Archive for April, 2008
Surely this is the worst t-shirt ever produced, right?
He may not look tough, but this casino bouncer could kick yo ass.
Well, will you look at this? You travel all the way to Patagonia (which I’ve taken to calling by its full name, Patrickagonia), and you go in a supermarket and find some biscuits named after your home town. How cool is that? Pretty darn cool, that’s how cool it is. Oh, what’s that? You wanna know what’s in the background of the picture? Oh, y’know just a glacier, nothing special…
Let us begin the beguine at the beguineing: I am what you human beings call “drunk.” I’m at that stage where I’m in my room – oh fuck, it’s not MY room, it’s a four-bed dorm in a hostel – and I’ve just been stood in front of the mirror calling myself a cunt repeatedly. So, yes, ich bin ein bit drunk. Earlier today, before I left Ushuaia, I was in a cafe and that Celine Dion song from “Titanic” came on. It is, as we all know, a piece of shit song. Utter turd. Absolutely shite. Complete wank. Yes, Mum, I used some swear words. But I noticed a couple in the cafe suddenly got a bit more intimate with each other. Their coffees and their sandwiches faded away into insignificance. They looked at each other, and I knew right there that this was their song. Now, as I said, it’s a shockingly bad song. But, who the fuck am I to judge? It’s fundamentally wrong to mock other peoples’ choice of songs to fall in love to. That might’ve been the song they danced to at their wedding. Who am I to piss on that romantic bonfire? Yes, the song sucks big time; it sounds like a vacuous love song with all the emotional intensity of a laminated menu or a Blu-Tacked “Closing Down Sale” sign in a fax machine shop window, but to these two people, that song brings back all those feelings. It churns up the tornado of love in their bellies. How can I piss on that bonfire with my music-snob shite? I can’t, because I’m the same. I can’t hear “Silent Sigh” by Badly Drawn Boy or “Home and Dry” by the Pet Shop Boys without thinking about the wonderful beginnings of a relationship with a specific girl. I can’t hear “The Way I Feel Inside” by the Zombies without knowing that I was an idiot and fucked up a perfectly good relationship, simply because that song was in “Dear Wendy,” the first film she and I went to see together. In fact, any song by the Zombies does that; which is difficult because I fucking love the Zombies; especially “This Will Be Our Year,” which is a problem because at the time, it really did feel like it would be our year. Then my mental state came crashing down around my ears and I callously and needlessly and regrettably ended it. Yes, I’m a twat. But, thankfully for her, she’s now in a relationship that seems to be going strong, and I’m the one who’s just been sat at the bar in a, err, bar in Patagonia, staring at the smiley-face sticker on the front of my iPod thinking, what the fuck are you smiling at? Yes, this is drunken confession time. Woo hoo, strap yourselves in, the Quilmes beer rollercoaster is beginning. Frankly, I’m sick of my life being partitioned perfectly; with different friends separated to fit different parts of my personality. And, oh fuck, why the hell am I typing this into Blogger? I’m sick of the privacy bubble I’ve blown up around myself. There’s so much I hold back from blogging about. While Hanni and I were together, I hardly mentioned her at all on the blog. I didn’t mention Zombies Girl at all, even though we five months together and spent Christmas with her family in Mexico. That was so wrong. I’m pissed off with myself that I did that kind of stuff. It kinda proves that I’m the cunt that the mirror told me I was, and hopefully, I won’t delete this post in the morning, cos I need this tattooed to remind me not to be a dick any more; to remind me that I’m not as great as I think I am. See, I live in this bubble of ego, where I actually think I’m fucking great and incredibly talented. Essentially, though, apart from the odd flurry of stuff, I’ve had writer’s block for a couple of years now. But I know there’s more good stuff there. It just needs to be forced out somehow. I know that there’s more good stuff to go on FFF, and if I could just somehow sell more books – hey, have you bought Atlas, Schmatlas yet? It really is wonderful, but has sold bugger all so far, partly because of The Onion’s damn (admittedly hilarious) atlas being published at virtually the same time – yes, if I could do that, then maybe I’d have more chance to spend less time whoring myself out to do Minipops for dumb advertising campaigns, and I could find that fucking great idea that IS there inside my head somewhere; something so good that the need I have for other people to adore my work will slip away. But for now, I need that heroin of people leaving comments telling me they like what I have said. It’s sometimes disheartening to write something that amuses me a lot, but gets few comments; it’s a reminder that my humour isn’t always the same as other peoples’. But then a post like the last one comes along and I know it’s pretty damn good. It made me laugh a lot writing it. And I was glad that it got comments and emails: fuck, the Internet is a fun thing. And it made me realise that yes, sometimes things like a blog post can be a work of art. Oh, you may think I’m a pompous, drunken tool