Ice Cream and Hamburgers

Trip Start Jun 16, 2006
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Trip End Aug 15, 2006


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Flag of Argentina  ,
Saturday, July 15, 2006

I`m up all night drinking with the other people in the hostel. It`s impossible to sleep, so I join them. It started when I met a Brazilian guy named Leonardo. He was the other awkward guy in the central room, and we didn`t really want to stick around, so we went out for a drink at a bar nearby. It`s called The Beatles Bar and they`re playing Oasis and Creedence Clearwater Revival. We split a liter of beer and I get a crack at speaking Portuguese again.

I hear the word "Pernambuco" when I asked where he was from, and he says he lives close to Rio. We talk about travel, Brazil, and the moral superiority of Brazilian food to Argentine food. We return to the hostel and everybody is still there. We find out there are more Brazilians (all from the South--Parana and Santa Catarina), and we all end up going to the upstairs terrace where everybody continues drinking and smoking. The other Brazilians comment on my good Portuguese. Bad Portuguese commands more respect here than good Spanish apparently. I`ve always been good at accents, but my grammar is currently atrocious. I have another drink and I can almost speak it as well as I do Spanish.

My head hurts from hearing a mosaic of accents and switching between the languages. I play pool with a friendly man from Quebec. The Brazilians are very friendly and invite us to go to a night club with them. I politely decline. I want to go, but I also want to check out of the hostel in the morning and go riding. Not going to happen if I go out drinking and dancing.

Instead, Leonardo and I comment on the limitations of the hostel. Among the myriad of reasons that I choose to leave in the morning:

1. The really bad coffee. The worst coffee I have ever had in my life.

2. The fact that they didn`t give me a pillowcase or towel. They were currently "out" or they were being "washed." I use my jacket as my pillowcase. I use a hand towel as my towel. When I accept it from the staff, Rasta Max, one of the bearded, dreadlocked employees, gives me a hug and says, "Thanks Alan." Don`t get me wrong, I`m all for roughing it, but being the eternal capitalist, when I pay for a service, I expect to use it.

3. The incessant noise. For some reason or other, the staff feels compelled to blast music (mostly techno) from 9 A.M. to 3 A.M. No one seems to complain. I guess I`m just getting old.

4. One of the staff, the self described "hippie," is obviously high. His other great goal of the night is to become wasted. He proceeds to do just that. He also repeatedly insults one of the guests for being gay. He does so using both Spanish and broken English in front of the other guests, mostly the Brazilians. The guest being insulted doesn`t understand (he`s from the U.S. or Australia or something) but he knows something is up. Now, I can`t assume to know the hiring practices in Mendoza, but here is a man doing business with you and you show him no respect. Furthermore, where`s the peace and love bro?

5. The depressive drinking that persists all day. I leave and return several times from walks and runs through the city, and the same people are there, drinking in the main area. The Heineken bottles pile up in the bar. Quite an impressive sight. A drunk girl from Florida calls me Waldo. To be fair, I did look like Waldo. I was wearing my red beanie, glasses, and a striped shirt. Bad call I guess. She also brags how she had been drinking all afternoon. I didn`t speak to her again.

So I end up moving to my new one star hotel. Definitely my style. But I have to run back to the hostel because I forgot my camera. When I enter the room, the Aussies are still asleep at noon because they had been up all night watching The Fellowship of the Ring. Lame.

To sum up my experience at the hostel, I could get the same effect by drinking at home and watching the BBC. I know, that was below the belt. I`ll try not so hard to tell people how to live their lives.

I just ask myself, "How did I end up here?" The warning signs were there. Rasta Max (to be fair, he`s really friendly) greets me when I get off the bus and hands me a flier for the hostel that says: "We have a bar, Yeah!!!" He tells me there is tour of the vineyards that I can go on by bike. I`ll get really wasted and have trouble riding home he tells me. I suppose I was overly enticed by the free taxi ride to the hostel.

But things have improved since then. My new lodging is sweet. I finally get the rest I need and this afternoon I go riding for a couple of hours. I`m chasing the hills in The San Martin Park. The Golden Gate Park of Argentina. The wind is crisp and I can appreciate the statuesque trees. I peddle up to the heights and get a glimpse of the foothills of the Andes. My bike, the Obsidian Ocelot, responds well for only having one gear.

And to celebrate my newfound liberation from the hostel, I go on a world eating tour. I head to the Mercado Central (a market with all kinds of meat, seafood, veggies, fruit and spices), where I have found a food stall near the back. I eat with the blue collar workers. I have discovered I can east 3 empanadas and a glass of O.J. for 60 cents. I`ll eat there 3 times a day and I`ll have all the yummy calories I need. I AM AN EMPANADA EATING MACHINE.

I also eat ice cream again at Chini`s, suppossedly the best creamerie in the city. But the place I ate last night across the street is better. Anyway, I`m eating an enormous cone of chocolate and dulce de leche. I purposefully sit in front of the window so the Argentines can see the ridiculous smile on my face. People pass by and stare at me. I`m sorry, but if you`ve been riding in the cold all afternoon, you need food. Your body demands disgusting quantities of it. And my face responds with radiant pleasure. Chini`s never had advertising this good.

I also eat at the happiest place on earth, McDonald`s. Los Arcos Dorados. The Golden Arches. I`m sorry, but when your tired, hungry, and you need a place to change money where no one else will, McDonald`s is where you will go. I eat 3 cheeseburgers and McNuggets (which are terrible by the way). DECADENCE AND SATURNALIA HAVE NOT BEEN ACHIEVED ON THIS LEVEL SINCE TITANICUS ANDRONICUS. Ronald McDonald, you are my hero. You truly are the king of kings, Ronald.

We`ve only got a few more geographical regions left, and we`ll have won! It`s only a matter of time before we have one in North Korea, Iraq, and rural Iran. George W.`s axis of evil will be vanquished. If we`re going to get serious about stopping terror, we need GW to put a McD`s on every corner of the globe. Lets put one in Indonesia for good measure too. And what better way to ring in the departure of Castro by putting one in Cuba when the time comes?

The Argentines love the stuff. Little Mendocinos gobbling it up with Mcsmiles on their faces. Madres y abuelos andan con MCsonrisas muy grandes porque sus niņos estan contentos por un minuntito. Not a trace of enmity towards the U.S. Honestly, how can you be mad at us if we give you delicious hamburgers?

Farewell, Hostel Itaku. My strength and wit you cannot puncture.

The author apologizes for this long and weary rant.
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