we are here, buenos aires, and i am so tired that i'm not sure i'll be able to capture the many fleeting, first and flawed impressions, but i'll try. the apartment has smooth cement floors that feel cool to my luggage-schlepping feet. i see now what a big city BA is. ridiculous, right? like imagining new york runs from battery city park up to the park, broadway to avenue c. what can i tell you: to make it manageable, we focused on the neighbourhood we wanted to be in and the apartment we rented. we know in two dimensions how to get across the tracks from palermo hollywood to palermo soho. but as everybody knows, street level is a whole other thing from mapping. once you have drooping sycamores and edwardian facades, the intricate choreography of two lanes falling into three regrouping again into two, supermercadas, squeegee boys and design shops, clarity vanishes.
my marcia came out to shepherd us safely in from the airport. it took nearly 45 minutes to drive in, and that was after the confusion of finding a cab. the first taxi driver wanted too much for the fare, so marcia hauled us out of it. the second picked up another, more promising party than the three of us with all our luggage. the third driver was just great. still, we didn't tip him, since it's not typical to tip cab drivers here. i'm not sure i'll be able to get used to that. also: taxi drivers will not take US dollars, neither the legit cabs nor the illegit ones. i thought everybody took US dollars; i thought it was one of the grim facts of contemporary life. how nice to discover otherwise. but also: how odd.
the airport is modern, in the technical, period sense. well, okay, there's a typical pomo white steel and glass reno inside, but outside, in the clear blue sunshine, is a perfectly cantilevered goal-post-like carport. its scale is human, its proportions so pleasing that you actually feel happy to be standing on the curb while mo has her first post-flight cigarette.
the city is visually rich. everywhere you look there is something to see. (i'll post photos tomorrow.) my friend nat is always insisting on how important visual pleasure is to a sense of civic belonging and, even more importantly, to a sense of possibility. buenos aires proves you're right, nat. still, the talk here, from marcia, from blogs like line of sight, city of faded elegance, and sandra gutrejde suarez's travel guide, and from the guy who handed over our apartment, is all about tearing down the old to make way for the new. even at first glance, i can see there is a lot of construction.
the guy who did the apartment inspection is a doctor from colombia, training to be a forensics specialist. his papers won't come through until july. meanwhile, "a guy has to make money, yes?" so the doctor fences flats.
you're wondering why i'm blogging instead of out and about? it's 7:45 PM (three hours ahead of edmonton), and we're waiting for marcia and lee to come take us out for a bite to eat. it's a nighttime city; restaurants will mostly open around 9. so the blogging is a way of staying awake until i can decently retire. at home, 11 counts as decent, if not exactly impressive, but mo says the new goal is midnight. i don't know whether i will survive. but also, i'm blogging because the WWW really is worldwide -- sorta. among the funniest conversations i've heard in the last 24 hours took place between a couple of maintenance guys at pearson who were speaking russian. what i heard was "grawlschrivuk grawlschrivuk grawlschrivuk facebook grawlschrivuk grawlschrivuk." here, even blogspot speaks spanish. "acceder," if you're wondering, will lead you to the sign-on page. i was not entirely successful trying to send a message from the internet kiosk in santiago: where's the back slash? okay, then, the front slash? okay, fine, i'll sign onto gmail, no slash required. but i'm still gonna need an @.
santiago? as we left pearson at midnight, the flight attendants asked everyone please to consider lowering their shades out of consideration for their neighbour. "we're flying into daylight," said the purser. unbeknownst to us, our flight from toronto to buenos aires detoured through santiago (maps, again, mean nothing compared to actually moving through space). so it was that, hot and bleary, tired but with the first hint of the double macchiato from the SCL departures lounge starbucks just coming on, we found ourselves banking hard over the andes in the early morning light.