Saturday, March 28, 2009

The Guacho Nationals and Pato (Duck) Polo

This is at a place in central called la rural. A giant expositon hall and grounds for the farmers and ranchers to show stuff, buy stuff, trade stuff, and auction stuff. We sat in for an hour of aucton for young polo ponies. Two to three year olds with great bloodlines, but a few years shy of competition. 5 to 10 thou seemed to be the going rate, but we only watched a little. There were all manner of gaucho competitions. Small meets all around the country in various events determining the best cowboys to compete at the national level this week. We payed particular attention to an event that involves one horse and rider with two yearling cows in a very small ring. The gaucho and horse seperate and cram one cow at a time into the fence with the horse almost in the cows back to freeze it and then get the other one. The older gauchos clothing and the tack on their horses is simply incredible. The one fellow pictured above displays his everyday knife in a chased silver sheath. It´s used for ropes, cleaning hooves and eating steak. They are gorgeously made, horn or very hard wood handles, silver inlay and very personal tools. Love to have one, but i´d never use it and am trying to not accumulate masses of unused things.

On the left, one of the young riders, maybe 20, 22 in the competition and next, sort of the senior circuit guy at least sixty, but obviously earned his way into this final. This whole place is huge. Three indoor riding arenas, maybe 500 booths of people who make and sell saddles, boots, hats, silver decorate adornments, vet supplies, watering troughs, fencing, portable corrals, tractors, atv´s, and on and on. It´s so tempting to own on of those fantastic flat brimmed felt hats or one of the oversized berets favored in some regions. this may be the one trip a year to the capital for many, especially the young gauchos, and their sisters. By the way, there are female gauchos as most of these ranches are family affairs, and if you can ride like hell, and beat up a cow, you´re welcome to it. Anyway, these young ones have their year´s money in their pocket, and very carefully get new hats, embroidered shirts, fancier boots, more silver hoo haws for their horse tack and smilingly strut it around. Looks like logging dynastic families of oregon´s recent past. It´s a very horsey country, even here in the city. We´re only a dozen blocks from the equestrian center and the argentine horse club. Regular events, like the jumping over obstacles around a course in fancy dress. I´m obviously very horse illiterate, but it´s great spectator fodder. Polo has returned to bs. ar. Tourneys in various other provinces, if their not too far away, move the final to the city to the big polo field, and larger crowds. Actually planning on going way out in the sticks for one of these events. As has been mentioned, polo is a big money sport, so i´m sure that more than adequate accomodations will be available.

This is the old line guy still in the finals of , i´m sure must be a young man´s game. All the other senior types were very loud in their support, as was I.

This arena and it´s ornate decorative parts is further enhanced by a fine, artistic inflatable, coke can. Oh well, it´s everywhere. This is the spot where they play an original gaucho sport, pato. pato is duck and it was originally played with a live duck. Three guys, three horses and a sort of vertical basketball net at each end. Ride like mad, bend out of the saddle, grab the duck, pass it to your teammates, everyone must touch it once before you hurl it into, or, at the net. If two opposing players both have a grip on the duck, the horses pull away till one rider gives or is unhorsed. I guess they used up a lot of ducks. The modern version has a ball with ropes loosely laced around it to appease the animal rightists, i suppose. Fun game, more of a laughing participation than lethal competition.

A quick shot of pato as described above.

Home Delivery and Out on the Town

For the last two weeks, we have been holed up in the casa, both sick with a ¨knock-you-on-your-butt¨ flu. Thanks to our friend Daniel the book seller, we have had some great books to read to while away the time. Daniel goes all over Buenos Aires, tracking down estate sales and out of the way book stalls, buying up books in lots of different languages. He has a big bookshelf in a local hostel for selling, but since we are neighbors, we just go over to his house and he pokes around under his bed or in the closet and comes up with a pile of books for us. At first I asked for my long time ¨comfort zone¨ murder mystery books, but slowly he has slipped in more and more other fiction... modern Japanese writers, Irish, and lots of books written by authors who spend time in lands other than their native soil...

