Searching through my Gmail for something else entirely, I came across the following description of the year I spent in Argentina when I was 15. I wrote it in response to a friend’s casual question about how I know Spanish, and I don’t know what came over me to wax so lyrical. Nevertheless, I like it.

What can I tell you about Argentina? I was there quite some time ago, when I was in high school, doing a year-long exchange program at the tender age of fifteen, and for all the romance that the country’s name may conjure up, it was frequently a rather ordinary existence: Buenos Aires sprawls for many miles outside the capital district and into the province of the same name, an endless blanket of working class, low-level city, where main thorougfares bustle with buses and cars and clouds of commerce and smog, while side streets are unpaved and potholey, forcing cars, which can only move so fast on that terrain, to give way to donkey carts, pushcarts, and all manner of reconstructed and cleverly adapted pedal-driven vehicles (to call them bicycles would do a disservice to their ingenuity). I was plunked in the middle of that sprawl in a forgettable municipality half an hour from downtown B.A. and told to go about my business. So I went to high school, found myself a part-time job, played in a rock band, had a girlfriend, went to parties, and learned Spanish.

Which is not to say that my life lacked for wonder and joy. Maybe it’s not surprising, but one of the greatest pleasures of my time there was my girlfriend, not so much because she was exceptional (she was a lovely person, don’t get me wrong) but because my relationship with her was entirely secret from my (very strict) host family. She was eight years my senior, and I assumed they would disapprove and forbid. I had acquired a job in the center of Buenos Aires as an assistant at a private English language school for adults. She was a teacher there, and we became friends, so my host family knew about her but suspected nothing. (At one point, after we became romantically involved, my host mother said to me, out of the blue, “I think you have a crush on her, but you may as well give up because she will never go for you. She is too old.” That was a delicious moment.)

Naturally, I had a huge crush on this woman from the outset, but she was plainly out of reach, which is, I think, what made me act so boldly. What’s more, whenever I spent time with her, we were right in the bustling heart of the city, away from the crowing roosters and diesel fumes of the grimy periphery, so everything that happened seemed otherworldly, as if rules and logic might be suspended. On the night of our first kiss, I spent so much time prolonging our stroll through a famous old cemetery, having made up my mind to find the opportune moment to kiss her, that when I finally did it, I had missed the last train to my neighborhood, and was left with no option but to spend the better part of the night roaming the city with her, snuggling into doorways and alleys now and again to kiss some more. My host brother, who was basically a jerk, answered the phone when I called and refused to put my host father on the phone. “They won’t worry,” he said to my protestations. “They’ll just chew you out when you get home.” So the entire night I knew that disaster awaited at home, and I could just let go of excuses and explanations and embrace the unexpected joy of the moment. On the ride home, with dawn just lighting up the sky in that optimistic, electric sort of blue that summer mornings can have, I was punch-drunk from lack of sleep and everything felt surreal and beautiful, as though my every casual glance around the mostly empty train car and out the window had been carefully planned by a cinematographer. At home, I came through the kitchen door and the house was quiet save for an enormous ham hock sizzling in a pot, untended. I collapsed into bed amid an overwhelming, pungent smell of pork and slept hard and dreamlessly. At some point during the morning, my host father came in and berated me for a long time while I blearily apologized, and then I slept some more, and when I finally woke up, no one mentioned it again and it was as if I had dreamed the whole thing, except it was real.

So actually, I guess Argentina did have its spectacular moments. I don’t think I realized then just what a rare treat it is to be in a place that feels endlessly new and undiscovered, but to exist there not as a tourist or visitor but as a part of it, able to move freely and unnoticed and, at fifteen, unencumbered by serious considerations of punishment or responsibility. It’s like being James Bond in St. Tropez, but there’s no mission, no time limit, and no one’s trying to kill you.

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In this edition, Legofest at the Connecticut Convention Center.

Legofest

Drunken Inspiration (?)

December 6, 2010

Last evening I had the pleasure of attending an intimate gathering at Helder‘s house with a few friends to watch the season finale of The Walking Dead, which is a show about the zombie apocalypse (based on the comic book series of the same name), and is awesome. Our host prepared a drink for us called the Zombie, which was delicious and strong, and didn’t at all remind me of flesh-eating undead people, and I brought along a sixpack of Dead Guy Ale, to keep with the theme of the evening.

We had fun and ate chips and cookies, and after the show concluded, I hung around for another drink and to shoot the shit, which is a nice thing to do with nice people. Then I rode home through the cold night and got home much too late and too drunk for a Sunday.

On the way home, I was listening to my iPod, and the last two songs it played for me (from my driving / bicycling mix of hip hop, funk, soul, and salsa) were “Run” by Ghostfasce Killah and “Santiago de Cuba” by Beny MorĂ©. Apparently, something about this juxtaposition gave me some sort of idea that seemed worthwhile at the time, so before bed I jotted down this note:

Transition from Ghostface’s “Run” to Beny MorĂ©’s “Santiago de Cuba”

Too drunk

Syncretism

Culture

I can’t quite figure out now what I was going for, but maybe you can. Here are the songs:

 

 

Fat Lip

December 3, 2010

From watching television, or really, from reading the snarky yet informative blog posts of people who watch television, I glean that there are people who spend a lot of effort and concern on their bodies. I don’t mean just muscly, consciously tan people like those on Jersey Shore, but other folks who seem to have their self-worth very tied up with their bodies. Generally, I don’t feel like that: My body feels like mostly a necessary vessel to get me to places, things, and people I care about.

Of course, that’s not entirely true: I take some care in dressing and grooming myself, and I would probably be more conscious of my body if I had any difficulty in controlling my weight or otherwise had some obvious and generally ill-regarded deviation from general expectations. (Not that I’m some Adonis or something. But I’m naturally skinny and not excessively funny-looking, despite what my father says.) But in general, I don’t care too much about my body.

As a result (I surmise), I have the habit of incurring minor injuries and ignoring them, to the point where I mostly don’t even know how I got them. Not too long ago, my left elbow swelled overnight with bursitis and looked like it had swallowed a kiwi. When I went to have it drained, the doctor told me it was the result of some trauma, and I was entirely unable to recall any recent elbow bonks. Likewise, my hands pretty much always have some interesting cuts and burns that I can’t explain, incurred (probably) in cooking the kitchen or fixing bicycles in the garage. Even my face catches it now and then – I clip myself on doors and cabinets and things. None of this troubles me.

A few days ago, however, I suddenly developed a fat lower lip, of the sort one might incur in a scuffle. (I have not been in any scuffles lately, nor otherwise been struck in the face.) This did bother me because somehow, it was just right to make me dribble milk from my mouth while eating cereal, and I love eating cereal, so that was a problem. Also, it’s chapped lip season, and having a misshapen lip makes me compulsively lick my lips, which makes them chapped, which is annoying. But what can I do? Nothing, except say, “What up, fat lip?” and be reminded that the song, “What up, Fatlip” is a great song, and that I would like to make a compilation of rap songs that touch on the “I am no longer cool” theme. In addition to Fatlip’s recent opus, it would include “Fallin'” by De La Soul and Teenage Fanclub (from the “Judgment Night” soundtrack):

What other songs could be on this list?