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This is Just to Say

January 29, 2009

Dear Jen,

If you don’t update your blog soon, the world will think your food poisoning did you in. (:

Love Mom

A Few Brief Notes This Weekend

January 24, 2009

  • I recommend not getting food poisoning in South America. As such, I also recommend not eating the bananas, or not drinking the water. It’s really not clear.

  • This Monday at 7:30, funny lady Abbi Crutchfield will be hosting Monday Night Stand-Up at Pete’s. It’s free, and Abbi writes way more new jokes than I do.

  • My uncle emailed, “Today on ‘Frasier’ , Niles was caught correcting the grammar of the graffiti in the men’s room of the coffee shop with a red pen. I thought of you.” I am the family pedant! Hurrah!

On the Subte in Buenos Aires

January 21, 2009

A subway poster for Prenatal Yoga featured an unflattering photo of a very pregnant woman on all fours.  The ad’s first sentence would have offended half of the women in New York: Pregnancy is a very special time in the life of every woman.  Seriously, it’s not an ad for a church — why offend people when you just want to sell them yoga?  Apparently this is inoffensive in Argentina.  The poster didn’t even go on to talk about yoga just yet — it continued in the same vein with something I couldn’t quite translate but I took to say something about how “although it’s only nine months,” it’s blah blah special blah blah women are babymaking machines and don’t you forget it blah blah.

Interestingly, in Spanish, it’s totally fine to just call people “embarazadas” (pregnants).  In English, in contrast, people usually don’t mean anything good when they say, for instance, “blacks” instead of “black people”; people with epilepsy prefer “people with epilepsy” to “epileptics.”   Calling pregnant women “pregnants” sounds seriously not right to a modern liberal English speaker.

Pack Heavy! You are an American!

January 18, 2009

In 2007, shortly before I left on my Mideast tour, author Tim Ferriss blogged about packing ultra-light, skipping around the world encumbered by only 1.5 pairs of underwear, a bike lock, and a single breath mint.

I fell for it. I left for the Middle East with a few shirts, one pair of practical shoes for tromping through rough terrain and one pair of high heels for the stage, a bottle of sunscreen, and a single red lipstick.

One of the other comics, in contrast, had brought at least twenty cute outfits, several bikinis, a hairdryer and many hair products, a full makeup kit, and a wide variety of push-up bras. Her luggage wasn’t that much heavier than mine, and she looked way prettier everywhere we went. In all the photos, she looks vibrant and polished, and I look like I have just been to the gym.

Somehow, on my way to Buenos Aires, I fell for it again. I am not a dude. I enjoy having 4 or more different brands, formulations, and viscosities of lotion to apply to my various body parts. I like to write on fine-ruled legal pads. Wide-ruled legal pads ruin it for me. I do not consider it an adventure to find out if Argentine tampons work differently.

Once in the last two weeks, I walked 20 or so blocks to an office-supply store to buy a notepad that fits in my purse. I have a fine-ruled legal pad I brought with me, and I’ve been conserving paper like a medieval scholar. Write smaller! Skip adverbs! (The latter is good advice anyway, I wrote self-referentially).

I didn’t bring a lot of clothes, figuring that I’d have fun shopping for more. I did buy some little dresses and shirts. That was nice. But then I ran out of underwear, and since I don’t plan to do laundry here, I decided to buy the kind that come in a package at the drugstore (hot!) They come two or three per package, depending on the style, and I’ve bought maybe four packages of them so far. I’m going to be wearing Argentine drugstore underwear for the next year and a half.

I thought I might buy a new bra, but all of the places that sell bras are tiny little stores staffed by ladies who help you with the bras — in many instances, the bras (even inexpensive, everyday bras) are displayed in glass cases, and you have to point at the one you want, and a lady goes into a back room and brings one out in your size, sort of like how shoe stores work. Bras here don’t have cup sizes — there’s just one measurement around your whole torso-and-breasts complex, in centimeters. This is not a fun adventure.

I only brought one book. I’ve poked my head into many large bookstores, and none have an English-language section. I found one bookstore with a single shelf of used English-language books, and contemplated catching up on my Henry James.

Shopping in a foreign place is fun! But it’s more fun when you’re just wandering about, seeing what kinds of wonderful things you happen to find — not when you’re out of mascara, wishing you had the David Sedaris you’ve been meaning to read for a year, and bobbing down the street with boobs untethered.

