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Soundtrack to Mendoza

In Argentina, Sud America, travelling, tunnnneeeee! on April 29, 2010 at 3:34 am

The bus winds it’s way through the Argentinian country side, following the course of the lakes, snaking along the humped road, the sun slits through the gaps left by the half closed curtains, golden and warm, as every so often my face catches the suns gaze, turning my lids orange. The view from the window is glorious, the green and dun knobbled, cobbled terrain, bushes bobbles on the surface, the moon is full and rising even before the sun has set, the low slung cerro’s casting long shadows, and the road stretches on for ever, wisps of clouds hang balloon like in the clear sky, a pale shade of blue, darkening as it pushes itself onto tiptoe to reach the upper atmosphere.
Johnny hammond’s “tell me what to do”

is followed by “our lives are shaped by what we love”

on my headphones, the perfect chilled soundtrack to this low flying journey, johnny’s piano intro, followed by a tweaking, wah wah guitar riff, high pitched over the little fills, which create a palette of melodies, then the bass and johnny’s short verses, before the saxophone does it’s thing, sly and wicked, and a cool walk away all combined in the solo which sits high above the beats beneath.
“flying high with you….
trying hard to sleep….
tell me what to do??”
Dusk creeps over the land, sun relinquishes it’s hot grip, and the vertically challenged hillocks in the distance are draped in a livery of purple and cerise and aubergine. The moon is big and full and easy to see but when I try to capture it, it just appears as a pale white dot, a glitch in the image, a bad pixel. I take shot after shot trying to capture it and immediately delete them, my eye is a 70mm lens and my camera is a 28mm.
I’ve sat on buses all day today and will be on this one into tomorrow morning. Listening to music all the way, glad the playlists on the iPod are so long, the big chill containing 338 chilled, mellow, outdoor tunes, named in honour of my first festival experience out in the wilds of Herefordshire, amongst deers and ageing children of hippies and friends ready to drink a cocktail, share a smoke and dance as the tunes roll down, sitting on grass, blanket beneath your cheeks, feeling the night come upon you stealthy with a chilly grip, eyes turned to the spotlit stage and the music that is amplified from it, heads nodding and feet tapping and the connection with it strong, linked to all those around you.

The bus is taken out of commission and we are transferred to another as we wait in the cool night air, underneath the awnings of a bus station that feels like an airport.
Restless night as the bus zooms through the darkness, uncomfortable, chill breeze emanating from somewhere, hitting just that tiny bit of exposes flesh, no position conducive to sleep, shift, stretch, scrunch, curl, nothing hapening. Check watch every so often, time moving in big chunks, so sleep must be pressing it’s weight upon me.
Awake for the final time as the sun draws a blood red line along the horizon, right side of the coach welcoming the new days arrival as the sky lightens and the sun rises, left side mourning the nights departure as the moon slowly disappears.
Vineyards cover the land as far as the eye can see, the only demarcation the taller trees that line the edges of the fields, and the gravel roads that bisect them. A low flat view, providing a perfect sight of the warming earth, the nights condensation turning to mist, weaving a blanket of smoky layers over the grapes. Assume at first it’s a fire then realise my mistake as i see the mist everywhere.
Outside of the cities, Argentina is a country of low slung single storey buildings with awnings and sloped roofs, of long roads whether paved or gravel, of the Andes dominating the view, the giant on the edge of your vision, well at least in the district of San Carlos which borders Chile. There is a pleasantly rustic and outdoor feel, of the community trying to make the best of the location, rather than gentrifying it, as if the land is too big and strong and rather than try and tame it they are just living with it’s routines, it’s habits, it’s nature, letting it dictate to them what is required and what isn’t.
In the time is takes to write the above, the sun has popped over the horizon, bulbous and golden, so low at this point that the trees which edge the vineyards, provide a shield to it’s glare, intermittently creating patches of sun and shade. And as the sun rises over the land, just like when it dipped below the horizon the night before, it feels like a scene out of a road movie, the wide expanse of land, the long two lane blacktop, the bright sharp shards of sunlight requiring the wearing of shades, the scrub growth, the dwarf bushes populating the ground all the way to the horizon, the electrical poles that quarter the earth sticking their wooden fingers into the sky, and just then as I look out into the light light light blue sky the Isley brothers pop into the mix, “brother, brother, brotherrrrr!”

Soon after a zed and two l’s from Fila brazilia comes on and I recline the seat some more, close my eyes and let it wash over me.

So wanting to make a film with a decent soundtrack, something as broad as the big chill playlist which reverberates inside my ear canals, none of this iconic rock, or wall to wall hip hop and rnb, or the odd nod to the present day, or the latest fey indie bands homage to heartbreak. It feels like movie soundtracks are either sweeping danny elfmanesque, yann tiersen orchestrations, or products of musical synergy, which band/artist/singer songwriter has produced a hit this time or let’s do a goodfellas and pack it full of hits that everyone knows. I want more, actually it’s more than that I want what I listen to and love to be up there, for the whole swathe of music, jazz, dnb, trip hop, soul, funk. And as I finish this you won’t guess what comes on.
Maxwell’s “I’m you: you are me and we are you (pt me and you)”

from the album that he and the hordes of screaming female fans at the academy last year seemed to conveniently forget Embrya, which in my mind will stand the test of time better than the two that have come after, a perfect, confident, sprawling, epic, egotistical concept album. Go get it people, big basslines, haunting vocals, and an overarching water symbolism, oh and strings to die for.

