Thursday, May 31, 2012

Back from Buenos Aires and Argentina

Back from Buenos Aires and Argentina (about 1 year now!) ] What a year. I cannot believe so much time has gone by and yet...What a full and crazy year. I will have to post some stories and photos of our trip - about 4 months abroad. Yet upon returning I was thrown into a family a crisis and a focus on dealing on my disintegrating left hip, which finally got replaced around Thanksgiving 2011!. I am literally on a new leg this year. Dancing and ENJOYING it again,
Hooray, although I realized how much havoc having arthritis and a degenerating hip caused in my life and relationships. I did get to
travel to Patagonia,
and Iguazu Falls,
Colonia Uruguay,
and around the various dance halls of BA, yet my constant pain made it difficult to fully enjoy. Looking back however I can forget the pain and remember the good. Most of my photos went onto facebook for friends to enjoy. Perhaps I can post links. My daughter Mariel wrote a wonderful blog on her semester abroad there and travels to Ecuador too. Meanwhile she graduated UMASS this May! Oh my. Yes, moving along.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Off to Buenos Aires tomorrow

Tomrrow will be a 'flying' holiday for me. I will be heading out to Buenos Aires, Argentina with Carlos Fontes, who has a Fulbright appointment at the Catholic University there.

My general plan is to connect with my daughter Mariel, relax, heal, learn and dance more Tango, and learn and speak more Spanish. (Trying to work the aging body and brain!). Mariel is a UMass Junior in Commonwealth College and College of Natural Sciences, on the Deans List, and on an API semester abroad program there until June 25th, her 21st birthday!

This is the first time in MANY, many years that I will be away from a home base for more than a month. I am grateful to have wonderful people in and around my home to care for it and enjoy the springtime here, while we head into fall down there.

The basic plan:
Friday: Arrive in Buenos Aires and meet up with my daughter Mariel and do the business of settling in. If we are not too exhausted, Mariel has already invited us to attend a tango event that evening at the Confiteria Ideal, a vintage ballroom.

Saturday, sleep in, and perhaps join my daughter at a monthly Lindy Hop Swing dance event. This is an American dance that has grown in popularity around the world. There is a large community of mostly young dancers in Argentina. I introduced my daughter to this dance when she was 13 and she has shot up to become one of the most advanced and creative dancers on the scene and is able to find community many places world-wide. She has demonstrated and taught vintage social dance moves to the Amherst and UMass community. I have not quite retired to the sidelines, and will get up to boogie and Charleston when the 'spirit moves', albeit usually to the slower, more bluesy music.

A Bollywood Festival Sunday? Apparently there is a large Indian population in BA.

We leave for Patagonia on Tuesday, which is in the Southern part of Argentina. It is windy and wintry there, and we hope to climb glaciers, take in mountain vistas (parts of the Andes), encounter lots of wildlife, perhaps penguins, and visit Tierra del Fuego - the End of the World ( as close as you can get to Antarctica). We also plan to explore the Lake district of Bariloche which is considered to be like Switzerland (It has lots of Germans and European influences).

Patagonia is also known for lamb, beef, beer, and chocolate!

I have long been curious about this part of the world since buying my first Patagonia fleece, although with all the ice and 'roof glaciers we had this winter, you might wonder why we head for more and not someplace tropical :). That will come later.

Between April and May, I will study and explore around Buenos Aires and take mini trips to places like Colonia, Uruguay, Tigre (a delta north of BA), and some ranches - 'Estancias'.

In May we plan to go see Iguazu Falls on the border of Brazil and Paraguay. This spectacular network of 275 falls is depicted in the film 'The Mission, and you can see some images here.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Bottlecaps and Skully

Alongside comics we collected bottle caps. These were carefully, no expertly, pried from the tops of glass soda-pop bottles that we mainly got from vending machines. A bottle cost from a dime to 15 cents in the late 50s to 60s. My father remembered the price was a nickel during the second quarter of the century. We saved our nickels and dimes, both for the purpose of buying soda and for collecting the prized caps. And yes, for ice cream too, bought from the local vendors who came around to the playgrounds in their trucks, Bungalow Bar, Uncle Johns, Mr. Softy and Good Humor, each with their distinctive song or bell to alert us.

The vending machines did not come to us. We sought them out in building basements, candy stores, boat houses, and other places of liesure. Some times the sodas came in packs bought from the local grocery store. Pepsi, Canada Dry Gingerale, and Coke were the most popular. One of my favorite soft drinks was Root beer, so I had quite a few of those.I can't clearly recall the brand as there were several like Frosties, Hires, Draft. There were also Orange and Grape sodas and caps.

These were to be used competively in the game of ‘Skully’, a city street game, played on the concrete pavements of playgrounds where game boards were often chalked temporarily onto the surface in an open area between slides and swings. There was one painted permanently over by the sandbox in our 'Big' Playground.

The 'board' was square, about 3 feet by 3 feet, with 13 smaller square areas marked by numbers spaced around it. Four in the corners, two paired together in the middle of each side and with the number 13 in the center.

Starting at box 1, you 'shot' your cap with the flick of your thumb and index or middle finger, aiming to land within the numbered boxes.

If you landed on the lines you could later just tap your cap in. If you were unlucky you got knocked off course, sometimes way a-ways, by other players. If you landed in the box you got to go again and try for the next number.

The number 13 was surrounded by 4 areas of 'space' . This was 'No-man's Land'. Depending on the rules of the day, if you landed there you either were 'out' , stuck until another player knocked you out, or penalized and had to start over again from 1. Once you made it to 13, you worked your way backwards to 1, and then could move around the 'No Man's Land' in clockwise fashion to become a 'Killer'.The sooner the better.

Once you were a Killer you went after the others to knock them out of the game. It was then that all hell broke loose as players would scatter wide around the playground to escape the aim of a Killer. Tap 3 times and they were out. Besides hitting other caps, sometimes one would bounce off and hit other players.

The game was most fun with 3 or more players, with 6 being a good number to manage. Sometimes we played in teams where part of of the strategy included protecting teammates' caps or going on offense against the others to knock them far off course.. Skill seemed not to depend much on gender. It was more an eye/hand coordination thing, although the aggressive nature of a 'Killer' might have been associated with sex-type or age.

Sometimes we were lucky to have an indoor site, with more slick wooden floors and painted skully boards. Play , rain or shine.

No bloody scrapes from grazing one's fingers against the gravel.

The best caps were 'Smoothies'. These prized possesions were smooth on the top, which became the bottom when turned over and used in play. Hence, the need of 'expert' skill required to obtain these. If the cap was too tight, or stuck on a bottle, it invariably came off bent. Bent ones wobbled along the ground of game courts and were harder to aim straight and shoot. The ones that had padding in them, mostly cork, were heavier and valued for their steadier and more stable trajectories. To enhance our caps we could melt crayon into them to provide both weight and identifying colors. Although you only needed a few for a game, we collected and stored our stashes in shoeboxes wrapped tight with rubber bands. We also would trade, trying to up our count of Smoothies, or balance our brands.

I remember having boxes of 50-100 or more, spending summer-time counting, organizing, and ordering caps by preference, and comparing them to those of my friends. The clinging sound of a box of caps is certainly nostalgic to groups of city kids of the 50 's and 60's generations.

Skully days ended when we went on to middle and high school. Although I read on the internet that the game continued 'round the city well into the 70s. As we aged, we moved off of our knees, and some of us, out of the playground, except for those who played basketball, paddle ball, or did drugs. The girls often landed up on the sidelines, on the benches, watching and rooting for games, smoking, flirting, and learning more adult and somtimes dangerous play.