Monday, June 27, 2011


I'm excited to be back to enjoy this lovely city and its friendly people for another month.

Plaza de Mayo, with Cabildo on left.....

Casa Rosada (house of govt.), la bandera and the torres of Puerto Madero... Dubai-like highrise apts for the rich....history of the area is interesting as it was part of the port originally.... it's just sort of a boring place for rich business people, the kind of place that is pretty much the same the world over. It has little of what's wonderful about BsAs and much of whats wrong with the new neoliberal world order...expenisve restaurants, total car culture, total class hierarchy, zero soul

Saying goodbye to Federico from the bus in Cordoba...this was sad, he looks like an orphan! My very good friend who I miss already.

One of Argentina's most renowned Modernest novelists, Ernesto Sabato on Avenida 9 de Julio.
Imagine if we featured writers on Santa Monica Blvd. or Broadway or Market St.

This sculpture is made of 30,000 books, and titled the Tower of Babel

la cuenta! Not really, but it's always a bit of a chore to get the check in Argentina or Chile and if there isn't a statue commemorating this, there should be. This is actually a politician by the name of Lisandro de la Torre....

Ezequiel in the tiny kitchenette in my Congreso District apt

Another march, this time Catholic Youth, which was telling for its low energy. They had drums, but they weren't playing them very hard...then again, it's not an aggressive scene (or shouldn't be), but it struck me that kids into religion have not come into themselves yet, they haven't found their real true power that one can only really find by looking inward and having a spiritual experience not dictated from the outside. Otherwise, it just ends up another shallow political movement that results in violence, division and injustice (none of which are spiritual values) and people are manipulated by it and used by sinister forces interested in power. We see this happening to young people all over the world at the hands of so-called religious leaders. Save the children!

Belgrano's tomb in San Telmo

I just thought it was strange that that large highrise in the distance looks like my thumb drive.
We took a hike through the 'reserva', a beautiful natural area between Puerto Madero (the buildings in the distance below) and the Rio De La Plata, which is the widest river in the least the last few hundred miles of it....

Uruguay is somewhere out there

The elections are on (there's an image of Evita on the above bldg) and there are posters all over town, and the police are cleaning up the protest sites, which will likely be back as soon as the election is over. There  are also fairs and all sorts of gatherings to encourage people to vote, which seems a little corrupt and old school, as in Huey Long, to me.  But corruption here is endemic and Clarin, ... newspaper that is the arch-enemy of Cristina... is threatening to begin running lists of accusations of corrupt activities in the daily paper. I think it's potentially a good idea, but I assume it will be completely political in which case it will change nothing and just further delegitimize an increasingly illegitamite political system--which Argentina really can't afford, considering its history. But corruption here is so out of hand it threatens to actually starve and/or kill people, and the Peronistas don't seem enough concerned, which is a sad comment.  Then again, how do you change a culture? The shadow of Peron forever hovers over this country...I don't see how that can be's really entrenched. Peronism seems to be THE defining moment of Argentine politics and it's not an ideal one. Watching videos of Peron, you can see his charisma, the same grandfatherly Reagan schtick right to the end. 
Cordoba's Belgrano football club beat River Plate and then tied with them, demoting them to level B in the Copa de America...which led to a riot among River Plate fans. River Plate's nickname is the millionaires as they pump so much money into the team....'re like the Yankees, flush with cash and the most winning team ever, so this is a huge humiliation. The ritoing was bad..burned cars, trashed stores...out came the water cannon and tear gas and the police definitely looked less in control than the old Carabineros in Chile who would never let things get this out of hand. It almost looked like Greece. Watch this video:
Yes, football gets more emotional response than real issues, same as it ever was.....

Friday, June 24, 2011


Will be leaving Cordoba tonight, and I will miss it. This is a really lovely city, just the right size with lots of trees, great people and dozens of cafes I've really enjoyed writing in: KGB, Brulatty, Creambury, Clasico, Panino, Il Gatto, Butterfly, Quixote...the list goes on.. this is my kind of town, I just circulate from one to the next and then do it all over again and write for about 2 hours in each.

