The pace of life has continued to quicken as we find ourselves running from one activity to the next, trying to squeeze every last drop out of our journey. We started off the weekened by attending the incredible Fuerza Bruta show at the Cultural Center in Recoleta with our friends the Costas. We followed the show with a lovely dinner at the civilized hour of 10pm. Particularly interesting to me was Gonzalo’s confession that he doesn’t think he’s been a good friend to us because he’s only invited us out say 5 times. Quite different than the way we would see things in the U.S. when a stranger moves to town.
The next day was Halloween/Michele’s Birthday. Since Halloween is not really celebrated here in Argentina, I would have thought Michele would have taken the opportunity to claim the day for herself for the only time in her life, but, the wonderful mother that she is, she made it about the children as usual. We did celebrate Michele with gifts and cards and by giving Mom some alone time to work out and get her coffee. Kate then went over to visit her friend whose dog just had 5 puppies. Luckily none of them came home with her.
Next it was on to Halloween Michele has befriended a group of ex-pats who do a big block party for Halloween. We had a friend who is a make up artist for Teatro Colon come over to do our make up and the results were, well, frightening.
Michele and I ran the bobbing for apples stand (Buscar por los manzanos) and it was really fun watching all the locals try it out. Meanwhile our kids went trick or treating around the block with their friends which was terrific. I also had to confront my own personal demon, a guy who had previously refused to speak to me because of my lousy Spanish. I came to his house with a bottle of wine, which he grudgingly approved of, and we had a brief conversation in which he let me know that fishing for dorado (his hobby) is superior to trout fishing (mine), but I held my own. Afterwards we went out to dinner while dressed which really confounded the locals. One little fun detail was that the local Murga (which is sort of a dancing marching band) performed at the block party, adding a nice Argentine flavor to this American event.
The following week my brother Tom arrived and I was thrilled to be able to share the city with him. Our first day was devoted almost entirely to eating as we tackled both Sotto Vocce and Don Julio in a single day. The following day, we upped our level of culture covering the Cemetery, the Belle Artes Museum and the Malba, along with enjoying the beautiful parks between our apartment and Recoleta. The next day we had a nice walk around San Telmo after first attacking huge steaks at La Brigada. That evening we headed out to Luna Park, the big indoor concert arena, with a couple of friends to catch some local music. The band, Empire of the Sun, was absolutely abominable and we left after only 4 horrendous songs, but we turned the evening around by heading out to a local pub to sample the local Argentine bar food. One good thing to come out of that night was the idea to walk from Congresso to Casa Rosado the next day. It was a great way to see the historical part of the city and we got some great pictures. We also visited Piegari for yet another feast, but we ended up calling it a night quite early on Friday so that we would be well rested for Saturday’s big event.
Lest you think that the boys were having all the fun, Michele managed to find time to go out with her friends to a fashion show at the Spanish embassy with her crew of chicas. Que lindissima!
Which brings us to the main attraction of Tom’s visit, the incredible Pearl Jam concert in La Plata. Tom and I began the big day early, heading down to the home of our friend Martin Ponce for an Asado. It was a typically absurd Argentine spread, with enough food to feed an army and the best mollejas I’ve ever had. Tom paid Martin the ultimate complement by telling him it was the best food he’d had in all of Argentina, which is no small complement given the places we’d eaten. Martin also introduced me to Martin Fiero, the classic Argentine gaucho poem, which contains the following bit of wisdom
Los hermanos sean unidos
Porque esa es la ley primera –
Tengan unión verdadera
En cualquier tiempo que sea –
Porque si entre ellos pelean
Los devoran los de afuera.
The brothers must be united
because this is the first law-
that they have a true union
it should be so in all cases
because if between them they fight
the outsiders will devour them.
Very moving for me and I hope I can live up to those wise words.
Having eaten more than our fill we headed off to the concert. We stationed ourselves on the floor as close as possible without getting caught in the rough and tumble of the first few rows. Michele finagled a ride with the friends and family of the band and we managed to meet her on the floor through our advanced logistical planning.
The show was simply epic. 3:45 minutes long without a real break. 33 songs of which 14 were played in two incredible encores. The setlist was superb, spanning all of the bands albums and including covers of “Imagine” and “Baba O’Reilly.” The crowd was absolutely bananas, dancing and clapping like mad, singing soccer chants back and generally channeling enthusiasm toward the band. The band was clearly energized by all this and commented on it numerous times. One of my Argentine friends told me that he doesn’t like seeing concerts outside of Argentina because he is so accustomed to the energy generated by an Argentine crowd.
The star of the show, however, was Eddie Vedder. He poured his heart out during the entire concert. There were one or two moments at the beginning where I thought he might have slowed down a bit, but he appeared to gain strength as the night went on, forcefully delivering powerful lyrics and matching the crowd’s energy with his own. A number of times he even challenged the crowd, asking if people wanted to go home (Michele and I secretly did) and then ramping up to give another full throated version of one of his classic numbers.
One of the night’s final songs was the classic Alive. I’ve read that when Vedder wrote the song’s classic chorus “I’m still alive,” it was a statement about his pain, because had to endure the burden of existence with a dead father and an abusive step father. As time went by, however, the meaning for Vedder evolved to become a statement of joy and defiance, that he was not just living but thriving. As I listened to him belting out those powerful lyrics, it occurred to me that we too had turned things around. We have handled everything that this year has thrown at us, crying children, broken arms, lice, foreign languages, strange schools, new customs, maddening systems, social isolation and the like. Not only did we make it through, but we found a way to prosper. This gave us a final burst of energy as we danced and sang along with the band.