Tuesday, November 02, 2010

From Arequipa to Cordoba and Wine Country AR

Happy Tuesday! Usually I would've said this twenty times already to customers and prospects going through my daily currency call list. Instead I'm writing from Mendoza Argentina, in the thick of wine country in our make shift home for the next couple of days looking at our hand delivered whopping breakfast. This includes fresh the the local bakery (we're staying in a small hamlet 30 minutes outside of downtown Mendoza) of sugary croissants, ham, cheese and buttered sandwiches, fresh coffee, tea, another basket of various breads and who enormous piece of chocolate cake and of course freshly squeezed OJ, holla.

To say our latest crib is re dunk u lis is an understatement, our roofs of rest continue to escalate, I've video'd much of it however due to weak internet signals have been unable to upload and share. In any event a lot has transpired since I last left you on the write so let's get to the business.

Last words on Arequipa and the Colca Canyon. One item I omitted regarding the Colca Canyon in the last entry was day 2, after our hiking expedition we were led to the canyons natural hot springs for a dip. This was indeed a highlight for the kid, natural hot springs seemed just what the doctor ordered and I got down right giddy having not known this was an element attached to our script of day II in the canyon. Also on the bus trip reviewing stunning views we were informed from our guide that the best views were actually from the bottom up. Also that for adventurous travelers the canyons hot springs also had an active zip line built into the landscape. "Should we do it?" And a bubbly summer crush had asked, "Of course!" I replied seeing to it that not so much as one stone be left unturned as we take South America. I assured her that I was a veteran of zip lines from my Hayden days to which she suspiciously acquiesced my confident thread of past zip line triumphs. The Aussie boys were psyched for everything zip line as the older couples contemplated such a feat battling their male genitals keeping face of in the face of other courageous and single i might add males. The older "wives" it seemed were attempting to squelch the visions their husbands zip line aspirations an admission of male potency was bringing about. "Honey your knees, your medications, your arthrightis, your back, your last accident." The voices of reason were summoned from the pulpit of accidents past but not from summer, she was excited and would do it as long as I did and after all, "it's just a zip line." Arriving to the volcano's natural "hot springs" our host pointed to the zip lines first and second post, the line and the where to pay the fee. The older husbands bowed down to their older laddies concerns, "What about the grand kids." And I took one look at the height of the second post as Sky Diver carnival ride anxiety gripped my chest, "No fucking way I'm doing that." I had my own vault of accidents past and rapid falls of personal anxiety related specifically to height induced free falling tasks as such. "But just a second ago." I grinned to bear it, "I know summer, sorry, let's hit the shower." The hot springs, and Pisco Sours were just what the doctor ordered as this was not the Hayden Zip Line, I felt my mothers spirit petting me on the head saying, "that's a good boy." And we enjoyed the 45 minute natural sauna amidst a fairy like setting with deep acoustical merit, the open bar was the cherry on top and we watched the careless crop that chose to zip line have the time of their life threatening the fates of Peruvian safe guards. One thing for sure was that it was quite a zip line, I apologized to Steve Savage in case he happened to be dead and might have been watching. "I'm a sauna guy." I mused to summer after my sip, "you really had me going there for a second." And at the end of the day minus the accidents I would've loved to do it and applaud all that hold that Bransonion spirit.

From the hot springs we retreated back to our retreat in the canyon which reminded me of the great Ben Horn owned Northern Inn from Twin Peaks, we headed back to Alequipa for a night before another days worth of travel would take us through Lima and into Argentina, finally.
ADD strikes back. With only a couple hours left in Arequipa I left Summer at the compound and headed out to buy stamps and rush out our first round of post cards. As we were checking out, I reached for a bank card that wasn't there, I had pulled a dad, ADD was alive and well after a mere two and half weeks on the road. I left my bank card in the ATM a mile down the street. Adding insult to injury this was an area where the restaurant we dined at the night before attached a card to our bill warning warily the customer to allow them to call a cab no matter the distance on account of the many fraudulent cabs and kidnappings that are rampant in Arequipa nightlife. I think blue eyes and a Carolina blue sweater carried a great bounty like an Indian over an outlaw in New Mexico ala Young Guns II. Anyway our cab was soon on it's way and we had to go the the airport, the card was gone and thanks to Summer's request to keep her phone on until we reached Buenos Aires I simply called the bank and had that shit deleted and re-sent.