right now, but I don’t care. What I do care about is the beauty in imagining a thoroughly unattractive woman cupping my balls in teaspoons. That, to me, is as funny as life gets. And since writing “Atlas, Schmatlas” all I’ve wanted to do is write. Drawing holds no interest for me any more. Hopefully it’s a fleeting thing, but it feels weird to not love drawing. It’s always been there for me in my life. Music waned for a while when it became a job. Football bored me at the beginning of the 1998/99 season after the World Cup (just TOO MUCH football). But drawing never did. And now it has. All I wanna do is write write write. And the beautiful by-product of that is you people. You that have bothered to read this far. Those of you that see beyond those fucking ridiculous Minipops. I love you all. Even those of you that are fucking idiots (joke! It’s was a joke, calm down!). You people are golden. And I hope you stay golden. And stay gold is a fucking great phrase from a fucking great film and also the title of, yes, a fucking great song by Deep Dish. A song that I’d happily fall in love to and have played at my wedding, even though the DJ would probably only have the version with Tracy Thorn singing on it rather than the exquisite instrumental original version. And it would mean that I’d have to do my wedding dance to a house record, but I know, I know that beyond my wife’s shoulder, there would be my mate James at the edge of the dancefloor, and he’d catch my eye and mouth the words “fucking tune!” And life would rule the school and rock the bells at that moment.
I woke up too late yesterday morning to go on a trip to some nearby lakes, so after my breakfast I sauntered the two kilometres out of town to visit the aquarium. I like aquariums. It’s not really because of the many species that I don’t see on a daily basis, although that is nice; it’s more that I like putting my face close to the glass and imagining what the hell those fish must think when they see my speccy, beardy noggin looming in.
The walk was pleasant enough, and it was nice to see the outskirts of such a tourist-friendly town. Lots of auto repair places, some warehouses, the naval base, a petrol station, and the occasional grim-looking disco pub. Apart from the mountains and the Beagle Channel on either side, it could’ve been any provincial backwater.
I nearly missed the aquarium; if I’d've been in a car, I definitely would have missed it. The sign outside was so unassuming that you could feel it apologising to other, better aquariums. Now, I find crappy museums and tourist attractions thoroughly enchanting; like the best songs by The Smiths, they are full of humour, beauty, and sadness. Be they lovingly-assembled places that aren’t much more than one man’s obsession opened up to the public, or sloppy, desperate reactions to a town’s desire to have a museum, any museum, please God! we need a museum!
This aquarium fell into the latter category. It was a miserably inadequate excuse for an aquarium. But within such places, I find myself enjoying the rubbishness, and also, conversely, empathising with the desolation of the soul-crushing boredom that comes out of every exhalation of air from the cashier’s nostrils. And it was obvious from the very first moment that this would be crappy. The door was locked (not expecting many visitors, then?), and the cashier woman trudged over to unlock it. She let me in, trudged back, and without any extraneous verbal embellishment, like a hello or a please, said “twenty five.”
I’d assumed she meant pesos, but she was probably referring to the number of specimens on display. This was an aquarium in name, but it wasn’t what you think of when you close your eyes and imagine one. There were few trout, the odd crab, a handful of sea urchins, some starfish, and a couple of eels. There were about twenty tanks, but they were sparsely populated, like other more-ambitious fish and molluscs have upped sticks and moved to bigger, better aquariums.
All this was made even more tragic because the loudspeakers were playing a Barry White greatest hits album. I felt obliged to read all the photocopied-and-laminated information that was in English on the walls, simply so that I didn’t leave too soon. I always feel guilty if I leave a museum or something too quickly. You might as well walk up to the curator or whatever-the-word-for-an-aquarium-running-person-is, and say, “I’ve had a look ’round, and frankly, it’s a bunch of toss.” I needn’t have worried though, as the route around the aquarium didn’t take me back to the entrance, just to a fire escape door that opened onto a muddy, pebble-y driveway at the side.
I took it easy for the rest of the day. I found myself still fairly tired from spending six hours going to, at, and returning from the glacier. In the evening, I lay on the bed in my room, in my socks and underpants, listening to sad, lonely, broken-hearted country music while the incessant pitter-patter of rain hit the metal roof of the porch beneath my room’s window. Apart from the country music, this is probably exactly what I would have been doing 25 years ago on a Sunday evening in Lincoln. Back then, though, I’d have been listening to the Top 40 countdown on Radio 1, thinking, “Ooh, “Let’s Dance” is number one… interesting; Bowie’s fourth number one single if my 12 year old brain is not mistaken.”
