Rompecabezas BsAs Tierra Santa. 1st day
(photos by Ramsey Arnaoot)
Tierra Santa is a municipally and ecclesiastically endorsed theme park, or “thematic park” on the Northern rim of Buenos Aires. It is a wonder of wonders; mainly due to its odd meld of piety, pity, plastifoam, and animatronics. Then again, the most revelatory moments are, for me, usually the result of terse combinations of opposites, anyway. I respond poorly to the fully appropriate.
Here, on a plot between a waterpark and Jorge Newberry airport, we find casts, spectacles, and android depictions of the Creation, the Nativity, the Last Supper, the Resurrection, as well as a full-scale three-dee recreation of Biblical history and Catholic imagination. Compared to the relatively European city surrounding it, Tierra Santa is more in the spirit of baroque Southamerican Catholicism; a spirit that can smoothly transition between “Simon of Cyrene helping Jesus carry the cross” and chocolate-covered bananas on a stick.
And sitting in the audience of the Cration, as hippos and lions and giraffes wheel into view, I can finally see the charm of the Creation story; that by allowing a week for the whole shebang, it helps makes succinct the essential mystery of why there is something rather than nothing. The spectacle— of Adam and the world zoo floating through space— made the apperance of life rightfully absurd again.
But it was the unchecked enthusiasm that got me. For the Resurrection, a 18m Jesus Christ with motorized hands and eyes emerged “from the mountaintop, blessing worldwide,” shooting lasers and blacklight, to the theme of Handel´s Hallelujah chorus. This Resurrection was Man´s attempt to give God a high-five. The others were on the Calvary when the giant rose, noting that we could have, in theory, leapt onto his shoulder and given God a high-five ourselves. Of course, not without spending the next 2 years in an Argentine prison.
Catholicism is better, in general, at that terse combination of opposites I spoke of. Fewer Lutherans or Southern Baptists feel compelled to adorn their houses of worship with golden skeletons and blood. Protestantism too successfully banishes struggle and Satan from paradise; often succeeding in the defeat of its impulses. Catholicism, no. Catholicism continually reminds us.
Outside the temples in Tierra Santa, bellydancers in silver bodysuits tempt the crowds, demonstrating the vices of Judea. During Creation, God creates a very voluptuous and uncovered Eve, giving a hundred schoolboys their very first boner.
God is winking. The same God that strolled through the coolness of Eden, has now written his own Simpsons episode and called it Tierra Santa.
This was only the beginning of the night for us, however. The end was us getting frisked by the Argentine police outside of an underground jazz club. In between, were countless affirmations that Argentina and the four of us do not know quite what to make of the other.
Souvenirs: Es un flash
From Unamuno’s Del Sentimiento Trágico de la Vida: “It is not our ideas that make us pessimists or optimists, but rather our optimism or pessimism, possibly of a physiological or pathological origin, that form our ideas.” Both proceed the interpretive process. The energetics of optimism. That can be transferred, intensified, dampened, directed, redirected, or converted into particles of light. Too many pregnant women in Argentina. One in four, I’d say. They show their bellies here. Parrillas. Red wine. Malbec: from Argentina, smoother. I prefer Shiraz. Bloodier. The walk home from Tierra Santa. Around Jorge Newberry airport. That taxista ripped us off. Or did he? Guess we’ll never know. Underground Jazz club. Omar. What do we toast to? Unidad. Unidad! Felicidad. Felicidad! Soledad. Y Soledad… Soledad? No, soledad es malo. Sliding down a flagpole to escape. Thank you, Ashley, Rose, and Claudia.
What do stray animals tell us about human happiness and human relationships? Strays dogs everywhere smiling, unless they have growths or limps. Then they look noticeably concerned. I would be too. A Nigerian club. Coca leaves. Put them in your gums. The taste is very much like leaves. Stencils rather than graffitti. Mirrors my sensibilities. Form and purpose snugly together; very Hegelian. A stenciled drumset. Lifesize. Stenciled garden gnomes, Indian calvaries, skulls, “feliz crisis.” Nevertheless, handpainted commercial signs are better.
