Gonzo journalism in the Americas. Join g. as he zigzags across the continents in search of all that is fun.
Monday, August 13, 2007
Come-on Braveheart lets Dance with the Dead...
I'm in Santiago de Chile now. I got in last night and met up with Ana again. She was coincidentally coming to Chile for the weekend. So after seeing her in Buenos Aires, I got to again hang out with her and learn more about documentary film here in Santiago. Lucky for me she had booked a hotel room at the Crowne Plaza, which is probably one of the nicest hotels I've been in. The business center has several very fast computers, which I am now taking advantage of. It is a beautiful day out but I feel like I need to get some work done on the blog while I have access to this high quality office space.
Buenos Aires was incredible. It is truly a 24 hour a day city. In the four days I was there I think I slept four hours. After leaving Palermo Hollywood and the offices where Ana is working out of, I headed straight downtown to my new hostel. I had read up on Milhouse Hostel before I left the states and it basically said that it is THE party hostel of Buenos Aires. Figuring that I only had a couple of days to chill in BA, I decided this would be the place to meet some fellow travellers to hang out with. Well that took all of 5 minutes. I got my stuff into my shared dorm room, which had 4 sets of bunkbeds and a bathroom. There were cage style lockers for our belongings and once my stuff was locked up, I head out into the city to have a look around. The hostel is located a block off of Avenida 9 de Julio, which is said to be the widest street in the world. With four or five lanes of traffic in each direction and a giant obelisk in the center, it was quite impressive. I grabbed a couple of empanadas and had a cafe cortado before going back to the hostel to see what the evening had in store.
When I got back inside Milhouse, there was a definite bustle about. Twenty or so travellers were drinking big beers and chatting loudly creating a really cool buzz about the big room. In the back corner I saw some guys hammering it out on the pool table. Never one to turn down a challenge in a little eight-ball, I wandered over and dropped a coin on the edge of the table. A couple of guys from Brazil, looked at me and said, pointing to the guy shooting, this guy's a shark. I said that I'd give it a try anyway. They looked skeptical. A couple minutes later, the guy they warned me about dropped the eight ball and now it was my turn.
I slid the token into the slot, pushed in the lever, waited the customary couple of seconds and pulled the lever back out. The balls, all fifteen of them dropped into the internal channel and started their rolling and jeering towards the opening. Duck, Duck, Duh-Duh-Duh-Duh-ck-ck-ck-ck. Such a familiar and welcome sound to my ears. No matter where on the planet one finds themselves, a pay pool table always sounds the same... I slapped the triangle onto the table and pulled the balls out two per hand until they were all in the rack. I quickly posted them solid, stripe, solid, stripe, put the eight ball in the middle and lightly pushed the triangle into position. I gave the balls a snug and lifted the rack off, not a ball moved. I grabbed a cue from the corner, chalked it and headed over to meet the shark.
"Name's Kevin," he said in the strongest Scottish accent I've heard. We shook hands and began the contest. With solid crack the balls scattered about the table and one by one, three of them dropped into the pockets. Unfortunately they were all solids too. Kevin made shot after shot and soon it was a rematch. After getting my rear-end handed to me several times, I finally got warmed up. By this time people were watching this furious battle of billiards cheering us on. It felt like I'd ended up in the pro billiards tour. Kevin is a social worker in Scotland, and so we all kept saying, "SOCIAL WORKING!" as he dropped the balls in the pockets. Big bottles of Heineken were being consumed as fast as the balls hit the pockets. Moments later I found myself staring down a tough cut to sink the eight ball. The stakes were high... ten people watching. If I made it, I would win. If I missed, Kevin had an easy shot on it and I'd lose. Ahhh the suspense. A guy from California, that had been watching from the sidelines looked at my shot and said, "better play it safe, there's no way to cut that."
I stared that eight ball down until the spot started to quiver. "I'm going to cut it," I said, defiantly and with authority. I chalked my cue and took a deep breath. This is it I thought and drew the cue back slowly several times. I had nearly the whole table's worth of green felt between the cue ball and the eight ball, with the eight up against the rail right in front of the center diamond. With confidence, I shot the cue ball hard and straight grazing the eight. The cue ball was on its return to me and the eight ball rolled slowly but surely right along the rail and dropped. I sighed with relief and smiled at Zach, the guy from Cali. He smirked and said "Sweet shot."
Probably three hours later, I finished up playing pool and head out into the Buenos Aires night with my new friends... Zach and Brendan from California and Kevin and Martin from Scotland. It was two a.m. when we left for the bar, Shamrock, an Irish pub. We didn't get home until after the sun had come up. I got two of my four hours of sleep that night with all my clothes on including my down vest. It wasn't that I was drunk, I was just so tired that I couldn't be bothered to get undressed.
