Monday, May 14, 2007

My list

This is the kind of city you would quit your job and move 6,000 miles to live in.

But it's not perfect.

Here are some things I will and won't miss when I'm not in Buenos Aires. (All in one list to keep it interesting, and because some things fall under both headings.)

- No screens on the windows. Open your window for some fresh air in the summer and be prepared to share your home with every bug imaginable.

- Fruit displays: the carefully stacked piles of citrus and crates of melons on almost every block.

- The glass of seltzer water and cookie(s) that automatically come with your coffee.

- The national coin shortage.

- An oven with no temperature control.

- On so many blocks, one out of ten buildings is an elegant minor masterpiece of architecture.

- The other nine buildings.

- A bank that will let me use the ATM to make deposits -- but not outside banking hours (10am-3pm, Monday through Friday).

- A tax system and culture that make you feel punished for playing by the rules.

- Intersections without stop signs.

- Discussing politics with Susana, one of the women who does my laundry.

- Nearly free public transportation.

- The utter sameness of the food.*

- My friends.

- My doorman.

- Fresh pasta shops.

- Fluorescent flood lighting in restaurants.

- High-quality ice cream in a multiplicity of flavors.

- The opportunity to learn something in even the most basic transactions.

- The casualness with which so many people -- mothers, businessmen, ladies in elegant coats -- litter.

- People reminding me that I'm not in the First World.

- The knowledge that doing even the simplest thing could well take five times as long as it should and involve 10 times the number of steps. Or, you know, it could be solved instantly since it's no big deal to bend the rules.

- Dog shit.

- Malbec.

- Being the foreigner.

- Mullets.

* There is a national menu of beef, pasta and pizza. Deviations are usually expensive and not readily available. I asked someone a few months ago if he thought there had been any food trends in Buenos Aires in the last 10 years. He said the parrilla -- a typical Argentine barbecue restaurant -- was making a big comeback. So, basically, the trend he identified was more beef restaurants. Super!

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