Met Patrizio. He has an exhibition, with large paintings depicting the history of Pan-Am airlines. He is fascinated with a holographic sticker I have from JFK. Quien lo puso? Becomes a gift for Patrizio. Later, watching the best television channel ever. Ciudad Abierta. We see Patrizio on television Unmistakeable. Los sensibles pragmaticos. He collects train passes as well. Obsession– that is disproportionate desire— is key, critical to the social whole. Especially, like I said, charismatic obsession. A happy division of labor. Who else would paint the history of Pan-Am? Bikers but few skaters. The streets are all piedradas. Cartoñeros separate the cardboard and plastic form the trash for recycling. Job creation. It is not contracted. It is fully independent. Cartoñeros roam the sidewalks by night. Pushing large baskets. A moonlit vocation. Often propped up on trashbags, drinking mate, napping. Taking shifts. I want to help. Write an ode later on. Even the peasants here are beautiful. Psi-trance party. Glowing polyhedra. Met April.
Two days on our feet. Aimless and cranky. Huddled around a computer at the locutorio. All snippy. Cannot locate an apartment. Every land-owning Argentine is away on vacation. Fuck them. I want to close out the sunlight. Have not slept. No vacancies in hostels. Went to one, waited in the stairwell, rang the buzzer. Nothing other than coughs and rustles. Rich leaned on the door and it opened. Concierge was alseep behind the desk. We snuck upstairs to the common room. Couldn´t sleep. Swedes playing ping-pong at eight in the morning. Sky starting falling. Heavy rain. It´s raining canes, they say down here.
Rent a hotel room from a magical being. The Dungeon Master. Bathed. Washed underwear in the sink. Bidet fresh. Awoke with Jonny over my bed, looking out the window. Ivanna is in Cordoba. We are invited. Retiro, Bus station. Back to Southamerica proper. Where are the pickpockets? La Veloz. Semicama but more luxurious than anywhere I’ve ever lived. Meals served. Cold but unbelievably moist. Like sleeping in a ziploc bag. The loveliest couple beside us. Mother and child huddled. Father and child huddled. Maybe procreation is not always a state of falleness. I need to shower more. Not just dip in the pelopincho.
Cordoba. Relax. Then train. We are marines. We are here to do push-ups and bronze our forms. Keops; a pyramid-shaped, pyramid-themed club. We have orange vip bracelets. Must be a mistake. Miami drug cartel aesthetic. Pleasant I suppose. The algebra of exclusivity. The dance floor is still empty in the main room. Large, seated Osiris or Thoth. We become monsters of shameless dance. Hundreds around the perimeter, watching, charlando, drinking Quilmes. An amphitheatre. Icecold reception. Sweating. Need more sugar, to rehydrate. Maté gourds. What is maté? What spirit does it evoke? Cemitery. Skulls. Open mausoleums, open caskets. Helado. Piratas. Como se llaman? Los Gauchos Gay.
Carlos Paz and Tanti. Staying in a spacepod. Ivanna’s grandmother’s concrete igloo. White, bright, on the hillside. Anarchitecture. The principle of non-repetition both in architectural style and method. A community of dogs with their own language. Cuantas fichas? Air hockey… of course. Foozball. Before every game, we have to flip the table over to retrieve all seven balls. Northamerican efficiency has cost us the textural adventure of everyday life. The tyranny of public safety must go. Ecuador is the model. A refreshing, occasionally mind-expanding, disregard for public safety. A boy applauds my Pac-Man score. Ramsey and Jonny are playing a galactic game of air hockey. We only understand the under-10 set here, as elsewhere. And they us. Cheap fake masks: clown skeleton, bruja, Boca. Cheapness everywhere. A new field of study. The ever-pressing discovery of lower and lower quality. Vin Up; the only drink blended especially for alcoholics. Rich pegged it: headache-flavored. Fruitty cereal. What was it? Fruti barbaro maybe. 30 cents a bag. Quite literally packing peanuts with spray-on sugar. Pure cornstarch. Shrank in your mouth. Sublime insult rather than customer service. What an honest and pure and thoroughly mercantile relationship. Playing limbo with your expectations. India would be better. “This man has never take a bath. He is very holy man.” The river by night. Huge, electrical storms whiten the sky. Superpanchos. Cibercafe. The true internationalism. Nerdcult. Southamerica would be a ideal place to die in a knifefight. Jonny bought knives. Rich, the ideal maté pseudogourd.
