B A R R Y L A N D .



southern crossing.
PART 2: more verbal snapshots from my whirlwind tour of points below the equator.








things I did in 99.
how do you measure a year in the life

hedonist's paradise.
a flattering newspaper review of my music

the woods, the beach, the court, the fire.
powerful words from a modern master of the sunday sermon

sex and suits.
anne hollander talks about why the man's suit has lasted 200 years

emails from GOD.
some correctives to righteous fwds

you've heard it talked about, but what is it, and what do we do with it?

anna k.
a few luminous passages that show you why it's a certified Great Book

the sceptered isle.
diaries from my adventure in sunny england


::   ::   ::   ::   ::   ::   ::   ::   ::   ::   ::   ::   ::

 M O N D A Y ,   M A R C H   2 7 . 

Realizing that I needed a Brazilian visa if I was to have a more pleasant layover in Brazil than my first, I got up early Monday and Raoul Sr and Raoul Jr took me through a rainy downtown to the Brazilian consulate in, where I, gulping, handed over my passport for an indefinite period while the thing was going through its bureaucratic channels.

We then had to drop by Raoul's university so he could get an assignment. He showed me around its decaying grandeur: marble hallways, corinthian columns, and classrooms with steeply graded rows of ornate wooden desks. In the hallways of the medical wing, we saw what must have been mid-century exhibits of human organs, limbs, and cross-sections of torsos, suspended in formaldehyde jars.

Back home, cousin Raoul told me that the beach was only five or so blocks away, straight down from Avenida Italia, where our house was. So I took a nice long couple of walks, one down the street for a few miles, and one down to the windy beach, which was already getting cold and autumnally harsh.

We made arrangements to go to Punta del Diablo, a place apparently more secluded and much less commercial than Punta del Este, which I'd gathered was about the equivalent of Cancun — spectacular but touristy and therefore expensive. The only bus was to leave at 7am. Yeesh.


::   ::   ::   ::   ::   ::   ::   ::   ::   ::   ::   ::   ::

 T U E S D A Y ,   M A R C H   2 8 . 

Well, I was a bit bleary, but nonetheless we pulled out at seven in the morning to Punta del Diablo. On the bus were some people we knew, including a skinny, fortyish man who didn't look quite right: during the dictatorship he'd been imprisoned and tortured for four years, at which time the government discovered they'd gotten hold of the wrong man with the same name.

5 hours later we arrived. Punta del Diablo is indeed more than simply secluded: it's a tiny fishing village, with a population of around twenty. Maybe forty, including the dogs. We looked for a cabin to stay in, visiting a few that seemed nice (and a few not so nice) before settling on a charming cottage with a thatched roof, a fireplace, kitchen, and five beds. It was $25 for the night.

We walked back onto the main road of the village, and had a huge slab of breaded fish for lunch. Then we changed and went walking along the beach, north to a huge dune, where we sat and enjoyed the breeze and the waves breaking on a deserted stretch of coastline. Only three or four other people were in sight, but a dog had followed us from the cottage to here, and rarely left us alone for our entire stay.

After we shopped for our dinner, we took another walk, this time for a sunset on the other beach to the south of the town. It too was deserted, this time completely, and was lonely and wild, and we sat in a lifeguard hut and watched a truly spectacular sunset.

That night the temperature got down below 40, and probably below 30, which made us glad to have that fireplace.

At midnight, we went shivering outside to a sky full of stars, and, for the first time in my life, I gazed upon the Southern Cross. How odd, to look to the sky and see different constellations! Even the Milky Way is different: down there, the main bulk of our galaxy is visible. Given that we were hours away from the only sizable city in Uruguay, the Milky Way was indeed milky, and the sky was stunning.


::   ::   ::   ::   ::   ::   ::   ::   ::   ::   ::   ::   ::

 W E D N E S D A Y ,   M A R C H   2 9 . 

Getting up late, we took another walk around the beach, then headed back to Montevideo and a meal, cooked by Uncle Raoul, of homemade gnocchi — a 29th-of-the-month tradition.


