Cafés

Three days, non-stop rain

The romantic version of a rainy day

Three days of rain in Buenos Aires. While not as romantic as the rainy walk by a market in this original painting by Kathy Chester, and in spite of the fact that it has complicated, or at least messied, a couple of necessary chores, it has been creatively stimulating.

We awakened to a hard, steady rain Monday morning, following a weekend like the best of spring days in a place like San Diego, a sunny, mild Sunday when we went for a long walk around the large lake (twice) in the 3rd of February Park, which is just a few blocks from our apartment; watching the motley parade of other Sunday park walkers — fitness walking, jogging, biking, roller blading, and the like are quite popular in Buenos Aires parks, and 3 February being the largest and most interesting park in the city, attracts crowds on Sundays; it is something of a show for those of us who are walking for the sake of it, not to enhance our cardio fitness, those of us walking for the entertainment of checking out the fitness outfits, ranging from the absolutely silly to the sublime (somewhat enhanced by or defeated by the body within the costume).  Every Sunday there is a free public exercise activity lead by a wildly flamboyant gay fellow who exhorts the needy while dancing like a butterfly across the small platform, all to the monotonous but compelling boom-boom rhythm of a sort of music. It is officially Autumn here, but there are mostly one or another variety of palm in the park, which remain green and lively throughout the year, and as yet none of the other trees have begun to lose their leaves. It was a beautiful Sunday.

Tuesday, it rained all day. During a short respite, I managed to walk all the way to Mama Racha and stay dry, but got caught just five minutes into the thirty minute walk back in a downpour, and arrived home looking like, according to our lobby security fellow, a cat tossed into a river. An odd but useful feature of our building is that there is only one apartment on each floor, so the elevator opens onto the private foyer in front of the apartment’s entrance door, which allowed me to shed the soaked clothing and water-logged shoes in the foyer just outside the elevator before traipsing — old, naked, and damp — across the nice hardwood floors and the antique Afghani rug inside the apartment. It was the maid’s day off, otherwise she may have run screaming out of the place and we’d never see her again.

The rain continued Wednesday; sometimes only a foggy drizzle, but usually a steady rain. I am not in the habit of working in the study, or office, of the apartment, although I have sometimes sat on the balcony, surrounded by plants and flowers and the steady big city cacophony of honking horns, and gotten a little work done. But I am at the point in this novel where I would not like to let a whole day go by without getting at least a new page, so I got the tools out of my bag — the Pelikan pen, the yellow legal pad, the plastic envelope containing notes and a working calendar, and the finished printed pages — and sat at my work table. It’s a wonderful work table: had it built of ash to specific details by a carpenter in San Diego in 1986, and it has since traveled widely and almost always without damage; it is seven feet long, three feet wide, and three inches shorter than a standard desk (a typical desk is actually too high for writing, and definitely too high for typing). But there was no place on the table to work. In the cafe, I have an entire table, empty of everything but a coffee cup, bottle of mineral water, and a glass. My office table — it is a table not a desk because it has no drawers, it is just a table with two wide legs at each end — is so cluttered that there was no space left for me to put the papers on one side and the legal pad on the other. The space is consumed by a stupidly and wastefully large all-in-one printer, two back up external hard drives, the imac computer/monitor, keyboard and mouse, my Mac Powerbook, a lamp, a phone, a mug of pens and pencils, and a whole lot of need-to-do-something-about-this mail. Then I couldn’t find the note I had made the night before to remind me of how I intended to start chapter thirty. This pissed me off. There is a bookcase on the wall behind, but it is overflowing with not just books (I keep all my philosophy books there), but sunglasses, reading glasses, a tray holding my wallet, keys, coins, and various IDs to get into here and there, one entire row holding most of my Moleskine journals, some framed photographs, three book bags hanging off both ends,  an office tray holding stuff: paperclips, calculator, lens cleanser and rag, note pads, memory sticks, a gorgeous Laguole pocketknife, and a box of rollerball refills. So I spent the rest of the rainy day clearing things out and moving things around, and never did find that note about how to begin chapter thirty.

It’s Thursday morning, and it’s raining. This is not Seattle or Edinburgh. It doesn’t rain all that often in Buenos Aires, so there are no habits for going about life in a steady, chilly drizzle. I mean, look at what I’m doing now while waiting and hoping the rain will let up so I can make a run to the market for wine and cat litter (two of life’s key necessities), and then off to Mama Racha to get to work on not only today’s page, but yesterday’s page, too. But then, I did get all the philosophy books moved off the shelves in the office and to a bookcase in the sitting room that had previously held mostly DVDs, which are seldom watched and are just as happy now in a couple of closet drawers in one of the guest bedrooms, and then use the freed up shelf space to hold some of the clutter that had made my table unusable, so now if I am going to be forced to work here, there is a place to give it a try.

If you live in a rainy place, you are welcome for the laugh I have given you this morning.

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9 replies »

  1. As we leave our winter here you enter yours. I spent some measure of time last night drunk, leaning my forehead against a night-black window, my breath on the glass a white fur that swelled and lapsed, swelled and lapsed. It was a poem that stopped me as cold and sudden as a cramp. There was a wrongness in the language and as I sipped my amber concoction I considered those ill-fitted syllables and frayed thought as if they were not a thing of my making as much as something encountered, like a strange woman in the dark.

    I think I fell asleep there against the window, standing up. I woke up a few seconds later to my white breath wisping into dark and I knew I was ready to start working again on my novel.

    And this is what I’ve done. It’s like learning to live with a woman once the furnace blast of lust has paled to steady flame.

    Like the spring we enter now here in Texas, rain there bears the promise of new growth. I hope you find your chapter thirty note and if not I hope twenty-nine throws out another breadcrumb.

