Category Archives: travels

Never getting older means stabbing people in the ear

Seems to me that reading quotation books is a little weird. It’s something you do solely for the purpose of collection, tiny personality-rhinestones to have and hold and maybe share if there is an appropriate occasion. (or tumble) I went through the Bartlett’s pretty faithfully in high school because high school is about personality-bedazzling, sort of. Out of all of the ones I underlined there are only two I can still remember, one remaining one of my favorite things ever written, and the other a quote from The Picture of Dorian Gray:

The world is changed because you are made of ivory and gold. The curves of your lips rewrite history.

My memory is basically awful but I know these sentences like something you could hold in your hand because I repeat them in my head for no reason. “Dry-goods! What are American dry-goods” asked the Duchess, raising her large hands in wonder, and accentuating the verb. “American novels,” answered Lord Henry, helping himself to some quail.

I rarely really want to read anything English and even more rarely want to read anything from the 19th century but last week I decided I wanted to read The Picture of Dorian Gray. It was only today that I found it because I don’t have bookshelves, but I’ve finally read it. Turns out that quote doesn’t appear until nearly the end of the book, leaving me thinking for most of the novel that I’d made it up. But it is there, a few pages from the end, and what it is is something written to Dorian in a love letter. It is followed by this:

The phrases came back to his memory, and he repeated them over and over to himself.

Eerie, a little.

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The stereotype of Young People Who Travel is that they will inevitably fall in love with someone foreign. But it seems to me that when traveling you, more likely, fall in love with nearly everyone you meet. Really, I think it’s likely you would normally fall in love with nearly everyone you meet but only when you stop being in familiar situations do you actually pay attention. The number of times the word “exquisite” is used in Picture : 16 One of the many people I fell in love with on my trip was Felipe who would insist that his English was very poor and then use words like “epigraph” and “coordinates” in his emails. We met at a bar, where he told me he’d only really read one book in his life, but he loved it. It was The Picture of Dorian Gray. He also told me he’d read another book, but then he changed his mind and said he’d actually just gone into a bar once called Jekyll and Hyde. He made me laugh.

I would like to email Felipe and tell him I read it, though that would be sort of bizarre I think. I looked it up: exquisito in Spanish. He was moving to Córdoba, which I never wanted to pronounce with the right emphasis. I may have embarrassed him when I questioned his love for Eddie Vedder. I think he’s probably read more than one book.

 

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Good reasons, I think, to go places

You have these parameters for judging people that in most cases stop making sense when you aren’t where you’re used to being. You have these parameters for judging situations that in most cases stop making sense when they aren’t situations you’re used to. Most people who leave their homes are with you, parameter-less as well, and with stories. There is one spot in untrained brains for foreign languages, and losing typical language defenses makes you desperately reach and makes you friendlier. There are these really breathtaking places in the world. There are these really remarkable women in the world, a lot of them. Enthusiasm is easy. There’s no reason to distrust sincerity, particularly from boys so good looking it’s like being punched in the stomach. You find out most people were wrong about where you were going. A lot of things stop being important, but decisions, life decisions, are easy, until the parameters return. 

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Viva la Vida

 Did you read this article when it came out? I think you probably did. I read it here in Buenos Aires, on a friend’s computer I borrowed while she went to tango class. It’s what I was trying to say about Death Cab and Foer only regarding Coldplay, which as far as examples go is a good example.

They’ve become the sonic security-blanket for millions of fans, their tracks sweeping by with the epic solemnity of state funerals, their huge, heartbreaking chord changes sucker-punching you with emotional logic while sapping any anger or political engagement – in the existential sense – that you might otherwise experience.

Something I was not expecting about Buenos Aires is that it sounds like American music: in clubs, in taxis, in internet cafes, on the colectivos. You hear the cumbia and the tango music and the deafing techno, of course, but our music is really the strongest American presence here.
Sidenotes are for when you realize how annoying you are without deleting things
I have, then, heard an alarming amount of Coldplay in the last month (blahblahBritishblahblah). Musically I don’t feel about Coldplay; it is usually the whitest of white noise, sounding the way communion wafers taste. Here, though, it makes me feel things – things like the kind of phantom nostalgia that can’t actually be nostalgia as there are no orginal memories for it to be tied to, magnetizing emotions in the way only the best kind of music does. I would be lying if I told you I didn’t find it intensely irritating, as there is obviously an elitism tied to my indifference to Coldplay: I don’t want to feel about Coldplay because it doesn’t mean anything. To me, or in general. And like the article says, the most dangerous thing about Coldplay is that it pretends to mean something to create the illusion of engagement, which, for me, is the worst kind of art.

I think, though, this explains my current Coldplay reaction. Immediately after reading the Coldplay article, I read this, an expat’s account of the smoke from the campo strikes in Buenos Aires. The last sentence:

We, bleary-eyed tourists stumbling about in Neverland, could only imagine what it feels like to be an unconscious part of something like that.

This is what being here now has been for me. Do you hear in the news about Argentina? I think probably not, and if I weren’t here now I would never have known about the strikes and what this country is going through and has been through, the way we heard nothing about what happened in December 2001 here as we were slightly distracted. Being a tourist in Buenos Aires makes you moderately aware, but it is very distant and easily ignored, if that is what you want. But even if you wanted to know everything – if you read every article on the export taxes and about the different sides, if you brought your pots and pans and marched in the strikes – you could still never, ever know what it is to be a part of something like this. It is not my history.

I think this is what hearing Coldplay reminds me of, though that’s pretty cerebral and very likely more of a way to explain away my embarrassment of having Coldplay make me feel something. But for me their music has always meant disengagement, and hearing it here makes it doubly so, like losing something I never could have had in the first place. This beautiful city has a history I can never be a part of, and that is a sad thing to feel.

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