The Hotel Bill in Arequipa. $230 USD's. This included 3 nights, two dinners, three messages, a lunch and my bar bill by the pool. Their is footage of the place and meticulous sprawling grounds inside the heart of an unbelievable city. Our cab arrived, the driver was vetted for possible terrorist ties and we arrived at the airport a couple hours before our short flight to Lima. Once in Lima we had a six hour lay over before a 1AM flight to Cordoba AR. With anxiety of losing the bank card on top of rushing out on an empty stomach had finally made me sick after an ill fated submission to Mcdonalds at the airport. I felt woozy, we did find some great deals on X-Mas stuff, it's all about baby Alpaca wool in those parts, butter. Our flight to Cordoba felt like I was on a slave ship and lasted all through the night, it was rough as I'm not the best flier but we arrived in Argentina early in the morning on a clear blue skied spring day. I was only hoping that the coffee was administered in one unit as in Peru you added coffee to hot waster ala tea, also the napkins I was praying were a bit thicker to no avail. In Cordoba it felt like a mini Beunoes Aires, a preview and seemed a prefect appetizer before our end destination, after of course some much needed rest.

Our hotels it seemed continued post Cusco to augment the amenities and basic needs i.e. running hot water we could actually brush our teeth with. And for the first night in the heart of another great city we raided the min fridge, stayed in and crashed out to three hours of Jersey Shore which sadly was playing so far away from the states. The next day we set out to tour a couple museums we'd picked out, cop our bus tickets to Mendoza and of course pick the perfect outdoor lunch spot for a customary bottle of wine before siesta. And nothing was opened, the famous strip we'd peeked at bustling the day before was empty, we walked up ten blocks, empty, walked to the museums , empty, nothing. Everything was closed, we learned it was a national holiday, and were lucky to find one illegally opened bakery with a bread line that reminded me of pre-fascist German bread lines, thank god I wasn't there for that. We squirreled a couple of sandwiches of god knew what as even our hotel was shut down devoid of any foods or beverages. And then their president died, on that day and we experienced a city and country in mourning with tributes a week later still going on. I don't know much about the guy except that the stock markets in the US viewed him as anti business. I think he was once the president, and was running again in a bleak environment were many were behind a campaign that I believe was on track to re claim his spot as president. He was a symbol of hope to so many. So the parades I thought originally were gay pride that I filmed had turned out to be be for this country's tall, lanky political hero, sad. And we lost a day in Cordoba.

Cordoba would've been a great place I think if we had more time and it wasn't a national holiday when their president died. It's a college town laced in history and ancient architecture, those Spanish knew how to freak a church I tell you.

OK, quick break our "bicycletes" are ready for some cycling to a few local wineries in the heart of Argentina s grape country ahead of afternoon pool time before the coveted siesta.

OK. I'm back. 7 PM. Post lunch, post Siesta. Summer and I biked approximately 22 Kilometers this afternoon and went to what was described as a five star vineyard for a tour and a taste from a sought after lunch and paired tasting menu from an award winning Vineyard. There was definitely a girl I think from New Jersey that blew her nose motor boat style about half way through our most expensive meal yet. This could have been me! My manner lessons with summer have paid off. I had the lamb (again) and summer had the Black Hake a taste local fish. You get what you pay for as this was ten times the amount of any lunch or dinner we have had to this point, it was to die for.

