February 21, 2009

Back in the real world, sort of

Home again, home again, earlier than planned. Call me Spanish school dropout. (No graduation day for me.) Just say it in English, because my vocab in espanol is rather limited. So is my knowledge of verbs.

In Argentina, I lived in the present tense. I had no past and no future. It is an interesting way to perceive and the world.

Actually, it is quite apropos, given our brave new world and goings-on in Wonderland and places beyond. The past is history and the future a huge question mark. Will Alice need to find another gig to keep her in the style to which she is accustomed? Or are those days gone, regardless of what gig she comes up with?

Teaching English as a second language seems a possibility. It is a gig with instant credibility, something Alice believes has been lost in her current so-called profession. She thinks Madoff made everyone in her line of work appear as credible as car salesmen are usually wont to be. This does not inspire trust, a necessary element in Alice's work.

In Wonderland Alice is grateful for her health and mobility: TBF (aka Clover's Companion) had a second back surgery in Alice's absence. She will spend months recuperating. Alice would still feel better if TBF would hire a pro for her caretaking, but it's not her choice.

Husband-the-doctor (HTmD), to Alice, appears on the verge of a breakdown. Alice kindly brought him Cuban cigars that she had rolled in a T-shirt in her suitcase. She tells him to take care of himself, but he seems to fall short in that arena.

Today he shopped and brought home the wrong toilet paper, to TBF's dismay. Alice held her tongue. To her, as we know, toilet paper is not created equal. HTmD is a boy; he doesn't make the distinctions Alice and TBF make. He is also bewildered by all things domestic, and Alice wonders how he survived his lengthy bachelorhood.

HTmD is running himself ragged while TBF is incapacitated, calling herself a cripple with a scoliosis-like brace to wear as part of the recovery plan. He is stunningly clueless about their everyday life -- all things remotely domestic.

Alice has never lived in the world of couples, where one brings in the money and the other manages it, much less one in which food supply falls to the female and the male seems unable to manage for himself. Perhaps it is simply all the stress: Alice will buy that. Under stress, brushing teeth can be problematic.

Doctor-husband cannot ascertain by himself where to put the tuna fish cans. He cannot apply heat to food (nor can TBF). That in itself is not a problem, but his failure to find nutrition that is not on the Chinese food or pizza menu puzzles Alice. Shouldn't an M.D. know what they call a balanced meal? Perhaps order one to be delivered? Cash is not the problem, but common sense is in short supply, or perhaps stress has taken its place.

This is why Alice ran away, and why Alice, once she excavates her dining room table, will be just as happy to get on the plane to Mexico next week. She cannot, it seems, bear witness to that which drives her insane. Apparently Alice is a control freak: who knew? Or is Alice the last to get that memo?

In BA Alice had fleeting maternal tendencies: one day she almost decided to wake up the Twit for school, and another night, while they smoked on the balcony, Alice wanted to lecture her about protein and safe sex. (The women of Buenos Aires have emergency kits for sale in their ladies' rooms: two pesos for a toothbrush, one for a condom. That will see them through the night.) However, Alice refrained.

Twit is massively devoted to Boyfriend, with whom she "chats" for hours via instant messaging, although that doesn't stop her from going out and finding a boy to fuck. One morning she came home and announced that she had gotten laid. Alice hoped that having sex would have calmed her down a bit, but no such luck.

When Alice was 19, she probably acted very much like Twit, except that she kept a bit more of her personal life to herself, and she didn't feel the need to tell anyone how intelligent she was. She was probably more about the hair, makeup, and clothes than she remembers. In retrospect, she was definitely more about the conquests than the intimacy.

Thirty years later, Alice has a different take on the world. She is again dating: tonight is her second date with the Artist, a woman Alice met on line and with whom she giggles madly on the telephone. They courted via email during Alice's hiatus. The Artist's Valentine's Day/Friday the 13th email cheered Alice immensely.

So, brave new world aside, Alice is up for more adventures. Keep your fingers (or other parts of your anatomy, as you choose) crossed for her. She wants something to work out with the Artist. Alice, perhaps, has found something to hope for, something/someone to add to her life.

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February 15, 2009

I am the spin cycle

From Alice´s travelogue --

Yesterday I decamped to a hotel, with air conditioning, a bed that doesn´t feel like a massage table, my own bathroom, speedy computers with keyboards that still show the letters, a full breakfast (landlady was a tad short on food), and the amenities to which I am, apparently, quite accustomed.

But what did I do after I arrived? Laundry. (Don´t laugh.. Yet.) At home I have raised domestic incompetence to a high art. When last I washed my comforter in the laundry room at home, I flooded the whole place from washing machine to dryer to door. (The machine was as tall as I was, and so I couldn´t see how much soap I was supposed to put in. I guessed wrong....)

So, for the first time in countless years, I did the wash. By hand. (Which you may not find nearly as entertaining as I did, but so it goes.)

First, I worked out an entire system for the process. The clothes got scrubbed (piece by piece) in the bathroom sink, then rinsed in, yes, the bidet, and finally rolled into a towel that I stepped on to squeeze the water out. Then I hung everything all over the room and draped some underwear on a chair. And, in keeping with my mom´s idea of the purpose of a hair dryer, this morning I used the one in the bathroom to dry my socks.