No smoking is allowed in my room, so if I’ve got my trousers off, it tends to stop me from smoking willy-nilly, as I’d have to make the effort to put my trousers back on, go downstairs, and stand in the open-plan kitchen/dining room area. Which, after about three hours, is what I was ready to do. Down I went, and there was Fredo (who’s actually called Frodo, I’ve found out; I’d misheard originally, quite possibly intentionally blocking out any reference to that turgid, sack of shit, goblin-y film trilogy). He was wet, like he’d just been out for a walk. I heard the movement noises of a human, and I looked around the corner behind a wall, and there was Mónica, the landlady (is that the right word for someone who runs a B&B;?).
It was one of those situations where one doesn’t want to look, but you just can’t help let your eyes scan the scene. She was bending her knees slightly, not enough to move up or down, just la la la, left-right-left-right, back and forth back and forth; stood in front of the radiator, doing a little getting-warm jig. My brain processed in a nanosecond that there was flesh-coloured stuff below her bright pink t-shirt, where her trousers or skirt should be. Don’t wanna look, don’t wanna look, don’t wanna look. I took a step back, muttered, “lo siento,” and – aagh! you bastard! I looked. I told you – me – not to do that, you nincompoop! She was in her underpants.
She smiled a strange smile at me, grabbed a crocheted tablecloth, put it on like a man would put on a towel after a shower, and a gingerly followed me into the kitchen and slurringly asked if I wanted a coffee. Yes please, that’d be lovely; it’s a bit parky, and a coffee would go down a treat to help warm up my tootsies. She smiled again, with cartoon drunk eyes and teeth. As she went to fetch some trousers (gold satin; and not in a classy way, if there is such a thing), I noticed a nigh-on empty bottle of wine next to her cigarettes.
She came back, poured a cup of coffee from the percolator and put it in the microwave. One, zero, zero, start. On top of the microwave was the cable TV box. She flicked through the channels in a way that any male human would be proud of: pausing for less than a second on each channel before coming to rest on the Disney Channel. All the time, she did a little bum-wiggle dance.
This is the point where those of you who are regular porn mag letters-page readers can put your cocks back in your pants. She didn’t open my jeans, exclaim “Mi Dios! Señor Robinson, es un monstruo! Y tiene huevos bonito!”, push me back onto the stainless steel counter, and cup my testicles lovingly in tea spoons whilst blowing me with a mouthful of mint chocolate chip ice cream or anything like that; so drag your Neanderthal mind out of the sewer, please.
What actually happened was the microwave pinged after 60 seconds, she passed me the coffee, I asked for milk, she got me some milk, I took a sip, went “mmmm,” said thank you, stood there awkwardly for six seconds or so, and returned to my room, took off my trousers and got back to listening to Hank Williams telling me that he was so lonesome he wanted to die.
Last night when I walked home from the restaurant with wifi, (the restaurant had a wifi Internet connection, that is; not that I was walking home with someone called Wifi) I passed an Internet place. One of those places that every town has; with a few rows of PCs, each separated by a piece of wood to afford some sort of privacy. Along the back wall were eight computers. Seven of them were occupied by teenage boys wearing headphones and all creeping around the same landscape – it looked like a castle or something – and shooting at each other. At the end of the row, there was a smaller boy. He was playing Space Invaders.
I wasn’t in the mood for another organised tour or some sort of “contained” day; I fancied doing something meandering, so I looked at the map, saw it was a 7km walk up to the aerosilla (chairlift) that goes up to the Glaciar Martial, and figured that would be quite manageable. Kinda wish I’d got a taxi, though. It was cold, windy, and snowing all the way up the winding mountain road. It took just over an hour in the end, and although my face and hands were cold (why oh why haven’t I bought gloves!?), it wasn’t too bad.
But when I got to the chairlift, the guy at the station thingy smiled and waved through the window and met me at the door. Then he told me that the chairlift was closed for maintenance. It wasn’t just that they’d broken down and needed some repair, but he had a load of huge cogs and brackets all laid out in the station on newspaper like it was a big job. (Handy that no-one at the tourist information tells you this, huh?) But, I could still go up there, but it’d be a 1.5km walk. “Do you have water?” he asked. “Err, no.” He gave me a bottle, which was nice of him.