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Villa la angostura

In Argentina, Sud America, travelling on April 29, 2010 at 3:27 am

So I’m staying in a lovely little hosteria owned by mono a friend of a friend of a friend in villa la angostura, which is where the circuit of the seven lakes starts, it sits on the edge of the nahuel huapi which has many fingers and is only thirty odd kilometres from the Chilean border. It is a beautiful setting, the Andes sparsely populated with snow on the high peaks to one side and an unknown, to me at least, run of cerro’s to the other, a cerro isn’t really a mountain more of a mini mountain, mono says they are about 1,500- 1,800m high and the Andes are like 2,500 – 2,700m, but the cerro’s are impressive nevertheless.
I’m sitting writing this on the edge of a lake, my cheeks numbing on the large rock beneath me. The clear lake water slowly lapping at the pebbled beach, I’m on my way to puerto manzano to sit on and look out and over another beach, bike propped up behind me.
This is excellent since I’ve been rather lazy in my week in bariloche, not venturing out very often. To be fair to me the first couple of days were really shitty weather, rainy and overcast an windy as fuck. But it turned as it does in autumn, reall strange to be saying that in April, it’s also strange to see the trees turning brown, flexing their autumnal colour muscles so early in the year, well for me anyways.
So bariloche was, apart from a jaunt up a cable car to the top of cerro otto pretty much an indoor experience, I managed to catch up on the blog, deleted a shit load of photos from my hard drive, if I lose the external I’m fucked, met up with some people, drank some, ate some, and generally had a little intermission in the travelling life.

But back to villa la angostura, it is amazingly peaceful here, I’ve come out of season I know, but sitting by the lakeside and there are so many different little beaches along the lakeside it reminds me of Sardinia, where as long as you know where to look you can find a secluded piece of beach anywhere along it’s coastline.
The sun is bright and high up in the sky, and as long as you stay under it’s warm gaze you don’t feel the cold, but hit a piece of shade and step into a breeze and you know it’s not summer. But a couple of layers of merino and getting out of the saddle to get myself up the inclines which the main road follows soon warms me up.
I feel heavier than I did when I started this journey. It’s a real struggle to get any consistent exercise in, I can feel the spread across my gut, and the constant drinking isn’t doing it much good either, especially as I’m drinking the local brew, either quilmes cristal or imperial and I’m making the decision now to knock back the wine or head straight to the shorts, specifically the rum I bought duty free on the day trip to Uruguay.

Quick fragments of villa la angostura.
Horse running beside me as I pedal, constrained by the fence between us, barking of dogs, deep and booming, azure waters disturbed every so often, ripples rolling towards shore, sing song Spanish, quick and slurred, laughter of children as they run up and down, up and down, higher reaches of hearing twitters of birds, hawk gliding nonchalantly overhead as I approach and incline, breeze cutting into me as I walk back through the darkness from the supermercado, violet sky with the stars starting to appear, the Andes massive and static, but their visage everchanging as I ride round the curling roads beneath them. The wind making me blink as I descend the curving coastal roads, and with every blink I get faceted shards of orange and red lingering in my vision. Hearing from faraway the engine note of car or truck, knowing it’s coming but unable to see it for the curve of the road. Kids riding down the main street on their mountain bikes, singly, in twos and threes or in a big mass, jumping kerbs, spinning hard before sitting down, treating them like big bmx’s, the sun setting through the trees as the leaves go through all the shades of orange to brown.

I’m now sitting on a large silvered log at the public beach at puerto manzano, an excited dog digs up the sand to the left of me, his two female owners sitting on blankets, shoes off, toes digging into the sand. I’ve made the cardinal sin of not taking any food with me on this ride, no bananas, no biscuits, no flapjacks, no chocolate bars. Just a bottle of water, a spare jumper in case it gets cold, some cold hard cash and the camera. Puerto manzano is only 7kms away from angostura and I thought I’d be there and back in no time, ready for the meaty goodness that would be my lunch. But I missed the turn and rode an extra ten k’s into the bargain, along the winding, undulating, lakeside road, spying two other cyclists, one a younger fella on a road bike giving it some as he hauled his bike up an incline, the other older on a mountain bike, also giving it loads as he came to an uphill. I waved and said hola to both as they came past, we cyclists got to keep together.
So by the time I’d realised my mistake and made he turn back, my stomach was reeling, clamouring for some sort of sustenance, when all I had to give it was water. But as I write this on the beach amused by the dogs intense dedication to digging a large hole in the sand, I’m ready to let the hunger pangs continue for a little while as this beach is too tranquil to dash away from. The heavier, sloppier splash of wave on beach as the tide comes in, the warmth of the sun on my flesh, heating me up literally. I’m going to stay here for a little while and enjoy it, I’m only 7kms away from lunch, which is what four miles, maybe five, which is sub thirty mins riding in anyone’s book.