Anyway en route to Mendoza we really with the holiday and tragedy didn't get to experience to much in Cordoba except a couple young hooligans at one point trying to run up on me, I hit them with the famous Terrence Nolen hallway flinch and that was enough. Little man after I smacked him lightly upside the head even called me a "mutha fucka" it was cute as shit. I was sad due to holiday shut downs we missed the light show in the waterfalls of their modern museum set to a FRreddy Mercury soundtrack, we did as cliche as this might sound watch Evita the day we were trapped inside and it magically appeared. It reminded me of the day days after first meeting summer when I headed to the Tribeca film festival to see our boy GQ's premier, "JUst Another Story." The kid was years away from 30 and Showtime dropped a million dollar budget on the holmes to write, film and star in his own movie, sick. Anyway what was funny was on the Chinese Kamakazi $10 (at the time) bus up there they played, you guessed it, Drumline! It was fitting just like Evita in Cordoba was on a national holiday on the day of a death of a political star. It was freaky Friday for a minute though, and the lack of Spanish thing definitely tried to become a problem in Cordoba as no one spoke English and the charades had to be broken off another level. We missed nightlife, hip museums and shopping but had a great dinner before we jet on an all night bus that took us to, deep breath, Mendoza, my blue heaven.

Mendoza is the jack pot, take back everything I've said up to date, this is where you need to be. It never rains here and there is barely ever a cloud. This afternoon after a hearty bike ride that produced the good sweat that my mineral water calmed faintly trickled down my face and lent a feeling of we deserved this as our Asparagus soup was refreshingly brought out with the expert pairing of just the right wine. A poem popped in my head as summer commented that just because it's seafood or red meat doesn't necessarily mean that white or red is dictated. These wines were light on their feet, they had confidence and dazzled my pallet as I tasted like I'd recently been taught and similar to the rich traders in Chicago I used to poke fun at. That is when I started listening to wine just to parody some of the more outrageous presentations I witnessed some bean traders enact back at the day at top shelf joints I was rocking as a kid in the windy.

Oh Mendoza Mendoza to my heart you breed closure, Mendoza, Mendoza so far from a poser, Mendoza, Mendoza the crops cream, you are but a dream.
Oh Mendoza, Mendoza, raise a glass to your grapes we chose ya, through fate and a fumble you helped a brother get up after a tumble and no longer a dream is deferred.

Hahaha anyway I had to wax an attempt at poetic as the setting, people, fields and dreams of this town are worth an garner. The bus ride was at night and surprisingly I slept tight, snug as a bug Summer asleep to me next the beers that I chugged facilitated the rest, which for this road test was mostly strewn on a dirty one way road, bumpy as all hell and on the top floor of the bus we swooned in the night by big trucks and their two ton might, the driver was scary and when the pelting rain awoke and realized the terrain we were in was no fucking joke, I said to myself, dam, it was better when I was asleep, and slow was the creep past the colored canyons whose souls ran deep, and at the very, very, least we getting out of those egregiously high altitudes that made summer say sleeping next to me in Peru was like sharing a bed with Darth Vadar, oooh! Darth? How could you ever spit such a dark reference to a Son of Liberty like me, it was just a reference to my short of breath sleeping 10 thousand feet above see level, don't take everything so personally, oh I see, a smile and shrug, but not the kind of shoulder move when takes when they smug, or they bug just an acknowledgments of one content mug, sigh. I didn't give a fuck in the best way.

And finally we made it, the trip thus far, mos def A grade it, and we paid it forward to a degree this crazy exchange rate makes one think they filthy, rich that is, and it's not a bad way to feel, but who gives a fuck in the larger picture and time that we scale, no not me my friend, c-rat too loyal and down to the very bitter end. All of which brings me to my next point, mini retirements. I think if you work ten straight years, you should take a year off, I'll fall short of a year but worked for ten straight right out of the college gate, and summers in college and high school I add so with this crazy time off I don't feel that bad. I'm actually starting to feel like the talented Mr. Riply as this thing just goes and goes, need places, non American faces outside of the pathetic Jersey girl that blew her nose in to a five star napkin. Once you get manners it's great to poke fun at those that don't akin to losing your virginity. And she donned a sun dress, and small yellow sweater, well anyway enough about her, as for the couple they looked like they were having a grand old party. Then again if you can't do this in Mendoza especially at this off the ring ding spot from earlier, you might as well sign up for camp in Yemen and stat sewing explosives into your drawers.

