Sunday, May 06, 2007

South American Adventures- Part 11: Buenos Aires & Uruguay

Hola amigos de Latacunga, Ecuador!

In my last email I referenced the need to describe my time in Buenos Aires with my brother. Let me just preface all descriptions by saying that in 12 nights in BA, I did not go to sleep once before 6am. They say NYC is "the city that never sleeps", I say BA is "the city that never sleeps nor runs out of delicious steaks". I got the best piece of ass all trip in that city, and it was sadly from a cow. Interpret that as you wish...

We arrived from Rosario on April 11 and shacked up in our hostel on Corrientes Avenue, the city's analogue to Broadway. We first decided to get a big beef dinner and went to the best restaurant in the area (Estancia), which happened to have a tango show going on upstairs for an extra 10%. We were in. Expecting some light dancing, we received far, far more. A 70 year-old showman, whom we dubbed "Johnny Crazylegs the Dancing Machine" led a group of young tango dancers through several routines while also speaking at least 8 languages, beating drums, telling jokes, milking the crowd, rodeo-style tap dancing and crooning ad nauseam. Just when we thought the show couldn't get any better, we saw a large woman entering through the hall playing a giant drum. My first thought was, "Holy shit, some hobo broke in from the streets." Oh no, this was the hired act; an Argentinian Mama Cass who smiled broadly to everyone and no one in particular. She sang and sweated her sagging breasts off, while diner participation hit an all-time high with spoon table-tapping and matador napkin waiving. Pretty much everyone in attendance was fully convinced that she'd consumed an absurd amount of crack before hitting the stage, and she did absolutely nothing to dispel such a rumor. A hell of a start to Buenos Aires...

Over the next 12 days we explored the various neighborhoods of the city- The lush gardens of Palermo, the brilliantly painted homes of La Boca, the stunning cemetery of Ricoleta where Evita is buried, and of course the wild nightlife of a city that awakens at 2am. A friend of Scott's hooked us up with some of BA's finest partyers, led by our boy Fernando aka Chiche aka La Pirata. We never fully found out why he was called The Pirate, but I'm pretty sure it's because he's an expert at swindling booty. We spent late nights exploring the great clubs like Pacha, Opera Bay, Museum, Asia de Cuba, and others. Many dances, smiles and laughs were had by all.

Perhaps the strangest night I've had on this trip occured when we headed 30 minutes outside the city to the "best Sunday night club around". Immediately upon arrival we realized we were among the trash of Buenos Aires, but the club interior was nice and the throbbing house rhythms were infectious. After 45 minutes of music though, the hanging TV screen was raised and the music faded... Everyone moved to the outskirts of the dancefloor, taking seats to observe the stage as if they knew exactly what was coming... Suddenly, a busty blond sauntered onstage in high heels and lingerie. "Take My Breath Away" from Top Gun pierced the stank club air, and my first thought was "She's not going to...." Oh yes, she was. After a few pathetic gyrations, she removed her top to reveal silicon-enhanced breasticles. Interesting. Suddenly, a large pony-tailed man walked onstage behind her, wearing an oversized black leather trenchcoat. Ummm, okay.

She walked towards the beast and removed the dead cow from his shoulders, revealing tighty-whitey underwear and nothing else. Scott, Israeli Doodee and I looked at each other with equal looks of "Is this really happening!?" She knelt down to face the Incredible Hulk's incredible hulk, and at that point the same thought ran through all of our heads simultaneously... "Not a chance." Oh, but how wrong we were. She pulled down this dude's jock strap to reveal a freakish 11-inch ramjam boner-nation. A collective gasp shuddered through the scattered crowd, and for the next 3 minutes they engaged in softcore faux sex ON STAGE. We were in a state of absolute shock. This was a regular nightclub we thought, not Marv Albert's chamber of love. Finally the curtains mercifully closed, and Bob Sinclair's club anthem "Hold On" screamed over the speakers. We were paralyzed with "what-just-happened-to-me"-ness, but everyone else sprinted onto the dancefloor and began shaking it up like nothing out of the ordinary had just happened! Where the hell were we?! If anything, they danced with more vigor, most likely to compensate for their newfound feelings of loathesome sexual inadequacy thanks to the trenchoat-wearing tripod... Definitely one of the weirdest and funniest things I've ever witnessed on the road.

In the subsequent nights we ate great dinners with new friends at the famed steakhouse Des Nivel and the hidden "878" lounge, enjoyed the social scene and chess games at our LimeHouse Hostel, went to the stadium to watch the biggest futbol match of the year between Boca and River, attended a beautiful Friday night Shabbat service led by our new friend Sheila, flew to Iguazu to see the INCREDIBLE Iguazu Falls (they put Niagra to shame), and watched playoff basketball while consuming 4 litre beers jugs with our buddy Murph at The Alamo Bar. Murph is a 40-something American who regaled us with stories of youthful drug consumption, women chasery and crafty law evasion. His opening line to me was, "I recorded with my band at Tuff Gong Studios (inside the former home of Bob Marley). You've probably heard of us, RKWP?" When I looked at him blank-faced, he answered incredulously, "Come on man, Rich Kids With Problems!" Sadly, he was dead serious. Mark it down dude, another classic character from the road.