As the sun sets and the shadows grow ever longer I sit on the beach of another lake by the side of of the worlds second shortest river, which connects lake nahuel huapi with it’s sister. It’s getting chilly and I’ll return to the hosteria soon but the view across the water with cerro’s to the right of me is irreplaceable. The sky here is so clear and blue, so vast and overarching that it’s impossible to imagine living where buildings get in the way, and at night the stars are all around, just out of reach up their in the heavens.

Bariloche/1004

In Argentina, Sud America, travelling on April 29, 2010 at 3:09 am

My time in bariloche is spent up on the tenth floor of the tallest apartment block in the city at the hostel 1004, when I arrive and set my bags into the dorm, in the common room they are playing lewis Taylor and I feel good about this choice. They play music constantly most of it I’m feeling, a mixture of soul, rock and some weird ambient chillout, it transpires that they are the happy recipients of music from travellers who have stayed their before, culminating in a large collection of Buddha bar and loungecore cd’s. I want to give them the contents of my iPod but they aren’t running Itunes and it’s a faff to rip and then burn the songs for them onto audio cd, though I vow to do so when I get to nuevo York.
Bariloche is inbetween seasons summers over and winter hasn’t yet begun so it’s a bit of a ghost town, but there are still enough people to have protests and to walk up and down the main street shopping and not dropping.

The local bus drivers hold an all day strike, parking their buses up in the central square, tooting their horns and burning tires, the authorities don’t seem to mind too much letting them get on with their protest. But as like in buenos aires  it is a bit disconcerting to see police with 9mm’s holstered at their hips, it feels very wild west.
But the inbetween season doesn’t stop the travellers coming and there is a constant stream of people signing into the hostel. It’s nice, got a big kitchen which everyone makes use of and I become a fixture in the common room sitting on the laptop punching out the blog updates, catching up on football weekly and the beyondjazz podcasts. But most of all it gives me time to decompress after buenos aires, the party city to rival all party cities. I can see why maradona had such a hard time keeping control of his vices there, the city never stops, I’m hoping Miami and Vegas and New York can match it.
So a couple of things about hostel living, you’ve got to speak to everyone, get to know everyone or at least hear their travels, it’s easy to do ask where they’ve been, where they are going to, and you’ve got a connection. And you never know when that person you spoke to once in he kitchen as you waited for the kettle to boil will be your new traveling partner. Itineraries are so transient and the people you like and want to hang out with, can leave so soon that you’ll probably need to make sure you don’t curtail your friendship possibilities too early.
People are always hooking up whether for one night stands, drunken sucking of face or become long term (days/weeks/months) travelling partners. But what you must never do is drunkenly disappear, then leave the bathroom door open as you loudly confirm your mutual attraction. Especially when a drunken oirishman who takes a mischievous delight in retelling the story is about. The story will become one of his most favoured on his travelling tour and it will be expanded, embellished and dramatised, even as you sit there red faced trying to drink your now warm beer, as he tells you, me and anyone else who will listen step by step how he caught you inflagrante.

Do buy beer and share with others, do go out when others invite you, do not hold yourself aloof from what goes on around you, do bring some cards and teach people to play shithead, do enjoy getting to know the hostel staff, they will give you a squeeze every so often. Both figuratively and literally.
Try and find smaller hostels, the big ones can get impersonal in a hurry and the mass of people you may meet outweigh the few you will want to keep as facebook friends

Via bariloche

In Argentina, Sud America, travelling on April 29, 2010 at 2:58 am

So after two and a bit weeks in buenos aires I’ve bitten the bullet, booked the ticket and am on the luxury semi cama seat, reclining it and preparing for the 20hr journey to bariloche. The skies over buenos aires are a sullen leaden grey and it’s been raining non stop for the last couple of days, a constant drizzle intermittently interrupted by a heavy downpour. The weathers changed as well, you can feel the transition into a different season as the temperature drops and the wind picks up, it’s not exactly cold but it’s enough for the porteños to start wearing their winter coats.
As the bus rolls out onto and along the freeway you see both faces of bs as, the darkened flaking walls and the upscale billboards. The skyline is a topographical jumble of semi high rises and lower two/three storey buildings.
I got on the bus at half four in the afternoon and it’s not expected into bariloche until one thirty tomorrow afternoon. But I’m already yawning, was out late last night, head didn’t ht the pillow til five, out enjoying some salsa with claudia and marisol, and then one quick final ride through bs as, a city I’m going to miss, so vibrant late at night, busy and interesting whatever the time of day, but especially at night. I don’t know how the locals manage to combine such late nights with working the 9-5. Nothing gets busy till 2am! But they do somehow.
I’ve only done about half of what I was told to do in bs as but it feels like plenty. Th cities drained me of energy, though the rain days stopped me from heading out they did allow me the chance to catch up on some sleep, to recharge the batteries and return to being the daytime version of me.

