Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Asado Summer

Like the word barbecue, asado means both meat and the act of grilling it, which usually becomes an all-out party. Back in Buenos Aires there were no less than 3 asados in the first 3 days of my return, all with meat as lovely as the friends who grilled it. It's good to be home.

Caught up with an old friend from elementary school in LA, Bret, who happened to have been living here the past couple of years working in South American investments. Facebook got us together for lunches and comparing notes on Argentina. Nate, of Alternative Latin Investor, helped me say goodbye to him at the Evita Museum cafe the other day.

Dick El Demasiado y Los Exagerados
(peep the translation!) played at the Hotel Bauen and I went with good friends for good times. The Hotel was taken over by its employees after the peso crash and runs as a collective to this day, a real commie hotel (doesn't sound that glamorous does it?). There I met an Italian Spaniard from Texas who lives in Belgium and was traveling north to Bolivia. And I decided to go with him to Cordoba to the folklore festival. Which was amazing.

The festival included legendary performers of traditional and contemporary song and dance. But the after-hours parties were the best, local peƱas where bands played and everyone danced the chacarera, zamba, vidala, all these cool dances that everyone knew and loved and it was anything but old and stodgy, Cosquin made folk music cool and, well, sexy.

After a lot of great music, we got to explore the local watering hole and river shore scene. Cows and horses grazed freely and so did all ages of locals from families to couples and old folks. My multilingual friend and I were the only foreigners and we enjoyed waterfalls and rocky treks. I biked my way around after loading up on steak sandwich for a picnic, he wasn't as gluttonous in the heat but I needed ammo for all that trekking about.

In the evening, there were concerts at balnearios along the river. I caught a couple of great shows before heading to the bus back to BA.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Before Argentina comes New York

Studying economics during a global financial meltdown in Europe made me look at New York City differently. It's a city with incredible wealth, even in a depression. It's more vibrant and free than its Euro counterparts. Most importantly, it's the city where some of my favorite people live.

I spent Christmas between Manhattan and the South Bronx, visiting Erika and Manny at their house with kids and dog and extended family. Then train down to Tisra's to meet friends for a singles Xmas with singing and guitars.

Xmas Eve involved my Uruguayan/Argentine homie Matias and good friend Elijah. We attended Heebonism in the LES, a very entertaining experience, especially with my affectionate friend playing the role of typical Argentine, PDA-ing all over the place.

There was the awkward immigration lawyer who tried to adopt us mid-kiss and then hit on me when Mati went to the bathroom. There were the women who talked to Jermaine and Elijah, asking if they were Jewish, when at any other function they wouldn't care a bit. But I've been there, like any J-event, a Heeb party includes an agenda. I advised the boys to lie.

From Buenos Aires to NYC has been weirder with each visit over the past 3 years. This time around I came from Central Europe and, well, it was a lot to try to take in. Each of the places I've spent time in are safe enough and offer a nice life. But living in each has its pluses and minuses that sort of break your heart, letting you see what one gives up in exchange for the global marketplace.

In the Paris subway, I found a spontaneous party on Saturday night.

What is clear after jumping from Argentina (where life is much like it was 50 years ago) to Europe and then to NYC is that having time in your day is the most valuable asset one can have. Italy has less than it did, last time I was there a decade ago. And it has all the problems that come with that loss. Bs As is painfully poor compared to Europe and people are caught between the benefits of not being a part of the global marketplace - having time and social dignity - and becoming increasingly impoverished as a result of falling far behind.

But I'm very unconvinced on the material front. I won't stay in Argentina forever, I think the divide of haves and have nots is going to get uglier in the coming years. And I miss old friends and family. But the people here have so much that we in the U.S. lost over the past couple of generations. They are rich on the human side, from not being scared of a stranger in the street, to having time to nurture relationships at home. They can spend hours working out a problem, until it is resolved and everyone involved is okay. Many people live three-generations to a house and they get along. Activities take place in groups and people really enjoy being together. All this in the big city they describe as stressful, fast and too modern. What would they call NYC?