Tuesday, June 28, 2005

We way overslept yesterday and must scurry to the car rental - headed for Holland today. The Louvre took up most of our first day in Paris, with Erik; back in town after a 19-year absence, fascinated with Da Vinci Code connections. We then hung out on the balcony of Les Marroniers, a lovely gay bar-restaurant in the Marais district, where I got buzzed on Kir, which is white wine a shot of with creme de cassis. Dinner was Morrocan and memorable. More later.

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Monday, June 27, 2005

Over The Meadow And Through The Chunnel...

Arrived in Paris last night at 9:17pm and the sun was still riding high in the sky. Paris is 8 degrees north of NY and much better situated in its time zone. In London, as we approached Waterloo Station to take the Eurostar to France, through the Chunnel (pictured left), it reminded me of the song 'Waterloo Sunset' by the Kinks... which reminded me we'd left our iPods at Doug's. Happily, we could go back and get them, since our Eurostar plan was to show up and take the next train. How nice to see Denis and Christian again. They welcomed us to Paris with a lovely dinner. More later...

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Sunday, June 26, 2005

Quarter To Three

Good morning from London, whose Tower is pictured left. What a great first day of our vacation. I arrived from Chile, without major jet lag, yesterday at 2pm, and by 5pm I was drinking wine at a Hawaaian Luau in Islington. Later, in Soho, we dined with Doug and his boyfriend Jason at this funky venue that served French food and dance music in a homey, tiled atmosphere. Soon it was midnight, and, on a lark, we went clubbing south of the river. The club, Crash, can best be described as two rooms of pumping disco, laser beams, and an ocean of shirtless but diverse men in what was probably once a warehouse with black walls. That's the first time I've gone clubbing in many years. I stopped doing that regularly when I was 24, and back then, NY clubs were full at 11pm, whereas now people 'trickle in' between midnight and 1am and stay till the wee hours of the next day, usually assisted by chemicals. (Not in Boston, though, where clubs must close at 2am and are packed by 10pm...) Anyway, at about 2am my third wind evaporated and I could barely stand up! We grabbed a cab home to Islington. When Erik wakes up, we'll figure out how to get to Paris, by train, in time to have dinner with Denis & Christian. More later....

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Saturday, June 25, 2005

Hi all. Arrived in London safe & sound, took the tube 25 stops from Heathrow airport in the west to my friend Doug's place in Islington, in the east. It's a cloudy, brisk 60F, not a big change from Chilean winter, though the mood is summer. There's a crazy person next door who moans all day as if he were being tortured. tonight we're going to a Hawaaian Luau and then having dinner with Doug & his boyfriend Jason. More later...

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Friday, June 24, 2005

White Hair and a Polo Mallet

It's cloudy here. It's in between 40-50F, less of an abrupt transition than I thought - My body calendar feels somewhere in between Halloween & Thanksgiving. At left: José Manuel Balmaceda, President of Chile from 1882-1888, whose great-grandson Fernando Balmaceda I worked back in 1989 in Argentina. Fernando, then a credit trainee, was limping from a polo accident. His older brother, I recall, was a professional polo player. I think his branch of the Balmaceda clan moved to Argentina during Chile's communist experiment under Allende. Fernando is a great guy, and he sported a head of white hair well before his 30th birthday.

Well, I've rambled enough, I've got to go shower and check out, get to my meeting, and then catch my 4pm flight, which, 18 hours later, will deposit my tired posterior in London. I'll continue to post daily throughout this vacation, so check here for an update of my adventures. Tomorrow's post will be late, since I arrive in London at 2pm.



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Thursday, June 23, 2005

Days of Winter and Pisco

It's a mild Chilean winter - what I notice most is the diffuse, subtle winter sunlight.

These vintage photos shows Chilean sugar company workers in the 1960s, and sugar beets being unloaded at a sugar plant.

I got through five hours of meetings but I feel wobbly - nine hours of intermittent airplane sleep didn't leave me very rested, so that's my top priority tonight, before I begin my 18 hour odyssey to London.

