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)