If I could do it again, I would’ve brought SEVENTY-FOUR POUNDS of books, legal pads, notepads, underwear, bras, lotion, gym clothes, bikinis, hair appliances, interesting hats, framed photographs of my favorite U.S. Presidents, etc. I say seventy-four because seventy-five is the limit for normal-weight checked baggage, and if Continental is charging me a $15 fee for the first checked bag anyway, by god I’m going to take advantage.

Pack heavy! You are an American!

Did Craigslist Really Randomly Generate This CAPTCHA?

January 18, 2009

Instead of asking me to write “smallbavaria whencesoever” or the usual nonsense, Craigslist demanded that I demonstrate my humanity via the following:

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It’s like my CAPTCHA is the title of a book of inspirational anecdotes for aging Baby Boomer feminists.

Why are French balconies so fucked up?

January 17, 2009

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This is not a pipe

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Ceci n’est pas une real balcony, weirdos.

Seriously, if you’re taking the effort to put an adorable little railing up, why not build a real balcony on which a person might sit in an equally adorable chair and drink a cup of coffee? Why? Because you can’t afford the extra real estate in the air? You don’t have to pay for that.

Dover Thrift Editions Easy Spanish Phrase Book: May I Send a Cablegram?

January 17, 2009

easysp.jpgI was attempting to pack light (a topic that itself will be the subject of a future post) for my trip to Argentina, so, in examining my collection of a half-dozen or so books on how to speak Spanish, I opted to bring the two that weighed the least. One was Dover’s Easy Spanish Phrase Book, last printed in 1994. I may have had mine since then.

I see that the sale price of this book is now $2.00. When I was in high school — early high school, around 1992-1994 — there was no internet that I knew of, and I didn’t have a lot of money, and you could order “Dover Thrift Editions” through the mail for $1 each. This was VERY EXCITING to a nerdy fourteen year old whose family didn’t keep a lot of books around. I would peruse the catalog, send off a check for, say, $14, and a few weeks later I had The Turn of the Screw! And Spoon River Anthology (the story of a small town, written entirely in epitaphs!) And the Easy Spanish Phrase Book! Which I held on to for a decade or so before reading.

As soon as I began reading this book, I realized it was old. Not 1994 old. Old. One review on Amazon summed it up:

My husband … knows almost no Spanish. When attempting to shop on his own, he discovered that this book will tell you how to buy gold cufflinks, scarves, gloves, and almost every item of apparel except shirts and pants. It contains a very strange collection of phrases and does not appear to have been updated since its first publication in the 50s. Not useful if you want to ask the location of an internet cafe. 

During the week-plus I have been here, I have often marveled that visiting a foreign country just isn’t what it used to be. Most obviously, I’m blogging right now. Voicemail’s a little wonky, but text-messaging works great. I’m doing billable work for a company I work for back in Manhattan, and emailing it to them from Argentina, just as I used to email it to them from my apartment 18 blocks away.

That said, here is my favorite part of the Easy Spanish Phrase Book:

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When would a night letter arrive? Not until tomorrow afternoon. Very good, then. May I have some forms? It’s certainly good that I don’t have to adhere to a ten-word minimum. I would like to send a six-word cablegram, for 1 peso 8 centavos, in hopes that it will arrive sometime in the next five hours. Excellent!

Capybaras, Horror Frogs, and Wolverines

January 15, 2009

Thanks to an astute commenter, I’ve been informed that the rat-like creature from my zoo post is a capybara.

My trip to the zoo prompted my mother to send me an article about a “horror frog” that “breaks its own bones to produce claws that puncture their way out of the frog’s toe pads, probably when it is threatened.”

Whoa! And what happens when the frog is done using its horror claws? According to one zoologist, “it would not be surprising if some parts of the wound heal and the tissue is regenerated.”

Where have we seen this before?

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I thought so.

Buenos Aires Photo Post: Zoo Fun!

January 14, 2009

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Yesterday I went to the Buenos Aires Zoo!

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They let you get pretty close to the elephants!

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I took a picture of a peacock’s butt!

