Leave the door open for the unknown, the door into the dark | Rebecca Solnit, A Field Guide to Getting Lost

Friday, September 30, 2011

Reckoning with Grizzlies

Just read this little gem in the NYTimes: "Reckoning with Grizzlies: Sometimes the Bear Gets You' by Timothy Egan. No, it didn't turn out to be something by Jennifer Egan, as I'd hoped when I'd clicked off the Times homepage, but I'm still glad I spent my last free article pass on this clever little morsel.

An excerpt: 

You move forward with reasonable precautions, knowing you can’t control some things, and that everything worth doing involves a calculated risk. The rest is luck of the draw, the bear not getting you.

Fine sentiments indeed, and I bet Paul would appreciate them, too. 

As always, I'm missing you all. xx

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Southern Spring

But there was hope. I was going south - more southerly than anyone on this southbound express would believe. Somewhere below, the wind was in the palm trees. On the other hand, we were only now in Streator, Illinois.

Paul Theroux, The Old Patagonian Express

Friday, September 23, 2011

Seeing Bariloche

Dear, dear ones,

I made it to Esquel, did you know that? Paul didn't go any father than that, and so, in a way, the journey's over. I thought I'd cry when I reached the end, but my brother David was right beside me, and he made me laugh instead. I flew there, Paul - there was no train. In my defense, we bussed it back to Buenos Aires - 22 hours through the Pampas. That's something, right? I say it is.

So we made it to Esquel, that wind-whipped place, where the airport crammed in everyone en route to Bariloche. The erupting volcano in Chile has kept the Bariloche airport closed for months now, and the air all over remains ashy, hazy. Everything - the plains, the woods, the lakes - hold the tint of that ash, which fell like snow by the meter, and which continues to fall even now. It's crippled the economy there, que pena, but go anyway, if you can. God, it was so beautiful.

So I have seen Patagonia now. I've been trying for days to write something about it for you all, but all that comes out are these long (too long for this blog!) essays about being with my dad, and being with Dave, and feeling so at home in that place of cedars and mountains and lakes.

So for now I'll leave Paul's words up (below), because he said it best. It's been the journey all along, hasn't it? And I'm still down here, so I guess that means it's not over yet.

Meanwhile, may you all enjoy amazing Bariloche...

 Oh yes, that's some succulent pow right there! Except I am officially old, because it was deep and steep and I got scared. I skiied better when I was twelve. It's sad.

But wait...it doesn't matter how you ski, right? It matters how you look, on and off the hill! We can all thank Guy Middleton for that one.

And we can thank the Church of the Great Blue Dome for these: 

Finally, yum. This was taken at the Cerro Catedral, in San Martin de los Andes:

Eat your heart out, Big Fellas!

Love, Kate

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Patagonian Roads

The Patagonian paradox was this: to be here, it helped to be a miniaturist, or else interested in enormous empty spaces. There was no intermediate zone of study. Either the enormity of the desert space, or the sight of a tiny flower. You had to choose between the tiny or the vast.

The paradox diverted me. My arrival did not matter. It was the journey that counted.

Paul Theroux, The Old Patagonian Express

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Extraordinary Writing by the Lovely Christine

How beautiful, this heartfelt post, from one Stevens Fellow to another.

An excerpt:

 I know I should go to the museums, but all I want to do is ride down the streets. When I finally stuffed the mint floss into my pannier I thought about how buying a piece of fruit at the Bandu Market would sometimes take me 45 minutes because I would stop and explore every stall. Is this what Mary Elvira Stevens meant when she stipulated that fellows should have a “deep love of beauty?” Has traveling alone impaired your time management skills?

- By Christine Grant, as posted on her awesome blog, Shift. You can read all about her project there; she's a great writer and a brave soul - and she's incredibly generous, too! (She once gave me my very own corner of her tiny room in northern Thailand for upwards of two months. It was fun.)

I miss you, dear girl! xx

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Thanks Philip!