Lastly, I was also able to do something while in BA that I had dreamed about for years. Each of us has those nostaligic handful of songs from our youth. We remember the exact setting and details of our first listen. For me, one of these songs is Jethro Tull's "Locomotive Breath." While on another long-drive with my dad to an 11 year-old AAU practice, the song came on the radio. I remember it as clear as day... he immediately sat up in his seat, turned up the volume, and looked me dead in the eyes. "Oh this is one of my all-time favorites!" I had no idea what the hell was occuring, but I knew the song had to be sweet and that my dad was suddenly driving about 35 mph over the speed limit. I dug the heavy bassline right away. The lyrical delivery was definitely cool, except for the fact that my dad sang the lyrics "Runs the all-time loser, headlong to his death" as if I was the all-time loser. He got especially juiced when shouting in my prepubescent face "His woman and his best friend, in bed and having fun".. and I'm pretty sure we went over 100mph when he howled "And the all-time winner, has got him by the balls!!!" while viscerally demonstrating a testicular grip and squeeze (sidenote: at that time, my balls were nowhere near that big). The flute solo was kickin though, especially the priceless "Ugggh" grunt, and seeing this all in person when they performed at Buenos Aires' Luna Park on April 20th was a special, special memory. If you get the chance to see them live, check out "The Tull" for sure.

After Scott and I had a brotherly depart, I headed by ferry on the Rio del Plata to Colonia, Uruguay for two days with a band of merry travelers from California, Germany, England and Australia. The beautiful colonial city lent itself to some pleasant perusing the first day, and after mis amigos left me solo I rented a motorbike the second day and bombed around the coastal city streets for hours. With raging music penetrating the ear drums, wind whipping my face and sun pelting the shoulders, I felt alive and free once again... Easy Rider style.

The next day I flew to Quito, Ecuador to meet up with my former Semester at Sea roommate, the legendary Jaret Martin. We have traveled this magnificent country together for the past 11 days, soaking in its splendor and regurgitating its unequivocal radness. Although I had my camera stolen somehow during my first day here, I can say with absolute conviction that this is my favorite country in South America thus far. Details to follow in the next installment...

Throughout my days in Argentina, I spent many hours on bus rides just listening to the sounds of my breath. In Guatemala at Las Piramides, whether during mediation or yoga, the breath was constantly emphasized as a focal point of self-control and power. It is so basic, so entrenched in every second of our physical existence, that I felt a compulsion to dig deeper to find something there. In symbiotic harmony with the ever-present heartbeat, the breath is the cyclical manifestation of the lifeforce that moves through each of us at every moment. But what could I take from this? I spent hours of frustration, meandering through thoughtways that made partial sense before I finally succumbed to complacency, resolving to spend my busrides focused on tuneage above all else. But in listening closely to the lyrics of Michael Franti's song "Speaking of Tongues", at one point he says, "...and that would be a shame, because the exhale is the name of the game." The line lingered on the mental treadmill for a few days, jogging through layers of latent lessons until a revelatory thunderstorm of thoughts busted through with unrelenting waves of mental sentences, providing the long-awaited answer to the question in question-

The breath is the perfect representation of the balances we naturally create through our daily actions. We are always both giving and accepting, but the measure and contents of these acts can vary greatly depending on the decisions we make. Inhalation is an act of positive consumption, actively providing us with the essential elements of existence. Because of this, when someone says "Just breathe", we immediately tell ourselves to inhale deeply. Most of our efforts are consistently focused on the inhale rather than the exhale; the consumption of added goods to our lives seems supremely significant. We place great value on the things we possess, the things that we take in, to make a tangible part of the our reality. Alleviation from troubling issues is felt by addition, by augmenting the body and spirit. We feel stress mounting, so we take a long, deep breath inward. We draw breath and our ribcage, in congruence with our possessive value, expands.

Through a lifestyle of capitalist competition, which I agree is the best economic system, the focus becomes production and consumption. Our actions revolve around the positive elements we desire to contribute to our lives... Family, love, material success, etc. We want to inhale these assumed providers of happiness. The only problem is that sometimes we concentrate so much on the inhalation, we lose sight of what we're forced to exhale in the process. Every intake of breath necessitates a responsive expulsion. The realization was that the same is true in life's pursuit of our individual goals. There is a realized gain AND loss through each of our actions, which breathing demonstrates to us during every second of every day.

Fortunately, the body expels waste product through the act of exhaling. But this same waste is utilized by the environmental elements around us for beneficial nutrition. Each time we exhale, we are equally giving off a piece of ourselves while contributing to the realized existence of others. So we must ask ourselves certain questions... Is the inhalation of a better salary worth the exhalation of a significant friendship? How will the exhalation of what I deem my life's waste affect the common good? Am I contributing trails of trash or waves of worthiness through my exhaling actions?... The breath reminds us to always value the inhale, but we must also remain cognizant of our exhale as well. The inhale gets the fame, but remember that the exhale's the name of the game.

I hope this email finds each of you filled with health, happiness and fulfillment.

Challenge the assumptions,

Key Trip Statistics
Days- 94
Showers with Heat- 27
Song of Choice- "Foot of Pride" by Bob Dylan. Take a lyrical ride.
Book Selection- "Global Mind Change" by Willis W. Harman
Occupation Given on Hostel Registrations- Sex-change Authorizer
Quote of Note- "True, deep, abiding love doesn't create the path for others, it lights it." Thanks to my mom for that one.
Random Person- Scott Manson

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