Sunday, September 30, 2007


Not sure how it happened (well, yes, I know how it happened), but today I'm the mom of a teenager. Happy 13th birthday, spawn!

So Friday evening I went down to Musimundo, which is like Tower Records here, to look for a total of 13 CDs for my little teen. After the laptop tragedy of last month in which we lost 6,000+ songs on iTunes, not to mention the entire hard drive, spawn and I have been feeling a little morose, a little gobsmacked, as we shuffle about in our lives without an accompanying soundtrack.

I knew picking out 13 decent CDs wasn't going to be simple. This was no Amoeba on Sunset after all! First I had to scoot around aisles and displays of High School Musical 2, fighting the impulse to knock them down. Then there were the muy guapo Latin singers whose CD covers followed me wherever I meandered. I bet they sound as sweet as they look, but that's another research project altogether.

So after about an hour and a half, I left with these babies. It was the best I could do under the circumstances.

1. The Cure Greatest Hits (yes, I know that greatest hits are the refuge of losers, but it was all they had)
2. The Velvet Underground & Nico, Andy Warhol
3. The White Stripes, Icky Thump
4. Make Some Noise, The Campaign to Save Darfur: The Songs of John Lennon (featuring a lot of cool people)
5. Coldplay, a Rush of Blood to the Head (I swore years ago I'd never own Coldplay...does this mean Barbara Streisand isn't too far behind...?)
6. Arcade Fire, Funeral (oh how I heart this album)
7. Green Day, American Idiot (replacement album)
8. Smashing Pumpkins, Zeitgeist (woohoo, never thought I'd see another album by these guys...)
9. This Is It: The Best of Faith No More (introducing band to spawn)
10. Gorillaz, Demon Days (replacement album)
11. Red Hot Chili Peppers, Greatest Hits (spawn's been singing Californication a lot he trying to tell me he's homesick or have we just seen too many billboards of that David Duchovny show?)
12. The Beatles, Love
13. Fall Out Boy, From Under the Cork Tree (this was recommended to me by my awesome 6-year-old student, Lars)

[A side note: It's amazing how alive and well the 80s is at Musimundo. Bands I hadn't thought of in decades (OK so that's a blatant lie; after all, I do own the wondrous Magic Mic) were overflowing with greatest hits and retrospectives and sometimes--horror of horrors--a dedication "in the style of..." album.]

Spawn also got Guitar Hero for his birthday (bought with the money Titi Lalah sent--thank you, Sarah!), which is this ridiculously weird music video game for PlayStation 2 where you simulate popular rock songs on a miniature Gibson. I tell ya, you haven't lived until you've watched a 13 year old rockin' out to "Surrender" by Cheap Trick. MY EYES! A positive fallout is that he's starting to mention wanting guitar lessons. That's rather like me vowing to take voice lessons after copious hours karaoking. It's heartwarming how the apple doesn't fall far from the tree...

Gotta go--he says he's dedicating a song to me called "Mother" by some band called Danzig. Um.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

My Swag Bag

With two impending visits in November by four people, I've calculated a total of 200 possible pounds for checked-in baggage, of which surely a pound or ten could be set aside for little ol' me? So with those extremely selfish thoughts firmly in place, I proceeded to create a list for what we in Hollywood refer to as the swag bag, the ultimate in party-favors gifting.

Take heart, dear family, this is mostly tongue-in-cheek. Your presence is all I ever need to warm the cockles of my cold, cold heart.

- Diorshow mascara
- Aveda lip tint, "spice"
- Wasabi tamaried almonds from Trader Joe's
- A package or two of Just Mangoes (unsweetened, unsulfured) from Trader Joe's
- Emergen-C, any flavor
- Nico wafers
- Annie's Naturals salad dressing, Goddess flavor (as opposed to Green Goddess, which is like totally gross)
- A pound or two of nutritional yeast flakes (from any health-food store)
- Maggi seasoning, a small bottle
- A bag of Reese's miniature peanut butter cups
- Any issue of Entertainment Weekly or Vanity Fair
- Hostess cupcakes, the 100-calorie version (don't ask)
- Altoids peppermint gum (cheapest from Trader Joe's)
- A bag of chocolate chips
- Cans of Maesri brand curry paste, panang or red
- A jar of Patak biryana curry paste
- Maple syrup, pure grade A (cheapest from Trader Joe's)
- Dermologica, daily microfoliant

One Night in Mumbai

They say if you hang out in Argentina long enough, you'll start to think the ethnic food there is decent due to unconsciously lowered expectations. I scoffed at the theory when I arrived here 14 months ago, because dude--there seemed no way I was ever gonna warm up to the stuff. Chinese noodles here are made with spaghetti, fer christ's sake, and when I think of how in Monterey Park you could get hand-pulled noodles of every consistency and length, it is to weep. As if that ain't bad enough, sushi is basically a prepositional tryst involving two fixtures: Mr. Salmon and Miss Cream Cheese; i.e., you can have the salmon on top of the cream cheese or the cream cheese on top of the salmon or--if you're feeling super frisky--hide and seek the salmon inside the cream cheese! (Watch out for that sprig of parsley, kids!)

