>Valparaíso v. Granada

>From Argentina I had the pleasure of crossing the epic Andes into Chile to visit a friend, Daniel Perez, who is livng and working in Santiago. We made our way to the Pacific and the sweet little city that is Valparaiso. I was immediately enchanted with its rainbow array of tin homes clustered on the hills rising from up the coast, rickety old trams that precariously carry you up the steep hillsides, and art painted all over the canvas that is Valpariaso. I am not the only one who was so enchanted – the famous Chilean poet Pablo Neruda made one of his homes, La Sebastiana, there to better soak up the inspiration.

Walking around Valpariaso I couldn’t help but be reminded of another city, very dear to my heart, which was a well of inspiration for the Spanish Poet, Federico Garcia Lorca. While Granada, Spain is nestled in a valley as opposed to lining the sea and the moorish-style homes are white-washed with red tiled roofs as opposed to bright splashes of color, both cities have an energy and soul. A sense of passion, and a legacy of inspiration and artistic expression. And they both have my heart.

VALPARAÌSO

If You Forget Me

I want you to know
one thing.

You know how this is:
if I look
at the crystal moon, at the red branch
of the slow autumn at my window,
if I touch
near the fire
the impalpable ash
or the wrinkled body of the log,
everything carries me to you,
as if everything that exists,
aromas, light, metals,
were little boats
that sail
toward those isles of yours that wait for me.

Well, now,
if little by little you stop loving me
I shall stop loving you little by little.

If suddenly
you forget me
do not look for me,
for I shall already have forgotten you.

If you think it long and mad,
the wind of banners
that passes through my life,
and you decide
to leave me at the shore
of the heart where I have roots,
remember
that on that day,
at that hour,
I shall lift my arms
and my roots will set off
to seek another land.

But
if each day,
each hour,
you feel that you are destined for me
with implacable sweetness,
if each day a flower
climbs up to your lips to seek me,
ah my love, ah my own,
in me all that fire is repeated,
in me nothing is extinguished or forgotten,
my love feeds on your love, beloved,
and as long as you live it will be in your arms
without leaving mine

-Pablo Neruda


GRANADA


The distant hills appear with their smooth reptilian undulations.

The infinitely crystalline transparencies reveal themselves in dim splendor. The shadows hold night in their tangles, and the city begins to shed its idle veils, rendering visible its cupolas and its ancient towers illuminated by a soft golden light.

The houses reveal faces with empty eyes among the verdure, and the grasses, poppies and vines dance entertainingly to the sound of the breeze from the sun.

The shadows are lifting and vanishing languidly, while in the air there is a piping of ocarinas and reed-flutes produced by the birds.

In the distance there are confusions of mist and heliotrope among the poplar groves, and now and then, in the dawn freshness, is heard a distant bleating in the key of F.

Along the valley of the Darro, anointed with blue and dark-green, fly pigeons from the countryside, whiter or darker, according to whether they come to rest beneath the poplars or beneath masses of yellow flowers.

The sober bell-towers are still asleep, except for some small bell on the Albaizín ingenuously quivering from its cypress tree.

The rushes, reeds and fragrant grasses are bent down to the water so as to kiss the sunlight whenever it should be reflected there…

The sun appears, almost without brightness….and in that moment the shadows lift and vanish, the city is tinted pale purple, the mountains turn to solid gold, and the trees acquire the brilliance of an Italian ascension.

And all the softness and paleness of indecisive blues changes to splendid luminosity, and the ancient towers of the Alhambra are illuminated with roseate light…the houses with their whiteness, and the shadows, exchanging brilliant greens.

The sun of Andalucia begins to sing its song of fire which all things listen to with fear.

The light is so marvellous and unique that the birds crossing the air are rare metals, solid rainbows and red opals….

- Federico García Lorca, from ”Impresiones y paisajes 1918”


Here’s to Inspiration.