I'll probably treat myself to a Pisco Sour (pictured left), Chile's very sugar, very strong national drink. Pisco is a brandy or aguardiente distilled from the white muscat grapes grown in two main regions of South America: the area around Pisco, described in A miracle of man and the desert. Chile's Elqui Valley is called the "zona pisquera," due to the favorable geographic and climatic conditions, and is the only pisco producing area in Chile.
The word Pisco comes from Quechua and there is some discrepancy about the meaning. Some say it means bird, while others say it means the fired clay pots in which the Quechua stored their chicha (a local spirit). According to one source, "many producers have modern mechanical presses but in some smaller outfits the grapes are still trodden." Pisco, and the drinks made with it, have been popular for centuries. Both Chile and Peru have adopted it as a national drink, imbueing it with national characteristics and claiming their rights to produce it. Pisco has some US history: it was a favorite with nineteenth century Californians who enjoyed the drink imported to San Francisco from both South American countries.

Hey there! Arrived in Chile safe, sound, and surprisingly well-rested. Their winter, a mere 50F, doesn't feel particularly cold. Off to meetings, more later...

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Wednesday, June 22, 2005

The Race Is On

Tonight, i'm off to Santiago, Chile for a day and a half of meetings. Then, I must fly for a day and a half, to my vacation in London, Paris, and Amsterdam (to hang with Doug, Denis & Christian, and Joost & Ronald, respectively.) For those of you who are fond of my record book, here are the milestones to be reached, at the expense of my beauty sleep and stamina: This will be the first time I've flown from South America to anywhere but North America. If all goes as planned, the whole thing will collectively be my 91st foreign trip, bringing up days abroad up to 1080, just 15 shy of the three-year mark. The first leg would be my 50th trip to Latin America, my 30th to South America, and my 6th to Chile. The second leg, in contrast, would be my 26th trip to Europe, my 12th to France, my 10th to the UK, my 6th to Holland, and my 5th to Belgium. If we went through Luxembourg, which I don't expect, it would be my first time there and my 37th country overall. We plan to drive from Paris to Amsterdam and back, my first driving experience in mainland Europe and my first overseas driving experience with an automatic transmission (last year I drove a stick in Iceland).


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Tuesday, June 21, 2005

(Thomas, back from Rio, closely examines a papaya/mamão.)

From this week’s Onion, my favorite feature, “What Do YOU Think?
Question: Last week, the Supreme Court upheld the federal government's right to ban marijuana use, even in states that allow it for medical reasons. What do you think?”

Answer 1: "This is sad news for me and other survivors of nausea."
Answer 2: "The Court made the right decision. Once you legalize the medical use of marijuana, it's only a matter of time before you start seeing medical use of harder narcotics, like morphine."
Answer 3: "Great. Now how am I supposed to treat my recurrent case of Doritos Aversion Syndrome?"
Answer 4: "Well, can't these cancer patients paint, play sports, or listen to music instead of doing drugs? That's what they taught us in health class."

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Monday, June 20, 2005

Wonder Castle

Images of "Howl's Moving Castle" really stuck with me. Below I share some of these with you. The plot concerns Sophie, an 18-year old girl who sells hats and incurs the envy and wrath of a witch, who spitefully turns Sophie into a 90-year old woman. Sophie then hits the road and takes shelter in a mountain-sized mechanical castle with claw-like feet, which is inhabited by a beautiful but troubled wizard, a fire spirit, and cute kid. The castle itself that suggests a darker Rube Goldberg. The story is awesome, chock-full of imagination, wonder, and heart. Don't miss it.

Short walks on a chilly June Sunday... Thus ended my weekend. Tomorrow my world morphs into a blur of endless meetings with 20 bankers, lawyers, advisers, and advisers to the advisers, first in New York, than in Chile. The marathon ends with a marathon flight from Santiago to London, 18 hours including a layover in Sao Paulo, Brazil. You'll remember that London was supposed to be our layover, en route to Paris... It's all emblematic of this career: glamorous, but physically punishing...

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Sunday, June 19, 2005

My Buddha DNA

My knee is rapidly healing, I can bend all the way, it's just a little too sore for Mr. Treadmill. Today I was lost in books on tape of all languages & stripes - One could call it 'tryouts for summer vacation reading' - also, for long inter-continental flight reading. Finalists: "Girl With The Pearl Earring" By Tracy Chevalier, "Known World," the Pulitzer Price winner by Edward P. Jones about, among other things, black slave-owners, and "Wonderful Town," a collection of stories from New Yorker Magazine. Suggestions are welcome! Anyone?

