met mr. wonderful….i’m glowing…dr. visit and buildings with back alley entrances… 6/08

July 15th, 2010 Comments Off

well, i turned 30 and it really was a lovely birthday.  i spent the majority of the day with the two people i am most intimate with at the moment…sylvia and seymour, the main characters in my new book (lo siento).  after writing all day i left them to eat and drink my way through the remainder of the celebration with a friend.  she told me she had invited a male friend of hers to the dinner and since he was unable to attend he offered to make me a birthday lunch the next day.  how could i turn down a man’s generous offer to make a meal for me?  as i had never had the opportunity to turn one down before i decided to accept.  that is how i met the most fascinating man in the world.  i’m not sure how many studies were done involving mental and physical agility but he was pretty confident that he was clearly the out right winner of the title.  none of my male friends over the years have ever mentioned the testing that they too must have endured for mr. wonderful’s statistics to be accurate. i must assume this is because they were not the winners and thus with bruised egos, heartbroken and dejected they decided never to speak of the months of training they endured only to be met with defeat.

as proof of his wonderfulness he proceeded to show me “artistic” (that means black and white in this scenario) 2 ft x 3 ft framed photos of himself in various stages of undress hanging around his apartment.  pulling a guitar from his wall he sang two songs for us as a video played on his computer that reminded me of some 80’s dating service gone awry….him running shirtless through a barren field while words crawled slowly across the screen…driven…inventive….passionate….i didn’t catch them all as i was distracted when he switched from guitar to signing opera.   i was a bit …overwhelmed …and since the best catch in the world hadn’t taken my jacket yet i was thinking how i could abandon my own birthday party.   drat this city and the keys you need to leave every building.  i’m not used to relying on someone else to “let” me leave.    but wait…leah,  this man made you a birthday lunch with his own driven…inventive…passionate…hands and he is just trying to entertain his guests.  he’ll let you speak…eventually.  i mean if i had been crowned the most fascinating woman in the world i might be a bit proud as well.  who knows maybe i would start playing in my apartment a loop of airbrushed footage starring me… sitting quietly …contemplating.   so as i sat through 2 more videos where he threw his paint covered body against a canvas while doves flew over his head and heard three more arias i just kept thinking (all i could do was think as he had already shhhs’d us)…you’ve never had a man make you dinner before leah…maybe this is the precursor for such an event….and when are we going to get to that meal anyway?  he’ll need to take a breather soon …right… to check the oven or something.  then it happened!  we sat and ate “the meal” ….his cook prepared and his maid served.  he did open the bottles of wine though.  i don’t know if i have any jurisdiction down here but i’m going to try to sneak the title across the border.   even though i know a few men who are much more deserving…i am afraid it must be destroyed for the betterment of mankind.  i will need suggestions on how to dispose of it though.   my initial plan of tossing it in the ocean will not do…as it comes with an inflatable ego.

i thought i was doing well after meeting mr. wonderful…quite well in fact.  in two different locales i was stopped and told by strangers i was glowing.  now it is fall here so i was 90% sure it was not just the humidity.  turns out i wasn’t the breathtaking beauty my vanity was imagining as much as extremely contagious. the rosy hue in my cheeks was indeed the beginning of my little immunes system’s mighty war waged against a rapidly spreading virus.  thank goodness i tend to meet dr’s when i travel. my friend and i were heading to a poetry reading and she gave me an antibiotic that was meant to clear that glow right up…at least that is what she said.  i popped the first pill and  we raced to her friend’s book reading in a cafe…at least that was what she told me.

as a gal who had just come to the conclusion her once healthy body was being maliciously infiltrated…running through train stations was not what i would have recommended.  but she is a dr…at least that is what she told me.  she had never been to where the reading was being held and didn’t want to park on the street as the neighborhood was not that great.  everything is relative.  after running from the parking ramp through a train station the size of grand central we popped out on the other side in the freezing cold night air on what appeared to be a street only frequented by people leaning into idling cars and those using the wall as a restroom.  surely this is not where poetry was to be read.  she headed right..towards the bridge where the row of idling cars and those leaning in the drivers door were congregating.  there were no doors so she turned back and raced left.  the cold air was whipping at this point and i wondered why i had bothered wearing a dress in my diseased state.  she walked up three steps to the only door on the block.  except.. one of the double doors had  a chain on its handle, plastic up and wood propped up against it.  any one of these items alone would have had me turn around but all of them together really seemed more then a little bit of a deterrent.  she swung open the other door and we were greeted by two guards standing in a huge atrium lit by one uncovered lightbulb.  without a word they pointed us to the elevators.  the building was mammoth, dark, freezing and empty.   we got off the elevator and it was even darker then the atrium.  the only light was streaming in through the skylight.  the floor was separated from the ceiling by twenty feet and walls covered in hand painted glass tiles.  we turned the corner and there was a faint light coming from a room in the distance. even with such little light the building was breathtaking …and silent.  you could look over the ornate railings and see from the ground floor to the roof five floors up.  then there was movement …someone was darting in and out of hallways up ahead.  while children playing during daylight hours isn’t all that entertaining to me…one child running in an abandoned building at night who is refusing to respond to people calling out to him is down right frightening.  i couldn’t help thinking i was in a jose saramago novel.  what did i really know about my friend?  besides the fact that it had been quite easy to convince her i needed pills. was i heading to a book reading or a revolution?