Ana had told me that I really needed to visit the cemetary in Recoletta. It sounded like a good place to get some photos. I envisioned a giant green field filled with tombstones, but when I arrived I found that the whole place was filled with big marble and granite mausoleums. This was the cemetary of Buenos Aires' bourgeois. Eva Peron, aka Evita, the famous wife of Juan Peron, a famous president of Argentine history, is buried here. These mausoleums were fantastic. Many of them were like mini churches. Some were run down but most were impeccable. I wandered around and photographed all afternoon. The sun was shining and the weather was beautiful. Incredibly gorgeous Argentines wandered the rows upon rows and tourists, like myself, weilded cameras like battle swords, hording around the famous graves.
After getting my fill of the dead, I wandered around the plaza in front of the cemetary and church looking at all of the artists' works. There was some great art to be seen. I then made it into the CD, which is a mall of cutting edge desing for homes. Like an Ikea but really cutting edge contemporary stuff. The colors and shapes and textures were such an eyeful that I just soaked it in non-stop. Recoletta is so hip and cool. I thought about how I could just run tours for interior designers to this area of BA.
When I walked out of the CD, I went into the contemporary art museum next door. I just couldn't get enough of this place. I was just in visual overload. I spent some time in the museum and then headed out into the night of Recoletta. As I was walking to catch a taxi, people were filing into the church for Saturday evening mass. These Argentines were dressed to the nines, and I felt like I was in Beverly Hills. Big beautiful cars pulled up to the church and wonderfully dressed people filed out and stood in the courtyard of the church. I could only imagine the extent of the who's who that were coming to this exquisite neighborhood of Buenos Aires. Not to mention, I needed to keep remembering to pick my jaw up off the ground as one after another, the most beautiful women I've ever seen filed through the plaza.
After I couldn't handle another drop of beauty I head towards Milhouse thinking I'd skip the Discotheque tonight and get some sleep. When I arrived, the Californians were waiting and had a different idea. They were keen to go catch a B-side soccer match. Buenos Aires is famous for their soccer so I decided I would join them. We caught a taxi and the driver was kind of weird about bringing us there. I couldn't really figure it out but when we got near the stadium and it started to look like south-side Chicago, I started to understand. Zach and Brendan are both bigger guys and that helped calm me as we joked if we'd ever get out alive. When we got in the stadium and I saw the cops dressed in full riot gear, I really wondered if this was a good idea. The match was fun and the Argentines welcomed us. It was crazy but we got out unscathed.
After a dinner of steak and red wine we signed up to go to the disco with the hostel group. We went to a giant club called Pocha and there were probably two thousand crazies there all bouncing and bopping to intense house music. It was a really impressive scene. At about six in the morning, Brendan and I caught a cab home and left Zach to fend for himself.
I thought, finally, that I would get some sleep. That was so far from reality it wasn't even funny. When we got back to the hostel it was nearly seven a.m. People were filing in from this or that club and chatting away. Brendan slipped off for some sleep and Kevin came in pretty drunk, grabbed me and said, C'mon were going to get a beer. "Who?" I asked. In his drunken Scottish accent he said, "Me and You."
So we stumbled out into the street, I was pretty sober but Kev was properly pissed as they say. Within two minutes he was climbing up on the back of the city bus and bumper surfing down the road. I walked down the sidewalk just laughing at him. The bus driver caught on, stopped the bus, came out and yelled at him and Kevin just laughed and joined me on the sidewalk. We rolled into a cafe and when he couldn't get a beer, he ordered a bottle of Malbec and we walked down the road drinking incredible Argentine wine from the bottle and wandered about checking out the nooks and crannies of the neighborhoods surrounding downtown. We swung on swings in the playground and watched the clouds turn neon colors as the sun came up and daytime began on my last day here in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
Kevin finished his bottle of wine, went into another cafe filled with normal people doing a normal thing... eating breakfast. He ordered another bottle of wine and we were back to tramping through town. I was basically babysitting. He could barely walk by now. We were close to the hostel and I was thinking close to salvation, when he decided that now it was time to fight. To keep him from assaulting anyone, I agreed to box with him. I let him get a couple shots in on me to appease his violent desires. Then I knocked him down about five times in a row to appease my desire for amusement. He tore his shirt off and called me every name in the book. He really wanted to kick my ass now, but he couldn't even walk, so he could never get close enough to hit me. I was calling him Braveheart, totally egging him on. I'd give him a couple jabs to the chest and when he would swing back with all his might, I'd just duck and he'd miss and spin falling down. It was really funny. But then I realised we were no where near the hostel anymore and we needed to get back before he couldn't.
We took the subway. Bad idea.
Evening is fast approaching here in Santiago and I need to try to get up to the ski area Valle Nevado to meet up with Zach and Brendan. Hope all is well with everyone. Much love from South America... the continent that doesn't sleep.