My building this time excellent apartment, quiet and well located...2 blocks from the university, a lovely campus sort of like Stanford's...lots of trees and grass

Argentina's next football star may emerge from this very field!

more of the weird Germanic architecture that pops up now and again...I think it's more Swiss, from Swiss Germans and Italians, but it's just very noticeable and a little odd. This is a water tower and it sure don't look like what I'm used to in Iowa or Fresno.

A residential street near Cordoba's massive Sarmiento Park which the university bleeds into. This area is kind of like the panhandle in SF. Cordoba is a very liveable city and reminds me of California with all its trees and easy accessibility to nearby mountains and lakes--and excellent weather (it's been raining every day in BsAs, but we're bathed in sunshine here). Buenos Aires is certainly the big happening city, but I've talked to lots of people here who feel Cordoba is the more liveable city and I think I'd agree. There's everything you need here, it's much smaller and mellower, and it's right in the center of the country, so it's accessible to every other interesting place. It's definitely underrated---there are very few language schools here as many travelers skip it. I'm really glad I came back here, have been here 3 times now and I never get tired of it or bored. Have met wonderful people here as well who I'll miss a lot:

Viviana returning to Butterfly with the chicken steaks for the Lomito de Pollo. This woman has singled-handedly destroyed my vegetarian credentials with her incredible sandwiches. But never fear, once back in the states where the chicken and meat are inferior, I'll return to tofu!

Hector, Viviana's cousin who is working with her for a month on his school break. He's a budding filmmaker, and as a 20-yr-old has won awards and had things on TV and everything. A wunderkind, he dreams of going to LA, and the way he's going I think we'll see him there.

Fede's roommate, Alexis, from Tucuman---note that rasta tail running down his back!
And of course, one of my new best friends and just a great person on every level,  the inimitable Fede:

At the modeling agency where he works. (Note to Christian: how about that little girl's t-shirt, eh?)

Palo Borracho!! Of course, I won't be leaving these behind and look forward to seeing more of them on the boulevards of Buenos Aires