two things:

it was a book reading and i vowed for the 5th time in my life to create a more stringent criteria for the people i take pills from so willingly.

no puppies or clowns were hurt in the writing of this email 05/08

June 22nd, 2010 Comments Off

i must admit i’ve been quite pleased with some of the perks facebook has offered.  IM’ing folks at random hours would be a perk.  men i went  on one or two absurdly bad dates with reconnecting after 7 months or 2 years…not a perk.   an email from souk…perk.  i haven’t spoken to anyone i went to high school with in about 12 years. quite possibly 13 since my senior year had me taking courses on a college campus 60% of the time and skipping classes 40%.  which equals 100.   as my math skills imply it seems everything turned out all right in the grand scheme of things.

last time i saw souk she was a gang member with a meth problem.  no wait…that was someone else. souk was a sweet and social gal i had some sort of class with during those oh so life altering years.   neither one of us is quite sure which class.  it must have been one i attended at least a few times before i skipped out to go swimming at 3rd bridge.  for those of you unfamiliar with the midwestern town i grew up in  the brilliantly named 3rd bridge was christened this  as it was the third bridge on that particular dirt road.  now before anyone has an impulse to turn nostalgic and conjure up black and white images from mayberry.  the more accurate picture is one of children swinging from vines into rushing water 2 feet deep that was over-flowing with jagged rocks and the occasional fish hooks.  turns out souk is going to be in nyc for the summer and needs an apartment.   turns out she takes a look at my place and loves it (who doesn’t?)  turns out she is renting my place from july 1st until mid september.  i will have to wait a little longer before my eyes behold lovely new york city.  the friends…the food…the everything that is new york.  i can’t even remember the last time i saw a rat.  but everything happens for a reason and souk really is a doll.  after an hour of chatting on the phone the other day she promptly emailed me (today’s equivalent of a thank you note) suggesting i may have a future career as a phone operator in the world of adult entertainment.  well thank you souk…i’ll take that as a compliment and into consideration.  i told you she was a sweet girl.

besides writing i will use this time in continuing my efforts to learn spanish.  i have entered the 4th week of searching for a tutor.  i answered an ad on craigslist for what sounded like a fair and normal exchange.  his spanish for my english.    i figured, since it wasn’t a date, he wouldn’t be crazy.  that was working off a very complex equation dealing with the laws of average and my record for off beat male encounters….but i believe my reasoning was off because i didn’t factor in the southern hemisphere.   it could also be some of those classes i skipped were important…i’m open to that possibility.  he shows up…and  lets just say after dating in new york for 5 years my creepy detector is pretty spot on.  he walked by me on the street and i prayed, “please don’t let that be him.”  he was…well…twitchy…he looked like a guy you’d see a head shot of on the 10 o’clock news right before his neighbors said things like; “he was a quiet man,” “he kept to himself,” “he collected tv guides.”

the last time i had that ooohhhh so very accurate feeling i was in for the worst social interaction of my entire life…bar none.  remember people i’ve been in prisons.  a blind date that left me with the question, “what did i ever do to my best friend to deserve such cruel revenge.”  i don’t believe i ran over her childhood puppy 57 times as she watched  tears streaming down her face…but i couldn’t think of anything else worthy of such payback.   at least i got a few amazingly authentic and cringe worthy  character sketches out of it…that and a pile of therapy bills.

