see it, was indeed a surreal moment. I tried to talk to each person that made it out that night, and lost much of my voice in the process.

the calm before the storm | see more pics from opening night at Gallery 24B here.

photo by Beatrice Murch | see more pics from opening night at Gallery 24B here.

What now? I know Buenos Aires is not my train's last stop and I have a longing to be back in the States, but I don't feel like I've done everything I've set out to do yet in Argentina either. I do feel like the most difficult part of my time here is behind me though, and that's a good feeling. There are still many parts of the culture I want to see and experience, and my Spanish definitely still needs quite a bit of work. More than anything though, I want to keep painting and getting work out into the world, and I know this is a good place to do it. A close friend of mine congratulated me yesterday for climbing this mountain, a mountain that's taunted me for so many years. I told him that indeed the mountain has long laughed at me, however somewhere along the way I learned to laugh back, and once I did it's power over me shrank with each passing day. What I've also come to learn though is that it is not a single mountain, but a range, and none in that range I climb alone. When someone where's my shirt, hangs my work in there home, or merely passes on words of advice or support to me, they climb it with me. Right now my eyes are on the next mountain - making a living off of this stuff...and yes, I'm doing my best to laugh at this mountain too.

Staring at the city from atop the water tower above our apartment.

A big shout out to Annie, my partner in crime through all this here in B.A.
No one deserves my thanks more than you babe.

Currently Reading:
Interviews with American Artists by David Sylvester

Currently Listening To:
Song: Fuck Was I
Artist: Jenny Owen Young (myspace) (itunes)