Months before my trip, my mother told me she thought we had family in Argentina, but that she would have to dig to find them. No one had been in touch with them for as long as she could remember. Phone calls, emails, and letters would follow..no response, until the night before my departure. Through channels unbeknown to me, the phone rang from a cousin I had never met. Bernie Dworski was in his 70′s, lived in Alexandria, Virginia, and visits Buenos Aires several times a year. He was a treasure trove of ideas and suggestions and so very excited to tell me all he knew about the place. Just a great man..super cool. You know those older men that you talk to and you say to yourself, “I wanna have his energy and enthusiasm for life when I’m his age..”. He also connected me with Valeria Dworski, a cousin my age, that lived there and whom he thought I would get along with well. I thanked him and was also thankful to reconnect with family I didn’t know existed. Kinda cool. So I emailed Valeria, went to sleep and was off on my adventure the following morning..
A couple weeks into my stay, Bernie wrote to see if I’d connected with Valeria and to see how my trip was going.
I told him “No”. I also pointed him toward my blog as it contained what I thought was a good representation of my experience thus far.
His reply startled me.
“I started to read your blog, but, frankly, I did not get very far because I have no patience for diaries or blogs…
…My daughter is into Jewish genealogy and has bugged me to get as much family history as I can from BA cousins. The cousins’ attitude has been one with which I agree. After we have been dead for 50 years, or less, no one will remember us or few will give a darn about what we did every day of our lives. My cousins there believe you must live for today.
I enjoy BA not just because of its beauty, affordability, food, wine, carino, dancing, music, night life, intelligent conversation, ease of transportation, and the excellent relationship with family. I very much also love the City because it’s like getting two days for the length of one. It’s a lifetime-extender.
So, go enjoy yourself. I am worried that you are missing so much by recording so much of your activities…”
What, you don’t want to know what I am doing every minute of every day? What do you mean you aren’t interested?
At first I was put off.
But then I thought about it and I wrote him back.
“ha! thanks for the note..I disagree with you regarding what folks will/will not be interested in 50 years from now..and i journal for me much more so than any one else..I do appreciate your candor, though. Ive caught a bit of a cold the last couple days so im stuck inside anyway..Hope you’re doing well and look forward to connecting with our cousins at some point. Best, AD”
So, right then and there I told myself, “I am going to record what I do, but perhaps in a different way. Maybe pictures and through short notes..bullet points. After all, I could just as easily be sitting at a desk in Tulsa writing as I could be in Buenos Aires.”
Get busy living, or get busy dying – Andy Dufresne
It became the mantra and living I did, however the detailed reports will remain in photographs, with those I shared those good times with, and in my mind. In short, this is the way things panned out:
December 24th: Christmas party at the flat for 30. Huuuge BBQ (as Nico likes to say :)) Reminded me of New Years with the fireworks across the city at midnight
December 25th: Christmas Orphan Party with 15 or so strangers that I met through couchsurfing.org, hosted by the wonderful Jenna. Everyone was traveling from all over the world and we had a great time!
December 26th: Museo de Arte Latinoamericano de Buenos Aires (MALBA), saw a wonderful Andy Warhol exhibit, where all of the piece descriptions were written in Spanish, of course. Kind of a nice twist to seeing an American painter.
December 27th: Dorrego Flea Market, San Telmo. Unreal! Curiousities of every imaginable kind, flavor, and price could be found! I ran into two gals I’d met at the orphan party, Louise and Julia and we then went to the Recoleta Market and to the Recoleta Cemetary. At the market, I bought a really nice leather shoulder bag (yes, a man bag): Cost – 130 pesos or $33 USD. Stoked!