so this guy shuffles by and before i can complete my first hail mary he shuffles back.  we chat a few minutes and  i’m smiling as he tells me about his job as a corporate lawyer. who doesn’t smile when they are learning about international corporate law over a glass of wine with  a man straight off a most wanted poster?   he stops and says, “you smile a lot…it makes a man think you’re interested.”  a smile couldn’t have left my face faster if i had just witnessed a playing puppy kicked into the street or a clown maced at a children’s birthday party for no apparent reason.  i did not come even mona lisa close to a smile the rest of our…encounter. after  thanking him for the tip.  i said, “no i’m just a generally happy person.” (people he doesn’t know me what’s one white lie?)  then he asked if i was willing to commit to becoming fluent in spanish. his voice and demeanor changed to that of someone asking me to enlist in some gruesome covert military operation.  i told him i had no plans of being fluent in the next few months but i would love to master a few more conversation skills.  he then asked how many hours a day i was willing to commit to my effort.  i randomly grabbed the number 2 as what i assumed was an adequate answer.  i am sad to say my spanish is much worse than i thought.  for years i have been under the impression “dos” means two.  but from his reaction i now know it must mean something more in line with,”i think we should glue ourselves together from this moment on until i know spanish or you lock me in your basement.”  language is tricky like that.  he said we should do two hours in the morning and two hours in the evening and take day trips as often as possible.  well…that wasn’t really going to work for me…i have the gym… and my book… and really… you’re just freaking me out.  i was sure the follow up was going to be an invitation to the home he shared with his mother.  a day trip that might have ended in me finding out she actually had been taking up residency in the freezer for a few years now.   he is sooooo not invited to my birthday party.

it could be dengue fever, smokers cough, scurvy, a parasite or something equally as romantic…. (4/08)

June 10th, 2010 Comments Off

…but i’m sure it’s nothing. i woke up yesterday out of sorts with a  heavy damp feeling in my chest.
the first suspect greeted me as i swung open my bedroom window.

do you remember the joys of sitting next to a campfire when you were young?  looking at the stars, laughing with friends and toasting marshmallows… and then the reproach your lungs received when in your exuberance and possible sugar shock  you moved too close to the smoke?  now imagine sitting there 4 days unable to escape …minus the benefits of smores and you have the recent air quality in buenos aires.  the attached photo was taken at noon two days ago…and the approaching train does not emit smoke.

my friendly farming neighbors abandoned their nightly serenades with pots and pans and  started lighting fires.  a common farming practice, which coincidentally occurred after the three week strike had effected the public’s access to fresh fruits and vegetables, has spread out of control for the first time in any one’s recollection.  yesterday was the first day my poor little pink lungs struggled. my gym is skylight central and the normally outdated hip hop tunes blaring and scantily clad bodies were now sweating in a haze of stagnate smoke crawling through the window panes overhead.  even the televisions were in on the overhaul of the athletic setting to an eastern european night club.  the screens showed a heat sensitive ariel map where the fires took the shape of two slightly parted lips swallowing the coast.  the surreal image played for an hour on a loop …and had me questioning exactly  what the farmers were burning.

of course that was only after my morning had started by washing a thin film of soot from my face.  which means i have either, unbeknownst to myself, picked up a bit of nocturnal mining or the air conditioner, my friend and ally a mere 6 weeks ago, has turned against me and become the gateway for my own personal armageddon.  my window hadn’t been left open in the evenings since my house guest arrived.  kate came and after only one night of sleeping with the window open we were both covered in mosquito bites.  my mosquito bites had bites.   my knuckles were swollen and a women in the sauna at the gym gave me a concerned look tinged with revulsion.  implying her concern was more for herself and the level of me being contagious then for my health.  imagine.  after dousing  my apartment in the bug spray i  had left over from africa we headed to uruguay for a few days.  i returned to a humid apartment where the bug spray seemed to encourage the mosquitoes more then quiet them.  silver lining…. the smoke did them all in.

uruguay was an architectural cornucopia.  all the renderings architects create that never come to fruition take life on the coastline in uruguay.  an organically sleek frank lloyd wrightesque masterpiece could be sitting next to a home one can only assume papa smurf dreamt  up when he had the munchies.  a tiny one story house with a sloping roof and bubbled walls resembling  a toasted marshmallow in color and shape could be adjacent to  an adult sized version of a mcdonalds play land or nestled into a cove with a hotel shaped like a cruise ship.  homes that appeared condemned would have 5 star tree houses in their front yards. they were almost musical… a fugue of chaotic creativity.

in these small towns where views seemed to  be drawn from memories i always hoped to have there were also… dogs that would rise from seemingly nowhere like flea ridden canine cyborgs.  dogs are like all things for me…adults, babies, music, books i dont enjoy them all just because they exist…my fondness comes on an individual basis.  these creatures blended into the gutters so well they had become accustomed to being stepped on by pedestrians.  their response to the disturbance was less of a whimper and more of a cough or groan at the inconvenience of having a foot find their motionless bodies curled up against a curb.  they had this weird mutt mafia mentality where a bark across the village would have two out of ten jump to attention and off running and yapping at speeds moments before you could not envision these comatose animals to have in them.  the others would sit silently unfazed.  minutes passed and the two loped back to their curbs and did not move at all when in short time another bark would be heard and three other dogs would take off at lightening speeds.