The coach is like being on a plane that never lifts off the ground, the seats are wide and long and recline back a long way, there are a couple of tv screens front and back and when the meals are served they flicker into life to show entertainment, right now it’s midachi, some sort of three man variety show, lots of changing of outfits, impersonations of singers and musical acts some I know, michael Jackson, abba, most I don’t. The whole thing is in Spanish so what do you expect. There also seems to be a running theme of some of the acts standing round or performing with their pants around their ankles.
The windows are fogged with condensation and the bright lights are starting to irritate my eyes. I think I was actually asleep before they turned them on. The ache in my coccyx not bothering me for the time being. It’s been a constant with me on these travels, whenever I sit for longer than an hour or two this pain/ache manifests itself. Can’t remember having it back in London either, think maybe it might be from the riding, maybe saddle position, too high maybe, can’t tell, I never got this pain when I was in London riding my bikes back there, it just aches and is literally a pain in the ass. Having to adjust your position every so often to ease the ache, ahhhhh, sweet relief.
Swing a hand across the window to remove the condensation and all there is beyond is darkness, stretching out as far as the eye can see. Occasionally the darkness is interrupted by a lorry being overtaken, tail lights appearing in front then sliding away beside you as the bulk of it makes a fleeting appearance. All to infrequently you see the long thin line of lights which denote some sort of human habitation, town/city whatever. The lights hugging the contours of the earth, but too far away to be made out.
I try to read but my book bores me, feel sleep creeping in from the edges, headphones in to block out the Spanish tv voices I sleep. But it is intermittent. I take out the headphones and turn onto my side. And I sleep. But for how long and how deeply? I wake as we make scheduled stops in the dark. Passengers stumbling down the aisle, more asleep than I am, wrapped up in my blanket.
Sunrise happens quickly, from overwhelming blackness to a glimmer of light to blue sky and a wide expanse of countryside in a few minutes. With the sun up you can see the terrain, all around flat softly undulating shrubland, one two lane highway bisecting it. It feels utterly monotonous, the type of view you’d get in a western as the cowboys ride their horses endlessly across the expanse to escape the law. There are no landmarks or features which I can discern and I turn my head from side to side looking for the rising majesty of the Andes. But no luck.
I doze and when I awake we are curling down a road to a lake, mountains to the right of me, water to the left. Trees can now be seen alongside the low slung bushes, there is a bit more blue in the sky and in the water and the clouds remind me of New Zealand.
In think I’m getting a look at the seven lakes which are one of the guidebook things to do and see either by driving or riding round them. The ascents and descents don’t look too bad as the bus rolls along them and I’m going to ask at the hostel for maps and opinions on doing it. After the short city miles of buenos aires I feel the need to stretch the legs a bit…
A couple of kilometres outside of bariloche we stop at an gendarmeria checkpoint, a brown dog a Labrador I think comes up the stairs and then down the aisle as it’s handler a soldier in green army fatigues and a 9mm inside it’s holster on his waist. A man with long hair, stubble and a guitar in a soft case gets off the bus, he isn’t happy. All the buses along this route are stopped and the sniffer dogs sent on board, the soldiers search through guitar geezers belongings and we wait as other buses are waved through.
I think my boy had like a little bit of weed on him, he seems very casual in his dealings with them and after a soldier has a look and smell of what’s in a white plastic bag, geezer is let back onto the bus.

Boutique bars: Overrated

In Uncategorized on April 21, 2010 at 3:59 pm

In a bar called isabels, on Thames, lovely decor, mirrored unisex toilets, gorgeous spotlit ceiling, but you have to buy 120 pesos worth of chips to buy drinks two will get you a cocktail to put this into perspective eight peseos will get you a litre bottle of beer from the maxikiosco. So drinks are expensivvve. And I’m gonna get my moneys worth.
But as I said in the title boutique bars are overrated full of high maintenance chica’s and man candy with too much money and not enough sense paying for a slice of exclusivity that lacks atmosphere and is nice to be in. Give me a sweatbox of a bar with a crowd that’s having it rather than this any day. But this is a side of Buenos Aires I haven’t seen so i’m grateful to see it so I can dismiss it and not have to see it again.
It’s an upmarket meat market, for the rich and famous?! Full of people more interested in talking and telling you how great they are than having any real substance. And their caiphrinha’s don’t even come with crushed ice. Cocktail fail to the nth degree…
Plus I didn’t come here to buy pretty girls drinks, this is the 21st century you should be buying me drinks, plus if all you can play is eighties pop, you definitely need to check yourself before you wiggedy wreck yourself…

