We woke at 8 on Saturday. I misspeak. *I* woke at 8, while by this time Hav had already (no joke) gone on a run, taken a sauna, and put a load of wash in. The fact that it's our last full day here settled in, so naturally we had to see the Recoleta cemetery. Who doesn't love dead people? El Cementino de la Recoleta is where Eva Peron (Evita) is buried. The cemetery is also conveniently located in BA's fabled upscale shipping district. Ah hellz yeah.
We started our morning at Mark's, which is a café I've read about in both Time Out and Lonely Planet. Hav also went there the day before while I practiced yoga. May I tell you, the coffee es que bien, which is a fact that every tourist in Argentina must also know since we're surrounded by English speakers. A miraculously chatty South African and her 3 friends -- and by 'miraculous' I mean it's a miracle she had friends to travel with - I'm not sure the others got any words in -- sat down at a table behind us. As if it weren't obvious I'll go ahead and say it: I'm a snob. Six days earlier, barely able to order a coffee, I'd have killed to hear a little English. Yet now, nearing the end of our journey, it rang like nails on a chalkboard -- a cacophonous reminder that soon all would return to normal and I'd be back working a lot, teaching often, and trying to fit all of my other interests in between the gaps. On our first Patagonia hike Hav observed that I like to be busy. I disagreed, explaining that I just have a lot of curiosity and little patience. But, is there a difference?
We finished our coffee and cabbed it to the cemetery. Outside of the cemetery in a public square, artisans set up their booths for what appeared to be an annual feria de navidad. More souvenir shopping. Havis got a skirt for his friend Emmy while I managed to ignore the hard-sell on a crystal composed of aquamarine and quartz. Oddly, I can say no to a $20 crystal but am powerless to thousands of dollars worth of facials.
As I write this, my mood is surly at best, which I'm certain will color my recollection, but I'll continue anyway. What follows is a complete description of BA's Recoleta Cemetery. I'd like to think I'm saving someone the free admission.
1. Walk in. See a bunch of Americans from Highland Park, loud and affected. They are wearing polos with up-turned collars, a trend that is neither ironic nor retro chic. It's just retarded.
2. Stroll through rows upon rows of cement and marble mausoleums. There's much ado about death.
3. Head left-wards to Sarmiento's grave, said to be the only president Borges ever respected. There's a playful impression of Pan inscribed with something in Spanish mounted on his tomb. This is cool and I took lots of pictures which didn't turn out.
4. From Sarmiento's grave, head to the right, then to the left, dodge the rave-ready guy in red jeans and high tops taking a suggestive photo of his heroin-thin girlfriend (points for sexing it up in a cemetery), then to the right again. Follow the smattering of fanny packs and you'll come upon the grave of Juan Duarte and Eva Peron. I have to say, it's surprisingly modest and non-descript, save for the flowers affixed to the cast-iron gate. Perhaps the populists' president intended it this way. Either that or someone wanted to save a few bucks.
And that's pretty much it, unless you happen to know Argentine history. In which case you might find it more interesting than I did. Personally, my money's with the Hollywood Forever cemetery where even the graves have plastic surgeons, or the pedantic's darling, Westminster Abbey, or perhaps Paris' Père Lachaise. I did, however, take a picture of a mausoleum enclosed by glass doors etched with skulls and crossbones and hearts. Punk rock death is cool.
Outside of the cemetery is the BA Design Center, which is a mall mostly filled with home interior and artisan stores. If I lived in BA, I'd probably have been more interested in its wares, but since I don't, shopping felt unrealistic. From there we strolled past another huge mall with a Futball restaurant, a McDonald's, a movie theatre, and a honey pot of more Americans. We discussed seeing a movie -- 4 Mesas, 3 Semanas, 4 Dais, until we realized it wouldn't have English subtitles.
I need to work this out. Christ, I AM an American. So why do I feel so separated from a fair number of the ones we've encountered? Am I different? Does it count that I'm at least aware of my own hypocrisy? That I'm annoyed by their apparent lack of subtlety leads me to think this is really about my own need to belong, maybe? In the end, whatever. Pop-psychology is boring and life is much easier without mock introspection.
Anyway, Recoleta got old, fast. It's a little sterile. (Later I tried to translate this to Cristina (the apartment owner) using my Spanish dictionary. She laughed and told me only people can be "steril". Oops. I tried to exchange the word "pristine", but the dictionary failed to cooperate.) So we hopped a cab back to Palermo Viejo. The driver told us as we were departing that La Boca would be playing Milano tomorrow for the championship. Sweet, sweet man. One of the lone disappointments Hav and I have (and for your reading enjoyment, I'll recap my highs and lows when I'm finished journaling the trip) is that we couldn't see a La Boca soccer match. During early December the A team takes a break while the second string plays in foreign countries. Regrettably we scheduled the bulk of our trip during this hiatus.
I understood (incorrectly) the man to say that the game was at 5:30 p.m. Hav and I discussed postponing our trip and getting tickets. In retrospect, it would have been really funny to explain to my boss that I'd be late returning because we were staying to watch La Boca. Especially since it turns out that they played at 7:30 in the morning. In Milan. I'll finish this aside with a mention that La Boca lost 4 - 2.
In the comfort of our rented neighborhood, we delighted in our choice of potential barrios. Palermo Viejo, with its ample dog shit and graffiti, still had a vibrant charm of its own. I'm embarrassed to admit we went shopping AGAIN, but I swear it's the pressure of finding gifts for Christmas and not how we are normally. Mostly.
Tekal is a small fine chocolates store. You could fit the entire store inside an airplane bathroom. A queue had formed inside and at the front of the line was a woman haggling. Who does that?! Is that normal and acceptable in stores here? Could I have argued that I would pay $20 -- that's my final offer! -- for my precious gold sandals? Or maybe you can only bargain when you're willing to walk away, in which case chocolate is an easy bet.
From Tekal, I drug Hav over to Elemento, an accessories store where earlier in the trip a cute, tan satchel caught my eye. I threw it over my shoulder and smiled. "What do you think?" I asked Hav. "No me gusto," he answered flatly. Both the shop owner and I looked at each other in shock. "NO TE GUSTO," she asked incredulously? "Nope," he shook his head, "no me gusto." She went on to argue the quality of the leather and its bargain pricepoint to no avail. I used the out he inadvertently gave me and we walked out of the store.
Earlier in the day we let a message for Lorena, who's a friend of our friend Terry's. Terry said she was fluent in English and she'd show us a good time. Well hell, we always like good times. At 5:30 she returned our call but unfortunately she had made out of town plans for the night. She invited us to a dinner party for Sunday but we couldn't accept because we were scheduled to be in flight then. Instead we told her about a couple of parillas we were considering for dinner and she told us about two bars to hit afterward.
Don Julio's is a fantastic, traditional, family parilla. When we got there I was still full from my pizza lunch, so I ordered a salad for dinner which confounded the waiter. Hav's eyes were bigger than his stomach. He messed up - chorizo, a ribeye the size of a small country, potatoes, and a shared appetizer. The unfortunate thing about eating in a nice restaurant is that when you over-order, there's no dog around to bail you out. We did ask for a doggy bag, but it never came, which was just as well since we only asked for appearances.
It took us a while but we finally found the first of two bars Lorena suggested. Still ridiculously full from our meal, drinking sounded a miserable option. Dessert however, did not. We walked back to Freddo/Aroma (I can't believe we went to the chain 4 times!) and ordered our cafe con cremas.
That night I made the mistake of taking an Ambien so I could get a really full night's sleep. Every once in a while Ambien doesn't do the trick and instead I wake up the next day groggy and lethargic. And that's how Sunday began.