i went for a walk in the morning and no dog was in site. i sat down and began to read my book when out of thin air one certainly diseased beast of nature jumped in my lap and licked my face.   i turned and saw the dogs plodding down streets and alleys materializing out of nowhere and heading to a specific gutter, curb, park bench where they would blend in for the rest of the day.  until a familiar yap pulled them away ….momentarily.

so for all the drs. receiving this mass email (those that have actually gotten this far without being called away to save a life)  if you have thoughts that the heavy damp feeling in my chest could be the plague …please don’t tell me.  i’m in too good of a mood to have reports of my imminent demise bum me out.  this morning the sky is blue and taking a long slow deep breath is not followed by the need to cough or the desire to sit down due to light headedness. the mysterious haze has lifted and the city no longer looks as if orson welles is lurking around every corner.
blurred edges always add a little mystery

for hallucinations, geriatric fist-fights and public nudity please click here… (03/08)

June 1st, 2010 Comments Off

all this time i thought it had been the malaria pills/jetlag/hooting/the overall “don’t go out  the men with machetes are out there” combo that had lead to sleepless nights in kenya.  now  i have another possibility to add to the list of culprits.  there it was.  it was so tiny amongst the blue tylenol p.m., chalky white exedrin, and amber gel caps (i’m almost positive are for flu like symptoms).   the last little baby blue sleeping pill given to me by a surgeon in nairobi.  so i took it…and low and behold not only did i NOT sleep through the night but every time i woke up something different was happening in my room. i felt like i was the sole audience member of some brechtian experimental theater.  where the cast of characters infiltrated my bedroom and paraded around nonsensically as i was left to decipher the greater meaning.  turns out there wasn’t one.    the first time i woke up completely groggy and saw a man in a white t-shirt and jeans fiddling with the phone jack at the foot of my bed.  i remember thinking, “of course, they come to fix the internet when i’m sleeping…typical,” but all i said was, “hola.”   as soon as i said it out loud i  realized he wasn’t actually there.  i always knew i was a friendly gal when intoxicated but apparently it turns out that to  breakers and enterers and other figments of my drugged imagination i am down right pleasant in the most intercontinental way.    p.s. my internet is still not fixed.

so it happened…i was involved in my first buenos aires street fight.  like most street fights blood was shed but the insults were thrown much faster then the punches and the shoe that ended up in the middle of the street was orthopedic.  i was walking home wondering when the last time was i had heard a song that just played (skate country…circa 1986 most likely).  i came across 3 septuagenarians having a heated conversation.  i thought the situation was a little “off”  but then i recalled two days earlier seeing an elderly man and a man who could have easily been his father shouting on a sidewalk.  i was sitting outside at a cafe and no one seemed to notice as they became more and more agitated…except the police officer that escorted the older of the elderly inside.  with that as a reference i moved on…a slight smirk at the disturbed state of  geriatric men in buenos aires. (i’d like to insert here that i heard in a recent study male pattern baldness is related to high levels of testosterone.  there is a lot of thinning hair in argentina.  just thought i’d mention it).   i was 1/2 a block a way when the yelling stopped and  i heard a thud.  i went back and they were in the gutter.  not even rolling around just wrapped  tightly around each other.  i guess they were just willing the other one to die …or not able to get up on their own.   i yelled, “hey”  (very helpful huh?)  and stomped my foot by their heads as no one came over.  i was then joined by a man who pulled them apart to reveal the thud  had been the sound of a head making contact with the curb.  one man was left with a nasty gash on his wrinkled forehead.   then 3 tiny women  marched out of the apartment building behind me… each with an even tinnier dog in their arms.   all six yapping away.    the guy who had pulled the arthritic men apart started to scream TRANQUILO, TRANQUILO, TTTTTRRRAAAAAAANQUILOOO.  which i found not the least bit calming myself and i guess the women didn’t either because one screamed at him and then spit in his face.  which he didn’t take that well and pushed her towards me.  she lunged and i pulled her back.  it really was not that difficult as it was apparent this tiny woman had partaken in one of buenos aires favorite past times… plastic surgery… and whittled her way down to practically nothing.  we were then joined by a security guard.  i have no idea what they were screaming about it was all too fast and too loud to be heard.  but it really didn’t matter to me what they were saying.    the shoeless man escorted the women and there handbag sized dogs back into the building  and the man with the bleeding head was left with two men; (MR TRANQUILO ) and the third man who had been there at the beginning.   they had no idea i was still even there…so i left. …and returned to pondering the question my favorite cafe’s music selection had brought to mind,  “when was the last time i heard…we are the world?”