::   ::   ::   ::   ::   ::   ::   ::   ::   ::   ::   ::   ::

 T H U R S D A Y ,   M A R C H   3 0 . 

Before we'd left Buenos Aires, Jeff had persuaded me to return, and in fact offered to pay a sizable lump of my ferry ticket. He and/or Lee had paid for the first trip over, including the hotel, and I was grateful enough for that, but even more so for the return trip. Nevertheless, I still didn't have any arrangements for where to stay, and I sure couldn't afford the nice hotel we'd been before.

When I arrived in the exuberant city, I went straight to the hotel basement where we'd had tango lessons the Thursday before. We had a decent lesson for an hour or so, with a French couple who had very little rhythm.

Meanwhile, I had nowhere to stay. I asked if anyone could put me up. Paola, a pretty doe-eyed girl we'd met last time, made a call on her cell phone, but reported that her father had said "no" to housing the American stranger she'd just met. She pleaded, though, and he eventually relented, with the stipulation that I give him my documents to show that I was legit, and that I leave when the family all left for the day at 7am. You take what you can get.

We took a bus to the university where Paola had a 10pm class. The university wasn't quite as architecturally grand as the Montevidean one had been, but it was in a similar classic style. The walls of nearly every classroom were covered in revolutionary graffiti, and pictures of Che Guevara were stencilled all over. Her class had been cancelled, though, and so we bused to her home.

It was an apartment on the third floor of a building somewhere in the endless streets of Buenos Aires, quite a ways from downtown. The sheriff-bellied papa greeted me kindly, and invited me to sit down and have a beer. Moments later the petite, robed mama came in with two huge plates of huge breaded chicken breasts and tomato slices. There was also a teenaged brother named Cristian.

None of them spoke more than a modicum of English, so we had to get by on gestures and a few disembodied words. Even so, I appeared to have gained their trust, and the father didn't ask for any documents at all. I wrote down my address and numbers for them, at Cristian's urging, and when he saw that I had a website, he exclaimed in delight — he was the computer geek of the family, and after dinner he showed me to their pretty nice computer. He and Paola and I had an extended conversation using the babelfish translator, and Cristian and I stayed online long after the rest of the family had gone to sleep.


::   ::   ::   ::   ::   ::   ::   ::   ::   ::   ::   ::   ::

 F R I D A Y ,   M A R C H   3 1 . 

The next morning, I awoke well after 7 am. Cristian had selflessly decided to skip school in order to show me around town and help me get situated wherever I was to stay. I called around and found a nice looking hostel that was right in the heart of downtown and very cheap. They said they had plenty of space, and I could check in any time.

We bought some flowers for their table and then took the bus to downtown, where we knocked around a bit before getting to the hostel and getting me registered. Cristian and I parted ways, and I was on my own.

The hostel was, judging from its looks, converted from a fantastic old mansion, with a courtyard and an open-air feel. Now that I had put my luggage away and was free, I spent a lazy afternoon of strolling around the neighborhood and drinking in the sights and sounds. In the upstairs part of the lobby, a bunch of folks were watching a video, and I joined them for a bit.

The great thing about hostels is that you meet people from all over, and furthermore they're people who have a lot in common: a wandering urge, a traveler's desperate need for companionship, and a talent for making new friends easily. That day I met Kevin (Dublin), Phoebe (London) and Belinda (Sydney), Sheldon (Toronto), Paul (Birmingham), Lindsey (Dublin), and numerous others. I had jumped into an instant community of fun-loving and variously intelligent people, and began what was to be a delightful two days with them.

Dinner and a night of bumming around on the town with Paola and four of her friends: Buenos Aires doesn't get started up until around midnight, and then rollicks till dawn. During my entire stay in South America, I only had dinner before 11 twice.


