Monday, April 25, 2011

Back in the States, Top 11 of Coachella '11

So I've been back in LA for a little over a month now, and though I miss South America a ton it's been nice catching up with friends and spending some much-needed time with family and at the beach. I'm excited and grateful to be starting a part-time gig tomorrow as a night editor for an internet startup downtown. Sounds like a promising product, so who knows.

In other recent news, I attended the Coachella Valley Music Festival last weekend. Despite some bad horse allergies on the polo fields, staggering daytime temperatures and over 80,000 awful displays of hipsteria, I had an amazing time and saw some amazing performances. Of the 34 performances I witnessed, I present to you my Top 11 of '11:

11. Cut Copy:

10. Awkward white people (myself included) during "Black & Yellow":

9. The National:

8. Chromeo's "Intro/Don't Turn The Lights On" (never gets old):

7. Nas & Damian Marley (covering "Could You Be Loved"):

6. Robyn:

5. Arcade Fire Balloon Drop:

4. Death From Above 1979 Reunion:

3. Some Obscure Band from NYC on Day 3:

2. Chemical Brothers:

1. Sharing the sunset with Ms. Lauryn Hill:

Honorable Mentions That Could Have Easily Made This List: The Twelves (entire set available to stream on YouTube), Crystal Castles, CSS, Kings of Leon, Interpol

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Life Goings On

Don't ever underestimate the awakening experienced when taking off your sunglasses after a long sunny day...

I'm interspersing a few photos from a trip to the Recoleta Cemetery as I provide a quick update on life since my last massive post. The Cemetary is arguably the most important museum and/or cultural landmark of Buenos Aires, and I'm grateful to walk by the darkly glowing magnificence of these modern sarcophaguses (sarcophagi?) almost every morning to get to my bus stop. Interesting note: many of the coffins in these grave edifices are above ground along with family members and possessions, though some have stairways underground. Walking through the great aisles of this institution feels a lot like strolling through a giant exhibit of Argentina's history and the historic personalities that must have inspired the most ornate tombstone tributes I've ever seen.

Got a couple of new gigs. Numero uno, prepping peeps for the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) exam. For those of you unfamiliar, it's a certificate that many universities and colleges in English-speaking countries require for admission. Most of my clients, however, are trying to achieve a certain high score for their future employers in the US or Canada. This job is so hot right now as my students are on summer/holiday vacation and willing to take classes at my apartment, so there's no commute for yours truly. I also got a new night student, a financial analyst at a huge international bank, whose office neighboring Luna Park has a breathtaking view of Puerto Madero and the east coast. Definitely an ideal location to end a long day.

Missing family, friends and the City of Angels heavy this holiday season as I continue to stream the Lakeshow on my PC (internet rules). Side note: really interested to see how critics stack up their best of 2010 lists for music as it has delivered one of the richest assortments in some time.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

La Comida!

Wouldn't be Thanksgiving if I didn't get a leg.

Thanksgiving was a huge success at Casa de California. We cooked up a storm for 12 friends and admirers, and only had to substitute one ingredient: cranberries. They don't really know what those are here so we made cherry sauce instead with some lemon juice to jump start the tart factor and it rocked.

A table full of extranjeros.

Enough with what we're bringing to the table. How about that Argentine cuisine? Well, most portenos have heart diseases when they're older, especially men (Como se dice "diet"?) as the culture hasn't quite adopted basic nutritional understandings such as avoiding fried food or red meat, or fried red meat. That's not to say that there aren't affordable alternatives to the standard Argentine regiment, but these aren't so popular with the locals.

Lunch time: Milanesa sandwich (left) and empanada (right)

No one can talk about Argentine cuisine without discussing minutas (fast food). You can find freshly made milanesas, essentially fried breaded meat (steak or chicken), at every porteno restaurant and market in this city. Same goes for empanadas -- meat pastries usually stuffed with chopped peppers, onions and eggs -- which are pretty much the go-to cheapest option and can be the most filling meal in the city. A milanesa, also known as a "milanga," can go for anywhere between 10 and 25 pesos (2.5-6.5 USD) depending on what you get on it, while empanadas usually sell for 3 or 4 pesos per pastry. A milanesa completa/suprema is the Argentine equivalent of "the works" and comes with ham, lettuce, tomato, and sometimes an egg on top of the breaded meat. Another popular lunch dish is the tarta (tart), which can be as simple as spinach and cheese or as complex as a triple or quadruple layered pie.

Don't feel like sleeping? Look no further.