I set off. Quite a nice walk. A bit of a slog as it was all uphill through snow, but pleasant. The autumn is turning the trees beautiful colours and the stream is starting to freeze into wonderful icicles. There were a small handful of other people around. Enough to feel safe that if anyone got into trouble we’d be found quickly. After a good half an hour, I reached the point where the chairlift ends.
Onwards and upwards to the glacier. Woo. Another ten minutes or so, and there it is, a big moraine-encrusted hunk of ice. I couldn’t really see the ice, it all being covered in the moraine and snow, but there it was. A big old glacier. It was overwhelming. I mean, I will see a better glacier in a few days time, but for now, this one got to me. Stood up there, being battered by snowy winds, clouds obscuring the tops of the mountains; it was all a bit too much. I had a little weep.
Walking further towards it, there was a little wooden bridge that crossed a stream (above). Beyond the bridge was a rope for pulling yourself up the steep bank to get onto the edge of the glacier. I climbed up and started crossing towards the main chunk of glacier. Fuck, it was windy. It was really cold, too. I got my headphones out to give my ears some extra protection over the cap and hood. I was in a glacial landscape, ice and snow all around, so it only seemed right to listen to the perfect music for this place. There’s was one Scandinavian band for this moment. You know who I’m talking about. So I pressed play and listened to “Take On Me” and “The Sun Always Shines On TV.” After a few A-ha songs, though, I put on some Sigur Rós.
The ground beneath my feet was covered in snow. Now and again, I’d sink ankle or shin deep into the snow, but there were always rocks nearby to know that it wasn’t gonna be too deep. I saw some birds all crouched low; at least until I got close and then they buggered off. After a while, I was on top of the glacier. Not what one expects, really, but here I was doing something I’d wanted to do since I first learnt about glaciers in geography lessons at school. It was thrilling. Really thrilling. Really cold too. Damn the lack of gloves, damn the blister forming on the underneath of my foot, damn the decision to only wear one pair of socks. The upper half of my body was snug and a little bit sweaty after all the walking and the five layers, but I wish I’d been as well prepared below the waist.
I was following some fairly recent footprints, so figured I was doing okay. I took my time, enjoying the view, and soon enough the wind was moulding the edges of the footprints and further along they’d disappeared. I was on my own for navigation. But, in the distance, I saw three people so I knew I was going somewhere where I could get off the glacier. Eventually, though, it became obvious that the snow was getting quite deep, and the rocky areas were fewer and farther between. I knew that the other people had done it somehow, but I knew not where.
I kept walking further and further up, and melodramatic thoughts of “Touching the Void” flashed through my brain. I was at a point where there were no rocks. Just four metres of snow in front of me before the next bunch of rocks. I picked up a stone and chucked it at the snow. “Ooh, that’s gone in quite deep,” I thought. But, one must keep going forward. The others had done it, so I would do it too. But, I chose the wrong place. I took one step. Ankle deep. Another step. Ankle deep. Another step. Shin deep. Another step and I’m suddenly crotch deep in snow. I flung myself forward, bending at the waist, arms spread. I’m covered in snow, but I’m not sinking. I breaststroke the snow and pull myself out and, panicky-breathed, scramble to the rocks.
Time to stop listening to music. Good job, really, because the next snowy section I had to cross had a stream underneath which I couldn’t see, but could hear. I walked further up until there was a section thin enough to Bob Beamon my way over without getting feet full of icy water. I could see the other people. I knew they’d got down, but the snow and the rocks… they all look the same and it’s difficult to tell where they’d been.
By now, my feet were getting cold. The snow that had snuck into my shoes was melting. The water was swishing around, rubbing my blister, but I didn’t really feel anything. I was too focused on getting off the glacier. I kept going. Two steps forward, one step back. Over there looks easy only to discover it isn’t, so a bit of backtracking to find somewhere else. Finally, I was in shouting distance of the other people. One of them pointed out a good place to cross a stream.
I was off the glacier. Thank fuck for that. When one does something dumb, it’s good to find comfort in not being the only one. I spoke to Eugene, a Ukrainian, and two gap-year Brits, Ross and Charlotte. None of them wore gloves either. They too had soon realised that they’d gone the wrong way and told me that when they saw me going the same way that they’d taken, wondered if I was really experienced or an idiot like them. Of course, we all had a good chuckle at our idiocy. We all hurried down, back past the chair lift and to the cafe at the base station place. Coffee and cake. Soggy feet, but we were all safe. And I’d learned myself a lesson. Gloves and better shoes next time. I’m now having to we
ar plastic bags over my socks so that I can still wear my only pair of shoes and not get foot rot or something. Still, it was fucking beautiful up there, and, you know what, “Hunting High and Low” sounds pretty damn good when you’re stood on a glacier.
