Views from the Rooftop - Boca

Lavender Morning

Though living in this big apartment renting rooms can be a pain in the ass, there are times when I emerge from my room to feel as if I'm walking into a dream. Sometimes the views stop me breathing for a moment and then I run for my camera, hoping my disorganized mind hasn't left it without battery and that I'll have the opportunity to capture what I see.

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Glad Not to be Living in Once/Abasto

One afternoon editing in my room as I often did, I heard a ruckus, looked out over the balcony, and this is what I saw.

First of all what the hell happened to this cop's head? Was he attacked by his friends when he was passed out drunk? Was it a medical condition? Why didn't he just shave the rest of his head? All of this will remain a mystery.

The man on the ground was drunk and had set up shop on the stoop of the hair salon across the street, closed for Sunday. See how he removed his shoes to get more comfortable?

After this shot was taken, the cops just moved along, the man continued to sleep it off on the curb, and his shoes were stolen.

I'm so glad not to be living in Once where I saw two robbery/assaults from the balcony and regularly saw scenes like that pictured here.

Slumdog Millionaire Weak on Character

Slumdog Millionaire has everything. Suspense, intrigue, romance, heroes, villains, betrayal, poverty, and astonishingly gorgeous cinematography. Reviews are strong. It received ten Academy Awards including Best Picture and Best Director. I was riveted until about twenty minutes before the end when any sense of suspension of disbelief I was able to maintain up until that point was systematically destroyed in a way that can only be illustrated with other chain reaction cliches such as a house of cards falling or a destructive avalanche set off by a yodel.

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Gauchito Antonio Gil

Front View of Altar

The story of Gauchito Antonio Gil (pronounced "heel") is said to take a few different paths, but the common byline is that he was a Robin Hood figure who stole from the rich to give to the poor.

Legend has it that Gaucho Gil was a farmer who had an affair with a wealthy widow. When the affair was discovered, Gil fled and joined the army to escape the wrath of the townspeople and police (one of whom is said to have been in love with the widow himself). In the time leading up to the Argentine Civil War, he had grown tired of fighting and deserted. Upon returning home, he was detained and brutally executed for his refusal to continue fighting.

One of the lawmen who had been responsible for the death of Gil returned home to discover his son was deathly ill. The lawman prayed to Gaucho Gil and the son's health was restored. The lawman then took it upon himself to give the Gaucho a decent burial.

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Election Night In Buenos Aires

Crowd at Club Sacrimento in Palermo, Buenos Aires, Argentina - This was earlier in the night. It became much more crowded later.

All day I was on edge about the elections. I tried what I could to soothe myself. On the long bus trips to and from my volunteer job, I tuned into podcasts of News and Notes and Rachel Maddow. It didn’t help that the kids were rowdy as hell. There were two boys in the class I taught and when I told them there was 5 minutes left of class, one of the boys said he was bored. I asked him if he wanted to leave and he said he did and I ended the class. Once I got home, I tuned into NPR and just let it run.

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Colonia, Uruguay

A tourist visa for Argentina is good for 90 days. A good way to extend your stay is by going to Uruguay and getting your passport stamped. That gives you another 90 days.

Though I've only been here for two months, I'm ready to start looking for a job and try to change my return on my round trip ticket. My friend Patt said she had a trip planned to Uruguay, and I figured it would be a good idea to tag along. This trip was made a month before it was really necessary, but the stamp will give me a little confidence in dealing with the airline. It's a time marker for me - one that plants me here for the next three months at least.

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Cementerio de la Chacarita, Buenos Aires

Sunday I went to Cementerio de la Chacarita. Walks had taken me past the large pink entrance several times, and though I had expressed my desire to see the cemetery on several occasions, I hadn't known that the monolithic structure was actually the way in. A friend had speculated that it was a university, an idea I had no reason to refute.

Two subway stops away from where I live, the cemetery is enormous. I had allotted myself 2 hours to have a look and that wasn't nearly enough time to get a good idea of what there is to see.