Cordoba's tallest building, Torre Angela...about 15 stories. No big highrises here, that seems to be for Asians, Americans and Arabs. Interesting that, huh? Certain cultures are trying to prove something? All the rabidly capitalist cultures showing off I guess. Tall buildings are so 20th century. Of course, the emphasis here is very euro and europeans have never been too big on highrises. Am noticing more and more the French influence...not ethnically, but culturally. The Argentines generally admire the French, and what with cafe life, perceived arrogance and the intellectual culture, you can see the similarities. Argentines are much friendlier in my opinion, but it's part of their identity complex I suppose. They don't seem to want to own up to their Italianness, I don't know. I guess the perception of Italian culture is not as good as the French version, though I'd disagree personally with that. It may be the disorganization/corruption/mafiosa syndrome that Italians are stereotyped for and which is a definite problem here.
I had a long conversation with a lady who was explaining what she sees as the moral deterioration of society. Juvenile deliquency is a big concern here and one reads about murders and robberies in the paper. It's interesting, they always refer to young men as 'jovenes' or youths and 'deliquencia' which is also a term referring to the young. In the states, we usually just call everyone a man or woman, without distinctions. Once you're 18, you're responsible for whatever you do. There is virtue in that certainly, but there's a humanness that's lost. Here, when I see news about violent youths, I'm reminded how out of control young men are, and that they are different than other adults, and that they are young now and hopefully will outgrow it. I appreciate the distinction. I think our insistence on ignoring a criminal's age sort of negates that very human reality that the young are different, that they need to be seen and approached as youths, as people in a certain reality. That doesn't excuse what they do, but it's just more real on some level to me.
She also talked about the govt and how she sees the Peronist left as just exacting revenge against the right. She's a leftist herself, but she believes in a rational approach to justice, not revenge. As she sees it, the excesses of the dictatorship (the right) have created a vengeful response that is just about stealing the spoils of the country for the current corrupt political leaders since the last crew did the same thing (this poor country has a long history of being exploited to the benefit of one class...a small one. Same as it ever was). What's hideous about the Peronists is that they constantly play the populist card, but the people just get poorer and poorer. She feels Menem ... the worst (he was also tortured by the right/military during distatorship) but that the Kirchners.. and are just an extension of the same thing. A case in point: Argentina is selling its beef, grain and soy to China now (in the past it sold it to US/Europe).  Forests were cleared in Salta province to make room for more soy fields. Well, the rains came, and the trees were gone, so erosion resulted, and then what followed was a huge flood that wiped out a town. The govt. rushed to the rescue, sending medicine and clothing. But they never arrived. The clothing ended up outside Buenos Aires being sold at a huge swap meet; the medicine ended up with the local politicians in Salta province who proceeded to sell it to Bolivia. The people received nothing. No investigation, no justice served. There's your peronist populism....she said there's often no medicine in hospitals and people in the villas (slums) are getting increasingly desperate...and the peronist 'leftist' govt. gets their votes. Sounds like the populists Repubs. we have back home (Palin, religious nuts like Perry and Bush, michelle bachman) who make the same claims to be 'of the people', shamelessly using emotion to rip off those people they apparently represent. Populism is a very dangerous thing and almost always misused (Hitler, Mussolini anyone?), so we should take note as it swells in our own screwed-up society. 
Speaking of demagoguery, I was recently alerted to the smear campaign a rightwing firm is trying to pull on my former employer, LAANE
Roxana Tynan outlines the situation well in this short podcast if you'd like to hear about it. Basically someone has hired a rightwing firm (they won't say who they're working for) to investigate LAANE by demanding public records from tons of hall, counties, community orgs, etc. That's fine, it's all public stuff and LAANE works clean, so there's no danger of any bad fallout. The prob is this firm won't say who hired them, but they've worked with Karl Rove, Sarah Palin, Meg Whitman, Yes on 8. So basically it's a rightwing fishing expedition to try and discredit a very successful progressive organization. I guess it's a testament to LAANE's effectiveness (birds only pick at the best fruit, or should I say vultures?). The downside is that they will end up costing LAANE, a nonprofit, money because they'll likely plant articles and make accusations, that even if untrue, LAANE will have to respond to. Press campaigns are very expensive, especially in the US where no one bothers to find out the truth and an accusation is as good as a conviction. I feel sad for my country and a little disgusted at how immoral and unethical the right is...imagine demanding public records but refusing to admit who hired you. Cowardice? Yes. Underhanded, working behind the scenes and in secret with bad motives? Creepily like the dictatorships of South America I'm afraid. Basically the darker forces in the US used the same tactics in aiding dicatatorships here...see

On a lighter note, I took a lovely final walk through Sarmiento Park on my way to Brulatty to finish my final draft of my novel FAUN. It's done!

descending the stairway...Brulatty is in the building on right.

Looking back up  the stairs at a couple of handsome Argentines using it for a workout. It's more than their looks, it's the whole way they hold themselves and act that makes these people so attractive.

The other big contemporay art museum, which was once some rich dude's house...the Palacio Ferreyra... called Museo Evita but people don't seem to want to call it that...poor Evita, she basically tried to pry her way into the upper classes with a crowbar, but they just won't have her.
the vengeance goes on, back and forth...

Well, they don't love all their politicians, but they do love their bandera (flag)... Flag Day was Monday and it's a national holiday....

Well I'm off to the bus station......chau

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Lomito de pollo!

The best sandwich in south america is Vivian and Roxana's lomito de pollo...its the garlic....
We met this lovely young chap, Jaffar in Butterfly this weekend. When I said hello to him, he said "I speak English." He's totally bilingual, lives in Louisville, Kentucky and here in Cordoba with his Mom who is from here. Dad is from Jordan. Trippy, the lives of these intl. kids. Jaffar was one of the smartest and most awake kids I've ever met. At 7, he's basically like a 20-yr-old

The oft-seen Fiat 600. Fede had one back in Salta.