i bought 7 vintage dresses for $70 and they all slid right off the hanger to fit perfectly onto my body…which in vintage world never happens.   one very fierce orange and cream dress was purchased at the san telmo market.  (joan crawford would have worn it to kick bette davis’ ass while wearing open toed sandals in saint tropez.)  i was standing in front of the mirror and the saleswoman  kept pulling it tight around my neck giving the effect i was wearing a dicky.  i was no longer crawford but lucille ball involved in some sort of hi-jinx that would lead inevitably to her not playing at the club.  i didn’t understand this woman’s new found modesty for my body.  when she offered me a place to try on clothes she pulled two dresses off the rack and hung them from a wire strung from the ceiling for me to change behind.  now… when on my body one dress is usually sufficient enough…but when hanging from the ceiling in front of me two somehow still lacked in supplying complete coverage.   i let her pull it close  to my neck one more time knowing it was the last time the fabric would ever see itself there.  it felt like a gramma was getting me ready to go out on the town. a gramma not my gramma…which, by the way, reminds me:

facebook clarifications:
a. my gramma does not have a fortune…believe me i’ve looked through every bureau drawer and behind every bookcase.  should anyone be tempted into garnering  her identity to abscond with her millions they would be sadly disappointed
b.  she has not stolen the identity of one unlucky sod still walking this earth unawares…she planned on lifting two names from the grave.  she was pretty sure they wouldn’t mind.  i am less sure.
c.  she has let me know that if trash talking in spanish appears on my facebook profile she will be learning the language.
does that cover it gramma?

time…what a relevant concept…you all jumped forward and i fell back …and while the clocks may say we’re closer …geographically not an inch has changed.

think of it as a letter….insufficient postage and all… (3/08)

May 23rd, 2010 Comments Off

i’d like to give a nod to the ever so charming, dependable, essential and mysterious leap day.  where fitzgerald romanticizes the longest day of the year as offering refuge with its extra hours of sunlight….i see it only promising tomorrow will be darker.  i am a fan of leap day.  she gives, promising nothing but to give again.  there is a certain generosity about a leap year.   with its gift of  the intercalary day gently nestled in the otherwise predictable calendar.  she was inserted to harmonize the calendar with the solar year.  what a poetic purpose to have…harmonizing with the solar year.  without these sweet little packages of an extra 24 hours appearing every 4 years what chaos would our lives be thrown into?  she materializes….she harmonizes…and reliable as they come reappears 4 years later when in her absence… apparently all hell would break loose.  i celebrate that clear concise objective in life that leaves room for years of backstory to unfold.  some of me feels the day itself has the luxury of las vegas.  whatever happens on leap day disappears the moment it can no longer be seen filling  a solid square box on the proverbial calendar of our life.  so, what did i do on this jackpot of a day?  I’m sure i can’t recall at this time.   but i know i didn’t buy an umbrella.

in this country i’m learning about “absorption.” mine of the language and that of the paper products seem to be of similar quality.  they may be trying but it’s really not getting the job done.  it seems the napkins are one step away from lined notebook paper and the fabric made to wash dishes actually repels water.  which is good to know as i have mentioned i do not have an umbrella.  it broke in the gales of england and i couldn’t persuade myself to spend 80 pounds on a new one.  i figured i’d pick one up for 2 pesos in argentina.  while it has been raining on and off the past week i still have yet to get one.
i’ve always been a fan of the rain. from the light mists possible in the san francisco area (where you weren’t sure if it was just the breeze blowing the ocean in from the bay or drops actually falling from the clouds in the sky) to the 2:30 opening of the heavens in el yunque.   a place so heavy and ripe with fertility and life you are overwhelmed with the thought of walking in mother nature’s womb.  in the wilderness of puerto rico the roosters would crow incessantly, almost 24 hours.   thinking, apparently, every moment was a chance at a new day.   but inevitably, at 2:30, they rested…and it rained.  calling into question if they were really roosters or some sort of rain warriors crying to the skies for our daily baptism and redemption.

i will not say no to a gracious gentleman (and yes it is always a man) offering to share his umbrella. i certainly am not seeking the sanctuary they supply.  so, yesterday as no man or woman was on the street the rain teased on and off for an hour as i jumped over puddles finding shelter in sporadic awnings.  i was walking the opposite direction down a one way street where every bus going by would have taken me further from home.  granted i could have walked one block west to the buses heading in my direction or jumped in any one of the numerous cabs that passed (some even slowing…some even honking to make sure i saw them) but what would that have gotten me?  dry and home?   i didn’t need to be home and i was already wet….so ta-ra-ra-boom-dea i continued.   although, i was suspicious of the trees as they seemed to be revived by  the rain and flexing there new strength.  branches i had easily passed under on the way to the cafe now hovered so low to the ground i practically had to crawl under them.  it was a bit unnerving, fearing that in their new proud state they would see me as a mere mortal and swallow me whole.  this was not the case.  i am happy to say the trees remained free of carnivorous urges.  and what is as likely as trees eating humans?…me joining facebook.