(Okay -- laugh now)

I have one of the most beautiful views in BA. I overlook the cemetery where Eva Peron is buried. It is full of architecturally fascinating mausoleums and it is a huge tourist attraction. A woman sells maps for 6 pesos ( less than $2) at the entrance, and you can take a guided tour if you like of where BA´s most illustrious have come to rest. This is high-end real estate, and if you have to ask the price of admission, well, you won´t be worthy of a place there.

Requescant in pace are the words carved above the entrance. Given the amount of traffic in the cemetery, it must be a challenge.

I just realized that while I don´t usually visit cemeteries, all over London, famous people are buried under the floors of the churches that are tourist sites. One year, I tried to avoid stepping on them, but most of the time I´ve been there, it hasn´t bothered me in the least.

None of this is meant to be morbid. I´m just free associating.

I´ve read over some of my previous travelogues and noticed some funny redundancies; I have been fixated on the quality of the toilet paper, which, when rereading it, seems like a very odd thing to write about, particularly more than once.

One observation that I can´t understand why it took me so long to achieve; wherever you go, if you want to see obnoixious or culturally ignorant Americans, go to McDonald´s. (A place that seems to be another fixation this trip, and a place I usually ignore at home.)

It is another symbol of how the world perceives Americans, and once again, I don´t think it´s one that reflects well on us. On the other hand, at least no one hates us here, and I don´t have to pretend to be Canadian as I have in the recent past.

It is Sunday, and I´m taking the day off. One of the amenities here is a pool, and I´m planning to use it. What joy.

Any and all news is welcome.

lots of love,


February 07, 2009

Dancing in the streets

The news from home is grim on all fronts -- TBF (aka Clover´s Companion) is going back to the hospital for more surgery, and I am thousands of miles away, but in truth, there is nothing I can do for her in Wonderland, other than Be Properly Scared. I am. I am praying to a God about whose existence I am unsure.

Economic news grows more dire each time Alice signs on to Yahoo. Employment prospects look dim at best for the year. Alice has savings, but Alice, as observed last year, is still adjusting to reduced circumstances. (The exchange rate is so favorable in Argentina that it is cheaper for Alice here than in Wonderland.)

Nonetheless, in Buenos Aires, it is Carnaval, and the porteñonos are, as it happens, dancing in the streets. Wearing elaborate sequined costumes with make-up to match, they are celebrating. It is a joyous occasion here, and I am in need of joy. My flatmates I joined one group, made up of people ranging from toddlers to older men and women (not elderly: if you can dance in the street, elderly does not apply) fiercely contorting themselves in rhythm.

Never before have I literally danced in a city street. When Obama was elected, I wanted to dance in the West Village, but a local cop shushed us while we yelled from the concrete stoop, just as the cars were honking madly, before we could our feet could touch the asphalt. Here, we are welcome to dance in the street.

Buenos noches, Buenos Aires!

I am reliving student life, though in fact I never washed clothes by hand, never tried to iron, never washed a dish, and here I am, seriously lacking in domestic competence, and feeling ludicrously proud of my efforts. The apartment is run down, with a computer that runs Windows 98 and a telephone that requires a card for a local call, and my bed is definitely dormitory quality, if that. But what the hell -- my Spanish is improving, poco a poco, and for three weeks, I get to step outside myself.

The other students are young enough to be my children, if I had any, so I am gaining an interesting perspective on Youth.

Youth runs technological circles around me, though I suspect when I was their age and I lived abroad, I was more completely immersed in the culture around me simply because my time abroad predated the computer age. Cyber connections did not exist. We wrote letters, we sent postcards; occasionally my father sent Telexes from his office.

Daddy liked to know how his princess was managing. His princess was having a blast. Our business Telex name was hotdog, a play on my family name. My brother and I still have email addresses containing that name, to honor my father, who loved every new gadget that came along.

No one here can imagine a Telex, or a telegram. To me, the local internet cafe does seem part of the streetscape, but the cabinets where you can telephone the U.S. still seem a luxury, no matter how commonplace Youth might find them. Alice is a baby boomer, late to the global village. Youth is Gen Y or Z and knows of no other town.

Both Alice and flatmate Youth (a 19-year-old Dutch child-woman) think they are getting a great deal. Youth brings Alice coffee in bed. Alice pays for the taxi to school. Alice has been there, done that, and torn the T-shirt to rags on the rush-hour subway front, an overheated crowd new to flatmate Youth.

Other differences? Youth gets cramps; Alice wanted to sell her futures in Tampax on Ebay. Flatmate Youth instant messages; youth texts; youth emails, youth spends an inordinate amount of time facebooking (my verb of the day).

I, on the other hand, still find blogging a 21st century revelation, and if I want to talk to someone, I don´t want to sit at a keyboard and cripple myself. (Youth willl have to invent great voice-activated software. In 10 years, they won´t be able to type.) Call me old-fashioned, but call me. On the telephone.

Muchos gracias and hasta luego.

Alice, far from Wonderland

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