No idea what type of bird this is, but I’m sure he/she has a great personality.
Gonna try this rock now
Bit peckish, actually
That was nice, but now I want a Pepsi. Would make a nice change from drinking sea water… bit bored of that.
And a couple more photos of stuff thrown in for good measure.
A ship that looks like it crashed at some point
A jetty thingy that looks quite dangerous
A nice collection of colours
Another slightly reminiscential post in a couple of ways; it’s a collection of photographs of dogs that I’ve seen on my travels, and, well, y’know…
Punta del Diablo
Today marks the halfway point of my trip. It’s three months, or thirteen weeks, or 90 days since I was sat at Heathrow waiting to get on an aeroplane. Not an insignificant amount of time, really. I’ve been to six different countries (Mexico, Belize, Panama, Brazil, Uruguay, and Argentina); I’ve used 17 aeroplanes, ten buses, and one ferry. I’ve slept in 23 different beds (plus one bus seat and an airport floor). And I’ve had the time of my life. And it feels good to be at this stage of my trip in this place. The self-proclaimed Southernmost City in the World. A couple of months ago, I’d never been south of the equator, and here I am; as far south as you can go and still be able to buy Camel cigarettes. I’ve only had a few pinch-myself moments (watching a game in the Estadio Azteca, swimming in the Caribbean Sea of Belize, standing in front of the cathedral in Brasilia), but I had another yesterday after I’d bought the ticket to take the boat trip, I was like, “I can’t believe this! I’m going to see some sea lions in their natural habitat!”
Do you think that if a sea lion ever saw a lion, they’d turn to the nearest human and say, “What the fuck!? We don’t look anything like them! You humans are mental…” Then a sea horse would swim up alongside the sea lion and fold its non-existent arms and nod its head and he’d high five the sea lion. Obviously, he wouldn’t know that high fiving a sea lion would mean that he’d be knocked about ten metres into the air, and he’d have a really big bruise. And then a sea urchin would float up to the surface, wearing a cravat and a monocle, smoking a pipe, and he’d say, “I concur, your naming methods are simply appalling. And no, you impertinent oik, I do not want another bowl of gruel.”
Anyway, last night I slept underneath a “duvet.” It’s quite a pleasant item. It’s like a very thick sheet that keeps you warm. I think they’ll catch on and be all the rage someday. The B&B; where I’m staying seems nice. The middle-aged woman who runs it speaks no English; I speak very little Spanish, but we manage to get along with what needs to be said. She’s got a cocker spaniel, too. Weird that the two B&Bs; I’ve stayed in this week both had cockers. This one, Fredo, is a real cutiepie. He’s exceedingly friendly, greets me at the door, and lifts his paws up to say hello like Billy does. He’ll sit down next to me, put a paw up over and over again, and then when I put my hand down to stroke his paw, he kinda flops sideways and rolls on to his back ready for a proper bit of stroking.
It was snowing this morning. Turned to rain fairly quickly, though, and it’s been fairly grim all day. Still beautiful, though. Clouds covering most of the mountains. The odd bit of sunlight peaking through brighting the place up.
I had a day wandering around the town, listened to the iPod (can’t get enough of “In Rainbows” and Richard Swift at the moment), and visited three museums. Museo del Fin del Mundo (on a street called Maipú; pronounced “my poo”) is all about the town. Maps, old bits and bobs, stuffed animals, some arrowheads, that kinda stuff. Is there any museum in the whole world that doesn’t have some knackered old arrowheads?
The Museo Yámana is all about the native folks who used to live down here. Quite a nice little museum this, with lots of nice models. The Yámana lived their lives naked and covered in seal grease to protect them from the weather until Johnny European turned up with his prudish ways and made them cover up. Whale and seat hunting by us Europeans also left the Yámana with less food. To put the nail in the coffin, we gave them diseases that they had no immunity against. Well done, us.
Next stop Museo Presidio in the city’s former prison. Cool place for a museum. It wasn’t just a prison museum, though; it was also the maritime museum, with a few other bits and bobs thrown in for good measure (Antarctic exploration, Malvinas stuff, and one wing that hadn’t been done up and was as the prison was, ie. pretty grim). My tummy was growling by this point, and there was lots to look at, so I kinda skimmed through this place. Was interesting to see some stuff from the Falklands War, though. Good to see stuff from the other side for once, rather than the British tabloid we-twatted-the-Argies view.