This is two photos melded together to show the inside of a mausoleum. Without a doubt, this is the most beautiful cemetery I have seen in my life. The outsides of the mausoleums are incredible. The insides range from well kept to complete disrepair. If you look inside and down, you can see a grate (in some cases) that covers a hole in the floor. In many of the tombs, there is no grate. Lots of the tombs have visible stairs aside from the hole on the floor that lead to the lower story. If you look carefully, you can often see more coffins beneath.

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Sign by the X

The emphasis on convenience in American culture coupled with the devaluing of intelligence has made the people stupid. Rather than looking for the solution, we are given the solution. Buy another one. Wait until the light turns green. Wait until you are called. I once knew a guy who had driven the same route in his car no less than 20 times and still depended on his GPS to give him directions. It is possible to cluelessly wander through America paying little attention to you surroundings without incident.

People don’t question rules that slow them down. They generally don’t question the waste they generate. So many pieces of paper have to be signed that we barely bother reading them anymore. More times than I can count, I’ve read a piece of paper that was presented for my signature to be told by whoever gave it to me, “It just says x, y and z,” or, “You’re the first person I’ve even given that to who’s read it!” Really? What are these other people doing? Every company is covering their ass in the most aggressive way, by fucking us, and we let them without question.

It seems to me that here in Buenos Aires, people trust the government and corporations less, and it’s no wonder, but it is a much smarter way of operating. At a gym, you pay by the month. You are required to go to a doctor and get a checkup before you join a gym, and once you do, they have a piece of paper that says you are in condition to do the physical activity. In the US, you sign a paper that absolves the gym of liability should you drop dead there, and guarantees that you will continue to pay them for a specified amount of time. If you don’t, you are beholden to them to pay, and it goes on your credit report. This is all regardless of your physical condition. If you dropped dead and they had your credit card number, I have no doubt that they would continue to charge you by the month until your contract ran out. Because if you dropped dead in the facility, you wouldn’t be there to present them with a notarized change of address form. We sign up for these sorts of things without questioning them and without complaint.

Before I left, I was trying to straighten things up with my mom’s phone company. The company required that the client would be recorded answering a series of questions for an independent contractor that handled the phone contracts. In order to use the service, the client was required to answer every question with the word “yes” regardless of what the question was. The woman I spoke with said, “When they ask you to agree to international calling, just say ‘yes.’ Even if you don’t want the service. If you say no to any question, you will be refused service.” When I expressed my disapproval of this policy, she was very evidently annoyed by me. I clearly was being unreasonable and holding up progress. She treated me as I were the stupid one, when what it amounted to was that at any time, the potential existed for my mother to be charged incredible rates for services she didn’t use based on a recording of my voice idiotically saying the word, “Yes” regardless of what I was asked. “Will you give us the soul of your first born child? In the event that you do not have any children will you give is the soul of the first born of any brother or sister that you may have?”

Most people I know have been hit by some kind of corporate screwing at the hands of a cell phone company or buying a car or joining a gym. Then the attitude seems to be “Well, there’s nothing I can do about it.” I guess there’s not - we all know we signed some piece of paper and lost our copy of it a long time ago. We know that these bastards have teams of lawyers that make it impossible for John Q. Citizen to contest being unfairly charged. What’s astonishing to me is the fact that it continues. No matter how many times we get screwed, we keep it up, keep throwing good money after bad and signing on the dotted line. We think we need what’s on offer so badly that it’s necessary to enter into a contract regardless of what the contract says, if we even have the capacity to understand the nuances of the legalese.

If there’s one thing that this impending economic crisis engenders in us, I hope it’s to exercise more caution - to be as suspicious of companies as they apparently are of us. Wouldn’t it be great if we all rejected the contracts, the rules and the restrictions - if there were a massive movement to pocket the papers we were presented to sign and said, “I’m going to have to have my lawyer look into this,” and walked out? I love to imagine a country in which people said, “You are providing me the service, so how about you treat me like a customer instead of a criminal.” I don’t imagine it will ever happen in the US, but it would be great to see businesses that treated customers like people instead of potential lawsuits really succeed and the rest go straight down the toilet where they belong.