I took many a short walk on this semi-cloudy, cool and brisk sort of June day. Mostly around the 'hood - never quite made it to Central Park or museums. I did, however, catch quite a few galleries yesterday.

My favorite installation was "Buddha DNA," by Long-Bin Chen at Frederieke Taylor Gallery - if you look closely at the photo (left), you'll see that the buddha as been carved out of old Manhattan Yellow Pages directory (have they stopped distributing Yellow Pages by now?). Also lovely: the colorful paintings of Whitney Bedford at D'Amelio Terras Gallery. Both of these galleries are on 22nd St in between 10th and 11th Ave. Peace and Love - Aaron

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Saturday, June 18, 2005

Up The Down Staircase

Haste makes waste! Last night I fiercely banged up my knee when, after taking the wrong escalator, I decided to reverse course, walk back up what was only three stairs, and save time. Christi and I were late for "Howl's Moving Castle," a lovely and astonishing animated film by Hiyao Miyazaki of "Spirited Away" fame. Full review forthcoming. Loews Lincoln Plaza is a vast, multi-level airport of a cineplex with escalators that go on forever. Bad idea, Aaron. I fell, banged up my knee, got yelled at by security, turned white and almost fained. There was blood everywhere. (I am now in the market for a new tan pair of trousers...) Soon Christi and I were surrounding by concerned employees, the house medic, and probably a plainclothes attorney : - ) At first I feared a trip to the emergency room and stitches, but the skin was punctured in two places, not separated.

The medic said it was fine. So Christi applied the house disinfectant and her very own bandages, and we joined the film, in progress, bloody pants and all. Today it's pretty sore, especially when bent, and I suspect I won't be on the treadmill for a week or so, which is unfortunate ahead of next week's marathon meetings, endless flights, and my subsequent vacation in Europe. I'll have to make up for it with smart nutrition. And maybe some weightlifting...

It looked sunny out when I began this post 20 minutes ago. But now clouds have gathered.

Below, some Cartoon relief.

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Friday, June 17, 2005

Stunning Skyline: Check out Thomas' page of high resolution pictures taken from the top of Sao Paulo, Brazil's Banespa building....

Friday Night Howl

Ah, happiness. I'm rested, it's a gorgeous day (sunny, 74F, breeze), and I'm meeting Christi tonight to see "Howl's Moving Castle," the critically acclaimed new film from Japan's master animator, Hayao Miyazaki, based on the children's novel by Diana Wynne Jones. I saw "Spirited Away," Miyazaki's last animated masterpiece, and it was like nothing I'd seen before - endlessly imaginative but organic and therefore real, and with a story that deserves to be as iconic as "The Wizard of Oz." I can't wait! Full report tomorrow...

I recently saw "The Incredibles" on DVD, which, as American animation goes, was superb, well-written, well-drawn, and deftly acted. The premise is that lawsuits have put superheroes out of business and forced them underground, trying to live a normal, middle class family life. Holly Hunter as the mother, ex-Elastigirl (pictured below), is particularly affecting with her combination of wisdom, sadness, and deep love for her family. Politically, this film is provocative in the sense that it protests equalization and defends the right of people with superior talents and abilities to exercise them - this is could be viewed as conservative (anti-socialism and anti-affirmative action) or liberal (pro-diversity, anti-discrimination, pro-individuality, pro-accepting people for who they are). It's much more to chew on that, say, a typical Disney outing...

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Thursday, June 16, 2005

From this week’s Onion, my favorite feature, “What Do YOU Think?

Question: “Last week, former FBI agent Mark Felt revealed that he was Deep Throat, the anonymous source that helped break the Watergate scandal. What do you think?”

Answer 1: "From the looks of his photo, Mr. Felt took this secret 99.5 percent of the way to the grave."
Answer 2: "Although his motives remain unclear, I definitely believe that Mr. Throat ultimately acted in the best interests of his nation."
Answer 3: "To Leonard Garment, who authored In Search Of Deep Throat and argued that former White House aide John Sears was the mystery informant, I'd like to say one thing: Ha ha ha!"
Answer 4: "I had my money on former Nixon speechwriter Ben Stein, largely because I am ignorant and he's been on TV."
Answer 5: " I'm just glad that longtime suspect Henry Kissinger has finally been vindicated. It's about time his good name was cleared of any lingering charges of right-doing."
Answer 6: " He didn't also kill JFK, did he? I'd like to tie up as many loose ends as possible this week."