Anyway, I've been on a bit of an Indian food bender lately and miss the half-hour drive to Artesia, LA's Little India. So for the last couple weeks I managed to trek al centro 3 times(!) to Katmandu, Katmandu, and Mumbai. Sorry spawn. My dear mom used to lament that if I could only channel my obsessive foodieness toward something worthwhile, I would be someone really important by now, like maybe even a homeowner. Sorry, mac...

So Katmandu and Mumbai are owned by the same people and offer basically the same menu. Katmandu seemed to have a better Bollywood ambiance, mostly because both times we were there they played the soundtrack to Devdas, causing me to swoon to the images of Shah Rukh Khan in my head. Mumbai had a more intimate setting. Several times throughout the evening, we'd have English-speaking people nod and smile our way as if to say, yeah, we're travelers too.

Anyway, I must say that food wise, I was nicely surprised: The curries weren't too shabby. We ordered the chicken in buttery tomato-cardamon sauce (an odd description but I think they just wanted to differentiate it from their ordinary curry), the mushroom-pea (ordinary) curry, and biryani, which was a heaping bowl of basmati rice tossed with just the (ordinary) curry. The sauces were thick enough, spicy enough, pungent enough, passing my usual litmus test of "Can you spot the asafatida?" The naan was too chewy though and didn't have nearly enough garlic. Plus, I doubt they really had a tandoori in the kitchen. The one heartbreaking disappointment was that neither restaurant offered chai tea on their menu! I mean, (1) How fucking hard is it to make chai tea? You already have the spices! (2) How in clear conscience can you call yourself an Indian restaurant without the fucking chai tea? and (3) How fucking hard is it to make chai tea?!

Oh and I nearly forgot about the samosas--they were pretty tasty considering these are Indian restaurants in Buenos Aires, Argentina! Always with the qualifiers... I should tell you that I'm quite picky about samosas, and the best ones to me are those whose pastry crusts recall my older sister's fried coconut-banana fritters. And these suckers had just a touch of Sarah's batter. Mmm...

So was the food actually decent or have my expectations been lowered? I have to say, yes.

It's No Creamed Corn. Still.

I live for limited-edition flavors. It's nothing I'm proud of, but it's a passion I heartily nurse and share with my dear friend Emu.

I'll never forget the crazed look on her face last summer when, lollygagging at the front counter of Rite Aid, she serendipitously spotted the Elvis limited-edition banana-flavored Reese's peanut butter cups and proceeded to toss fistfuls of them in front of the cashier's startled face. I don't need to tell you how blissed out we felt at that moment (we were already on our way to my brother's wedding and riding high on adrenaline). I theorize that a good part of the pleasure lies in the ironic indulgence of white-trash junk-food binging--it's not like you'd normally eat like that! Be real, bitch. Rather it's kinda like how you'd shop and shop and shop whilst on a holiday--feeling totally justified because you may never see such precious crap again. It's kitsch collecting in food form. Have I defended it enough? Good.

When I lived in Bangkok, my greatest source of comfort was walking into a Burger King (or was in McD?) and ordering a whipple-scrumptious creamed-corn pie for breakfast! These pies had the familiar deep-fried grease-dripping rectangular-crust goodness, but instead of canned apple pie filling or the always too-tart cherry, you get a deliciously aromatic coconutty gelatinous goop complete with corn chunks. Three words: comfort food heaven. And I do believe it started out as a limited edition but passed its probationary period with flying colors. Asians lovvve creamed corn, or at least this Asian does. Mmmm...creamed corn (/Homer)

It was also Emu who introduced me to several exotic versions of the KitKat, from cantaloupe melon (as opposed to honeydew) to coffee to malt to blueberry. There probably exist dozens of flavor permutations of the KitKat, mostly in Japan. (BTW, have you ever asked yourself how one culture can be cool enough to invent not only karaoke but melon-flavored everything? It's awe-inspiring.) The coolest part is you can usually get these flavor specialties off eBay. God, how I love modern living!

So anyhow, all this blabbering is really to introduce...ta da...the Dulce de Leche Oreo, an Argentine store staple. Is it tasty? Oh HELL NO, unless sawdust texture is your thing. Still, I can't help but grin every time I see a package. I'm willing to bet the Japanese have more exotic Oreos. (Off to search on eBay...)

Friday, September 28, 2007

Takin' a Walk in My Nabe: You Come Too.