i joined facebook.  it was primarily because  so many folks were asking for pictures.  endless number of people telling me  i should… and then alfredo… you said you had your paintings posted…or did i just hear that?  anyway i fell for it and joined.   there are moments in my life when i really would cave to any request i feel so dispassionate one way or the other. hopefully i don’t have any tells to when those times may occur.  i can just imagine that information getting into the wrong hands and all of a sudden i’ve purchased a miniature horse farm in the alps.

to those of you who are always impressed by my gramma and her emailing me or using phone cards, with more complex codes, pin numbers and spanish speaking prompts then the the cuban missile crisis, she has joined facebook.  i can’t give you her name because she is afraid someone (any one of you really) will steal her identity and then either make off with her money or go around posting indecent material under her assumed name.  did i mention that she actually is using someone else’s name… her fear is so great.  isn’t it gramma?  she doesn’t really want to see how many friends/thumbnail photos she can accrue she just wants to see my pictures.  so, people who write on my wall…keep it clean (unless it is spanish or icelandic). gramma only puts up with the trash talk  when it’s coming from me.  isn’t unconditional love one of the greatest concepts man felt the need to name?  if you say no i won’t love you anymore.

thank you to all the patina providers…my thirst has been quenched.

flights, nights, and super sights…there are no rhymes contained in this long email…i promise (2/08)

May 15th, 2010 Comments Off

orford knows how to say goodbye…and i’m not talking about the “bugger off” i received my first 3 weeks.  i’m speaking of my official farewell.  as with most languages it’s the rules attached to the formal and informal that can be so tricky. the monthly sea shanty sing along happened the evening before i left.  there were a few new faces (to me).  this time a former violinist from the london philharmonic happened to be back in town and a 65 year old woman with a voice as lush, soft and rolling as the fields of ireland played the fiddle and bared a green mandolin tattoo on her right forearm.    charlie, a winker by nature and a former sailor by profession, sang “peach pickin in georgia.”  a tribute to my departure and georgia roots.  (one state is just as good as another there.)

one thought as i left the lovely countryside for warmer climates….my legs…they were the color of milk.  they had successfully avoided the sun since my november 20th exit from africa. i had fears of lactose intolerant south americans recoiling in disgust.  especially, since a few weeks prior a dear friend told me someone she knew was looking sickly.  while i care about her friend’s health it was the way she worded the said “sickliness” that concerned me more.  “you know the way you look after a week on the beach…that’s what she looked like.”  proving…you see…one person’s week at the beach can be another person’s death door.  i didn’t mention my friend, rosa, by name because she certainly didn’t mean anything by calling me out on my swiss heritage and blatantly whacking me over the head with the fact she is fortunate to live on an island where, unlike manhattan,  it’s a beach day everyday.  (her friend is fine and healthy and has returned to “normal” coloring… and as you can see i took no umbrage.)

my first time on south american soil was less then awe inspiring.  the sao paulo airport left much to be desired and after 24 hours of travel i was practically a lump with few requests to sustain my sleep walking state. but, at 3,800 feet sao paulo is magical.  the lights of the city appear as constellations….scattered and clustered in mounds of varying sizes and shapes.  which makes landing an mc escher experience where you feel as if the sky below you is getting closer and closer until you are about to land directly on orion’s belt.  landing in buenos aires is more like a lit up grid of the board game battle ship. a pulsating mondrian.

i have to say i’m disturbed and flummoxed by movies with doris day getting on a plane wearing a pillbox  hat, white gloves, heels and a pencil skirt only to arrive at her destination in the same zip-locked condition. not to mention they allowed smoking on planes in those days.   i am completely incapable of this celluloid fete.   yes,  i realize it is a film but it challenges the eternal realist in me none the less (it really did bother me that the “golden girls” woke up in the middle of the night with full make up and hair…i’m just that kind of person).  now, that being said i am fully aware i’ve never gotten off a plane anywhere near ms. day’s pristine/fictional state.  so, after 30 hours of travel the extremely lovely couple i am renting from met me at my apartment at 3:30 am. where they very sweetly handed me the keys  as i pushed them out the door i had just crawled practically comatose through.  the next day i saw them both again only to be told that on a second viewing they both agreed i really was quite lovely.  apparently, if i have to choose between 2 continents, 3 flights, 30 hours of recycled air or meeting people after a good rest and shower i should always opt for the latter.  note to self: no blind dates in airports.  i know some of you have seen me after 10 days in the puerto rican jungle or 2 weeks in scrubs.  i do have to say this particular journey tops both.