Run don’t walk

In artworld, Buenos Aires, Sud America on April 21, 2010 at 3:48 pm

Street art is big here in Buenos Aires, literally, pieces take up whole walls, sides of buildings, doorways. Intricate, distinctive pieces that show off each artists style, whether it be painstaking hand cut stencils or aerosols used as paintbrushes or hand painted luchadors, you can pretty much find whatever you want here and it’s amazing when I go on mundografitti’s street art tour to discover that this vibrant scene has only been going for the last decade or so.
Prompted by the political upheavals of 2001 Argentine artists and graphic designers took to the streets and put up ironic, heartfelt, comic and political pieces that reclaimed disused wall space as a canvas for their views on what was happening in Argentina as presidents were swapped like top trumps and porteños took to the streets to riot, protest, and express their dissatisfaction with the greedy, grubby politicians that claimed to hold the moral high ground.
Walking through Buenos Aires is like walking through Berlin, tags everywhere, words scrawled across walls, posters, daubed on statues and sculptures, an articulate howl of I am here! Hear me! But then beyond the words and the names, you begin to see more artistic works which draw you to them, camera held aloft to capture the illustrations and paintings before you.
There is an underlying tension between the street artists and the taggers and bombers, a back and forth over territory and respect in terms of where pieces are thrown up and whether it is right to cover them with your own styles. The intricate words and logos that are manifested in the grafitti style is in my eyes rendered obsolete and archaic by the vitality and creativity of this newer breed of artists, pointing out as they interact with the city and the world around them how much grafitti in the tagging sense has moved on so little.
But the street artists aren’t about beefs or territorial bragging rights they just want their work to be seen and seen it is by the twenty or so of us that follow our English guide Marina around Palermo as she points out different pieces by different artists on the walls of the barrio. A bearded man walks with her, holding one of those cardboard tubes you put prints/artworks in. It transpires that he is fede (sp) one of the artists whose work adorns the walls around us, working under the moniker Run Dont Walk and in the tube is his latest stencil, a collage of a face. I chat to him about Berlin, street art and other things before he steps away having spied a suitable expanse of brickwork.

He quickly sticks up a sheet of plastic which has uneven rectangular stripes cut out of it and sprays alternate lines of green and orange, to create a background, he then exhanges that sheet for another more ornately cut stencil, which he sprays over with black paint. Carefully he unpeels the stencil and reveals the final image, a face contorted in a scream, mouth gaping wide. He explains it’s better if you look at it from a distance.
In Buenos Aires you don’t have to be a quick ghost, appearing and disappearing after a work is quickly tossed up, the authorities have bigger fish to fry and don’t view the artworks as anything to get worked up over, and the artists themselves are respectful of peoples property, placing their work on derelict buildings, or if a wall is part of an occupied building asking permission from the occupants before painting whatever their imaginations can conceive.
And their imaginations are ever fertile, over the last decade artists have changed and grown their visual styles changing over time, the issues they want to confront growing larger or more personal. As they grow as artists so they outgrow the styles that once defined them, instinctively striving for something newer and more challenging resisting the urge to repeat themselves over and over.
We end up in Post bar aka hollywood in cambodia in Palermo, which is adorned inside and out with work from fede and others. It is a dazzling collage of styles and images. Through the back of the bar is a gallery space across two floors from which fede sells the work of himself and his contemporaries. We stand and look at the canvases and limited edition prints and wonder how much such work would cost, and I’m amazed when I flick through the work at how cheap it is. So obviously I buy some, two prints by fede, whose work intrigues me, having taken a photo of one of his pieces as I walked around Palermo previous to going on the tour and another by a brazilian artist, which i’m instantly attracted to.

And I look forward to hanging them on my walls, a graphic reminder of my time here in this most intriguing of cities.

And they call it puppy love…

In Sud America, travelling on April 20, 2010 at 10:31 pm

As Max Bygraves used to say I wanna tell you a story.

So I’m eight, or maybe nine, and I’ve got some roller skates for my birthday, or maybe Christmas, as I remember my sister got a pair as well. Shit, I’ve got bogged down in the details, the little details, the minutiae of a tale, my age, whether it was a birthday or Christmas, whether the rollerskates were blue with yellow stripes and yellow wheels, or yellow with blue stripes and yellow wheels – I think the former.

I’m a writer, a storyteller I should know better, but it always happens I get bound up in the details rather than the over arching story, more interested in the tidbits, the fragments which make for a fuller story, rather than the narrative itself. Fuck!

Anyways where was I? Oh yeah, I was not more than ten, and I’d got some rollerskates as a present, and I was downstairs at the back of my block of flats practicing on them. Wobbly trundling along, trying not to fall flat on my face, or scrape my palms as I tried to break a fall. I remember distinctly that I was able to turn left, maybe it had something to do with me being predominantly right footed, or something, but I could only turn left, how stupid was that huh.

So there I am trying to teach myself how to turn left, how to roll in a straight line, over the pockmarked tarmac we called a carpark. When I hear this barking, and my heart fills with fear. That was the sound of Sabre, the white Alsatian that used to terrorise my estate, all the kids were frightened of him. He’d been trained to attack black people, and the kids knew to walk quickly into their blocks when he was about.

So Sabre’s out, and his barking fuelled trajectory is aimed straight at me, I turn and spin round to my left and head for my door, heart pounding, small child images of being savaged by Sabre’s long white fangs, flashing in front of my eyes, just as wildly as my arms flail for balance and I push, totter, scrabble for safety.

