Leaving Buenos Aires

Buenos Aires
22 February – 24 February, 2005

Once I get back into Buenos Aires, I decide to splurge a _little_ bit on my hotel, thinking I would get a much nicer place. The place I chose is close to the main pedestrian thoroughfare – Florida, and close to many other things, including the presidential palace (the other hotel was near congress.) I walked into the hotel before leaving for Ushuaia to see if it was a nice place, and to make a reservation and the guy behind the counter told me I had to use the telephone to make the reservation. I said I’m not doing it, and left. When I came back to check in, they tried to tell me to use the phone to see if there were rooms. My exact response was “No way.” I’ve never been in a hotel where they couldn’t book you in at the front desk, and I’ve been in a lot of hotels in the last eight months. So they did it for me, after talking to bosses, and finding numbers, etc.

The room was OK, but not quite worth what I paid (140 pesos a night, or about $46/us.) It was much nicer than my last B.A. hotel, and it had a 20″ TV with cable. The shower was nice and hot, but small. The shower was a small porcelain tub in that also contained a bidet. When you were facing the shower, the bidet was directly behind you – I guess that’s where it’s supposed to go. OK, so far, this is normal. The bidet had only cold water in it, not the hot and cold mixture coming from the showerhead. There wasn’t any way to turn the bidet off that I could find – there were two knobs in the bathroom that weren’t marked for anything, but neither one affected the bidet pressure or temperature. So while I’m trying to take a shower, the bidet fountain is shooting cold water where bidets do. At one point I took a water glass and covered the bidet stream, but I figured that having glass in the shower was more dangerous than my bidet dance. My showers were quick and circular while I was there.

After my first water dance, I went out to get a late lunch. There was a place across the street from my hotel that served a very good chunk of meat, and I decided to go there. In Mexico, I have a theory that they take a complete cow, pound it until it’s about 1/4 of an inch thick, then serve it for every meat dish made (taco, steak, etc.) In Argentina, I think they take the cow and quarter it, and that’s your meal. The first time I ate at this place, I got a chunk of steak substantially larger than my two fist side by side. Today I went with pork. And it was magical – it was like the cow was hand raised by Muslim virgins, massaged by Thai prostitutes and fed a steady diet of French butter and Argentinean wine. Each of the two steaks I got were as large as the plate (they bring them on a separate serving dish), and I ate them both. I had a half bottle of wine and the total was about $7/US. It was glorious, simply glorious. I walked around the rest of the day, having a cup of coffee to wake me up, and wandering the town.

One of the previous post, I said that I didn’t bring my laptop because the places didn’t look safe from a security standpoint – well I meant computer security, not personal safety. There wasn’t any place I visited where I even thought twice about the people around me. As far as I can tell, Argentina is as safe as any city in South America, or even America.

Buenos Aires was amazing. the more I saw, the more amazed I was. I spent my next full day (the 23rd) walking around the city. Louis coined the phrase “Death March” to describe these incredibly long walks, and I saw a ton of very cool stuff. Every time I turned around, it was another beautiful old building, or a beautiful street, or a park or statue. It was great time, and I ended up in parts of town remarkable far from where I started. I walked for something close to six hours, largely nonstop. Every neighborhood was pleasant, with wide streets, pleasant sidewalks, and trees – lots of trees. I visited the cemetery where Eva Peron was buried and got a ton of great pictures. I haven’t been able to process them, since my laptop is out of disk space. Perfect timing on that. As I packed, I watched the nightly dose of crime dramas and thought about what I’m doing next. I have a long road ahead of me, and many, many things to do. I had a hard time sleeping. Damn you CSI!!

I can’t recommend Buenos Aires, and Argentina enough. I think that if I ever get married, I’d like to go there for a honeymoon. There was much to see and do, and a lot of it wasn’t as much. A perfect example of this would be tango dancing, going out to a bar at night, or even dinner. And this is a very romantic city – much more so than even Dallas.

