Wednesday, June 22, 2005

BA Visual Arts-The city has an incredible collection of public art, grand monuments, museums and galleries. Street art contained a good collection of anti Bush and anti war graphics. Gentrification is also an issue in neighborhoods like San Telmo. There one can see graffiti condemning real estate developers and profiteers. In one bathroom stall of the Contemporary Art Museum in that same neighborhood I saw scrawled on the bano’s wall “Todos abogados estan puntos”.

Crossing the Rio Plato- For a reasonable fee we arranged passage on a ferry for a day trip to the Uruguay
an town of Colonia. The voyage across the mighty Rio Plato was made on the good ship Santa Isabel. A handsome ferry replent with glass elevators, a marble staircase (great for cracking ones head open upon in rough seas) a horrible snack bar and an extensive line of duty-free goods. Cindy had asked earlier if Colonia was like Williamsburg. I was most delighted when we landed there and entering the old city we were met by a half dozen colonial re-enactors looking very bored. Overall Colonia is a pleasant and quiet place to escape the noise of BA. While in Uruguay we dined at the strangely named restaurant ‘El Tunel Viejo”. I had no idea why it was call this until I used the facilities there and saw opposite the banos a gaping hole in a stone wall labeled tunnel. I have no idea where it led. At a small tienda we procured a bottle of undated Uruguayan Cabernet Sauvignon. On our return voyage on the Santa Isabel we sampled it and a bottle of 2003 Tannat. Our undated cab carried the flavor of an unrefrigderated container of Welch’s grape juice left uncapped for six days. The Tannat on the other hand was a tasty example of fine Uruguayan winemaking. Needing nourishment on the return trip we inspected the meager offerings of the ships provisioner. Cindy purchased a salad that was mostly cabbage and carrots, which with the aid of packets of mayo and vinegar we turned it into what may have been the best coleslaw ever prepared on the Rio Plata. Seeking more food we wandered through the aisles of the duty free shop. The best option we could envision was canned bonito soaked in Scotch served on Pettridge farm cookies. We decided it best to wait for a proper meat laden dinner in BA than explore this option.

Annoyances- Beggars and street urchins were few and far between in downtown BA. The begging street urchins looked more like lost middle schoolers in Little 5 Points than the empty eyed waifs one normally encounters in Latin America. One precocious blond youth’s method for soliciting funds appeared to be sticking a torn piece of paper in filthy sewer water then squeezing the vile liquid out onto the shoes of any one looking well to do. This did not happen to me since most Argentines are far better attired than I.
Crossing any street was also dangerous, as all taxis in the city seem determined to run over pedestrians. Otherwise BA is a pleasant place.

The long trip home- our return flight included at no extra cost an eight-hour layover in Santiago. We considered getting a day pass to the airline executive lounge. There for $15 we could take a shower, sit in more comfortable chairs, peruse the Internet, drink from a bottomless tumbler of hard liquor and eat a meager selection of candy and chocolates. Not wanting to fly the next ten hours hung over with toothaches we decided instead to spend the time examining every duty free item for sale in the airport. Among the items offered were cans of razor clams, ceramic Easter Island Tikis in a wide range of sizes, a variety of toy penguins and a multitude of wines. There was also the usual duty free fodder of chocolate, perfume cigarettes and hard liquor. What I did not find were T-shirts saying “Chillen’ in Chile”, packages of authentic Chilean chili powder and neckties with a map of the long and thin nation on them. After hours of meandering though the shops I finally settled three bottles of Pisco to use for a closing party for my photography show on Friday.

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