Our Lady of Perpetual Help which is connected to a Salesian School and had a big bookshop where I found some great new Marys to add to my collection. I love these Marys because they're exactly like the Buddhist tradition..they are representations of certain qualities or archetypes...there can be an infinite number of Marys or Buddhas and none of them are literal...they are mind states

Top, left to right: Nuestra Senora del Valle (not sure of her origin, but there's a big shrine in Catamarca, Arg and I see her shrines in mercados all the time); La Virgen del Rocio (not sure of her connection, if any, to Arg, but the image is noteworthy for its abstraction, quite unique....; Nuestra Senora de la Merced, who is the patroness of the Army... San Martin carried her standard as he drove the Spanish from Arg, Peru and Chile...note the Arg flag colors she's decked out in)
Bottom left is the patroness of the Air force, Nuestra Senora de Loreto.... I just love that plane behind her...very 1930s..I guess if you updated her, she'd need an F-15 or MIG behind her, or maybe a drone or stealth bomber? Bottom right is the Virgen de Huachana, very indio, she appeared to a girl in Santiago Del Estero, one of Arg's oldest cities, just north of here.

The lady at the store was pulling out drawers of these cards for me, the typically warm and friendly Argentine, who eventually asked you like mate? Of course, I answered, thinking she was going to share her cup with me. But she returned with this Don Bosco mate which the Salesians make themselves, and it's totally organic! I asked her how much and she laughed...its a gift, silly. How sweet.

A stroll along the rio 

Some more good by this lady found in my current apartment....
Just as I was gloating on eternal summer, it rained all day here yesterday and I was finally forced to buy an umbrella on the street. Had thought I could squeak through without more bulky item to add to the maxed out mochila! (backpack)

Monday, June 20, 2011

Klezmer in Kordoba

Dada Mini is a great bar/restaurant in Cordoba, in the Guelmes barrio which hosts a big arts fair every weekend and is pretty much ground zero for the creative life of Cordoba, Argentina's second largest city, which is pleasantly small along the lines of Portland, Ore. We lucked into some great Klezmer music here at Dada... I love Klezmer is the true music of clowns... and for anybody who's been to a Jewish wedding you'll know how fun it is....just totally fun, and makes you want to dance with, grandmas, you name it, which is how it goes at a Jewish wedding.

the fab decor

the interesting food....curry quesadillas

Like I say, Klezmer makes you want to dance..with kids, grandmas...dogs!! This little guy wears a sweater that says 'Dada Mini' as well as his name 'Roberto' and a little note that says 'Tengo facebook'. I haven't found him yet though :)
My boon companion, Fede, and I spent the day out at a Jesuit estancia in Jesus Maria (we kept joking..where's Joseph?), which is basically one of the big haciendas the Jesuits set up to raise money for their university in Cordoba, while educating the local indigenous and basically just kicking butt producing wine, food, leather goods, etc. and supplying the mines in Potosi when Argentina was a remote part of the viceroyalty of Peru. This is why Cordoba was the first and most important city, before Buenos Aires because Buenos Aires was not allowed to trade (thus it's smuggling those days, everything had to go through the port of Lima, Peru). In 1776 Buenos Aires finally got its due when they created the Viceroyalty of the Rio de la Plata, which wasn't a good thing for Cordoba...BsAs has never really been beneficial to the rest of Argentina, thus its complicated history. It's been more like a self-serving city state which uses the provinces for its own benefit. But before all that happened, the Bourbons came along in Spain, and being generally French and more business savvy, immediately shut down the Jesuits who had become a rival force in the Spanish colonies. Funny, because the Jesuits were formed as a response to the reformation...they basically were a victim of their own success. They're worth reading about..... if you don't want to read about them, see the movie, The's a great illustration of its clash with the Spanish Crown and it was filmed in Argentina.....on a completely tangential note, my father was always trying to convince us to go a Jesuit high school because he admired their discipline and felt they created the best quarterbacks :) I wasn't interested in discipline or football and thankfully dear old Dad always insisted it had to be our choice (very Protestant of him :) and besides, I could never get out of my head his stories of his own Jesuit matriculation where the priests used to pick him up by the ear. But I'm glad for the Jesuits as when my mother needed to find a priest to give the stamp of approval for my being queer, it was a Jesuit who stepped up. I also have a Jesuit grand uncle, who's a swell chap and smart