to answer the question so many have been asking. how am i getting along language wise in beautiful buenos aries:
1.    i actually don’t remember half as much spanish as i thought
•    it seems those italians were all lying to me
•    in reality i have occasional linguistic amnesia of sorts (more below)
2.   no one here (that i’ve met) speaks english fluently (except my land lord and a brit who knew i  was a gemini from a block away)
3.   i’m doing fabulously
examples of my ability to survive (besides me typing this).  i’m riding buses, reading maps, ordering food, going to movies. my landlord split off from me in search of a table at the calcuttaesque bus station as we waited for his girlfriend. i waved him over since i had found and claimed a table.  then he gave me the look i thought was reserved for babies that were left immobile on their back one second and when you turned around again they were sitting in the corner.  “how’d you do that?”  i’m sure it is a coincidence that it is always men giving me the look after completely seemingly simple tasks. the women on the other hand speak so rapidly and then look at me as i blink, catch up, and give one word grammatically incorrect answers.  they expect a lot more.  i have met several people who are eager to practice there english with me….so either i will return with a little bit better grasp on my trusty spanish or speaking remedial english. if languages were animals spanish would be a steed: bred in nobility but with a workhorse mentality not too proud to get dirty, most content when left to roam at its own pace, a creature of resourcefulness stamina and every once in a while a little too speedy for this cowgirl.  that’s the language update.

if you’ve ever wondered where buttons go when they slip from your sweaters and you look down to be greeted by stray threads where there once proudly stood a clever addition to your attire.  i found them.  they’re happy and i won’t be bringing them back.  bins, buckets, strand after strand of vintage buttons that most certainly migrated the entire world, have come to rest in san telmo, buenos aires at the weekend market. 1/3 of the consumers are tourist so some are sure to cross a few borders again. buttons dangling from booths… a shangri-la of distraction hanging in rows like beads at the entrance of an opiate den.
buttons from children’s sweaters with bright primary colors and raised animals of all species families and orders: zebras, giraffes, kittens, horses, lions, apes
buttons where tiny sea horses  ride in amber waves.
buttons bearing flags that never waved but stood prostrate in plastic.
some were separated by size. pea to full on baseball orbs (seeming completely nonfunctioning and impractical… but i wanted one none the less).  others had them categorized by color: cream, ivory, peach, crimson, teals.  then of course the few that had them sub categorized color then size.  my favorite booths, to some who walked by must have seemed overwhelmingly chaotic with disorder,  had crushed purple velvet saucers dwarfing peach leather quarter sized  buttons. it looked like a children’s birthday party… but one an actual child decorated.  i wanted to make a floor length gown of black rose buttons with pearly pink pleats and one cleverly hidden zipper. but instead i bought a necklace which beside being stunning is held together with fish wire and a hook clasp.   sensible  if i should be out on the town and then in need of catching my own dinner. which i believe all woman should be prepared to do.
i also  bought a pair of sunglasses that intimidate my old ones. which i’ve loved for years after acquiring them when my friend austin was cleaning out  his apartment.  the scavenger i am just happened to be standing between him and a trash bin.  they could be eaten by these new shades so large are they to behold.  they swallow half my face.  i love it.

i’ve been dying to use the word patina all day.  i’ve kept my eyes peeled for the opportunity to arise and…. nothing patinaesque in the least.  i’d love to hear if someone ran into anything patinaesque to share…maybe just reading it it will be adequate for the time being.

non sequitur of the day: i kid you not folks i was drinking a soda at the pub when i read this in the london times. “intelligent people are at a higher risk of suffering from alcohol problems then their less gifted friends.  a study by the Medical Research Council has found women, in particular, are more likely to drink heavily in their thirties if they are bright.”  what a way to prove your genius.
cheers leah
p.s:  wow!  if you made it this far you are either a very generous spirit, care about me to some degree or are extremely bored.  i will take advantage of any and all.

in new york i worked with a fantastic team of documentary film makers.  it so happens that the film crew is now working on a project in the dominican republic on clean water.  they have been bringing down donated baseball gloves to the children they are working with on this production.  if you have an old glove tucked in some closet they could find a nice home for it….if not you should check out the pictures.  the link to the pictures and work they are doing is below.   www.framework-media.com

this can not be viewed on youtube… it must be read..and is extremely long…(2/08)

