Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Colonia del Sacramento pix

A sunset over the river. It takes an hour in a high-speed boat to cross from Argentina to Uruguay. The lower part of Colonia was built by the Portguese.

Something on the beach had the pup's attention.

Fat black-and-white cat was always sitting high up in his observation spot in a derelict building, surveying the world. I think he was trying to figure out how to get the bird in the painting.

This was lying on the waterfront down near the docks. What can it mean?

Monday, November 26, 2007

Coast of Uruguay

From the bottom: The coast at Punta del Diablo is pretty spectacular. Punta del Diablo is a little fishing village nine months of the year and Babylon on the Atlantic in the summer months, when Brazilians and Argentines pour in to party party party. The lighthouse at Cabo Polonio is in a beautiful setting on a rocky point. At its feet are rocks covered with sea lions.

My favorite gloom 'n' doom guy

James Kunstler, this week writes
The great debate among those of us on the Economy Deathwatch seems to be whether the debacle we observe around us will resolve as a crash or a slow-motion financial train wreck. It seems to me that at every layer of the system, we're susceptible to both -- in tradable paper, institutional legitimacy, individual solvency, productive activity, real employment, "consumer" behavior, and energy resources. Some things are crashing as I write.
The dollar is losing about a cent every three weeks against other currencies. A penny doesn't seem like much, but keep that pace up for another year and the world's "reserve currency" becomes the world's reserve toilet paper. Oil prices are poised to enter the triple-digit realm, the psychological effect of which may be jarring to 200 million not-so-happy motorists. The value of chipboard-and-vinyl houses is tanking beyond question. ...

Kunstler has snapped that all hinges on oil, and that oil is going away. We really need a national energy policy and not one that is designed to keep oil companies in the saddle forever. Also, we're not gonna work some magic with corn or switchgrass or anything else ... we just need to figure out how to use less energy.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Oink, oink

Thanksgiving is, by some margin, my favorite holiday, inimical to much commercial exploitation and essentially a celebration of gluttony, my favorite of the Seven Deadlies. We just did away with a formidable amount of turkey and dressing, au gratin potatoes, gravy, various salads, lots of zin, and three excellent desserts. My dear friend Billy Naylor has remarked that a lot of the charm of the day is that all over the country people sit down to pretty much the same meal. Occasions for gratitude today: good food and the wherewithal to digest it; enough endurance to walk five or six miles if necessary; assurance of a roof over the head; people we enjoy being around. All the world should be as well off. Hope all passed as pleasant a day as we did.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

More Bs.As. zoo pix

These little critters, like a cross between real big rabbits and tiny deer, wandered around the grounds of the zoo, some snoozing on the grass. They had lagomorphic faces and feet. They didn't importune for food but were unafraid of people. We learned what they were, but it escapes me now.

Bs.As. Zoo

One of the things we're gonna catch when we're on the road is zoos. Each is an experience of the place besides being a zoo qua zoo. One of the entertaining things about the zoo in Buenos Aires was the little beasts roaming free about the place. We determined what they are, but now I forget & am too sorry to look for it. They look like something rabbity, though larger. Anyway, it is a pretty good zoo. It was full of schoolkids, all wearing smocks with little scarves like ties. Here we have llamas and the famous black swan.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

La Paloma

Now I'm in La Paloma, Uruguay, a fishing town on the Atlantic coast. There's quite a big fish processing plant down by the docks. Near those are a small housing area for Navy personnel. With white-painted concrete walls and red-tile roofs, they have to be the most pleasing military housing I ever saw anywhere. They have a spectacular view out into the ocean. There are breaking waves here and Urusurfers in wet suits waiting about 75 yards offshore to catch the little break. It's not the Pacific by some margin. Rio de la Plata Spanish is hard to understand; they have a slushy zh sound, so something might come out sounding like "Zho me zhamo Guizhermo" instead of "Yo me llamo Guillermo" that you´d hear in most of the Spanish-speaking world. In Argentina particularly the words may be mostly Spanish, but the melodies are Italian. It´s all educational, but the last few weeks have been like living in the language lab at school and almost but not quite getting it all.

Friday, November 9, 2007

More Uruguay

Rode the bus yesterday from Colonia to Montevideo, going through a good bit of countryside along the way. The land is really green, almost Irish green, but not quite. It all looks prosperous in a 50-years-ago kind of prosperity. Houses are small but well tended, little country schools sparkle, people look well fed and content. They´re putting in gardens though I´m damned if I can detect much in the way of vegetables that they eat. I´m feeling a chlorophyll deficiency. Just ate a wonderful meal of lamb at a parrilla, one of the kinda barbecue joints that are the national cuisine here and in Argentina as well. A gorgeous meal, with potatoes fritas (the principal vegetable) and a little jug of the house red.
Wonderful thing about wine in these parts, they don´t jack you up on the stuff, so you can enjoy a drinkable vino with your meal and only pay a couple, three bucks for it. They pour mineral water into their red a lot of the time, blithely not worrying about wine hipness. I suspect that's a result of drinking the stuff all their lives; not much pretense about it. I'm off to the Atlantic coast in the morning, scout some territory. This is kinda like being in language lab all day, every day, and it's amazing how much Spanish you can come up with there´s nothing else for it.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Getting around

Lots of respectable middle-class folks here in Colonia get about on scooters. There were matrons picking up their kids after class yesterday on scoots. They'd go riding off with the kid on the pillion seat. Scooters you never heard of, including a Peugeot. Somebody's missing a market here. Whatever happened to the Cushman scoots that every kid wanted in the 50s? These are also the most polite drivers ever about stopping for pedestrians crossing the street ... reminds me of Californians in their punctilio in this matter. As a matter of PC, we're not supposed to note any differences in national character, but the Uruguayans are much more reserved than the Argentines just across the Rio de la Plata, less flamboyant.

Monday, November 5, 2007

&c, &c

I'm back in the Oriental Republic of Uruguay, old town named Colonia del Sacramento on the Rio de la Plata after a sojourn in BsAs. Seems pleasant but I've not explored yet.
I got a haircut a few days ago in San Rafael that was a throwback experience. Guy took it down a bit with the machine, then shortened it some more with scissors, then finished it off with a straight razor. Demossed my ears and cleaned up the neckline with the razor. Haven´t had a haircut like that in decades and really loved it. I guess you could get one in a high-toned shop, but this one just cost me 15 pesos, less than five bucks.