Is This Why Most Fundies Dress Funny?

I don't have a god, unless you count the almighty Google, but I suppose if I did I'd pray for something other than Levi's clothing wear. Yuk.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

This Is Why I Love Argentina: Post Numero Uno

Who doesn't rejoice in a good bargain--or better yet, freebies? Grammarians, avert your eyes, because I dare say that no one doesn't rejoice! Thus, humankind everywhere will be glad to know that coffee beverages in Argentina come equipped with a tasty sidekick. The edible Ethel. The carby Sundance Kid. The Jan Brady of baked goods. This topic is so dear to my heart that I've informally documented all the kibbles tossed my way. Among them (remember, size varies, as it invariably does):
- wafer rolls (flavas: chocolate, marroc)
- biscotti
- pound cake
- brownie
- fruit cake (yuk--even I have standards)
- cookies of all permutations
- chocolate

Check out my all-time favorite score: TWO saucers of candy! (No one doesn't love candy!) Now if I could only remember where the hell it was... (Why yes, there was whiskey in the coffee. Why do you ask...?)

Monday, September 24, 2007

Tropic of Cancer

The true traveler is he who goes on foot, and even then, he sits down a lot of the time.

It's not Thanksgiving or New Year's Eve or somesuch nostalgia-laden holiday. Rather it's another ordinary unordinary day in the life I lead here, where I'm separated latitudinally from everyone I love (minus spawn of course). Melancholy, she is a wickedly persistent mistress (think Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction) and dogs me even in the new hemisphere. But there's just cause.

Sometimes I think I'm insane to be so far away from everyone. Is the experience worth it? I am not always sure. This drive I have (which I've always had) to be a stranger wherever I am, to not belong, can be a real bitch. It forces me to uproot and cast my wandering eye long and wide in search of the elusive anything but here... surely the clichéd battle cry of a broken person.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not saying I regret my decision to come here. It's more complicated than that. It's just that at the end of the day, no matter where you are, the only thing that stands out are the people nearby. And if the people nearby aren't the ones you love because you hauled ass 6,000 miles away, then you got some 'splaining to yourself to do.

Maybe what I should take from all of this is simply how lucky I am to have a wonderfully funny, unconditionally loving, and amusingly dysfunctional family--extended and core. I'd be insane not to miss that, right?

Disclaimer: I heart the men (i.e., father, brother, brother-in-law, cousins' husbands, sister's living-in-sin partner) in my life just as much as I do the women. Unfortunately, they're harder to herd into a group and memorialize by photo.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

My Café Can Kick Your Starbucks' Ass

My day here is never complete without a visit to my beloved café, situated right at the Borges train station a mere 1 1/2 blocks away from my house. I so love everything about this place, from the dark wood paneling and cramped picnic table seating to the lady customer that offers daily tarot readings, although at times the number of smoking customers can put a damper on my enthusiasm (at which point I just amble on home to return when the air's cleared somewhat).

Like all cafés in Buenos Aires, the menu isn't just coffee drinks but booze as well. So you can have a daiquiri along with your café con leche, or a daiquiri in your café con leche--not really, although they offer a cappuccino with Tia Maria or rum or whiskey, such a nice afterschool treat on days when parent politics can prompt you to drink away your consciousness. It's just so freakin' awesome how win/win (cue Michael Scott) the concept of a café bar really is...

My beverage of choice is bewilderingly confusing to the Argentines. I like my café con leche y con crema, and here it is usually con leche or con crema. If you prefer both, then you're better off ordering what's considered a cappuccino Italiano, except I want my milk and cream without that heaping tablespoon of cinnamon and cocoa powder, thankyouverymuch. Which is why this Borges café is so great. They like me, they really, really like me (cue Sally Field), and they're willing to put aside their better judgment to bring me what I want without a suggestion to the contrary (yes, this regularly happens in other establishments). One afternoon, faster than you can even say "put those cancer sticks away, bitch," my beverage of choice was dutifully delivered to me by the hot young man in attendance, the Argentine Gael Garcia Bernal (ladies, I will offer up evidence to support), all without my asking for it! It's practically Cheers minus the "Norm" part.

Enjoy these photos of my café. My café. It has the same pretentious ring as my fiancé. I hope the dingo doesn't eat my ... (cue that other sitcom).


It's too bad tits is the one area I could actually use less of. Oh to see a store called FLAT STOMACH or HEIGHT. I'd pay in top dollars, screw the exchange rate.

This Is Why I Hate Argentina: Post Numero Uno

The first in a series. Stay tuned for my This-Is-Why-I-Love-Argentina version. Ooh...which will rack up more posts? It's a nailbiter...