Um, read this:
We are giving away an excellent example of a Pure Salvage Living House that a person could actually live in full time, or simply use for a get away.  The Prize is one of our newest design prototypes.  We want someone to win this house based on their creativity, focus, and clarity of their inspirational essay.  There are many different reasons why a Tiny House like this might fit into your life.  All you need to do is write a 300-word essay about “How having a Tiny House could inspire you” and submit it with a $50 entry fee to have a chance to win.

What???? Can it be so?

I shall enter, obvs, and may you all enter as well. Let the best writer win! Buena suerte! 

How close we all come

Excerpted from the beautiful Robin's woodbird:

“I know,” I reply, thinking of the dream I had in the weeks after I’d conceived, the dream in which Margaret, my grandma, had come back as a trapeze-flying blond-headed girl. “It’s a she,” I told T that night. “We’re having a girl,” thinking of that wildness, that fear, that unharnessed tongue, riding on a few thin ropes up towards the sky.

Now I brush your lava-hot head with my lips, blow on your beaded lids, and wonder what those teenagers are drinking. Jegermeister? Jack Daniels? Miller Light? Outside the open windows the skies grow auburn with dusk. Leaves flicker. The pines groan. Are they in love? I don’t yet think of the mothers, and whatever it is they’re thinking. Hear that? I don’t yet think of, or think like, the mothers. All I think of is that fevered, reverent pitch. That harrowing fear. The way the world was so god damn open. So open! Anything could happen. Anything. You don’t even know, child. You don’t even know how hot it will get. The chills that will wrack you. How close we all come, at some point, to dying.

Missing you all, but most of all, right now, missing the north country. How I admire you, Robin. Hope the baby's better. x

With love, from Dave

Does she look fatter to you?

SHE DOES TO ME!!! Maybe it's just her head, though, which was always oversized. 

I fricking miss that little cat Pants.

Monday, September 5, 2011

An uplifting quote...

In reality, the economy crashes every ten years here. We are used to it; it's part of the circle of life. 

-My dear Alfonso, on Argentina

Sunday, September 4, 2011

An Hour Like Water

Alfonso is half an hour late. He doesn’t call to tell me this, nor does he apologize when he finally shows up where we've arranged to meet, on the corner in front of the convenience store. He just kisses me on the cheek and asks, Do you like Arabian food? He asks it in Spanish, and I have to get him to repeat the question two more times. Árabe is the word I’m not getting, not with the way he crushes the r and turns the b into a v.

Should we be talking in English? He asks me in English, after the third and final attempt. I pout. It was just that one word! I protest, and he laughs and unlocks the car. The door on my side scrapes the curb as I pull it shut—You sank the car! He says, but he’s not angry. He’s used to the screech of the door against the high sidewalk, and jokes that if I weighed just a little bit less, the car wouldn’t sink so bad. I know he is teasing, though, because he told me the other night that I should eat more, and ordered us both desserts.

I decide, as we drive down Godoy Cruz, past the horse-racing track and the massive banyan tree, past the lime-green Chinese restaurant and the tiny gas station, that I won’t be mad that he showed up late. Even if I said something, he’d just remind me that it wasn’t his fault—I don’t have a watch, remember? He’d say. And I’d have to admit that I’ve used the same excuse. Anyway, I tell myself, leaning back in my seat and watching the lights of Palermo flicker past, isn’t the strange slow motion of time the sweetest thing about this place? Alfonso turns up the music, explaining that the man singing is an Alaskan guy who grew up in Buenos Aires. We listen to his raspy, folksy voice, and cruise up and down the nighttime streets.