December 28th: On the way to purchasing a bike I found on Craigslist, I saw an elderly man fall in the street. I was the first one there, assessed his need to get advanced life support, checked his vitals to make sure they were within normal bounds and made sure he didn’t want to go to the hospital. I knew what I was doing! I was an EMT and as my first encounter, I did pretty good. I bought a bike from a fellow that was originally from Los Angeles and we shared a laugh. The bike needed a tune up, so I found a small shop that had a nice old man running the show and dropped it off to be picked up the following day. On my walk to a get some food I witnessed a man in his 50′s, who was walking, get hit by a car. The car didn’t stop. Two police officers and I ran to his aid, along with about a dozen or so bystanders. I immediately asked if anyone could translate to begin assessment and was then stopped by the police. They asked for my paperwork as a medic and of course I didn’t have any. They then responded with much angst explaining that I’d not be able to touch him. Fine with me. I explained that I could direct them as to what to do, while watching as this man began going into shock. Via translation from a bystander I was trying to tell them to secure c-spine, remove his shirt to inspect for trauma, ask if he had any alergies, etc. etc., but the police seemed to be more interested in telling me to get the fuck away than helping the poor guy. I mean, they were really upset and finally I surrendered to saying that he needed to go to the hospital right away and began slowly walking away. I back peddled down the street with the weirdest sensation. One that I’d not ever experienced before. The feeling was that of knowing I was able to help a person and not being able to help them, all at the same time. For the first time, I realized what the my EMT trainers were talking about when they said, “You’ll not save everyone.” and I things went grey for a few hours..
December 29th: In picking up my bike, the guy had only done about half the work. I asked to use the tools to do the rest myself and he said “No”. A near melt down ensued. I realized that he begin to curse me under his breath and I let him have one of the best red neck/LA street slang/straight up verbal onslaughts I’ve ever delivered. I road, with no direction or care, the streets and came across a cool shop with funky shoes in the window. Of course, none were my size, but the shop purveyor, Franco, was choice and we hung out for an hour. I then met Marianna, the best childhood friend of my Argentine ex-girlfriend, for a coffee and a laugh and she helped me with my phone, as I couldn’t understand the on-demand direction in Spanish. Such a cool woman! I then returned to Franco’s shop for dinner and few of his friend’s stopped by. We drank beers, listened to Bob Marley, and it was all good.
December 30th: The front tire of my bike turned into a taco while traveling at about 15 mph over the cobble stone streets. Its a miracle I didn’t face plant in the street. I found another shop, which turned out to be great, and had lunch at a place that did not have one single thing they advertised on the menu. I wondered how a place does business like that, but they seemed to have a relatively full house. Pandora’s box.
December 31st: Road probably 30 miles on my refurbished bike, visiting Puerto Madero and the Reserva Ecológica and caused general mischief of all kinds in as much frequency as I could. I went back to Jenna’s house for a party that lasted until at least 4 am, when the strong left in search for a bar. An explanation of the party is only replete by describing my Mr. Magoo move, that changed everything. In trying to be a good guest, I was ramdomly trying to clean up bits and pieces around the flat, dodging around 30 or so party goers and eyed the grill as my next task. The grill, which is standard equipment in nearly every flat I visited, had a drip pan for the grease hanging along the entire front of it. So, there I was, 11:56pm on New Years eve trying to clean up when, oops, because of my fiddling, the fucking grease pan fell with about 2 quarts of warm sludge onto the terrace. Idiot!! While this nastiness did get tracked everywhere, despite our best efforts to clean it up, the terrace turned into Valdez, and ultimately provided for seemless slip and slide dancing the entire night. I suppose there is a bright spot in every rain storm. Jenna, being the incredible host that she was, did not even flinch and encouraged more smiles. Bed and I did not meet until around 10 am. That was a fun night ;)
January 1st: I woke in a bit of a stupor at around 1pm and biked to see the kick off of the Dakar Rally, an off-road endurance race that would ultimately circumvent Argentina and Chile. I’d not seen my flat mates in a few days, which was cool, as I don’t think I could have been more of a zombie and wasn’t up for much conversating. I retired back to my flat and proceeded to watch 3 or 4 movies, napping between.
January 2nd: Slept in. I looked at work, but my dendrites were still at war with each other, thus promptly shut my computer again. Tatianna, the roommate of my ex-girlfriend when we dated years prior, was in Buenos Aires vising family and came to see me. We shared a coffee at my flat, had lunch at a lovely outdoor cafe, and then went to the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes (National Museum of Fine Art). It was cool to hang out with a local, whom I’d met in Los Angeles. I bid her farewell and biked across town to participate in a yoga class that was taught in Spanish (a first). Of course I knew the positions, but was otherwise absent for the verbal instruction. It was a bit like a “make-up-your-own-story” book, that had pictures but one was entitled to create their own captions. Afterward, I found an organic deli and brought my awareness back to reality, which usually takes me an hour or so after a yoga class. I reconnected with Louise, Naila, Carol, and Jenna, to plan what I thought was going to be a night of learning to Tango. How lucky was I? Me and 4 beautiful women, all learning to Tango, where two can learn more about each other, given the nature of the dance, in 3 minutes than one might in a 2 hour dinner. I shaved, washed my booty, and donned my black suit. Upon arrival at their flat though, I learned they had no plans what so ever to Tango and were instead going to a club, or discotheque as they say. Who was I to argue? I’d still be rolling with 4 stunners, to the monster club, the Museum. Originally designed by G. Eiffel, of Eiffel Tower fame, this place was crazy and hot. I’m talking like 100 degrees hot. I felt a bit dapper in my suit but admittedly, was sweating like a whore in church. I’ve had worse nights.
