Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Patagonia, the trip begins...

The impact of failure is stronger than the art of victory…nowhere can you learn the art of losing as well here.”
-Reinhard Karl

February 1-2, 2009

“Texas is like Mexico with rules” – Gary
“My only request is that you guys don’t kill me” - Taye

The obligatory gear-porn shot, Neesha’s house. Light is, er, right.

The day begins at 4:50 am. A quick shower, shave, tidy Neesha’s house. She will be proud of me. Coffee. Pick-up by Gary and Kate at 5:30am. Feelings are good, optimism is high. Bags miraculously weigh out at 50 pounds each – 100 pounds each plus our carry-ons. The gear feels light and reasonable, SWAT-style. Breakfast at the airport is a blast from the past as my order is taken by Mike, my old boss from Jedidiah’s Pancake House, circa 1987. I was fired after a day of work, perhaps the worst prep cook he’d seen, but eventual mercy took form of a reassignment to The Wagon Wheel, where my busboy skills were honed to a sharp edge. We sail through the airport and the flight to Dallas is uneventful. A speedy taxi ride drops us off at the edge of a weird amalgamation of a Dallas we don’t know: Korea-town melting into a Mexican strip mall with canciones blaring through a deserted street scene. Today is Super Bowl Sunday, and I guess there is no need to be outside if you are a Texan. A Chinese buffet served by jovens, scarfed down reluctantly, leads us across the street to Wolf Camera to find some wide-angle lenses for our cameras plus some extra mini-DV tapes. It looks bad – our video cameras refuse to take any adapters available, so I try to relax into one of my trick modes: do nothing and hang out until a solution manifests itself. After an hour of three of us messing with duct tape, step rings and ill-sized lenses, my eye wanders to a wall display with ultra-cheap wide angle lenses that are 2mm too big for our cameras. A gentle torque of the plastic tabs leads to – viola! – a perfectly snug-fitting lens. We purchase it, a telephoto lens, and 18 hours of mini-DV tapes. John Moore’s advice to me was, “Shoot, shoot, shoot!” Now we’re prepared!

Gary makes friends with an older couple outside the store that leads to a free ride to the Mall. It’s a small world – small enough that the three of them are reminiscing about the town they all inhabited in Illinois years back, and small enough to engender some good-will for us. We catch a movie, I buy some panty hose for the plane ride – telling myself that what I am buying are REALLY cheap compression socks for the long flight to Buenos Aires. Who needs a blood clot in the legs when you can easily avoid it? Damn the critics, I think it’s rad, but once I put them on they feel weird and, well, kind of…girly. Screw it.

I ask Gary to manifest another free ride, this time to the airport, and he finds a sweaty young man who had just been (yes, it’s true, we finally found one) exercising to the video game Dance Dance Revolution. I’d read about this young tribe but never seen an actual member. I feel old, very old at this moment, but also strangely fascinated and excited to be in front of one of the new guard promoting hard-core exercise methods. I look at us, thinking about what we’re about embark on this next month – the blood, the sweat, the tears, and then to this boy who’s idea of getting his freak on involves a pocket full of quarters and comfy tennis shoes. Same planet, different worlds. He’s so shocked at Gary’s very direct request for a ride that his only response is that we not murder him. We assure him a ride is all we require. He refuses our $20 gift for this karmic gesture and life moves on.

On the plane I see the movie Max Payne, which is cool, but made all that much cooler by the fact that John Moore, the director, is the friend who has given me the video cameras to film this trip. Yah, John! We sleep like little babies and awake to a hot breakfast and Buenos Aires. Yes!

We chill at the airport, looking for a ride to a free place to sleep since our flight to El Calafate leaves tomorrow afternoon. It’s not happening. Gary’s charms are not working, even on the ladies. A German climber goes on and on about her recent forays on Fitz Roy, mentions her apartment in BA she shares with her boyfriend, and still misses Gary’s suggestion that their floor is a perfectly acceptable place for us to crash. She wanders off. I locate directions to a hostel in San Telmo and we are out, bags and all. Arriving there reminds me of an unruly Euro-style Breakfast Club-type scene, except that the kids are all drinking and smoking and it’s noon. No climbers. Gary and I bump the average age of the hostel up by….a lot. We grab lunch, take a nap til about 8pm, I edit some video till about 11pm, and then we wander downtown to a real Argentine steak dinner.

Gary getting his ya-ya’s out, San Telmo, BA

No lie, the beef is good down here. Arriving back at the hostel, its…..….disco night. Music is blaring, the kids are sweaty, and the cervezas are flowing. On the balcony I notice a group of young men covered in sweat, shirts off, pants dangling around their ankles, alternating between bad white-boy dancing and, seriously, doing push-ups. It’s as if I am looking at another species bizarre mating ritual. It’s desperate, really reeking of despair and testosterone, but also fascinating, like watching a train wreck in slow motion. I think, “These boys are not getting laid tonight,” and retire to my dorm room. Eight beds, and at nearly 3am I am the only person there to sleep. Youth rules!

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