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Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Skin-tense and Skin-genious

Gregg Araki's brilliant "Mysterious Skin," which I saw Sunday, is surely one of the year's best films and takes the director of "New Queer Cinema" to an entirely new level. It concerns two young men who were sexually abused as children and who've taken widely divergent paths, with Neil turning into an overly confident, wistful teenage hooker while Brian has withdrawn and convinced himself that he was briefly kidnapped by aliens as a child. These two parallel stories, masterfully written, acted, and directed, play out side by side in the remote boondocks of Kansas, and later interwine to a denouement that bring catharsis but not escape. Araki's casting is brilliant, with Neil played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt (pictured above), the adorable kid from the TV comedy "Third Rock From The Sun," reinvented here as a swaggering but haunted sex bomb, which makes this film oddly sexy given the gravity of its subject matter. The supporting players are excellent, the narrative structure and camerawork are ingenious, and the time period (1980s and early 1990s) is impeccably evoked. Happily, the scenes involving small children are handled obliquely, not explicity, conveying their emotional experience in a way that's palpable but still watchable. Highly recommended.


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Tuesday, June 14, 2005

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Monday, June 13, 2005

I'm Melting Away, Melting Away

It's North of 90F here in NY, and it feels brutal. I pretty much stuck to an air-conditioned crescent of my apartment, movie theaters, and eateries this weekend.

By the way, you can't fry an egg on the sidewalk. Cooking an egg requires temperatures in the 140F-150F range, unlikely to occur on any US sidewalk, even in Pheonix or Death Valley in August, confirms Steve Pool of KOMO 1000 News Seattle.

I confirmed my vacation plans, which would be my 92nd foreign trip. I'll be spending the week before July 4, and both its adjacent weekends, in Paris and Amsterdam with close friends. It may be my 26th trip to Europe, but I'm hoping it'll be my first experience driving there, as we plan to rent a car to go from Paris to Amsterdam and back.

You may wonder: 92nd trip? Hasn't Aaron travelled abroad 90 times? Correct! Three days before my vacation I'm set for a two-day foray down to Chile, follow-up on the project we commenced last month. That's three nights on airplanes in a five-day period. Yikes.


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Sunday, June 12, 2005

My Pink Sunset

Yesterday Peter & I saw a great documentary as part of this year's Newfest - New York Gay Lesbian Etc Film Festival - Yes, it's Pride Month again! "Pink Sunset Villa" is a Dutch film focusing on a gay senior assisted care facility founded a few years back in Amsterdam's lovely Jordaan district (picture Greenwich Village with canals). A brief American short film showed Colorado seniors facing the same issues. Aging, challenging for anyone, is particularly difficult for gay people who've struggled hard to build a life in an environment accepting - even affirming - of who they are. Nursing homes, for us, throw us back into mainstream society where people may be less accepting - even hostile. And yet there are an estimated 3 million gay Americans over 65 - many of them were not able to live openly in their era. Since I, like many in my generation, have lived openly, and am closing in on 50, these concerns have a special resonance.

It drove home for me, too, that being gay is a lot more than just sex - it's culture, socialization, and a way of experience and living the world - with our personal reality at odds with what society expected of us. That's why I roll my eyes whenever someone says 'it's just one part of me - I'm not defined by it.' Not exclusively defined, but certainly deeply affected, I think...


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Friday, June 10, 2005

Had some great sushi in the village last night with my friend & erstwhile co-worker Jon. He's already more than halfway through grad school. It's pouring summer rain.
I'm in mid-deal. A surprise trip to Chile may be in the offing. Or not.


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Thursday, June 09, 2005

Don't Hang Up, Don't Let Go

more Ambulance Ltd lyrics, from my favorite album of the year.. feeling good this morning, it's hot and summery out, looking forward to my first full healthy weekend at home in some time! Surf's Up! I miss swimming, and the beach... Cartoons follow this pretty photo:

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