We have found two other luxury pleasures as we recuperate. 1. Every restaurant in Belgrano delivers to our house, mostly by bicycle. And 2, we now get weekly home delivery of individual liter seltzer bottles of soda water! You push the plastic lever and out gushes the soda... and high powered soda sometimes too... i cant wait to have a late night soda water war with our next visitors...

Three weeks ago we were both all frisky and energized by getting to spend time with young friends Jason and Malia, down for a whirlwind two week vacation. There´s nothing like playing tour guide to remind you to appreciate the ¨ guide book tourist must sees.¨ It´s easy for me to become jaded regarding crowds and hassle once the event isn´t a virgin experience. For example, we had not been to the San Telmo Saturday Market in the last two years... ¨been there, done that.¨ If we hadn´t gone with ¨the kids,¨we wound have missed this great puppet

show on the street. The guy had a little electric tape player playing a tango song about late night drinking while his puppet twirled on the lamp post in some graceful sloppy dance.

We took in a big design show... a mad house of local talent showing off their art, fashion, and music.... went on to a jazz show that Dave had wanted to see... then Malia took us to a late night ¨hip¨ Palermo night club in an old restored mansion...met some great arty folks, mingled and eave dropped on bizarre conversations... perhaps Dave and I were the oldest ones there, but we managed to stay til closing at 4 am!!... (and maybe that´s why we caught the flu?).

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Goin downtown...

We went to one of the cultural centers for a puppet show, and found out back a circus tent with people practicing on the high wire... circus is big down here ... a big revival world wide I think, thanks to cirque du soleil ... we have spied circus workshops in old factory buildings all over town, seen agile folks shimming up long stretchy cloths in the park trees... jugglers and clowns come out and preform for waiting cars at big intersections... the city seems to focus more on promoting art and culture than on fixing potholes and bad sidewalks...they reduce rent and taxes to property owners who hold an event or workshop. This whole cultural center, in barracas, does all the art theatricals exclusively... circus acrobatics, mime, puppetry, movement improv, musical theater ... its a really interesting place. The buildings were once an estancia, wide open air balconies, open but covered stable facilities for thirty plus horses. These are still intact looking like an open air stable, with a stage and seating in the middle. This is a neighborhood we are seriously looking at as our next place. In a dozen blocks, right by the river, lots of combination living and light industrial buildings, plenty available and far enough upstream that the river is quite clean.

... a shot from the top floor, fifth floor of the downtown university of buenos aires, housing the schools of language and philosophy. I spent a month here for first spanish classes. It, (unfortunately no photo) is a huge magisterial structure with twenty foot ceilings for the first two

floors, sweeping marble staircases, sixty by sixty foot mezzanines and is, unfortunately, the case with public buildings in serious disrepair, but what a place it must have been. This photo is looking east to Puerto Madera, the huge river right beyond, and the trees and park like area below is the landing zone for the presidential helicopter. The residence and offices etc. for the presidential couple, pink house it's called here, is a block to the right.

Out the same window looking the other direction, some of the dense downtown business district. There are actually apartments to be had here, some very inexpensive and quite nice, but you're living in a zoo. Millions of pedestrians on the narrowest of sidewalks, lots of bus traffic, tons of delivery motorcycles, it's really exhausting for us to spend even one hour going to just a couple of places. The building in the center low part of photo is the Chinese trade delegations permanent home. I'm not sure how, but lots of business gets conducted in this madhouse. With this mass of people, there are probably twelve restaurants per block, all surprisingly good and inexpensive and contrary to the Argentine norm, fast and efficient service is the order of the day. Of course, for the heavyweights of the business world are the small, tucked away bistros where a two hour business lunch is a couple hundred bucks, that's dollars. I'll wait for some heavyweight to invite me before commenting on the quality of the food in a place so exalted. Just had a call from our Portland pals, Malia and Jason who are just now, in a taxi in front of our place here for a two week visit. i get to be a bit of a tour guide and that sounds like fun.

Jamye has been working on this piece for a few months now.. its in homage to all the centuries of artisans who beatified rugs and tiles and cloth and everything around them with tiny repeat design...

and here's to more dogs in the park and more good meals!