January 3rd: Met Jenna again to trek to the San Telmo market to try to find another handbag for my mom. We hung out on that side of town and met Naila and Louise again to have dinner. We feasted on about 50 oz of steak for around 80 pesos and I kissed them all goodbye. Louise and Naila were on month 10 of a world circling adventure and were off to Brazil the next day, while Jenna had to get back to work and I wouldn’t see her again either. They were all such wonderful people and I hope I’m able to share a laugh with them again soon. I took my time heading home and was happily surprised to be met by Nico and half a dozen of his friend’s, including a couple rugby boys, upon my return. Meat and more meat followed, of course. Nico insisted they take me out and they did. That night will have to stay in Argentina..
January 4th: Cup filled up from good food and great friends, I jammed hard with work all day. At quiting time I excitedly went to a sculpting studio and spent 3 hours moulding clay under the tutelage of a most gracious and beautiful Carolina. She spoke nearly no English and my Spanish was still about as useful as a toenail on my forehead, but we got on just fine, as she used her hands to show me how to form the clay. I left her studio skipping like a school boy. I could not have been prepared for the next stop. The Konex is hosted every Monday night at the cultural center of Buenos Aires. Sold out. Hot. Loud. Ridiculous beats and sounds filled the air with cigarette smoke and encouragement from the young exuberant crowd. It was like a street party, a drum circle, and a revolt, all wrapped up together. I’d never seen such a thing! I accidentaly took the wrong train on my way home, but it turned out ok, as I met Mai Mai and we just sat on the street talking until around 4am. I thought it would be a good idea to have her cut my hair, too. She was happy to oblige and proceeded to craft a wonderful fro-hawk using my swiss army knife. It has since gotten rave reviews :)
January 5th: Work all day. Another BBQ with more new friend’s of Nico and Vicky. Stay’d up late to pack up and get ready to roll.
January 6th: My dear friend and rugby partner in crime, Chris Kelley, arrived from Los Angeles and we stayed at the Urban Suites. Solid! Over empanadas I introduced him to Nico and we did a bit a shopping.
January 7th: Chris was a bit weary from the trip and we took it easy for most of the day. We eventually ventured out to purchase bus tickets to Mal del Plata. We enjoyed a great dinner and caught up on life. I’d not realized how much I’d missed him until I got an opportunity to hang out again. It was good to be back! I also took him with me to meet my cousin, whom I did finally catch up with, and we shared drinks and abbreviated stories of our lives.
January 8th: Naila, my new friend, turned us on to a family friend of her’s that owned a hotel at the beach and it was great. Hotel Peninsular and its owners took great care of us! Went to Mr. Jones for drinks.
January 9th: Day at the beach – Caliente. Crowded. Crazy! Night in the club – Caliente. Crowded. Crazy!
January 10th: Back to Buenos Aires. Rented a room at Hostel Ostinatto, visited the market again, and took it easy.
January 11th: Visited the Recoleta Cemetary again, as Chris hadn’t seen it yet, and then on to the Konex in the evening.
January 12th: I was off! On the ride to the airport, I recalled my previous month..I felt humbled and thankful and a bit delirious all at the same time. I had the bug, the travel bug. I had just been on the trip of a life time. I had just met some of the most amazing people. I had just seen some of the most amazing sights I ever had. How could I insure that my obligations and debts and schedules be met and still be able to travel like this again?? The wheels were turning..I would not ever be the same………
January 13th: 36 hours later, I would arrive in Raleigh, NC…so many worlds away from where I had been, literally and figuratively. I got my bags off the turnstile and went outside. As I exitted, a tall fellow with a bright red hoodie on passed by. It had “NC State” proudly written across it. Our eyes met and he nodded and said “How ya doin’”. I was home. I waited for my mom to round the bend to pick me up. I was so excited to see her! I love that woman.