Mundo Fantastico. A giant rotating cube in ther sky. The Crystal Labyrinth.The Sea Lion show. Monkeys. Parrots. Animals that straddle the human and animal world. Undecidables. The intelligent labyrinth (as opposed to the crystal labyrinth). The Giant Tunnel requires a full-bodied suit with helmet. Total darkness. More relaxing than anything. Funhouses with skullfaced facades. Gallos. Espuma wars for carneval. Spray foam wars. One hundred ten-year-olds and us. Supreme homo ludens. Whatever happens in college, stays in college. I like to eat you so much. Pure Stoke. Nothing can replace the mythos of antiquation. Sunfade. Free snacks. Thank you Ivanna!
Monday, 13 February 2006 Souvenirs: Under new suns
New jobbie. With idealistas.org. Was a little nervous for the interview. Computer terms in Spanish. Our neighbor, la bruja, has already called the police on us. For nothing. Why is silence the cardinal virtue of every neighborhood anyway? We have a new hobby: riding on the back of buses. Hands in the grill, feet on the backbumper and zoom. Noxious fun. The police are going to cave in our skulls. We´re only aping some street urchins we saw; they know all the secrets. Una moneda por favor?To understand mythos– however ridiculous or unwarranted or “irrational” its content– is to understand human desire. Ice cream for breakfast is the best indication of paradise. They still use warded locks in Buenos Aires. There are beautiful homeless people in Buenos Aires, sleeping along Corrientes. Aimless wandering. Other countries are for when you tire of a certain set of specifics. The spacebuzzers here. Mirrors and wood. Licuados de banana. Flaky people drive me crazy. Dark urine and dehydration. Ramsey is still sick. April´s place is nice. Every Wednesday, converts itself into a restaurant. La Mario is the chef´s name.
Ana took us to the best parrilla. We returned with Ivanna. The butcher-cum-chef pelts his clientel with bits and bones. Punched me in the ribs. Went to La Boca by accident, looking for an imaginary intersection. Colors and animals. Internet chino. Seguramente lo mas veloz. Thousands lining the blocks of Microcentro for a concert. Belgrano is another city. On triadic desire, the Freudian, Lacanian conception of desire. Triadic desire is socialized desire, even to a degree for other social animals. Dyadic desire is still desire, even a stronger force in most cases. We admire the more direct, unmediated, pure, doubtless bold desire of animals and children, less entangled with an other, with language and doubt and expectation. Is this what we want, then, dyadic desire? In itself, no. This other node in the triad (not really one thing, but the aggregate of all related things) often is the very tool or bridge for getting what we want. Civilization, language, thought, other people. Do we then have only the Freudian dilemma between civilization and fulfillment? No. What we want to do is eliminate, where possible, neurosis. When this other node of the triad is interfering, rather than assisting, with our fulfillment. Pubs for instance. Ostensibly a social occasion. People know what they want: to meet others. Both men and women understand the whole aggregate of roles, expectations, rituals, and subtexts; all intended to assist people meeting other people. The true end result, though, is paralysis. Why? We know what we want. Even when the desires are reciprocated, when it is not fear of rejection or ridicule in itself, this third body still interferes. Whereas in gay bars and social upheavals and Wes Anderson movies, normative behaviour is not so crippling; precisely because of the anomaly introduced. We then resort to what we want as our guiding candle. Stranger, if you wish to speak to me, why not speak? Emancipation will always be predominantly an introspective process rather than a social arrangement.
