Saturday, May 21, 2011

I don't know the language. I respond with one word answers. I work in a restaurant. I am told what to do by a myriad of faces I can't understand. I come from a different country. I am paid a menial wage. I am patronized. Who am I?

I am an illegal immigrant. I understand the strife of the average illegal Mexican now, surrounded by white faces that patronize and talk down, that order and demand, that think that you have the language skills of a chimpanzee.

I work behind the bar, making cheap drinks for inflated prices at the once jiving Tango Club called El Balcon in the center of San Telmo that looks over the tourist friendly Plaza Dorrego. The shaded square during the day hosts casual diners who hide in the shade from their responsibilities, relaxing over an extended Argentinean lunch, probably lunching on Milanesas or something from the Parilla whilst sipping Fernet or a Gancia Batido. At night, the vibe is a bit more lively.

El Balcon, as told to me by one of the co-owners, was the hottest spot in the mid nineties to come and see a Tango Show in the city, fully booked with reservations every night of the week. El Balcon boasts a National Geographic story with a five page photo spread on Tango, and Pato, the co-owner was interviewed by fucking CNN. Every night the club was filled, the top deck lit the San Telmo sky with fire from the barrels they lit to warm their many guests, and people dined on fine wine and fucking steak.

That was fifteen years ago. El Balcon only opens on the weekends now, unable to afford to run the restaurant/bar every night of the week. After a series of municipality fines and problems with debt, the place struggles to thrive. It is still in the hottest spot. It still is in a great building with a balcony that overlooks Plaza Dorrego, but the pulse slows on Friday and Saturday. The food lacks inspiration and the drinks are overpriced. Who would want to recommend this dying antiquity?

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

The horrible day in the horrible life of Johnathan Tweed is as follows. I awake

Sunday, May 8, 2011

The autumn afternoon leads itself down the streets and among the tame crowds, listening to English as commonly as Spanish, passing the makers of bracelets and Italian puppeteers. The hardwork of yesterday is gone, and today only nothing, like the rest of the slow afternoons on Estados Unidos. The trip down to the Sunday Market has brought no deja vu, no reminiscence of any other markets of South America, more like American ones, Pike Place, for instance, with loud American voices adoring the novelty of the vendors and their crafts.

The soft, cool air settled around me, placing me in places of before. It felt like the fall.

Where is the guy who sells the magic cakes. I don't see him today. He did good business when the gypsies were here. I pass the man whose gimmick is acting like he is in the wind. Today, he is sitting on the corner. He looks a little sick of being in the wind all of the time. Normally, he stands like a statue who is frozen in time walking somewhere. He usually holds a briefcase while his tie is in the air pointing backwards, solidified with some sort of hardening goop probably, his jacket hardened with the same goop. His hair is jelled, pointing backwards in wild array. All these things together look like the wind is blowing in the same direction. And tourists take pictures with the wind man and give him nickels.

I remember when I was with Ben in this same market two months ago and we came up with our own gimmick, our own money making street show. It was called The Spitting Brothers. We would dress in bird costumes, one would be a baby bird and the other the mama bird. Each week we would be a different type of bird i.e. an eagle or a dove. We would make the beaks from cardboard boxes and our hats from old baseball caps and chicken feathers.

The mother bird, whoever it was that week, would say to the crowd, "Ladies and Gentleman. We are the spitting brothers. Today we are here to demonstrate how a mother eagle feeds her young a slice of pizza!" Then we would have a female assistant, dressed in high heels, stockings and a corset, hand the mother bird a slice of pizza.

"Witness the miracle of life!" The mama bird would say, placing the greasy slice of pizza in her mouth and masticating until the pizza was slightly broken down. The baby bird would then open wide and receive the regurgitated food in the mouth, swallowing. The food would drip all over the baby bird. The baby bird would always receive a bigger cut.

"Thank you. And now we will demonstrate how a baby bird eats Dulce de Leche." And so on...

Thursday, May 5, 2011

There is a quick transition as one descends the concrete steps under the giant red Subte sign from the cold humid air of the outside to the still stagnate warm air of the lower levels. I stand amongst people who stand. They wait and think, I think. What do they think? Maybe about their jobs or about their home or about a venereal disease. There is something about subways that feels venereal and diseased. It´s the artificial light, not sterile like a hospital, more like a dark doctor´s office in a film noir, and the smell. The undescribable putrid smell of musts and have-tos, scruffs of rubber soles and trash from a century of fast paced walkers, to absorbed in whatever they are doing to notice the grotesqueness of so many people moving and smelling together.

What do I think? I think what a fucking cock sore it is to fit inside this tube with all those strangers. But here it comes, screeching in, slowing and the doors opening. I get inside. I have some room. This isn´t so bad.