But you know what, and if you haven’t guessed what comes next then I’ve got to shake my head, I’ve got to turn right to get onto the path to the door at the base of the block of flats. TURN RIGHT! WHAT THE FUCK?! Ain’t it always the way. Now I can’t explain how it happened, or how I did it, but I turn right, turn right like no rollerskater’s turned right before and I burst through the door, which swings after I pass through it.

I’m safe I think, and I’m heading to press the button to call the lift. When I remember that the door opens both ways. And I’m terrified once again as I spin away from the lift and tip toe on my stoppers hands against the glass – the old school doors were the half glass paned kind, safety glass, but glass nevertheless. And Sabre’s teeth and tongue are snapping inches from me as I hold the door against his thrustings, frightened I won’t be able to balance long enough on my stoppers, that they will slip away from under me and Sabre will get his chance to devour me.

I don’t know how long I stand there, holding the door closed against the white four legged terror. But hold it I do. And finally Sabre is called away. And I can let the door go.

I never wear roller skates again.

And I don’t particularly like dogs anymore.

And your thinking why this story, why is he telling us now? Well Argentina, Buenos Aires anyway is a city of dogs, they are everywhere people walking them, carrying them, refusing to clean up their shit. But its nothing like Colonia del Sacremento in Uruguay where I go with a friend for a day trip. Its only an hour away on a high speed ferry, and it has at its heart a perfectly preserved little colonial town which is the oldest town in Uruguay. Now I’m not totally terrified of dogs anymore, I’ve gotten over the heart wrenching fear that would overcome me when they came near. And I can stroke them and pet them, but I still don’t like them and I still view them as wild unpredictable creatures that at any point will turn and attack.

Attack, attack, attack!!!!

So when I’m informed before we go to Colonia that wild dogs roam the streets and that once it gets dark, they like to clump into packs and chase cars, and possibly humans. I’m not entirely happy. And Colonia is full of dogs, stray ones, that roam around and adopt you, sitting at your feet as you eat lunch, looking for scraps and tidbits. Following you down the street, sniffing other stray dogs when they come upon them.

I feel much safer and calmer when we leave Colonia, which apart from the dogs is a delightful little place, full of olde world charm, and really small buildings. But once you get past the tiny historic town and the walk along the sea front, we didn’t have enough time to explore the beaches further along, there’s not much else to do.

Everybody loves the sunshine

In Argentina, Buenos Aires, Sud America, travelling on April 20, 2010 at 10:28 pm

The Sun is out in buenos aires and I’m sitting with a beer on the lovely terrace of my hostel. Five more days before I head out via bus to Bariloche.
More impressions of this lovely grand city. Buying stuff here is weird you have to pay before you get it, go to a bar in a club you have to buy a ticket for what you want then give ticket to barman who then give you said item, same goes for helados (ice cream) don’t know why it’s just the way it is.
There’s copious amounts of public displays of affection, lots of couples kissing, holding hands, sitting on laps around the city, they also have love hotels here, they are called telos here, which is slang and means nothing apart from a description for a place to fuck your brains out with the partner of your choice, thats what happens when you have to live with your parents I suppose.
The meat here is gorgeous, sumptuous and heavy and cooked just right, and so many parrilla’s it’s hard to decide which one to eat in. Last night I had blood sausage, glands and some really mouthwatering steak. Heavy on the stomach but oh so good on the tongue. Most porteños don’t head out to ear until ten/eleven and clubs don’t fill up till three/four and rolling home at six or seven in the morning is de riguer. You can get used to it, but the next day is a complete waste and I find myself not feeling myself until the early evening when I’m preparing to go out again.
Don’t know if I’ve mentioned this before but everyday feels like Friday, a night to go out and party, and I’m losing track of what day is which it’s hard to keep track of them, to distinguish one day from the next, the only days which feel different are the days when you have to sort out your travel and accommodation for the next stop, then it feels like your back to work.
Trying not to feel guilty about not doing more or exploring more but if you get that out of the way early you can shed yourself of much angst, which is what I’ve tried to do here. I’ve hit three galleries, cemeteria recoleta, big parks, Palermo, the main sightseeing spots as well as a day trip to Uruguay and the well preserved town of colonia.
I haven’t found many bike shops though I’m sure there are plenty.
But one thing I’ve noticed is if you aren’t interested in shopping, shopping districts, shopping malls, you tend to end up with a lot of free time on your hands. Shopping has become the new timewaster, the thing to do when there’s nothing else to do and you feel like a travelling fraud slumped on the sofa in the hostel. But if you don’t want to buy anything, either because you have no money or no space to carry it with you, then tramping around shops and boutiques feels ultimately like a waste of time. Even if the people watching is good fun.

