dc writings index
Part IV - Part VI
9-06-11 - Real Cream in Rio - Part
Buenos Aires, BA. Their winter our summer 1965. What a trip. I don't remember having made any friends in Montevideo - it would be interesting to find Pat and see what he recalls about all this - but we made lots of good friends in BA. Right from the start. It's so easy to write about something that took place that long ago because the memories are few, only the ones that stand out can be found at all.
We were bumming pretty soon, having spent everything on steaks. We ran into a most interesting man named P. Adams Sitney who was conducting a film festival on the New American Cinema - art films. And guess who came? Just the type of folks we wanted to meet. We saw Adalusian Dog by Bunuel and Dali with its notorious scene that had given Sitney the title for a book he wrote on these films: The Sliced Eye. We don't hear about art films so much these days but back then it was an important category the way independent films are now. I'd seen some of the arty foreign films in Fort Worth like 8 & 1/2 and the Virgin Spring. I'd seen The Seven Samurai in Mexico City with Spanish subtitles. But I hadn't seen any of this genre of film - Kenneth Anger's Scorpio Rising was a trip, The Connection was the most conventional, like a play about some guys doing a documentary on junkies. For a few days we went to movies all day long thanks to P. Adams - and drank coffee and wine with art filmmakers and art filmgoers. Maybe there were some Warhol flicks like the thirty minute Kiss which was just that, but I saw them later so I'm not sure. I remember P. Adams (what did we call him?) had a beard and seemed older and wiser but now I see on the web that he was and is only six months older than I. I don't see any book named The Sliced Eye. Maybe he told me he was contemplating writing a book named after that scene. He was at Yale, is teaching at Princeton now, and has continued to be a leading expert on avant-garde cinema. Thanks P. Adams!
Then it was coffee shops with strong espresso and lengthy discussions of art, existentialism, poetry, literature, religion and mainly politics. Everyone was a Marxist or a Leninist or a Stalinist or a Communist or a Socialist and they all favored the overthrow or radicalization of their government and, unlike in the States during the Vietnam War, all the guys went into the army when they were called because the alternative was a few miserable years in windy, freezing Tierra del Fuego. There were right wingers too, somewhere but not where I was, and unrest. Several walls had swastika graffiti with messages like "Jews go away." Some of my best friends there were Jews, my girlfriend to be was Jewish. Jews were worried about the right wing whom they said tended to be anti-Semitic. It seemed like a period of political unrest. No one was sure what was going to happen. There was hope for a leftist government and fear of a rightist. Everyone right and left seemed to also call themselves Peronistas after the hugely popular nationalist exiled Juan Peron. Castro and especially their most famous home grown revolutionary, Che Guavara were also heroes to my friends there. Che was his nickname because he was from Argentina where everyone is Che. Really - at least all the young people called each other Che, especially when greeting.
Copying the style of local young men, Pat and I learned to snap our fingers the way they did when they walked down the street - not with the fleshy part of the thumb and fourth finger making the sharp sound, but the sides of the index and middle finger hitting against each other. Down there the snap started with the fleshy ends of the middle finger and thumb together and the index finger banging down on the middle finger. Hands typically went up and down in the US when fingers were snapping, especially when to music, but it wasn't necessary to make the snap. In Argentina and Uruguay, it was the quick jerk back up of hand that made the index finger collide with the middle finger which produced the sound. We practiced that a lot and got good at it. I'd have to keep trying for a while to be able to do it again.
As in Uruguay there was talk of a change of governments and of some danger. Allen Ginsberg had been there and hung with some of them and they talked about him and the Beats. There was some mention of Zen and satori which we had been hearing about and were sure we'd attain one way or another before long. They were curious about marijuana and psychedelics. Didn't see any but there was a psychologist who was using LSD for therapy though he had never taken it himself. I'd had peyote and mescaline in Mexico and the experiences were so unimagined, I told him I thought he should take it so he'd understand better how to relate to people on it and how to help them. He thought that was unprofessional. He was afraid to I thought. I remember his name too. I mentioned him and some of the others I met there to Ginsberg maybe six or seven years later and he remembered them and BA fondly - and had doubts about that therapist as well.
Pat and I were treated like honored guests. People were very friendly but also we were from the emerging counter culture which they regarded as more evolved in the States though we didn't experience it that way. We had longish hair and had smoked a lot of grass and read Beat poets and deep stuff like Lawrence Durrell. I played the guitar and sang Dylan and Beetle songs. We were never hungry. We were passed around from home to apartment to stay a day or more. We walked around a lot there too - I remember the Pink House with the same function as our White House but of a different color. Big big city. Like Montevideo, BA seemed so European in feeling - though I'd never been to Europe - no Indians, no Blacks. I was pretty crazy in a goofy way, would take some of that Dexedrine now and then and would get more crazy, babbling, intense. People were tolerant, open to crazy - but I think I made some people a little nervous. Pat was steady, balanced us out that way.
The women we met, the women on the streets, Argentine women in general seemed unusually beautiful to me. And they were aggressive. Both Pat and I were slow to pick up on that though. He was tall, blonde, and handsome too but a number of women had seemed interested in both of us. I remember two really nice young damsels taking us into a bedroom and showing us their condoms. I cannot imagine now how we got out of there without having sex. It's one thing to be shy and inexperienced, but unwilling? How could two of us not have jumped at it? Got me. We left them there and walked back to a trolley (I think) stop. We were in the suburbs crossing a bridge over a cement lined creek when something happened that made a lasting impression. A jeep went by with two men and a full grown male African lion with a large shaggy main and one of the men sitting next to it with his arm around it.
Pat and I were whoopin it up one night going from bar to bar with some people we'd met, getting crazy and dancing across an intersection six of us holding on to each others hips in a train. Two women we were passing stopped and laughed. One said, "Look! A snake! Let's join it!" and that's how Pat and I met Marta who called out and her more quiet friend Diana. We went with them to a party and made other new friends. After we'd been sitting and talking for ten minutes, Diana, who'd said almost nothing, took me into a dark room, pulled down my pants without saying a word, pushed me into a big comfy chair, pulled up her dress and... and I remember how wet she was. She became my BA girlfriend. Marta got Pat.
After six weeks Pat and I flew back thanks to money sent. We'd been broke almost the whole time and had lived like princes. Sad to leave, happy to bring back - more than memories, the knowledge of friendship, minds opened a bit more. We had a stop in Lima with expense paid hotel and meals. We also had a day in Mexico City. That gave me a chance to visit Leonel at Chalupus Y Pollo and tell him what happened in Rio, what happened that concerned him.
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