The bars we speed past are crowded with trendy twenty-somethings. Knee-length stiletto boots; tight jeans and leather jackets. The girls have this hair, this amazing long hair that reaches down past their ass, and the guys hold their women close to them, kissing them, eyes closed. We drive down the series of streets named after Central American countries—Nicaragua and Costa Rica, Honduras. I tell Alfonso, in Spanish, that I like this part of town because the streets remind me how far I have come. Which one’s your favorite? He asks, and I tell him, without hesitating, Nicaragua. I tell him I liked the heat there, I liked the poets, I liked the blue waters of the Corn Islands and the way, in the evening, the sun made everything pink.


The Arabian restaurant, when we arrive, is so jammed that we have to add our names to a long list, a list that a bald man holds with importance at the door. He is smoking, smoking and ushering people in and out, and there must be thirty or forty people waiting for him to call their names, standing there beneath the plastic awning in the sweet, unexpected warmth of this springtime night.

Let’s go for a beer, Alfonso suggests, after we’ve added our name. How long is the wait? I ask, and he tells me it’s enough time to have a beer. I don’t push it. This is like him ringing the doorbell late and not apologizing; this is the way time works here. It’s like Harrison, one of the other English teachers at Conviven, told me on the bus ride home the other day: Time is more fluid here, he’d said, just like everything else. He’d grinned, then kissed me on the cheek and jumped off the bus—his stop. I watched him lope away with his long legs and cropped hair, his blue eyes, down the cobblestone street and out of sight.

Although the Arabian restaurant was jammed inside and out, the streets around here are empty. We peer into the windows of bars that are silent, the stools and counters gleaming and unused. Spooky, I say. It’s a vicious cycle, Alfonso tells me. The place is empty, so no one goes in. No one goes in, and the place stays empty. I practice saying ‘vicious cycle’ in Spanish; Alfonso makes fun of my accent. I remind him that at least we’re speaking in Spanish, right? He shrugs, nods, and takes my arm. Here, he says, and points to a little pizza joint with a couple of outdoor tables and a few waiters standing around smoking.
Alfonso orders a big bottle of beer, which comes with little dishes of chips and peanuts and crackers. I’m starving, Alfonso admits, pouring the beer into squat jelly jars and then reaching for a handful of peanuts. He asks me if I’ve eaten, and I tell him I have—Hours ago, I say. I can’t wait until midnight for dinner, I joke, and he shrugs. Is it midnight already? He asks, and checks his wrist for a watch that isn’t there. Then he laughs and grabs for another handful of peanuts, tossing one at me, aiming for my shirt’s v-shaped neckline.

I like Alfonso because he tosses peanuts at me, and he doesn’t care about time. He doesn’t get stressed about it, even though he works as an attorney and knows his minutes are on the clock. I like him because he chats with the tall, African-looking waiter who comes out and refills our glasses of beers and our dishes of peanuts and chips. The two of them guess where the other is from, ignoring me, and I like this. Everyone chats here; everyone has the time and the interest for a brief conversation. We finish our beers and pay the bill. Our table will be ready now, Alfonso says.

And it is. We go back to the Arabian place and wait just two minutes at the door, the patio still jammed, until the man with the list and the cigarette calls our name. He doesn’t show us in, he just directs us inside and up the stairs. Take the table with silverware on it, he says, and checks his list to call out the next name. After we sit, Alfonso orders without consulting the menu, and this is something I like, too. He rattles off a list of dishes, and asks for a bottle of wine. Hot, thin bread arrives in a napkin-covered basket, and sparkling water, and then the plates come, one after the other, now stuffed grape leaves, now falafel, now a type of meat pie and a type of cheese casserole and a tart, lemony salad. The wine is cold and tastes like flowers and oranges both. We eat and eat, using our fingers and not our forks, and after a while baklava arrives for dessert, and possibly the best coffee I’ve ever had, sweet without being sugary, grainy and rich without being cloying. Every bite requires you to close your eyes, because with them open, your senses are overwhelmed. I am stuffed, I am sleepy; I’m in heaven.

Just before we leave, I check my watch. It’s 3 AM. The restaurant remains full; the waiters hurry around. I catch Alfonso looking at me; he shakes his head. I pull my shirtsleeve down over my wrist to cover my watch.