Everybody loves the sunshine

The Sun is out in buenos aires and I’m sitting with a beer on the lovely terrace of my hostel. Five more says before I head out via bus to bariloche.
More impressions of this lovely grand city. Buying stuff here is weird you have to pay before you get it, go to a bar in a club you have to buy a ticket for what you want then give ticket to barman who then give you said item, same goes for helados (ice cream) don’t know why it’s just the way it is.
There’s copious amounts of public displays of affection, lots of couples kissing, holding hands, sitting on laps around the city, they also have love hotels here, they are called telos here, which is slang and means nothing apart from a description for a place to fuck your brains out with the partner of your choice, thats what happens when you have to live with your parents I suppose.
The meat here is gorgeous, sumptuous and heavy and cooked just right, and so many parrilla’s it’s hard to decide which one to eat in. Last night I had bloo sausage, glands and some really mouthwatering steak. Heavy on the stomach but oh so good on the tongue. Most porteños don’t head out to ear until ten/eleven and clubs don’t fill up till three/four and rolling home at six or seven in the morning is de riguer. You can get used to it, but the next day is a complete waste and I find myself not feeling myself until the early evening when I’m preparing to go out again.
Don’t know if I’ve mentioned this before but everyday feels like Friday, a night to go out and party, and I’m losing track of what day is which it’s hard to keep track of them, to distinguish one day from the next, the only days which feel different are the days when you have to sort out your travel and accomodation for the next stop, then it feels like your back to work.
Trying not to feel guilty about not doing more or exploring more but if you get that out of the way early you can shed yourself of much angst, which is what I’ve tried to do here. I’ve hit three galleries, cemeteria recoleta, big parks, Palermo, the main sightseeing spots as well as a day trip to Uruguay and the well preserved town of colonia.
I haven’t found many bike shops though I’m sure there are plenty.
But one thing I’ve noticed is if you aren’t interested in shopping, shopping districts, shopping malls, you tend to end up with a lot of free time on your hands. Shopping has become the new timewaster, the thing to do when there’s nothing else to do and you feel like a travelling fraud slumped on the sofa in the hostel. But if you don’t want to buy anything, either because you have no money or no space to carry it with you, then tramping around shops and boutiques feels ultimately like a waste of time. Even if the people watching is good fun.

Nightclubbing

In Argentina, Buenos Aires, Sud America, tunnnneeeee! on April 20, 2010 at 10:25 pm

Kika

Stood outside as we got there early, waiting for the place to open, for the locals to rouse themselves and come out. Nervous about my pigdin spanish, how to order rum and cokes at the bar? answer either ask for a ron y coca, or a cuba libre. Problem solved.

Even in buenos aires they do that bullshit of keeping you waiting outside, when there’s plenty of space inside. Got to give the impression that people are dying to get into this place.

Two rooms in here, don’t find the other room til later when more drunk members of the group than I drag us in there, because the music in room one’s gone a bit housey. Two bands perform before hand, the first very reminiscent of early Lenny Kravitz, their songs never get out of first gear, midtempo numbers with a slightly paunchy black haired singer whose voice isn’t strong enough, and lacks the stage presence to drag a sombulent crowd with him. There are some interesting melodies they create but the drop never comes, and I’m bored before they’ve even finished the intro’s to each of their songs.

2nd band is fronted by a guy from Coventry, but they start audaciously with a man playing bagpipes, as the rest of the band come out on stage. But thankfully he doesn’t stay out for the whole set. But they are definitely more RAWK! Lead singer’s got out of control blond curly hair, shirt over his tee, and lots of energy and he swaps between singing songs in spanish and english. The band a three piece pound their way through their songs, battering them to submission, dragging us with them, lively, and excitable, much more involved in giving the crowd a good show. They do a song at the end which sounds like a red hot chilli peppers cover, but I haven’t heard enough of their songs to know and the other rock bods beside me disagree so I let it go. But I’m sure I’m right.

Stacatto dance, hip, hand, leg, foot, head turned, frozen, fractured as the strobe blinks, ice White, cold blue, as the four to the floor builds, electronic yelps twist and blare, jump from one foot to the next, take over the space, bounce from one foot to the other. Electronica is big in buenos aires, consuming all others, driving the populace into delirium. And for the time I’m there I let it overtake me.