There was also some great art in here but no photos were allowed. The indigenous renderings of angels with rifles are especially noteworthy. I mean, they are about power and how is a sword different than a rifle? There were also a series of incredible Marys of every kind, making me realize there are definitely more versions and renderings of Mary than Christ (at least in Mediterranean Catholicism). It's a goddess religion, plain and simple, and Mary's basically a buddha forever reconfigured depending on the qualities desired or the needs at hand

an enormous and Spanish overly-dramatic Christ. But I still prefer these...Catholics get bloody and pagan and earthy, and that's a good thing. I'm sick of the cleaned-up Protestant lifeless cross. I'm very aware of how much I find this catholic stuff, on some level, very earthy and comforting, reminding me what an insane disconnected mental mess US protestantism has become. I've come to the conclusion that the US is not in fact a religious nation at's just sort of mentally disturbed and juvenile. Most of what passes for religion in the US has zero to do with anything sacred. It's a sad conclusion to make and scary...we have some serious problems and we aren't addressing them at all...Rick Perry, case in point..... It appears that Protestantism has certianly benefitted us economically and yes, it has freed the minds of millions through history. But it's important to realize the cost of those benefits. God, do I sound Catholic or what? Believe me, I'm far from it...I have little but disdain for the institution itself, but as a culture and a sacred tradition, it kicks ass over these so-called reformed versions (I do want to single out Episcopalians/Anglicans for doing the best with saving the good stuff and getting rid of the bad) which have just bled the life out of it. Imagine chucking Mary...that I never got...once you exile the female, you end up with just an unbalanced and lifeless mental construct. Yes, it's horror I'm hinting at and it doesn't make me want to come home.

the river 

Santa Evita, making an appearance on the main drag of Jesus Maria

Wonderful Fede who is a great travel companion, game for everything and just sweet as a peach. He works two jobs, is helping put his sister through law school and is just an all around total mensch. He's made Cordoba a really great experience, and is an awesome cook too!

I'm continuing to write tons and have realized this trip has resurrected my writing life, which is 'something' and not an easy thing to resurrect!

This just struck me as funny...San Martin is the hero of South American liberation from two centuries ago, along with Simon de Bolivar. 

Jesus Maria is big on the gaucho circuit and they have a huge rodeo stadium here. Incidentally, Fede's grandpa was a gaucho.

Meanwhile, back in the 21st century......Nueva Cordoba, where I'm staying this of my fave cafes where the handsome mozo has perfected the 'todo bien' of my fave phrases...pronounced totho vien....all is well or all's great.

KGB bar, a good place to write, drink or people watch

Capuchino's Church

This is a fine cafe...and like I say, Argentina is just rife with superb cafes...this one is great at night too as it has heaters....Cordoba's winter is milder even than LA's so it's pretty much like spring or fall here....Fede even mentioned with a straight face that it was autumn--winter's in month of winter...nice :)

the complicated roofs of Cordoba, there's always a lot going on up there which gives the skyline an interesting texture

I just notice certain things....tragic pruning

It was cool to see this little's basically exactly like the cabin I inherited from my dear friend Ernest Posey. Being that it has helped finance this trip, it was nice to see it here in Argentina. ....I'd always dreamed of keeping it and taking it with me wherever I went as it seemed so portable to me....well here it is ..thanks Ernest, you are with me always

the ever photogenic Fede