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May 29, 2008

Buenos Aires, Argentina
Zombies and Vampires

From time to time I'm asked how I endure all the long flights and trains and boats and buses. Here's how.

...well, it's not the only way, but it's a component of my arsenal: Games magazine.

This is one of those puzzles where I pull back and look at the page once I'm done and realize, "Hey, wow. I'm not a very balanced person."

A trance-like state is employed. The pen could be ripped from my hand and I'd finish with the bloody stumps of my fingertips. I took little notice of the nine hour flight to Argentina.

Good thing, too. Once the "Fasten Seatbelts" sign went off, the Argentines onboard declared siesta.

This month's issue had another gem.

Any logic puzzle that involves both zombies and vampires is inherently brilliant. In this one, you are told that each room in a house contains either an aforementioned Z, an aforementioned V, or a two-sided mirror; and that the house contains an equal number of each. You are then told how many combined Z's and V's can be seen from each window of the house, and you must deduce what manner of ghoul is in which room, keeping in mind that each mirror reflects at an angle into another room.

The catch, of course, is that you can't see vampires through mirrors. Only zombies.

In the first puzzle, I'm fairly certain the 4 is a typo and should actually be a 2, as it would be impossible to see all 4 creatures from any window in any combination.

I'd invite you to enjoy this page...but I already ruined them all.

Buenos Aires! Barrio la Boca! Bad dancing!

And another German.

La Boca is an old neighborhood where some artist convinced everybody to paint their houses in really bright colors. They still do it as a tradition, and, one can safely assume, for all the tourist dollars it brings in. Anyway, it was a great backdrop for a clip, especially at sunset.

We went for drinks afterwards. Tangoing happened.

A Swiss expat named Steve invited me for dinner. I usually keep my guard up with invitations like that, but I'm traveling alone on this leg, and after a really anti-social trip through the Middle East I'm happy to have some company.

It was Steve's birthday. He and his friends, Alexandro and Ornella, put together a home-cooked barbecue.

I've finally come to the conclusion that Americans and Argentines differ in a crucial way when judging the quality of our meat. In America, we want a tender, flavorsome, marbled substance that is as abstracted as possible from having ever been a live animal. The Argentine ideal seems to be when you can identify which part of the body you're eating by looking at it.

I'm not criticizing. I admire the honesty in that approach. It's just not one I can easily embrace.

Biting into the sausage, one might say, "Why yes, I believe I am chewing genuine intestinal lining."

In Alexandro's home town, the men cut the heads off chickens, drain the blood, sow up the anuses, and pour wine down the neck. They call it vino de pollo. I call it grounds for a search warrant.

That's Alexandro on the right. He's a saxophone player. In my last post I noted a guy's physical similarity to an American sitcom character. I feel reluctant to do it again, lest I should seem coarse and uncultured, but COME ON...

Ornella, on the left (and up top), is a burlesque dancer. When Steve mentioned this, I assumed he was using polite euphamism, but she made it very clear later on that she does not perform in the nude. Her work is a tasteful throwback to a time when scintillation still held sway.

"Like Betty Page?" I asked.
"Yes! Exactly!"

See? I'm cultured.

Ornella also runs a group called X-Dolls. They do photo shoots of women in unusual settings, such as hospital gurneys and open graves. She directed this video.

I actually kind of like the behind the scenes version even better.

Probably because it features a bunch of women arguing in Spanish in a closet.

The redhead in the glasses is Ornella. She looks stunning in the photos I saw. In real life she looks just fine, but like a normal person. She knows this. I think it's a common thing. I think there are a lot of drop dead gorgeous models who appear fairly plain Jane over dinner.

Another of Ornella's hobbies is making childrens' toys out of dead animal carcasses.

Steve runs a business laminating international books for domestic publication. He uses it as a front to publish his travel novels. He's written three books in German. I think that's fantastic. The world is full of people who say they're going to do stuff and never do it. Steve wrote a novel and put it out by himself. And then he wrote two more!

After dinner, Alexandro and Steve performed tango music for me.

I haven't been sleeping much on this trip. Hardly at all, really. I'm slowly coming to notice that's how my stress tends to manifest. I suppose I'm not very self-aware in that regard.

My stress is that it's time to finish up the video. I'm not worried about the quality. It's the best thing I've ever had anything to do with. I'm not worried about pleasing the thousands of people who took part in it. I think most of them will be pretty happy. I'm not sad to be wrapping up the travel. I've been running on fumes for a while and will be thrilled to stay in one place.

...

I don't surf, but I can vaguely imagine what it must feel like when you see a very big wave moving toward you. You know it's going to be beautiful and amazing, but you also know that it's powerful and it can crush you and you have only a tiny bit of influence over what's going to happen once you're inside of it. You do the best you can, and then you surrender.

Please excuse the tired metaphor. I think that's why I'm not sleeping.