>Liner Notes on Buenos Aires

>I sailed on over from Montevideo to Buenos Aires post New Years in what was probably the easiest country hoppin’ I’ve ever pulled off. A couple hours on a luxury boat and you’re smack dab in the middle of the city? Yes, thank you. I had my ears appropriately all filled up with the nuevo tango group, Gotan Project, to get in the mood. Though based in France now, Eduardo Makaroff is an Argentine and their music is ultimately tango with lots of fun stuff like samples, beats, and breaks. Check it out.

This city complete took me up in its wonderfully chaotic whirlwind and although I managed to move on, I think I left my heart and my appetite there. Buenos Aires rocks. A few highlights and thought bubbles follow:

- On a recommendation from my wonderful friend Vanessa Paster I sought out a gem of a restaurant in the Palermo neighborhood, La Cabrera, and enjoyed the best steak dinner of my life. Hands down, amazing. Four of us splurged on two bottles of a fantastic malbec wine, delicious ceasar salad, fries and two huge steaks that only set us back $90. The tenderloin I ordered was served sizzling on a wooden platter, accompanied by a variety of little dishes filled with different delicious things to accompany the steak. Creamy mustard sauce, pears in wine, horseradish, applesauce, bleu cheese, salsa, sauteed onions, mushrooms etc. I wouldn’t ramble on so if this wasn’t the BEST steak of my life. It even beats this kobe steak that previously held that title. Thanks for the recommendation, Nessa. Not to be missed.

- I had the joy of meeting up with a friend from college, Kailani Swenson, while she was in Buenos Aires visiting her sister. Her sister, Tiffany Joy, is an amazing bilingual singer/songwriter whose powerhouse vocals front a local band, and whom I had the pleasure of seeing while I was there. Currently recording a new album titled, ”Real Joy,” Tiffany Joy was a pleasure to see and hear, especially after nothing but constant reggaeton action in Uruguay.

- La Bomba del Tiempo. Is the bomb. This purcussion orchestra puts on an amazing show every monday in the Konex Cultural Center, a huge warehouse with outdoor and indoor spaces and bars selling liter beers. For the show, I met up with Julia Eisen-Meyers and Justin Ford, old friends from Portland who are midway through their 10 month stint in Latin America and were conveniently in Buenos Aires at the same time. Check out their travel blog by clicking here. La Bomba is an amazingly organized drum circle, with a variety of perucussion instruments and a conductor leading the group, as to emphasize ciertain sounds, patterns, cresendos etc. At one point a foxy singer channeling the Pink Ladies of Grease came out and added her wailing vocals to the mix. Badass.
This is short video of La Bomba. Sorry for the poor video quality aka Im drunk.

http://www.youtube.com/get_player

- Plaza Dorrego, which is located the sketchy-by-night, captivating-by-day barrio of San Telmo, is home to the most extensive and quality antique market I’ve ever had the pleasure meandering through. And by meandering I mean spending all afternoon oggling, touching, trying on and falling in love with precious items from different eras. Oh the joys of travelling solo, it’s hard pressed to find someone who would spend that kind of quality time in outdoor market during midday and midsummer heat. I was limited only by the fact that I had brought a small amount of cash, which ultimately was a blessing, since I spent every peso I had on me. Booths crammed with vintage clothes and lace, gramophines, jewelry, antique glass bottles in every color and size, pocket watches, cigarette tins, compact mirrirs, perfume bottles, fur coats, and trinkets and treasures for every taste, especially mine. I ended up purchasing super practical travel wear: An shimmery asymmetrical one-piece olive green bathing suit with Italian lace crocheted on the side and this divine cocktail hat from the 1940s covered in leaves made of crushed velvet, with a short black veil that covers the eyes and absolutely channels Evita. Super, super practical.


- I always have been slightly (and now am absolutely) obsessed with the aforementioned Evita aka Eva Peròn. Evita served as the beloved First Lady of Argentina from 1946 until her death in 1952. She had a classic rag to riches story; born poor and out of wedlock, she moved to the Big Apple of Buenos Aires at the age of 15 and gradually rose to stardom as an actress. She met and married the Labor Minister Juan Peròn and they scandalized the aristocracy by mixing politics with popular culture – and the people loved it. Evita played a powerful role in winning the hearts of the descamisados, the great working poor of the nation of which she had once been, and getting him elected to presidency. She championed for womens rights, spoke out on behalf of labor rights and won the heart of the greater Argentine population – which apparently she retains today. Her grave in the elite Recoleta Cemetary is still covered in fresh flowers, a museum in her honor is a bustling place, and her beautiful face with its perfectly coifed hair peers down from the walls of shops and restaurants, alongside the Virgen Mary. Evita is called the ”Cinderella of tango and the Sleeping Beauty of Latin America” and her passion, beauty and humanitarianism continues to live on in the hearts of many an Argentine. And in mine.

