Monday, November 22, 2010

Last Three Months

Just looked at the date of my last post—almost three months ago—I’m getting worse, not better, about posting more frequently. But I moved, again. After living in the same house in New York for more than 20 years, I’ve flitted around like a butterfly since coming here. My new place on Umarán is my fourth place in five years. Although I prefer my old neighborhood, I like my new house much better. It’s not just the big things like a fireplace that creates heat, a second bedroom and a house with levels, but little things too, like a double sink and stove with a broiler. I was obsessed with getting unpacked and did not hit the streets to see my favorite fiesta, San Miguel Arcángle, the one that was blocking passage to the house I’d rented the day I arrived in San Miguel in 2005. I couldn’t see the dancers from my new roof garden, as they processed a block away down Canal, but listened to the drums while I repotted plants.

And I also taught my first writing workshop here in San Miguel, a very different experience from the classes I taught in the States, mostly in academic environments. Like all new classes, where you have to build and refine your lesson plans, this first one was labor intensive. But neither of these things is the real reason I was writing catatonic—it took forever to get the information off my old hard drive and the possibility of having to recreate the works-in-progress stored there from scratch, without any of my notes, immobilized me.

When Mama was about a decade younger than I am right now, I remember asking her what if felt like to be 50. She said that in her mind she hadn’t aged but her body didn’t always cooperate. I experienced that with the move, big time. I wanted to have everything in the house in order before I headed out on November 1st for NY and Buenos Aires but that didn’t happened—I used up all my energy packing up to leave. I still had unpacked boxes in the middle of rooms when I left after a month.

I was excited about returning to Buenos Aires. It hadn’t even been on my list of cities to visit when I went three years ago, but I fell in love—a major cultural center for the price of San Miguel. Once again, I got the opportunity to visit for less than the cost of a plane ticket to New York. Like before, my friend Lita, a retired Delta employee, was offering a buddy pass and another friend had invited us to stay at her place. Lynn, who’d moved to San Miguel about the same time I did, who has bought and renovated houses and apartments both in Seattle, Washington and San Miguel, bought an apartment in the Paris of Latin America and did a gut renovation. She was returning to final touches on the interior before she begins renting it in January and asked Lita and I to come with her to christen her new digs. I said yes, and sold some of my textiles to finance the trip.

Buddy passes get you to places inexpensively but not always the most direct way—since Delta’s only flight to Buenos Aires leaves from Atlanta, we had to go North to end up South. And you have no real control over when you leave—you’re standby, and buddies are the lowest on the standby totem. Lita and Lynn decided to go to New York first to catch a couple of plays and I decided to go with them and spend time with my friend Souci, the only close friend I didn’t get to see when I there in May. It was nourishing to have four practically uninterrupted days with an old friend—Souci and I have the same birthday, date not year, so we have a special affinity.

We got stuck, both in New York and Atlanta—higher priority standbys started listing for the Buenos Aires flights. Getting stuck can be a nightmare, staying in over-priced, less than 2-star hotels, eating bad food, running back and forth to the airport. Luckily we didn’t have that experience. In New York we were staying with friends so we didn’t have the expense of accommodations and since Lita was monitoring the flight loads, didn’t make needless trips to the airport. Lynn and Lita got two more days in one of the most exciting cities in the world—saw another Broadway show, and I got to have another day with Souci and see Tyler Perry’s For Colored Girls.

I preface the movie with Mr. Perry’s name because it is not Ntozake’s play. He was added a narrative, a story line that would encompass some of the poetry, and I do mean some, no more than 40% of the Ms. Shange’s poetry was in his screenplay. I admit, I wasn’t expecting much from the script—this might challenge a writer of Toni Morrison’s caliber—but I did expect that he would retain the heart of her play. He did not. The transformation of the women in Zake’s play was learning to love themselves--they already loved each other. There wasn’t a lot of love between Mr. Perry’s colored girls in the beginning of his piece. Sisterhood was one of the primary building blocks of the play. Creating so much tension between the women in the film, destroyed this. And the lines were all over the place. Nyla starts with Graduation Night, one of the Lady in Yellow’s poems, and ends up as the Lady in Blue, on the abortion table. So in addition to only including a fraction of Ntozake’s words, these were not her characters. I could fill a page with things that troubled me about the movie but instead I’ll talk about what was right with it—the performances of the actresses. With the exception of Whoopi and Janet, I thoroughly enjoyed the performances. And Ntozake‘s poetry, the little bit that we heard, is still powerful.

We caught a couple of movies while we were stranded in Atlanta. And thanks to a Delta customer service, who gave us hotel vouchers for a nice hotel near that airport that only cost $50 a night, we paid practically nothing for housing. Our flight wasn’t until 9:45, so during the day we took the free shuttle to the airport and from there grabbed the subway to Colony Square and went to the movies. We don’t get many movies I want to see in Mexico, so movies are one of my favorite stateside pass times. We enjoyed the time, but I was more than ready to be in Buenos Aires when we arrived five days later than planned.

Lynn’s apartment was in La Recoleta, a high-end barrio, and she’d done a fabulous job with her art-deco remodel. She and Lita thought they wanted a nap but were energized the moment we hit the streets and began exploring the neighborhood. There was a great deli right next door, a couple of bakeries on the block and a fruit and a veggie stand just across the street. We passed the Recoleta Cemetery, Recoleta Park, and stopped in a couple of Lynn’s favorite shops on Avenida Alvear as we made our way to an outdoor café for lunch. It’s a wonderful walking neighborhood.

BA has been experiencing an annual inflation rate of 20% for almost three years, so it’s no longer cheap by American standards, just inexpensive, and petty crime is rampant—hold onto your bag because pick-pockets and purse snatchers are everywhere. But it’s a vibrant and exciting place, and a bargain compared with cities like Paris and New York so was filled with tourist, many from Spain. But between the inflation and corruption it’s not a good place for the much of its population. I tried to new experiences but went back to some of the places I’d visited before. We didn’t get to a tango club this time but did get out to hear some jazz, caught the Alfredo Remus Trio at a different club,Notorious, than the one I went to last visit. Bassist, Remus, who was celebrating 50 years in music, was one of he best bass players I’ve ever heard. Went to the antique market in San Telmo, again. You don’t have to be interested in the merchandise, which is wonderful, to enjoy the market—it’s such a feast for the senses you can choose just to sit at a café and observe. San Telmo on Sunday is one of my favorite Buenos Aires experience.

Our time was much too short—we would have extended the trip but the flights didn’t look good later in the week. And I left feeling the same way I did after my first visit there, that I want to come back for a month. I wanted more BA time but smiled when I returned to Umarán. I love my new house—after four tries I've created an environment that really reflects me.