It wasn’t until near the end that I noticed a “no photos” sign, so, y’know, I was naughty. But, fuck it, it was a relatively expensive museum, and when I asked for a ticket, the woman at the cash desk asked where I was from and then told me the price, 35 pesos. The next guy, an Argentinian, was asked to pay 20 pesos. The fucking crooks. Plus, if you lose the key to the locker where you must put your bag, I think they take you out back and give you a go on the iron maiden.
It continued raining, so I returned to the B&B;, and had a little lie down. Tomorrow, hopefully, I’ll get out again and have a good, activity-filled day. There’s three or four things I wanna do with the rest of my time here, but I’m not in the mood to plan my days too much, so I’ll decide when I wake up.
But now, I will go back out in the rain to the one place I’ve found in town with wifi to drop these words into Blogger and put them online. And as has happened whenever I wear them, passers-by will give me funny looks cos of my headphones. Why is it that people insist on looking at me like I’m a retard if I’m wearing my big headphones? I mean, yeh, they might look a bit dumb, but all it means is I like listening to music. It’s not like my ears are actually that size and shape. And anyway, in a place like this, they double as excellent earmuffs.
Anyway, as it is the halfway point of the trip, here’s a few extra photos from the last three months. Photos that I like, but haven’t used on the blog for one reason or another.
Olympic stadium, Mexico City.
A tall man and a short man, Mexico City.
A leaf that looks like a bird at Juliana’s mum’s house, Brasilia.
Blinds at Brasilia airport.
A rock pool, Punta del Diablo.
Mum was washing reds, Colonia del Sacramento.
I like the scratches on aeroplane windows.
A sign outside a hotel, with a map of how to get to the hotel you will have already found, here in Ushuaia.
I sat next to a murderer on the plane. When we were all in the bus that was ferrying us from the departure gate to the plane, there was a moth doing its mothy thing with the strip lighting. Clearly this annoyed this one fellow, and he made several attempts to kill it before finally sending it plummeting in a dusty spiral to the ground. I made sure that I gave him minimal armrest access as punishment for his crime.
Three and a half hours in the sky later, and I’m in Ushuaia, the capital of the province of Tierra del Fuego. And, ooh, it’s a bit nippy. A touch below zero with a bit of a biting wind. How strange. After three months of sunshine and warmth, it’s a curious thing to be somewhere cold. My breath is all visible when it comes out of my gob. My fingers feeling a touch gelid when they’re outside of my pockets. There’s wind on my face, and I’m wearing three layers, with a cap on, and a hood up. Was it really only yesterday that I was sat around in a t-shirt with the ceiling fan on?
Ushuaia, on first impressions, is a fairly ordinary town. A few nice old buildings, but nothing special. And it seems to totally exist for tourists. The one main street is full of stuff for us. It’s like being in Skegness. Well, it’s not, but you know what I mean. But what surrounds the town is pretty special. The Beagle Channel on one side, and wonderful snow-topped mountains on the other sides.
Despite having only a brief nap last night on the plane, I was pretty get-up-and-go when I got here. I dumped my stuff at the B&B; and went out to get myself booked on a boat trip. I did that, then got a map and had a little look around the town. One thing that is immediately obvious here, to a Brit anyway, is how
Tierra del Fuegians Fueguinos still seem to believe that the Falklands should belong to Argentina. Look at this inset on the map of Tierra del Fuego, for example:
And there’s some sort of memorial to, I assume, the war dead:
Which looks very cool from the back where it’s just a plain solid green colour to highlight the cut-out Falkland Islands:
Anyway, the boat trip was ace. Saw some cormorants, sea lions and had a walk around on an island. I’ll let the pictures explain, ’cause my laptop battery’s nearly dead and the waitress is giving me “are you gonna order another drink, you freeloading nerd?”-looks.
Coming at you thick and fast now, these podcasts, eh? Just like Devon custard in a cheetah’s rucksack.
I’m typing from my hotel cell, lying in bed with a bluergh feeling in my mouth, the sniffles, a bit of a foggy head, and a cough. If I were in a smaller, quieter city, I’d probably go out for a walk, but it’s so busy in Buenos Aires, that all I wanna do is lie here and wait for the Liverpool game on telly.