Time is a different animal here, Alfonso says. It’s another thing altogether, than what you know. He pulls me closer as we make our way though the restaurant, towards the door, squeezing between tables and chairs, diners and servers and the man with the list. So forget it, Alfonso whispers, and hustles me out the door.

And he is right. Here, time’s a river, and because it moves like water, it would be stupid to try and cling. The sun setting down doesn’t mark another hour; the thing is the glimmer, the long shadows of the trees. And this night is not the minutes; it’s not the morning growing closer. It’s the moonlight, it’s the coffee, it’s the not-so-distant summer on the wind.

The Unfinished City

"The Jardin Botanico was crawling with cats, hundreds and hundreds of them. They crept over everything, collected, preened.

The city would abruptly change the subject. I had felt this from the start. You were walking along a smooth Palermo street lined with bars and shops and would suddenly stumble into a wasteland, grass and dirt. Or you looked through a doorway into a huge empty hole. It was an unfinished city, but not only that. It seemed interminable, an interminable job. This was also what I liked."

Excerpted from The Foreigners, by Maxine Swann

Maxine Swann, a friend of Donigan's and the author of Serious Girls, Flower Children and The Foreigners, lives in Buenos Aires. She's been awarded a Pushcart Prize, an O. Henry Prize, and the Ploughshares Cohen Award.  The Foreigners, which takes place here in BA, does a nice job of capturing how this city is - always shifting, dark and beautiful both. Plus, Swann (or at least her protagonist, who I'm willing to bet holds a biographical resemblance) seems to be a bold traveller, sometimes a little reckless, and that reminds me of someone I know.

 The author

Missing you all, as usual. Happy Labor Day weekend! Besitos.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Travel in Turbulent Times

I'll preface this post by saying I'm ashamed to have missed this NYTimes article. I have no defense; at the time it came out, I was making my way into Ecuador, where I'd stay put for three months and have plenty of time to read The Times.

I'm also ashamed of my dear readership! Is this because you have to pay to read the Times now? Did none of you stumble across this article and think of me? For shame! All of us.

OK, enough scolding...LOOK!
An article on travel by Paul Theroux...and here is a fine, fine excerpt:

“Don’t go there,” the know-it-all, stay-at-home finger wagger says of many a distant place. I have heard it my whole traveling life, and in almost every case it was bad advice.

Oh, Paul. Oh Paul Paul Paul. Truer words were never spoken. When do you want to meet for a drink?

Read the full article here...if you can afford it!

Friday, September 2, 2011

On ‘Redeemers' by Enrique Krauze

Discovered this: a fine review of a book worth reading. Thanks NY Times! How lush it always is to start a new month with you, my 20 free articles renewed.  

Enrique Krauze, Mexican historian and Letras Libres editor, documents in 'Redeemers' a history of political ideas in Latin America during the late 19th and 20th centuries in the form of a series of biographical portraits.

Here's an excerpt from Paul Berman's [slightly swoony] review:
"People who love novels recognized long ago that Latin Americans in a storytelling mood were producing some of the world’s liveliest fiction. “Redeemers” raises the suspense-inducing possibility that Latin Americans in a political mood have likewise done something worthy of worldwide attention. They have tried, with mixed success but unflagging brio, to address the vast conundrum, political and cultural, of a modern age that has ended up dominated by the magnetic power of the United States."

Shall one of my beloved visitors bring me this book as a gift? Will Christmas come early for Kate? Quizas! Quien sabe! Miss you all. x

The things you find when you're backing up your pictures...

Un Paseo Por Las Nubes, Catalina Carrasco

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Well hello there...

September 1st! Holy crap! Can anyone believe it?

Summer's over for you suckers, but here it's just beginning!!!! Muahahahaha.

And Dad and David come in exactly one week. I shall see Patagonia within the fortnight, dear readers! Stay tuned.