May 2nd, 2010 Comments Off

…it is at times funny and in several instances includes finely crafted made up words with more then 2 syllables.
spring is in the air…..i wanted to take pictures of a field of snow drops this morning. i passed them yesterday after visiting highland cattle.  which were gorgeous by the way.  when i asked if the people had more than the 2 animals i saw on the rolling green field.  i was told by my tour guide in no uncertain terms the highlanders (that is most assuredly not what you call them but this is not the only example of my animal ineptness displayed on this page). the highlanders were only purchased as proof the owners could afford 2 such exotic beasts.  these hirsute creatures of lethargy had a 180 degree view of iken cliff.  the cliff was named such (a cliff) because it does not align evenly with the shore.  i’m not a geologist but if one were to fling themselves from this cliff they would be nothing more than terribly muddy and extremely embarrassed.  in my unprofessional opinion a more precise name would be the “iken watch out for the slight dip or you might stub your toe…vantage point.”  but more the accurate ability to name persons/places/things later.

so, i was heading out for some tea before my spring flower picture taking stroll.  which as well as making me sound like miss marple had me thinking about a conversation i had yesterday (pre highlander visit).   over tea a smartly dressed older architect from london was speaking in great esteem of the woman i am renting from in the village.  she is quite lovely and at the age of 80  has yet to surrender her blonde hair dye.  she wears these brilliant red and yellow jumpers and lipstick the moment she wakes up.  agreeing with the man wholeheartedly i glanced down at the jeans, rain boots, and black sweater that has become my uniform in the past weeks and added, “she puts in more effort than i do.”  his response,”well obviously.”    it seems in youth such carelessness is charming.  since i take all things old men wearing ascots say to heart i wore my rain boots, jeans, black sweater…and my new coat from cambridge as i headed out.

i was walking down the path when a car approached driven by a woman who works at the pub.  she asked me if she could show me something.  i jumped in eager to see this mystical magical something.  she told me she had two new lambs that were 24 hours old.  before i could blink she picked one up and thrust it at me with such force (i have not had lamb shoved at me so aggressively and with such intensity since i told my butcher i gave up red meat.)  now…i think that birth is a miracle and all but i didn’t want that so called miracle all over my new cambridge coat.  as you would assume the mother did not see 24 hours as adequate time to fully cleanse away the miracle of birth after having twins.  personally i don’t find the carelessness of youth as charming as sherlock holmes did yesterday.

complete non sequitur (what isn’t in my emails)
yesterday, after 6 weeks here, the historically factual recounting of the merman was shared.  i know it is not a mystical tale of unsubstantiated folklore because most of it takes place in the church.  it seems 200 years ago locals caught a merman in a net down at the quay.  after trying to get him to speak and explain his existence and where he came from they hung him upside down in the church. which of course is up there with brandy on the list of things known to make people chatter away.  he remained silent.  he was placed in the mote of the castle and escaped back to the sea.  my smartly dressed landlordess said the only reason he would not talk was he most likely  was…. a seal.  the townfolk’s medical expertise seems not to have advanced much since mermen/seals were persecuted for there unwillingness to speak.  i have been consistently told by the random orfordian that my consumption of
1. guinness (which has hit an all time high)
2. strong coffee
3. rum soaked cakes
will put hair on my chest.  to be safe and avoid being strung up in the church bell tower after being mistaken for a talking sheep i am about to depart england.  don’t know if i will have wifi access at my place in buenos aires but  if you don’t want to be included in the mass email updates of my travels my feelings will not be hurt…your car tires might…but my feelings won’t.  no really just let me know and i’ll make sure you do not get the next update on tango lessons in buenos aires and my photographer landlord whose last exhibition was entitled “abducted.”  things are gonna be a little different.

they call that a match (1/08)

May 2nd, 2010 Comments Off

well, i saw a rugby match…it is officially time for me to leave england.  if i would have seen the players before i heard them i might actually have thought it was some sort of later then usual christmas pageant.  which since orford is on its own clock would not be strange.  the teams were quite festive to behold in red and green uniforms. but as i said i heard them first. i was cutting through the churchyard on this blessed sunday heading to the town square and decided to walk the three blocks to the playing field (which i didn’t know existed… but only had to follow such expletives that i can not repeat here to find it.)  little baby jesus would not have appreciated the tribute.

being that my sports fanaticism is at the level it is and i am a guest in this lovely country i don’t think it is entirely fair of me to say they were bad….but they weren’t good.  here is my version of the sports page.
green team:  angry group of men known for very vulgar language and yelling at: a) the opposing team, b) the ref, c) their fellow team mates (and i’m not sure but i think the one guy was yelling at the little girl with the baby carriage).  on bums quite frequently which often led to being injured and/or walking “it” off.  goalie quite possibly insane or in need of a lengthy time period with both massive medication and intensive anger management classes
red team: winning

so of course i follow this by heading to an anniversary party for the people i am renting the cottage from.  they have been married 60 years!  actually they were married in early december but as i said orford  is on it’s own schedule.

Operation Smile

May 2nd, 2010 Comments Off

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