I’ve mostly ignored doing touristy stuff for the last couple of days. I just kinda sauntered around, really. I saw the Casa Rosada where Evita asked that folks don’t cry for her. That kind of stoicism is something that I can’t fully achieve, though…
I know I’ve not been in the best of moods here, but from what I’ve seen, I’m not sure Buenos Aires lives up to the hype it seems to get. Still, I’m not a huge fan of tango and eating steak at 11pm, so maybe I’m not the best person to give an opinion. It’s just incredibly busy all the time here. Millions of cars and buses. Even with the wide pavements, there’s a ton of pedestrians to negotiate. I did see the ultimate slow-down-pedestrian-traffic configuration though. An old man who seemed to have arthritis or something. He was pushing an old lady in a very crappy wheelchair. She was holding a dog leash. On the end of that dog leash was a fat bastard of a dog with really short legs, waddling along. He was wearing a muzzle. And when he saw another dog on the pavement, he’d dash in front of his owner to back and snarl at it.
But, I’ve tried to slow down and enjoy life a bit. I’ve spent a lot of time in cafes, watching the world go by. I’ve especially enjoyed watching the old men, and imagining them as fictional Argentinian football managers. Him in the pink shirt and greased back hair… he got sacked after three months after an argument with the much-loved captain. Him in the grey suit with white hair and a cigarette… he got sacked after eight days when he was discovered to have been boning the football federation chairman’s wife. Him with the black polo shirt, bitchin’ moustache, and a blonde companion half his age… he won the World Cup. It doesn’t take much to amuse me, obviously.
Anyway, I’m heading down south tomorrow morning. Here’s a bunch of random pics of Buenos Aires.
Not certain about this, but I think this is something to do with the Dirty War. It says something about those two guys being militants, abducted by state terrorism. Sorry, my Spanish isn’t good enough to fully understand, so if anyone knows what it really says, let me know.
These two women were sat a couple of tables apart, and looked like twins, like bookends. I was busted taking the second photo, thus the blurriness.
And here’s a bunch more from the cemetery.
Not often you see statues of breast-feeding, is it?
Guess who’s grave this is…
Is it wrong to think a statue on a tomb is kinda cute?
Didn’t bother with much editing this time, so it’s pretty much as-live. (I made one error, though. At one point I said Mexico City, but I meant Montevideo.) I hope to work out how to do the iTunes thing in time for the next one to make it easier for y’all.
I visited La Recoleta Cemetery. As cemeteries go, it’s one of the more famous ones. And very beautiful it is too. Aside from all the regular photos I took, I found myself, about halfway around, having taken a fair few close-ups of the relief portraits on the tombs. I ended up taking over forty pictures. Each one on its own just looks like a relief portrait, but, I think, when you see a lot of them all together, they become more than that. They seem to become people not just portraits, and you can see a little bit of their personalities. The contrast is nice; that some were confident, happy, or otherwise. Here’s a few examples, but the whole set is over in the Collecting section of Flip Flop Flyin’.
I took a couple of photos of this next guy, and it’s interesting for me to see how the artist makes the face look three dimensionally correct from the front, and how that creates a slight distortion when viewed from the side.
As has been the case for the majority of the last few weeks of travelling, I arrived in Buenos Aires with no hotel reservation. I turned up at some place that a friend recommended, but it was full. Half an hour of walking later, though, and I’d found the place the guy at the first hotel had suggested, and it was lovely. A big old house, run by an old fellow with a croaky voice and a lovely cocker spaniel. There were family photos and paintings all around. My room was very simple, and looked for all the world like some 19th century French artist’s room. The guy was dead friendly that first evening, but since then has just seemed a bit annoyed and not particularly welcoming. I could only stay there for two nights as they were booked up after that; so now I’m in another lumpy-pillow hotel with a view of a wall, and ceiling fan that looks like it will fall and chop my legs up in the middle of the night.
Superficially, I’ve been having a good time. Well, I’ve not had a bad time. I spent Friday night with a very nice young Argentinian woman called Laura who you may have noticed leaves the odd comment here and there on the blog, and when she worked in a bookshop in London, she did a lot to promote the Minipops book (including, she told me, recommending it to him out of Suede). So that was splendid evening, getting drunk in the rather hipstery Palermo district.
And yesterday I met up with Ariel, a New Yorker, who’s here on holiday, too. We have a mutual friend. Lots of chit chatting in cafes and bars throughout the afternoon and evening. And we got a cab to La Bombonera to go and see Boca Juniors v Banfield. Sadly, though, the game was sold out, so we traipsed back, a bit dejected, but also, seeing the fairly large number of dodgy-looking fans around, a little bit relieved, cos I’ve spoken to three locals about going to the game, and they all told me to be very careful. As we walked away from the stadium, I saw one bloke leaning down to his ankle and hiding what looked suspiciously and glintingly like shiv in his sock. We just sauntered around for a while, had some booze, and ate big hunks of cooked cow. It was, as the British Telecom commercial used to say, good to talk. I enjoyed having nice conversations two days in a row.