The first truly warm reception. At a party. Having to pay off a girl for splashing her. We should have tipped her as well. “Eight hundred and.. tuesday dollars” Jonny landed a hot date. Palermo soho. Open until dawn with a vacant playground in its heart. Even children stay out until dawn here. “Son bobos!” How do I get so filthy? Met up with Mercedes y Marcela. Museo de Bellas Artes. The Argentine section dominated the European. Edgardo Vigo. Arte Correo. Jorge Tupia. CAYC. Nicolas Uriburu . Gyula Kosice. More. Why is it representation that makes things truly real, truly count? All expression has will and representation as aspects. Cemeterio de Recoleta, donde vive Evita. We do not spend enough time in cemeteries, thanatoptically. It would be a good way to keep the dead alive. It´s bad enough that they are dead; they don´t need to be lonely. La Cigale. An upscale bar. We are meeting more and more people. Told to stop dancing, or “performing.” In a playground, north of Florída, told to stop using seesaws as human catapaults. Asked by police how old we are. Steaming heat in the chifa joint; translates into intensity. Gavin and Claire. Hot drinks in hot climates.The owner was authentic half-Peruvian, half-Chinese. Happiness for everybody. Vending machine graveyard. Valentines Day. “I just wanted you to know….(open the card).. that I´m extraordinary.”
Why don´t bookstores here have prices? This is ridiculous. Ser y Tiempo at a streetside book kiosk. Lacan, Leibniz and Heidegger at the newspaper stands. Lacan and Freud everywhere. Highest percentage of psychoanalysts in the world, Argentina. Airconditioner rain. Imported mannerisms from Italy. Leo. Philosophy is the best topic in another language. If you lose a word, you just appear pensive or searching for le mot precis. The harpists and dancers on Florída. Vending is lucrative on the Subte. The obelisk is the worst landmark: you can see from all directions. Sidewalks steaming from flowers watered.
Had the best time with Max. An individual incapable of cynicism. You can see it in his face. Cab driver pulled a fast one. In the confusion, we double-paid him. Went to a busted airplanehanger of a joint with billiards and hamburgers and solid sprawling murals of hamburgers and hot dogs. Open twenty hours: it literally has no door. We had to explain to Max why, precisely, we liked such places. “It´s the best because it´s the worst,” Jonny said. Blaring the worst American new alt-rock. New Argentine rules. Eightball must go in far left corner pocket. Two games in and the power shorts. Kids tinker with the breakerbox. Bright blue sparks shoot out. Everyone laughs. Wires are melted. Finish our game in the dark. Go walking. To Recoleta. Another woman yells at us for playing on seesaws. Stop to observe a bird trying to die. Fetch water and food. It wants to die. What a strange choice, strange mechanism. Thanatos. A young flowergirl approaches us. She wants something from McDonald´s. We offer her ice cream. No, she wants hamburgers. What kind of girl refuses ice cream? Answer: one who´s fetching food for others. “Dale! Helado no es comida.” Jokes all around. This is not a healthy interaction. What would be better? She´s cunning. We tell her we´ll buy her hamburgers only if she eats them with ice cream on top. Agreed. After the purchase she flees. Presumably passes off the hamburgers to other, family/coworkers. Everyone else, from upstairs at McDonald´s, sees her mother slap the hell out of her, in plain air. Simultaneously a fight breaks out between some variety of skinheads. Interest is piqued, but no one interferes. Some even laugh. More soliciation for erotic dance clubs. Sex, in a certain sense, is a very conservative force. Often binding, even, in a human-all-too-human way. I do not understand the aesthetic of the sex industry. Run into someone they met at a silkscreen gallery/workshop. We run across people all the time, strangers even. Like I´ve hear it described: “it´s as if God is running out of extras in the movie of your life.” Superpancho Villa. “Genuine experience.” Guard dogs that smile, whine, and wag their tails.
Max takes us to a very tranquil overlook near a statue of Bartolomeo Mitre. Indeed ideal, very Bodhi tree. A far off lake. Soft grass. Max compares it to a mattress; Rich thought he heard pussy. My brain is shifting into Spanish mode. Magnolia trees could make a proper home. By the statue there is a lady who lives in the staircase. She was once obscenely wealthy. Now she spends everday, all day, sweeping the staircase. A legend. I saw her yesterday and today. Think I saw her on the Zizek documentary as well, grinning and laughing. Forget her name. Lot of witch metaphors in Argentina. Like thinking about the sublime of different classes of madness and dementia. Each particular sublime. Incorrigible visions. Azulejos. Stanley Kubrick lobbies.