Following the workday, at around 5 PM, locals will sit down for some yerba mate (highly caffeinated herbal tea) and facturas (pastries) for their merienda (tea time). Some people add spices or orange juice to their gourd of mate (pictured above) to counter its naturally powerful earthy flavor. You traditionally use a bombilla (metal straw with a strainer at its base) to drink this afternoon delight. The term "facturas" literally means "receipts": a name that caught on when Italian expat anarchists were running bakeries and coining anti-establishment names for their pastries during the first half of the twentieth century. Facturas come in many varieties (see picture below) and are insanely cheap. Many of these still retain the names the anarchists had given them, such as bolas de fraile ("balls of the priest") or vigilantes (derogatory name for cops). Many facturas are filled with dulce de leche (milk caramel, as you can see in the powdered ones pictured below).


Dinners usually take place at around 10 or 11, though this Yankee likes to grub earlier most nights when I'm not eating out. The "eating in" strategy is particularly viable in Buenos Aires as many affordable (and not-so-affordable) dinner spots deliver free of charge. If there's one website that can save an expats' life on a Sunday night...

A helpful guide for most restaurant menus in Buenos Aires (courtesy of

If you decide to dine out, the main staples of Buenos Aires dinner cuisine are parrilla, asado, pizza, and pasta. Parrilla is served as an assortment of different parts of the cow or pig, while asado is the equivalent of ordering a nice cut of steak. Despite my infatuation with empanadas, I try not to eat too much red meat but the steak here is impossibly good considering how simply it is prepared and how cheaply it's priced. It comes down to the quality of Argentine meat (which has been its staple good for most of its history due to decades of misdirected economic planning) and the way it is cooked in antique open ovens.

Special delivery: pizza jamon y morrones (ham and roasted red peppers)

The pizza here is nothing short of spectacular for similar reasons. And while the ingredients are ostensibly simple, most of the open-oven firepit cuisine at pizza bars here would be considered gourmet in the States. The fact that many of these places deliver free of charge (one of our favorites delivers on rollerblades) only adds to the convenience and affordability that makes Buenos Aires food culture so great. You can see my favorite kind of 'za pictured above, which offers a unique sweet-and-savory balance and is pretty common to find at any of the myriad eateries claiming to specialize in the art. Though usually not as remarkable as the pizza (I'm not the biggest fan of cream sauces), you can find various types of pastas at most sit-down restaurants around town, including tallarines (spaghetti), ravioli, and gnocchi.

Cazuela de calabazas y lomo (squash and sirloin stew).

One of the more popular and reasonably priced restaurants in the city, located a few blocks from my apartment, is known for their traditional Argentine stews known as cazuelas (pictured above). Many of these cazuelas are basically empanadas in a potato or squash stew: chock full of meat, peppers, onions, and egg. Add in a couple of olives, maybe some cheese on top and a lot of deliciousness and you've basically arrived at my new favorite winter's meal. It's summer here, but it's just too good and cheap to pass up. I pretty much eat at this place once a week minimum, as one of my missions while I'm down here is to try everything on its diverse menu.


Monday, November 22, 2010

Speaking of...

"Double Sunrise" at Terrazas del Este. Morning after Halloween 2010

Between the rain and the plumbing in our apartment, this city's drained me today (ugh). Found out both friends I came here with will be returning home sooner than I thought (around mid January) which leaves yours truly in the Good Airs without his homeboys for at least two months. Their return to Cali will certainly mark a new chapter in my life down here: a chapter sans constant reminders of my past home, without the temptation to speak in English, and a chapter that might just teach me as much as I've learned since I arrived in Buenos Aires. I'll miss them greatly, but it puts some good old carpe diem pressure on the next nine or so weeks as their time in this great city counts down.

Speaking of countdowns, we booked the beautiful beach town of Mar del Plata for our New Year's celebrations. Now, upon reading this you've got to be asking yourself one or two questions, "How did Nate come up with such a seamless segue into this paragraph?" or "You're in BUENOS AIRES, why would you want to leave for NYE?" Apparently a lot of places close down for El Nuevo Ano, and the majority of the city's youth goes summer vacationing to beach cities like Mar del Plata or Uruguay's Punta del Este. Really stoked about Mar del Plata as I've heard nothing but great things about it's summers, and the pictures of it (see below) remind me of one of my all-time favorite cities, Tel Aviv. The open air and sea breeze will no doubt provide a nice escape from our big city's humidity that loves to trap itself between tall buildings and piles of mierda de perro left on the sidewalk for the early morning hose-down.