- Porteños, or people from Buenos Aires, are famously lovers of the night, of passion, tango, music, dance and theater. This city is so vibrant it is actually buzzing – through all hours of the night. But there also seems to be a deep melancholy here, an acknowledgement of unfulfilled potential as they struggle economically, and outside of the tourist areas of this so-called ”Paris of South America” you can see the rough realities of a third world country. A taxi driver explained his perpective to me on the way to a tango performance. He used to own a textile factory but lost it in the economic crisis that hit right before the millenium. Ten years later, he is still driving a cab, but he showed deep insight into the physche of his people as he explained that porteños have a deep inner pain from experiencing varying degrees of struggle. However, this pain turns them out into the night, to release it in the somewhat fantasy worlds of dance, theater, and drink. The passion of Buenos Aires as a byproduct of the struggle. Just watch the face of a tango dancer and see how pleasure and pain are two sides of a very sharp knife.

>Airplane Playlist

>
I started this playlist on the plane leaving Oregon and it has become the running soundtrack for my trip. A few are linked up for your listening enjoyment…

Apparat – Hailing from the Edge
Hold on
Bassnectar – Where is my mind?
Beats Antique – Beauty Beats
Blank and Jones – Consequences
Bellatronic – Red Tape
Chromeo – Fancy Footwork
CSS – Music is my HOT, HOT sex
Dead Disco – Automatic (Raufrast Dark Disco Remix)
Ellen Alien & Apparat – Way Out
The Faint – Agenda Suicide
Federico Aubele – Postales
Hercules and Love Affair – Iris
Hot Chip – Over and Over
Arrest Yourself
Jakwob – Starry Eyed (Ellie Goulding Remix)
The Knife – Forest Families
Ladytron – Seventeen
La Roux – In for the Kill (Skream´s Lets Get Ravey Remix)
Pretty Lights – Finally Moving
Random Rab – The Refection
School of Seven Bells – Iamundernodigsuise
Simian Mobile Disco – I Believe
The Sounds – Queen of Apology
Thievery Corporation – Dance on Vaseline
The Ting Tings – Thats not my name

>El Diablo Tranquilo

>Uruguay was… amazing. But mostly I was just extremely stoked to see my sister after 16 month apart, so we could’ve been anywhere and it would have been sublime. With that said, Uruguay was not a bad setting for our reunion, to celebrate Christmas and ring in the New Years!

I got into Montevideo, Uruguay after a 36 hour travel day that included four planes and 15 accumulated hours of layovers (I found that Lima, Peru is a great place to spend an eight hour layover, San Salvador, El Salvador is not). Landing in time to see a rosy fingered dawn creeping over the Atlantic ocean’s horizon, I bee-lined to the hostel where Emily was staying and convinced the guy working the front desk to let me wake her up. After peering in almost every bed in a twelve-person dorm room, I finally found her and promptly pounced on her and we erupted in a fit of hugs and giggles. The feeling akin to this that comes to mind is when Stephani and I discoved blowing bubbles into the sunrise and looking at them through rainbow glasses. Pure joy.

Within an hour we were on a bus heading North up the coast to Punto del Diablo, a picturesque little fishing villiage where we had rented cabañas along with 14 of my sis’ friend from Peace Corps Paraguay. This sleepy little town is like the antithesis of the popular resort-town-on-steroids that is Punto del Este. It is small and humble, filled mostly with Uruguayans who have vacation homes or actually live there. Colorful houses with thatched roofs, an array of even more colorful people, and as much fresh seafood as we could cook up greeted us upon our arrival. To give a quick idea, our first dinner was comprised of grilled fish, shrimp, vegetables, an oyster cream sauce, ribs, rice and this amazing fish stew with grilled veggies that was made out of a failed attempt at a bloody mary – with delicious results.