But – oh! that bloody inevitable ‘but’ – I’m exhausted. Not physically, although my shoulders do ache a bit, and all the walking around affords me little opportunity to let my blisters heal; but mentally exhausted. I’m a few days away from being halfway through my trip and the fatigue is really kicking in. I know it’s like listening to a movie star complain about the paparazzi, or hearing a musician complain about touring; I know that I’m lucky to be doing this, but I’m just ready for it to end.
These feelings have come and gone throughout the trip so far, but the gaps between them coming and going are getting smaller. Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve spent way more time being weary than not. I’m can’t look at another South American church or fancy old colonial building that’s supposed to be of importance. I’ve briefly considered cutting the trip short, but that’s not the answer. I’d only go back to London or Berlin and hate myself more for doing it.
I do need to cleanse my palate, though. I really want to enjoy Buenos Aires, but now isn’t the right time. I think I’m just gonna stay a couple more nights, buy a coat, then head right down south to see the end of the world. It’ll probably be the best thing to do. See some rugged landscape. Feel some cold wind on my face. See some sea lions. And then come back up here to properly enjoy what seems to be a pretty groovy city.
The past three months have been the best thing I’ve ever done in my life. It’s just fucking amazing to be doing this. I’m so damn lucky. But I’m lonely and homesick. I want to see Billy, I want to see my friends, I want to smoke a Gauloises Blonde, I want some apfelschorle and Lachgummi, I wanna go to softball practice, I want to walk to the end of Pappelallee and get a double cappuccino from Impala and then have a walk around Mauerpark. If I could transport myself back there for a couple of days and come straight back, it’d be so perfect. But I can’t, and I’ve just got to work myself out of my funk.
Maybe I’ll go out now and cheer myself up at La Recoleta Cemetery. Apologies for this moany, woe-is-me, European, white boy blog post, but, I’m don’t keep a diary, so this is where this kinda shit has to go.
If you’re gonna do graffiti, it’s preferable to know how to spell the name of the band you like before starting out. And it’s also a good idea to visualise how much space you’ll need so the letters don’t get all scrunched up at the end. Still, at least they used pink spray paint.
Ach, one of the downsides of not being good at Spanish is not being able to make your point in an argument/discussion. I got fleeced by a crook of a cab driver. The meter said UR$54 (less than a couple of quid) and when I handed him $60, he asked for $100. He was bigger than me, and looked like he was more than willing to beat me to a pulp and drive over my head, so I paid him and said thank you. One day, though, we’ll meet again, on a beach, and I’ll have been to the gym LOADS, so I’ll kick sand in his face, cough on his ice cream, and steal his girlfriend and make love to her with greater panache, élan, and éclat than she had ever known with him. And while he is prostrate in the sand (not the syrup) getting sand all on his tongue, recovering from the smackdown I’ve delivered, I’ll move the bookmark further along in the book he’s reading, so when he resumes reading he’ll be a bit confused about the plot.
Anyway, I got the bus, and I’m now in Colonia del Sacramento; a pretty town about two-and-a-half hours west of Montevideo. I’ve already seen three people who were staying at the same hostel in Punta del Diablo. Had a brief chat with one of them, but we both knew that we didn’t actually want to talk to each other, so it faltered and included some “yeh, anyway…”s and a number of half-steps away.
The Rough Guide to South America says of Colonia that, “just strolling around the streets will spirit you into the past.” It doesn’t say where abouts in the past exactly. I found myself spirited back to late-March 2008, where Coca Cola umbrellas adorned the tables outside cafes, and there was an HSBC bank around the corner, and every other shop sells souvenirs. Here’s some photos, so, y’know, prepare for some time travel.
(I like to think that the name of that shop and its description of the goods it sells should be said as a quizzical, slightly-mortified exclamation, like, “Christ!? German Leather Fashion!? since 1954?”)
Those of you with a superb memory may remember I mentioned that I was planning a little exhibition in Mexico City. Time flew by, and that exhibition opens this weekend. Sadly, the schedule of my trip has meant that I won’t be there to see it myself, but it should be nice. The show is called Mexipops which shouldn’t make it difficult to work out that the content is Minipops of Mexican people, all printed up nice and big.
There’s an opening night party thingy on Thursday – that’s, err, tonight. Some band that I’ve never heard of are playing. If you’re in Mexico City, I assume it will be a fun night out, so, you know, let me know how it is if you do happen to go along. Here’s the flyer (clicky to see a bigger version).