Club Araoz

They pull shapes, they stand on their hands, legs bent, bouncing on their palms, windmill into head spin, arms out, he music is irrelevant just as long as the beats are heavy and the tempo high. Jazz dancers without the steps, acrobatics valued over a connection to the music, one guy stocky and dark, poplocks and steps to a tune I like him, each step is in time he loves the song or at least can find the bassline in it.
This is club as spectator sport relegated to the circle round the edge, clapping hands, yelling support, providing a backdrop. Never liked that, why come to a club to watch others dance where’s the fun in that!
Then the switch up, an off kilter school yard choreographed routine, full of missteps, pauses and glances to check what’s next to a James brown medley, is ended with a rolling bassline and the circle is broken as the people bumrush the dancefloor and suddenly it’s wall to wall bodies, the hip hop culture club is a sweatbox as hips gyrate and everyone’s two stepping to this big down tempo hip hop which dominates the 21st century, metallic beats, snap out and throb over quantized basslines, that drag, flows that say nothing for sixteen bars, brag and boast, in slurred southern tones, the more things change the more they stay the same.
Hip hop reduced to a cypher, low riders on the video screens, baseball caps with flat peaks, baggy pants slung low, baseball tops, NYC emblazoned jackets, sneakers and gang signs waved high.
For a club that purports to be the home of hip hop culture in this city/country, the dj’s definition of hip hop is fairly narrow, I haven’t heard any of these songs and they are pretty much the same kind of big bang basslines, strange melodic lines and chanted choruses, punctuated every other song by Rhianna warbling over a bumping bassline. If you’d been parachuted into this space you wouldn’t have any sense of the rich tapestry and history of hip hop. I’m tapping my foot and nodding my head because you got to take what you can get, but I’m bored and I’m writing this instead of dancing so make of that what you will. But the young people seem to be feeling it, herking and jerking from side to side, hands held aloft, shocking out to the songs which will define their youths and be played loud at their weddings and their back to 2010 dances.
The dirty south, lil jon, ludacris, yung joc, akon, vocoders, and all the other mc’s and producers who I don’t know have alot to answer for. Hip hop at it’s most dynamic and engaging has a voice and a point of view and a diversity of sounds and ways of being and saying, listening to the mono beat culture purveyed here makes you want to believe in the hip hop is dead mythology that has been stated for the last decade by those who can’t bear the lack of diversity, and hark back to their “golden age” but it is there you just have to look harder for it.

And buenos aires doesn’t have enough black folk to create that space for hip hop diversity, so they follow the major musical trends from the states, and this is what goes platinum, this is what rocks the clubs, this is what they raise their hands to, and I wonder at three o’clock on a Friday morning if the Dj can or has anything else to play.
He runs the deck, verse chorus into next track and I never thought I’d see the day when I’d be so unmoved by an hour and a half of hip hop, even when he plays a couple of songs I know, it doesn’t stir any desire to dance. But when he drops M.I.A’s paper aeroplanes it does bring smile to my face, but then it’s back to the monotony of another jay-z rant over uninspired beats.
As he slips back through the decades, from snoop to cypress hill via snow and sean paul, I can see that hip hop is a cypher through which your personality can be sieved and reconstituted in a more rebellious version on the other side.

selection of songs that Dj played that night. Let me know if you like any of them. I’m still not feeling them.

ps photo’s under youtube clips

and you can’t go to any club without hearing this song.

or this one.

la bomba de tiempo

In Argentina, Buenos Aires, out and about, Sud America, tunnnneeeee! on April 20, 2010 at 4:05 pm

How comes afrobeat isn’t more popular here, la bomba de tiempo are rocking the crowd! Maybe it’s the live performance aspect of it, but femi kuti should come and play here he would have a lot of fun
Listening to la bomba de tiempo both during the show and later at the after party when they play with an electric guitar, horn section, a drummer and a xylophone player, it’s amazing how tribal it becomes, a musical exorcism, polyrhythmic, and so fucking loud. The drums roll and roll and roll, and the horns trill, shrill, giving melodic counterpoint to the throbbing drums. It becomes all encompassing, it pushes everything else away and you are connected to the drums, as they switch between one stanza and the next, foot never stopping it’s tapping, as the group finds new ways to make you sweat. Each band leader making throwing signs in their own way, as into the music they are making, that is unfolding under their direction as we are at hearing it unfurl flaglike before us. Stomp and stamp, yell and scream and wait for the drop to come when the thunder rolls deep and full.
Hands pointed, fingers upraised, palms curled, signal shorthand, waiting poised, each member focused, awaiting instruction, a point, a cut, a wave, a circle, line drawn in the air, here it comes, teased with crescendoes that return to solos, waiting, anticipating, here comes the clapping, then the drop, 120bpm. Flooding the air, primal and beyond conscious comprehension, it takes the breath away, sucks it out of you as you dance. Sweat running in rivulets, soaking clothes, shirts, vests, blouses, tops, tees, bras. It defies the descriptions that I try to give it, it pulls you outside of yourself and into the memory that we all hold of fires burning deep into the night, callused hands pounding on animal skin pulled tight across bowed wood.
Man in black vest and baggy pants spinning dervish, unable to stop, girl Afro full and unkempt, hips swirling, feet a blur, crowd pogoing, hands aloft, throats roar, blood flooding their extremities. The ache of the feet, soreness in the hips, thighs, calves. Chest tight as you try to draw breath, and the drums roll on, roll on, tumble and never stumble, never falter. Mama Africa in us all!
The electrification of it halting it’s power not at all, bound to it now as we all are, adding a melodic content on top of the power of the drums. Hands blur as they beat out what their leader commands, bound together by his clenched fists, and his imperious commands, silent but so forceful. He drums and they follow, we follow, we will always follow.

It is in our blood, in  the people our ancestors used to be. Moved from one continent to another, the drums taken from us, hands born to pound the call, forced to do other work, but the drums call, they call and in the end, blood will out. So we shuffle and dance, arms flail, we swirl and the ashes from the fire we circle around pop and crackle and are uplifted to the heavens, and the stars above us are the same ones those who came before saw and danced underneath. Nothing changes except what we do to the place we call home. The drums never change, they still call us home….