The most amazing thing about this town are the people. The first night we immediatley befriended Uruguayans who work in Punto seasonally during their summer (still wrapping my head around the concept of December being a summer month south of the equator). They went out of their way to make a feel welcome and we had a sweet crew for the remainder of our stay there. Uruguay is composed of 90% (or so…) people of European descent with almost no indigenous ethnicity or culture, granted they all have killer tans. This surprised me for some reason, I guess I was expecting something that appeared more indegenous but the people and architecture all are reminiscant of their European roots. Our friend Martín, who has a darker color tone due to his Italian heritage is called ‘el negro’ by his friends, to give an example of how common people of color are…

We spent our days swimming and lounging in hammocks, eating fabulous meals and strolling through this sweet little town. And drinking massive, massive amounts of maté and tereré. I mean, I sort of knew about this whole maté way of life down here but I didn’t really KNOW. Uruguayans drink maté throughout the day, carrying their hot water in thermoses and their guampas (the gourd, wooden, or metal cup) and bombillas (the metal straw) everywhere with them. Tereré (maté drunk with ice cold water) is unheard of outside of Paraguay but since I was rolling with a ultimately Paraguayan crew, we drank tereré throught the hot hours of the afternoon. And I’m totally smitten, I think it’s a fantastic way to live life, constantly pausing to join together with your friends and enjoy the slightly bitter but restorative herbal drink multiple times a day.

We celebrated Christmas with as much gusto as is possible in a subtropical climate. The day was greeted with matè and candy canes on the doorsteps of our cabañas. We collaborated to make this incredible Christmas breakfast complete with banana pancakes, french toast, potatoes, eggs, chorizo and, of course, mimosas. After leaving the appropriate amount of time for digestion (thanks, Ma) we played ultimate frisbee on the beach, went swimming and siesta’d before warming up for dinner. Chrsitmas dinner was a paella-off between the cabañas (ours won of course, thank you, Spain) and we feasted yet again, following dinner with a reading of ”Where the Wild Things Are.”

Exactly.

We departed from our beloved beach town with a final bonfire under a moonlit and star-studded sky. You can still see Orion fixed in the Milky Way down here but he’s positioned differently in the sky. And my beloved Flo constellation was no where to be seen. Not yet at least, I’ll be keeping my eye to the sky. I’m still fuzzy on how star-gazing is applied all over the world, I want someone to explain it to me with a grapefruit and some string or something. The universe can be a mind-boggling place.

In our little corner of the universe, we returned to Montevideo and stayed at this awesome hostel called ‘El Viajero.’ With a beautiful inner courtyard with a ceiling made of grapes, spacious kitchen, cozy living area and rooftop terrace, it felt like a mansion we were allowed to play in, except for the dorm bedrooms, that is. The ‘ciudad viejo’ of Montevideo is beautiful, with cobble-stone streets, colonial architecture, leafy plazas and aritsans selling their wares on tables and blankets. It’s a great city to explore by bicycle due to its relatively small size and a vehicle-free paseo that lines the peninsula that is Montevideo, ultimately leading to the beach. We spent New Years Eve day touring by bike, dodging water balloons and confetti-like shredded paper receipts and calandar pages that Montevideanos toss from rooftops. Here’s to the New Year and letting go…

New Years Eve was rung in on the rooftop. The night was illuminated by the rare full blue moon and huge fireworks that were let off all over the city. The American in me was concerned about fire safety but another glass of champagne and I got over it. Kisses from my sister and a lone star balloon that was let fly free and floated in my vision all over my corner of the sky were the higlights of this moment, this changing of the decade.

We celebrated the night away at ‘W loung’ THE premier night club in Montevideo, a sprawling place right on the beach with huge open air balconies and an open bar after paying a cover (about $15). The sun sent us to bed and we finally slept, waking up to a new day, a new year, a new decade and endless, endless possibilities.

Happy New Year!