Dog Poop

Yes, it's oh-so clichéd. So much so that I'm not even gonna go into it and you can't make me. Suffices to say, no one follows the levantelo sign. No one. None. And that oft-heard thing about how it's the same in Paris. Bull(pun)shit. Even my little French students tell me the streets of Paris are less littered with crap, literally and figuratively.

Here's another example. Yesterday, a caravan of cars barrelled down Avenida Corrientes blasting some prerecorded endorsement of yet another corrupt politician. However, instead of confetti for this ticker-tape parade, brochures--the kind originating from 8 1/2 x 11 papers--were hauled into the sky in greedy handfuls. Unbelievable. My beautiful little cobblestone street got blanketed with stupid brochures that I dare say no single soul will bother to pick up and read.

Equal-Opportunity Fast Food

Kosher, at a mall no less. And with beef tallow-less French fries for the two or three vegetarians who still go here--yes, I know they serve Garden patties but wouldn't those touch the same Doble Cuarto de Libra grill?--McDonalds is your place to be in the 21st century.

Actually, I have a perverse affection for the place as in Argentina, they mostly exist in the form of McCafés with an adorable coffee bar offering stuff like Cappuccino Vienne, Cappuccino Mocca, and Cappuccino Tentación. Yum. Also, maracuyá, passion fruit, seems to be the fruit flavor of choice and McCafé has Torta Maracuyá, described as: base de queso blanca descremado con mousse de maracuyá y naranja (ok, so the naranja detracts from its overall value somewhat). And with McDelivery, it's just an hour and a half away! Yes, it takes that goddamn long so by the time the grub arrives, you're fully wallowing in the guilt before the pleasure.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Spring Day

Tomorrow is my birthday and as befitting such an occasion, here's my list of things to do before I die. Please god, let me accomplish at least 22% of my goals. Any higher might mark me as a happy person and be too much of a paradigm shift.

Apropos, I made an appointment with our international healthcare guy to up my life insurance 3x. So now I'm worth almost 100K and--in keeping with the great American tradition--way more dead than alive.

Stuff to do before I die, by no means a complete list and in no particular order (for example, I'm not opposed to #11 before #10):

1. See Angkor Wat again
2. See Paris again
3. Be fluent in French again
4. See Bangkok again
5. Watch spawn get into a top-tier college
6. Live somewhere cool in Asia
7. Visit India
8. Achieve Peace of Mind (or 22% of it)
9. Meet Leonard Cohen
10. Date Leonard Cohen
11. @#$% Leonard Cohen
12. Write a memoir
13. Be only 5% overweight
14. Wear white without staining
15. Go on a fucking cruise, the ultimate old-age fun
16. Get upper body strength
17. Watch the "The World at War," a complete DVD set
18. Execute the entire choreography of "Mahi Ve" flawlessly
19. Tour Laura Ingall's original homes and homesteads
20. Write the founder of spawn's old school and thank him

Today, being the first day of spring, was a huge deal in Buenos Aires. Droves of teenagers littered my view of the Rio de la Plata, necking and frolicking away under the sky blue sky (just like that Wilco song). I will say that it's rather cool to have my birthday in the spring rather than the fall. Fall birthdays have always suited my rather sombre nature: I take stock of my life and vow to put to use whatever renegade wisdom's come my way. Spring birthdays, on the other hand, invite a certain reckless, lawless response to aging. They say: Fuck responsibility, you still have health and libido, so go out and put some spring in your step, you hawwwt whippersnapper!

Sunday, September 16, 2007

La Femme Negrita

In certain circles in Los Angeles, you can get tarred and feathered for merely whispering about stereotypes. So imagine my shock (and truth be told, curious delight, because after all this is why I expatriated, to revel in what I like to call the jolt of being not-home) when I spotted a little brand called Negrita in the aisles of my local Coto. I just had to buy a Negrita anything so I could stare into its awesomeness: the charcoal skin smeared with thin, white dust, and those fantastically engorged ruby red lips.

The Negrita brand. It's just the Argentines’ way of worshipping the exotic, no? When I asked my Spanish teacher why her fellow countrymen had such a penchant for black caricatures, she replied nonplussed, "because we don't see a lot of them walking around." Duh!

So imagine my giddiness--the kind that sneaks up on you when you know you're about to do something naughty--when not too long after this sighting, I happened upon a bakery in Palermo full of negrito fudge balls. There they were on display, a whole tray of googly eyes. How could I refuse such cuteness? Trust me, dear readers, they were muy deliciosos and with nary a touch of dulce de leche, making them a dessert anomaly here.

My flippancy aside, the reason negrito fudge balls can exist here, whereas in the US such a bakery would be deemed the scene of a hate crime, is that for the most part black latinos just aren't present. Thus, we're left with an age-old sugary koan ... if there's an offensive tasty snack in a bakery but no black people to object to it, does it make it racist?