We arrived in Mendoza at 8AM, and did not check into 3PM, but once we did, it was worth it, I shagged an executive room which contained mad room, we stretched for the water was clean far away from Cusco when this whole dream, began. I came up with a new theory being out here on the road and all, and it's this. Stay in the 3 star hotel that's adjacent to the five star hotel. For that first night we walked over the to Royal Park Plaza downtown Mendoza sitting on the north face of the celebrated center plaza and crushed a spot called the Q grill. The decor and wood furnishing let you know from jump this place packed heavy fucking knives. I crushed the short ribs and Summer had something I can't now recall (she's siesting) equally formidable. The wine was just right and we stayed always the local stuff, after a long day we decided on a night cap in the 5 star hotel as I noticed a casino (more on that later) and walked upstairs to the exhilarating piano bar where the setting got down right dirty on the martini tip. They had a piano player, guitar guy and a throw back tall, slander, slinky cocktail singer doling out classics of a long forgotten era. We ordered Royal Koral Champagne drinks in flutes with fresh strawberry on top. Now I really felt like Frisco Jones in a far away country taking some time out from the WSB to scope a lounge to sing while Feleicia far away in Port Charles wondered where the hell I, he was, I loved those episodes and felt like Frisco. Plus this lady had pipes and it was a scene, sadly, I would always look for in Boston, DC or NYC and never find. What's great about the clutch places down here is the live throw back music but the clincher is the bomb singer, it's the whole difference and nothing in between.

The next day we toured a couple Vineyards one large and the smaller family run joint was last. This was fun, again pushed on a bus with a bunch of strangers it was interesting that outside of the snot rag next earlier, that tried to front on my Zuchinni soup we hardly ever run into Americans at any of these spots. Mostly (yawn) Canadians, Europeans and of course the travel happy Aussies, it's nice to see the residents of the commodity linked currencies travel abound as their currencies soar! Of course the dollar down here as mentioned and annotated again and again is no slouch. On the second and smaller run Vineyard we got a private tour because everybody spoke Spanish besides us outside of Bueno and Cirvaza, and Mue Bien and it parlayed into a delightful wrinkle. The gal's great Uncle started making wine in Mendoza in 1927, she grew up in Florida and now has lived here for three years. Side Note. Amazing property to be had down here for 150K, players take note. Mendoza is a spot right out of Word Up magazine on the Biggie dream tip.

Anyway this was a pesticide free farm range of grape leaves. They fought off the bugs simply by planting roses everywhere surrounding them, and that successfully fought away the insects that pesticides were drawn up in a toxic lab to alleviate. I copped a quick thought of how this earth always has an inherent antidote for everything. Please protect the amazon local governments. The earth is like math, it always checks out, inherently somewhere if your native enough this is a cause, effect and solution to our eco-balance. I find it fascinating. Anyway we purchased at the first, larger Vineyard a refreshing rose of pears and plums that we corked pool side the next day after realizing it wasn't chilled enough for our planned picnic in the most banging park I'd ever seen! Once again it clocked the hot springs and was so picteresque with the snow capped mountains as a back drop and fresh rivers that zoomed in and out of one amazing place to sit after another. But our Florida host after our tasting pulled our coattails to a wine that was engineered, cultivated and created by her uncle for her cousins, his daughters wedding last year. Only a couple thousand bottles were made, and they had a few left. The corked five hundred at the wedding, and shipped a portion to Europe where they sold for 280 EURO'S, the help at the vineyard also commented happily as we couldn't understand what they were saying rather judging by facial expressions and the always helpful hand signal, it was special. Our price a mere $25 dollars or 80 Pesos. Lastly at the bigger Vineyard it was cool tasting their selection of home grown horses as they didn't sell retail in Argentina or the US, Mendoza was simply too clogged with vineyards and or competition and thier market was Thailand and Japan. I mentioned on the bus ride home how cool the tours at "weed vineyards" will be once we get there. "SIr this is the 1984 neck crank grown locally here in Colorado it's really known for smoking before the theater, that has been it's biggest use. It's paired wonderfully with a light Chardoney and we sell her on the plant for a discounted rate of $225 a half pound."