Next stop, however, is. I see through the half open window that the crowd crams all the way back to the edge of the concave walls behind them, waiting as the train slows. People are ready. They are close to the door, and boom, it opens. The flood is magnificent. The raging sea of multi-colored craniums with stoic lips and eager dedication gains momentum pushing the tide to its brink, devouring the ones exiting, how they fight to break the wash of human extremities. The red haired woman falls and screams, "Dios."

Where is the humanity?

And the flood is aghast but not slowing. They push in, all of them. The last stragglers have their bodies sticking halfway out. Then the overweight man runs passed all those that knew they couldn´t fit, the ones that will wait for the next train. He pushes passed them and against me. He can´t fit, I think. He pushes and pushes. The fat of his gelatanous belly, stuffed to the brim with lasagna and choripan, enclose my hand on the metal railing that I grip so tight, jamming it, making it impossible to retract. This motherfucker, I think, why did he do this? What is so fucking important that he had to get on this train? But then I think about the times I have hurried on late for an appointment, confused along my way, and I understand. And I stop hating him for one second until his fat gummy stomach devours more of my flesh from my fingertips down to my forearm. The small cutish girl with the black and white scarf standing next to me closes her eyes hoping for the end to come. My eyes are open, but our hearts and desires are aligned. I look behind me, as I stand beside the door, my hand still consumed by the self-thinking pudding matter that's most likely filled with semi-digested cookies.

I look at all the serious faces. They don´t realize they are riding this train. They are somewhere else entirely, except for that one. A girl, she smiles as her body goes with the crowd and the turning train and her face dissapears behind a poof of black hair and I don´t see her again.

What could she be smiling about? Masochist. I like it. It scares me. Am I getting a boner? No, just a slight genital gesticulation. But I don´t see her again. The train slows and people get off. Not me. Lucky bastards. The displeasure is decreasing. A seat opens and I take it. The fat man is still standing there by himself. My hand has survived the small subway holocaust.

My stop comes. Retiro. I leave amongst the thousands of people. A restaurant serving draft beer in the subway has life, but who would want to have a beer in this dungeon? The rats thats who.

I come out to the top. I feel the cool air and it's refreshing. People pass me in both directions. I need to find Cafe Retiro. I have a job interview. The busses move passed me with diesel humms and squeaky brakes. The Cafe retiro is in the train station and I find the cute woman who will administer the interview. I find that our body movements are somewhat sexual. But I always think this unless a woman is completely repulsed by me. In which case, I find it even more sexual, behind every repulse is an impulse.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

The sound of jingling keys cease and a certain metal fertilization begins when the male key enters the female slot, the tenant has the tact, I hear, to turn the antique key just right, and the door slowly creaks open over the groan of the antique elevator and her dusty cables that sometimes creak as well. I can hear the sounds of loud anonymous booms sometimes at a distance, sometimes at a close, mostly fireworks, sometimes thunder, other times I think its an Argentine mob collapsing on the Plaza de Mayo for retribution. And the car horns echo through draftways over the peugots and between the neo-colonial buildings who have sat ignoring the street for a century, maybe two, undisturbed, unamused and uninterested.

Then theres me who hears them.

The people who talk loud on the street can be heard outside the rectangle window with the black curtain. It shines. At night I can see myself in it, unexcited by what I see I take my fingers through my thinning hair and I touch my nose and look blankly. I'm 26 now. I will not be 26 for much longer. How much longer will I look young? I ask again. And then I forget again what I was doing, feeling vain and lost, I continue around the apartment looking for something to do on these long days I wait and wait. I wait to hear about the endless CVs that I send out yesterday and the day before. I eat a mandarin. And then another. Maybe I will have a joint with Andres, maybe I won't.

I lay in the cubby hole where my bed is, above Andres snoring and sometimes Danish kissess, and I remember Matthias being to scared to light the joint the day in Puerto Iguazu when Mike became sick and had to return to sit in a chair all day. And then I think of Marta, when she was sick, and then I think how we all laid in peril awaiting death under the tall pines by the lake. And then I think of lakes and all the lakes I had seen in my life, and I become depressed, as if I will never see a lake again. Why? I don't know.

I am here now, and I can't seem to escape it. I run in circles, should I have gotten off the bus? I love it. I'm too clean. I want to sleep outside in a beautiful place. I chose this. It was a good choice. It had to be done. I'm just lonely. I'll be fine in a month. I miss what I had not what they have now. But isn't it the same. Why am I tormented? Why can't I sleep? I'm afraid that was the highlight of my life. I don't want it to be. I want to keep going.