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Tell me this isn’t a rat. These things run free throughout the zoo. They are larger than most dogs in Manhattan. They are like rats, but with rabbit teeth, and slightly ducky feet. What the fuck are you, crazy cracker-eater??? Kids were totally clustered around it, having fun playing with it and its many friends. This thing would be terrifying on the subway platform. I googled “Buenos Aires zoo rats” and got this lady’s account of a trip to the zoo, in which she posits that the creatures in question are beavers. She also comments on the “hybrid” deer-rabbit-kangaroo things that just run wild. Yeah, I was way confused by those.

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I am a big fan of less-exotic, more accessible animals that you can touch. The goats kept poking their heads out from under the bottom of the fence!

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This is a nice picture, but I decided I wanted to get a close-up of myself with a goat. This is difficult when you are taking the photos yourself with your iPhone, and the goats don’t understand what this is all about, and also they eat your shirt and purse.

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The goat moved its head at the last minute, and I only got an ear.

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The goat moved its entire head, as though the head had never existed in the first place.

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My nose. Goat nose. We’re improving.

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Aww…

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Um….

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Yay! I am calling this one a winner. I made a goat-friend! A goat on the subway platform would be confusing, yes, but hardly terrifying. We can all get along. I will buy extra purses that my new goat-friend will find especially delicious.

February 19th in NYC: Buy Me, I’m For Sale!

January 12, 2009

WHAT PHILOSOPHY MAJORS DO AFTER COLLEGE

Thursday, February 19 at 8:00PM

at Ars Nova

511 West 54th Street (just west of 10th Ave)

New York, New York 10019

N/R/Q/W to 57th St; A/C/B/D/1 to 59th St; C/E to 50th St

From Socrates to Sartre, the greats of Western thought are empirically, profoundly, and unquestionably hilarious. Comedian (and Williamsburg Spelling Bee maven) Jennifer Dziura knows this is so, and now that she’s left the confines of Ivy League philosophy classrooms she wants to enlighten everyone!

What Philosophy Majors Do After College

Get Tickets Here

Missive From the Vacation I So Rudely Took During a Global Economic Meltdown

January 12, 2009

As a self-employed person, I have not, in many years, conformed to this weekdays-and-weekends thing that most people do.  I love to go out to restaurants on, say, Tuesdays, around 1pm.  I get very annoyed when I want to return to these restaurants only to realize that it’s Saturday night, and the place where I so recently read a book while enjoying wine and a salad will now be loud and crowded and obnoxious and full of people attempting to impress potential sex partners.  I despise partytime.  Fortunately, I typically am working and make most of my income during evenings and weekends anyway, so this works out pretty well for everyone.

I spent my first several days of vacation in a sort of happy, timeless void.  I left on a Monday and arrived on a Tuesday (thus contributing to the disorientation), went to bed without alarms, and woke up at times varying from 8:30am to 1:30pm, for no special reasons at all.  Then I woke up one day and realized it was Saturday.  Daytime was okay, but then it became Saturday night, which it turns out I hate as much in Buenos Aires as in New York.  Ladies tottered in their high heels.  Restaurants became very crowded.  Single people were no longer welcome to take up the most desirable tables in the outdoor dining area.  Office workers given a brief reprieve from their lives of desperate repression acted in an urgently obnoxious manner, expelling the worst parts of their personalities like a giant psyche-fart.

This morning, Sunday morning, I got up at 1:30pm (10:30 New York time — seems reasonable to me).  I went to my usual espresso-to-go place (this is a real novelty, put here to cater to the likes of me).  They were closed.  I walked to a nearby cafe, sat my ass down, and proceeded to have to interact with others to get my daily fix.  No problem (when in Rome…).  All the boutiques were closed, of course, but I thought I might stop by the grocery store.  It was also closed.  Okay, no big deal.  It’s a Sunday.  I walked by a bookstore/cafe I had spotted and wanted to check out, and discovered they were open.  Lovely!  I went home to get my laptop, and went back to “Crack-Up.”  I discovered one shelf of English-language books for sale, including the works of Henry James, C. S. Lewis, Ursula Le Guin, Toni Morrison, Edith Wharton, and Alan Greenspan.  Considered buying the Greenspan.  Will probably go back for it; I can’t imagine anyone’s stolen it out from under me.