::   ::   ::   ::   ::   ::   ::   ::   ::   ::   ::   ::   ::

 S A T U R D A Y ,   A P R I L   1  

I got up thirsty and decided to go out searching for water. I ended up taking an extended walk, on a simply beautiful day — sunny and about 75°. A street cafe caught my attention for some reason. Realizing I was famished, I strolled over and had a fine, fine meal of two fish filets, rolled up like old-fashioned bales of hay and smothered in a garlic-and-white-wine sauce (5 bucks); and, vegetables too! a rarity in the land where the favorite vegetable is meat. I sat and savored my meal, and watched the people go by.

I'd noticed before that Buenos Aires people were fashionable and confident, and I again marveled at the beautiful women. And not just the acute-angle VPLs, which were universal. On the whole, people there seem to have a healthier view of adulthood and sexuality than North Americans.

Go into a supermarket or mall here in the states, and see these blooming, radiant, sullen teenage girls with their withering moms, and you get an entire story of American culture: the scene encapsulates all our thoughts on youth and age, value and obsolescence. The equivalent picture in Buenos Aires is nearly reversed: they walk the streets, invariably arm in arm, the mother oozing an irresistible, mature sexuality, while the daughter looks like she can't wait to grow up.

Again heading toward the hostel, I looked across the street and saw a welcome sight: artwork of the flashy, digital kind, accompanied by the thumping sound of electronica: I'd finally struck gold, after despairing of finding really good electronica in this town. Last week, we'd asked around but only found that one club, which was real clubby. I walked in and saw a dozen stacks of fliers advertising events for the coming weeks. I picked up a couple of each, and exultantly returned to the hostel.

That night, Paola and I had again arranged to go out, this time to a tangueria. I figured we could do that and then go out to one of the more promising events I'd seen about. A group of us went out very early (9 pm) to a highly recommended place called La Peña to eat dinner. We'd been there before; it was a favorite place for the hostelling crowd, with beers at $3 a liter. The high bare plaster walls and candlelight made for a yellow-and-brown color scheme that reminded me of old Mexico. When we were there last, some locals had commandoed the guitar of an American guy named Cory, and were playing and singing folk music, harmonizing effortlessly till the dawn.

Tonight, after a bit of bargaining and pleading (they usually didn't fire up the grill that early), we settled in to some cheese and beef empanadas, and steak and wine — all for about 10 bucks a piece. And it was as wonderful as promised: again, some of the best food I've had in a while. Rich flavors, perfect textures, and quite filling.

Later, about 8 or 10 of us set out from the hostel to meet Paola and her friends near the tangueria. She was surprised to see so many people. When we went in, there was a lengthy conversation because many of us were wearing the wrong shoes and they weren't going to let us in. Finally, Paola won the day, and they ushered us in to a side room — we still weren't allowed onto the main floor — where we settled down at a table and enjoyed the company. At several points, Paola and I tangoed, and I showed the other girls how, while she tutored a few of the guys. I was glad to see that some of our guys were getting along and conversing with the Argentinean gals.

Paola was, of course, dressed well, and since I was too, we ventured out onto the main floor where we danced a few milongas and tangos with the pros. The floor was crowded with couples, most over 50 years old, dancing perfectly as older couples do, with the peculiar posture of the South American tango: slightly askew, the man perpetually pulling back and the woman clinging against him nearly slanted. Although we were no match for the older ones, we did hold our own, and it was fun to get out there and get some practical experience.

We left there around 3:30, and after casting around a bit, decided to go to one of the clubs I'd gotten a flier for.

The place was slamming: one of several dance places in a thriving complex, bursting with energy even at that hour. Our club had a team of two DJs, who had comically inept skills but great taste in music. Finally, I had found a place where there was serious electronica. And we had a blast. We danced like fiends, sat for a while and talked outside on the roots of a gigantic tree near the crowded patio (Buenos Aires is littered with stupendously old, huge trees), and danced well into the morning light.

I was to leave for Montevideo later that afternoon, and then to Rio, where I'd had a friend of a friend lined up to take care of me, but many of the group at the hostel had just come from there a few days before, and instructed me, over the course of the weekend, in how to go it alone: apparently very possible if you just exercise some caution and go to the right places.








n e x t   p a g e