My flight was at 7 a.m. on the 24th. I had to get up at 4:30 a.m. to finish packing, shower, check out, and catch a cab to the airport (about 45 minutes away.) As you can imagine I was pretty tired, and a little grumpy. When I checked in, the immigration woman gave me a nice compliment, which was a good way to start the day, but it didn’t get me out of my bad/tired mood. When I got to the airport, my ticket was seat 7L. Not knowing what kind of plane it was, I had hoped it was a window seat, but it wasn’t. I was right between two other medium sized men and behind a chubby little lady who reclined her seat all the way back as soon as she sat down. It was hell. I managed to sleep quickly and soundly, if not long as soon as we took off. For some reason I can always sleep like a baby when the plane is taking off, regardless of time, caffeine or airline.

When we landed, I was immediately reminded that I was back in Peru when I paid $7 for two small bottles of water and a candy bar. My next flight was on Lan Peru. My flight, booked almost three months ago had me assigned seat 32a, which was about as far back in the plane as you can go. I mentioned this to the woman behind the counter, and after a few minutes of talking amongst her friends, and without any display of emotion, I was given an upgrade to 5L. At the time I didn’t know what that meant, or what kind of plane it was, but come to find out it was business class on a 767-300, and it was very, very nice. Once again, and as usual, Lan Peru has exceeded my expectations. Please don’t confuse Peru with Lan Peru. The seats are great and wide, there is a TV screen over the middle of business class that is constantly showing our route, and statistics on our journey. Right now, we are half way between Bogata and Mexico City. I’m watching The Motorcycle Diaries on my person flat screen TV. One of the other shows I watched was a PBS series of people traveling over the world. The first of those shows had a woman traveling through Argentina, and going to many of the places I went in Buenos Aires and Ushuaia. It was nice to see. For Lunch I had a starter of raw salmon with caviar on top, and a side selection of cheeses. The main course was Chilean Sea Bass with squash, and a glass of red wine. It was very good. I have all the leg, shoulder and elbow room I need. Considering it’s an nine hour flight, I consider myself very, very lucky. My plan was to originally try to upgrade on Alaska in Los Angeles, cause I’m gonna be very tired by then, but I’ll take this any day. It’s flying like it used to be.

While in Lima, I bought a book called “Bringing Down the House: The inside story of six M.I.T. students who took Vegas for millions.” I read it before I was halfway to Los Angeles. It was a pretty good story, and the first time I’d read a book in one sitting in a long time. I didn’t finish the other book I got in Ushuaia – “Emotional Intelligence: Why it can matter more than IQ.” The way things are going, I should be able to finish this before I get back to Seattle. Bringing down the house is about guys and girls that found a system to beat blackjack in Vegas. It followed them through their rise and fall as card sharks – it was very interesting. The other book, on emotional intelligence, basically is telling me I don’t have any, which I knew. I don’t know why I’m reading it – maybe to figure out how to fix many of these flaws I have (Don’t laugh – you’ve got some too.) That, and it was in English, and one of the few books that looked interesting. I also picked up a book called “The Tipping Point” in Sao Paulo. It was a worthwhile, if light, read. Not a bunch of books to go through in 10 days. Reading them hasn’t ever been the problem, it’s been finding them.

The flight to Los Angeles is long – 9 hours, but I’m pampered. As soon as I arrive in L.A., and scramble to get to my flight on Alaska Airline, I come crashing back to airline reality. I show up 20 minutes before the flight is to leave and am told that I can’t make the flight. They’ve oversold the flight, and basically, I’m screwed. What does this mean to me? It means that I hate Alaskan Airline. I’ve flown with other carriers that people love to hate – United, and have been pleased as punch. However, Alaska always does me wrong. So right now I’m sitting in LAX, on the floor of a hot terminal, hoping that 9 of the remaining 48 people yet to check in don’t. If I don’t make this flight, then my next option is a 6 a.m. flight the next morning, and I’ll have to pay for my own hotel, if I get one. If I make it, I’ve been up since 2 a.m. Seattle time at this point, and everything was smooth. Until now. Needless to say I’m rather upset, I guess it evens out with the pampered goodness that I got on Lan Peru. Maybe that should be my mantra from now on – “It all evens out.” Right now I’m sitting in the flow writing this, hoping, and feeling very, very sleepy. Sleeping in a airport is always a bad idea if you’ve got stuff you’re attached to. What do I do – check my bags? Only time will tell.