New Year's 2011: Mar del Plata, Argentina

Speaking of coastal escapes, I took a boat over to Colonia, Uruguay on Sunday to renew my three month tourist visa. Had a great time riding scooters up the rustic coast, where the sights and smells of small town families' weekly seashore asados (BBQ) immediately reveal the essential feelings of summer. The actual "city" was a bit of a ghost town on Sunday, which meant less traffic for scooting and horseback riding (:D). All in all a perfect way to spend a day of rest. Hopefully I'll be writing about more extensive travels in the near future.

Speaking of writing, I've started writing a comedy based loosely on this trip. A bit dark, but I think it's a great time to test my strengths and weaknesses as a creative writer while I'm in the life-mode of exploration. Last week I had the opportunity to attend a series of book presentations at a beautiful bookstore in Palermo, where I met celebrated Argentine author and singer Pablo Ramos. You can read about the presentation at the bookstore's blog. Mr. Ramos was immediately engaging, neurotically comic, and remarkably inviting to me considering the general lukewarmth that initially receives a youngish male "Yankee" in this town. Though I didn't completely understand the subject matter of the books being promoted, I tried to absorb as much as I could of the confidence and creative energy that surrounded these native authors.

Speaking of absorbing...okay, that's enough already. Happy Turkey Day everyone! Let's go Lakeshow!

Monday, November 15, 2010


...Was insane.


1) 45,000+ in attendance, making it once again the largest electronic music festival in South America.

2) Started at 3PM and ended around 6:30AM.

3) Bad Boy Orange (Local Argentine Drum n' Bass/Dubstep outfit) showed us some new dance moves.

4) Local portena Romina Cohn played an excellent hour and a half set at the Delta 90.3 Tent.

5) Calvin Harris' DJ set tore up Arena 1 with a mix of his new material including my three favorite tracks from his new album, "You Used to Hold Me," "I'm Not Alone," and "Flashback." His set also included an assortment of popular spins as well, such as Daft Punk's "One More Time." Extreme lighting blasted an even more extreme crowd in the small tent, with a few guys and gals climbing and dancing on unstable light fixtures, all the while giving event security a heart attack.

6) Fatboy Slim closed the show and ushered in the morning sun with some great classics and absolutely stunning visuals. At 47 years old, that bloke still kills it.

7) David Effing Guetta (featuring illuminated robots on stilts).

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Back To College...

Last week I sat in on a legal communications class at Universidad de Buenos Aires. The class was held in the Communications and Political Science Building near the beautiful and young area of Palermo. Though I couldn't understand the majority of the lesson (obviously taught in Spanish), I thoroughly enjoyed the tact and style of the professor, who reminded my friend of Santa Clause.

Coming from a large public university which has a student body boasting a certain degree of power (if not practically at least spiritually), I felt an immediate connection when walking through the tall, urban educational edifice. And like Berkeley graduates, UBA's alumni will admit to the sense that one is just a number in the grand scheme of the school's evolution and that you need a great deal of self-reliance and a formidable work ethic to succeed. But I was amazed at how firmly UBA's student presence defines the university's sense of life. There is not an empty wall in the building. Beautiful, provocative art and political messages tattoo and drape the halls of the university's most outspoken department: a stunning mosaic that leaves little doubt as to who is in control. Walking through these halls was like moving through a museum, or some intellectual art cave that explodes off of each pillar of the school's foundation.

Though the facilities are by no means state-of-the-art, and students often protest (vocally and violently) that their school should invest more in upkeep and maintenance, keep in mind that this huge and prestigious school is free for the public, unlike my alma mater and many other public universities in the United States. And unlike universities in the United States, there is no such thing as an undergraduate: UBA students are committed to their area of study for 6-8 years. The sense of commitment to study is therefore clear and tangible in the classroom, and professors are likewise committed to the students' passion in their future. Even in a less interesting class like legal communications at 7PM on a Friday, over the course of two hours at least twelve different students engaged in extended commentary on the subject and articles being taught.

Game days, greek life and other Yankee distractions don't exist here: the school spirit rests in its distinguished alumni, intellectual and creative freedom, and finding yourself amongst the multitude. Though I couldn't understand every word or concept being discussed, the passion was apparent in the students' voices, and I look forward to sitting in on and understanding more classes.

See below for more of the wonderful art in the halls of the Comm & PoliSci Building.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Photos - September & October 2010

Congreso - Front

Congreso - Rear

Brick Church in San Telmo

San Telmo


Peru St., San Telmo


Crazy Street Art of Dog Warriors

Outside of a restaurant called "Comics" near my work.

Chinatown...more like China block.

Where my dogs at?