Anyway that night we went on a long, cheerful and romantic walk down the busy causeways of the pimp streets Mendoza is shouted out for, lined with dozens of restaurants we hit a recommended spot and I crushed a T Bone steak, exhausted from the night we crashed early for our picnic that turned into a park tour and light lunch before retreating back to our hotel room (where we stashed 10 thousand peso's in the safe to pay for our loft in Buenos Aires I got on smash for the next couple, I threw that out in a freestyle to myself) where we uncorked the now mucho freeo bottle of wine we had bought yesterday from the larger of the two Vineyards for what amounted to pennies in American dollars. I taught Summer spades poolside, recorded a rap and later we began what will be a long dual of competitive Gin, later I'll have to refresh my Chicago lessons and remember the exciting manifestation of that, Gin Rummi. Cards rule.

Dinner that night was amazing, it was a place we couldn't get into the night before and quickly we realized why, I thought the host was merely racist against gringo's which didn't bother me but also was not the case. What was great is that instead of traditionally ordering a bottle of wine you march unabated into a large cellar and pull the one you like off the rack! Smashing your face with rhythm on the Grommits tip. After dinner to Summer's dismay and freight I dragged her into a casino merely for the fact that in the states I'd had to travel so far for some black jack!

Janet Jackson's, "Anytimne, anyplace" was playing in the carnival like atmosphere of the five stars hotel we stayed next to, version of Las Vegas, I felt good. We did a Clueless lap before committing to a location, I explained the craps and how I missed shooting them in the C house bathroom with Black KNight aka Kieth Bodden in between haircuts, even back then, LOL. And finally I walked up to an empty black jack table threw a couple hundred in Peso's down for chips as a set of gentlemen took my lead and sat right down hence the game begun. The dealer was sloppy and as a kid from the state of Washington sat next to me citing the same personal reasons I just mentioned from his girlfriend he was telling summer said, "that would never fly in Vegas." The games commenced. Out of the gates it appeared I was going to be down soon, summer not loving the casino's and much vino would contribute to an early exit, and then suddenly I got hot. And soon there were more people betting on other players than the actually six players the table allowed. "This isn't craps." I thought to myself but rolled with it as I was happy as a mutha fucka to be gambling in Mendoza, plus everyone was betting on me!

I looked down and my chips were suddenly chunky and a had at least two portly women with gold teeth betting on me with another dude that had rode this good fortune I wasn't aware of really until summer pointed it out. And then it happened, black jack! 3 times in a row, to many high fives and hugs to the women that bet on me. Summer asked if I was ready, happy I'm sure with the fact I just tripled my investment and I cashed my chips and bought us two first class bus tickets to Buenoes Aires which we'll use tomorrow night. It reminded me of the time Pete Nice called me in DC from Vegas at 8AM with Jeffy driving around the lobby of a casino on an electric scooter they just bought after a similar run of good fortune hailing from the card gods, awesome.

We have another all night, 13 hours to the BA, and saying good by to this pearl of a location Mendoza will be sad but forever, forever, ever, ever, ever on the Outkast tip live in my heart, Titanic. All and all the dream continues, and the days, hours and places we're seeing and experiencing together will make me a BETTER CURRENCY BROKER, writer, freestyle rapper, HUSBAND, SON, FRIEND ALL OF THAT SHIT. it's more than just stories, it's a perspective I never had and am grateful to have clocked. Hopefully I can post some footage, there is an abundance and keep the triple threat of photo's, blog and video alive and well.

Lastly I wanted to mention the terrible news we got this week regarding the cancer of Chris O'Connell, class of 1995 LHS. Chris as those of you that knew him as a friend or teammate defined even as a kid what it meant to be a class act. Please take a second and peep the below link, check out facebook and take the swab test. It's yet another reminder, please say a prayer, looking at his beautiful daughters and knowing the kid, I believe he'll pull through this. These are the moments kindly rally to see if your the chosen one to save another Son of Liberty. YG take notice our boy Chris is in some trouble.


much love, and as always thanks for reading this mess

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