    • I chickened out and took a taxi to Mama Racha; if I didn’t need the walking exercise (about half an hour each way), I could take a taxi anytime, they are really cheap rides here — what takes me half an hour to walk costs about $2.50 by taxi. But I walked home.

      The good news is that in spite of not finding the elusive lost chapter 30 note, which was on a sticky thing, I burst out 2 full salvageable pages that are probably a better start than whatever I had on the note. So I am happy today, and besides, it stopped raining in the middle of the afternoon, and although pretty damn cool (I’m guessing low 60s), the sky has cleared and we’re back to San Diego on a nice day.

      I stopped getting drunk the day after my 40th birthday, when I managed to damn near poison myself drinking a whole quart of whisky. After survival became assured, I decided that it was stupid to feel as bad as I felt just so I could pretend I was feeling good the night before.

      I didn’t stop drinking. I am a full-fledged fan of drink, although at my age I try to limit the whisky to occasions; I drink wine everyday, and unless pretty damn sick, never miss a day. My limit is a bottle, but that includes a glass or two with lunch and finishing it with dinner. Well, I do put grappa in my espresso from time to time, what the grand Italians called cafe coreto, or corrected coffee.

      You need to outgrow the getting drunk stage sooner rather than later, is my sage old fart’s advice. You will pay a price at a time you are least able to afford it.

      I sure as shit do like the way you put your words together and the pictures you make with them.

      My last piece of sage old fart advice is to always stay in control of it, don’t let the fun of it overwhelm what you know to be the best way to tell your story.

      Thanks for coming by for a chat.

      • Oh, I rarely let it get to that drunk stage. I think I did last night because I knew I was shifting my focus again the next day. Plus my tooth was blooming tight and red in my cheek. One of those things.

        I gave up drinking to oblivion when I nearly killed myself with it in high school. The most I get now is a bit wobbly, a little sloppy in my typing and speech. It helps the sentences leave my head so that I sleep.

        Corrected coffee. Now that’s funny. I can’t wait to read about Danika.

        • I quit drinking hard after I almost drowned. In a shower. Which doesn’t mean that I quit drinking, either. An occasional whisky goes down nicely.

          Here I’m back to writing first drafts and it sure as hell is fun. It doesn’t rain but three times a year here. I sure do wish, though, that I could get the political noise out of my head. But goddamned if these unhinged teabagger bastards haven’t just been getting my goat as of late. I know I shouldn’t let them, but there they are all the same.

          So I have to ask, if it wasn’t the maid’s day off, how would you have entered the apartment?

          • We get a bit of that noise down here, but it’s certainly not a roar, and what we get is our own fault because we subscribe to about half a dozen journals and magazines, as well as the International Herald-Tribune. Argentina seems to be one of those rare world countries that really has almost no interest in what goes on in the States.

            Were it not the maid’s day off, she could have cleaned up the mess I made dripping through the apartment, but since she was off, I would have had to clean it up.

  2. I love the rain which is probably just as well considering where I live. I do however hate losing the quickly scribbled line of genius meant to spring board the next scene into being so full commiserations on that point. And the image of you walking damp and naked across your apartment…shall remain with me forever.

    • Yes, Tracey, considering where you live.

      When I spend time in London, and particularly up north in Edinburgh and Glasgow, I don’t mind the rainy, gray days, because I expect them, I dress for them, and everyone acts like life goes on in spite of the brutality of the cold and dark. And besides, isn’t that why one of the usual gods invented the pub?

      This book is so far along now that what happens next has a kind of inevitability, but I will never know, unless I come across it later, what genius idea I may have had; the one I came up with today is pretty whiz bang, though.

      Tracey, darling, I did have on underpants, so calm thyself.

  3. At my age, any time more than two articles of clothing are off, I am naked.

    We have a friend currently in Kabul who loves rug shopping, and since he gets free postage out of there, he buys rugs for us. So far we have received two large rugs, one woven in the earlier days of the 20th century, and two camel feed bags, which are quite beautiful. He is now on patrol to find us a particular type of rug, 8 X 12. There is something called a “salt bag” on its way now.

    Alcohol and us probably deserves its own post.

    I didn’t know yellow legal pads were cool, in fact, I only just started using them a week ago. I habitually used school type spiral bound lined notebooks, but after exhausting the last one I had, I was in the paper store and on a whim bought one yellow legal pad. It’s stunning how brilliant ink shows up on it, so I am new fan. The ones here are the most substantial pads I have ever seen.

    Buenos Aires is prone to those deluge sorts of tropical downpours, which are ferocious but don’t last very long — long enough to flood the streets, though. Steady chilly drizzling is not common, thankfully.

    The sun appeared in its usual manner mid-afternoon yesterday and today’s forecast is sunny and mild. Mama Racha, here I come!

    I don’t know if I would like that cafe just as much if I did not so much enjoy its name. Here is a Spanish site with half a dozen photos of the place. One picture shows a guy wearing a backpack leaning against the counter, stairs on the left side. I usually sit at a small table to the left of those stairs; there is another section of the cafe upstairs, including a large outdoor patio up there. Too distracting for me; I sequester below the stairs… the link —

    http://www.minube.com/rincon/bar-resto-mama-racha-barrio-de-palermo-viejo-a118414

  4. The problem with Buenos Aires is the overload of choices. This is a guess, but I bet it’s underestimated, there have to be thousands of wonderful cafes in this city. It is like walking down the cereal aisle in an American supermarket and being able to chose anything because there are 5000 types of breakfast cereal. How do you chose this one and abandon the 4999 others?

    Maybe the pressure of writing with a good pen on fine paper would have an interesting effect on what you write. Try it out of curiosity.

    Pressure can be a good thing, my dear.