After several hours in the cafe, during which I did enough freelance work to fund about three days’ living expenses in Buenos Aires (hey, I’m good at math), I walked back past the supermarket, which was now open.  Seriously, the supermarket is open on Sundays … from 5-10pm?  Or something?  Odd.  I went back home, then went out to dinner, then came back home, when I noticed the couple who runs the espresso-to-go place opening the doors — at 11:30pm.  

Time is running wild here.  It’s time to watch the latest 30 Rock on my MacBook, from my hot tub.  

Buenos Aires Photo Post: Sí Señor + Meses De Conservacion

January 11, 2009

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This just struck me as funny. A Jim Carrey movie called “Si Señor!”

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This graphic on the inside of my freezer door helpfully informed me that bread and fish will stay good for one month in the freezer, but rabbit will stay good for a whole year. Some of the objects are a bit mysterious. What stays good for nine months? Radishes, carrots, lambs, and avocados? Or turnips, hand saws, the St. Louis Rams, and eggs?

Buenos Aires Photo Post: Alligator, The Mall

January 10, 2009

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That cute kitty shirt I bought at that designers’ market from my last post.

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“Local alligator with vegetables.” Tasted like Chinese food.

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This is just quiche. With a side salad, an espresso, and a couple of complimentary dessert bits. Notice the cruets of olive oil and vinegar, the white tablecloth, the cute little espresso cup and saucer? Why is this interesting? Because it’s in a mall food court. Seriously! The mall food court is full of waiters. And real dishes. I mean, don’t get me wrong, there is also a McDonald’s, and the McDonald’s is basically as you’d expect, and plenty of people go there. But seriously, this onion and gruyere quiche was served to me by a cute waiter in a mall. Not a restaurant in the mall. Just out in the open. Somewhere back there is a mall food court chef. I don’t understand how one country can employ so many waiters.

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In the mall. The shopping was kind of boring. Overpriced slouchy knitwear as far as the eye can see. I bought some limited-edition unisex Pumas.

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This photo is really blurry. My web designer tells me there are four Starbucks in Buenos Aires. This is the closest one, outside the mall. Apparently there’s always a long line — there was a young woman stationed at a little table full of cups about halfway down the line, and she would ask what you wanted, write the abbreviation and your name (Spanish speakers always give me “Jenyfer” or “Jenifer”) on the cup, and hand the cup back to you to hand over at the register. As with my experience at Starbucks in Kuwait and Bahrain, a Starbucks is a Starbucks. There was a black cherry mocha I’ve never seen before, and a couple of dulce de leche-flavored drinks, but it was pretty normal. I ordered the one thing I didn’t think I’d be able to get anywhere else — a maté latte (sin azúcar). It was very tasty, although if you take a big cup of steamed milk and gently flavor it with almost anything, it’ll probably be pretty good.

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On my way home, I actually veered down an alley to take a picture of this. The John Locke School of English. I just thought it was funny. A friend back home commented, “Was it next to the Dickens Home for Boys?”

Photo Post: I’m in Buenos Aires!

January 9, 2009

¡Hola! I’m in Buenos Aires, eating exotic meats, drinking prodigious quantities of espresso, and being less annoying than the few other English speakers I’ve encountered.*

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This is a boring photo of Jorge Luis Borges Street. I am not a very good photographer.

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Look, another street! Palermo Soho is basically Greenwich Village. Seriously, Jen, put down the iPhone.

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This is nice. People smoke too much for my liking, but less than I expected.

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This stiltwalker looked disturbingly like an ex-boyfriend of mine. But, you know … taller.

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Here is a market where independent designers each rent tiny sections, each a few feet across, and personally sell their wares. I bought some t-shirts with hand-sewn designs on them.

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Seriously, someone should tell Buenos Aires that Kentucky is not where anyone goes for pizza.

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I can’t believe no one in New York thought to name a bar this!

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This is a bar dedicated to Brigitte Bardot, although I didn’t really get any of the Bardot paraphernalia in the photo. I also saw bars dedicated to gangster culture (decorated with images from The Godfather) and to Jackie O. The Jackie O. bar featured a very large Budweiser sign.

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The first real thing I ate in Buenos Aires was a solid pound of venison with spinach and queso blanco, in tangerine sauce. It was delicious. I didn’t think to photograph it. This is the next real thing I ate, fish with a perfect cylinder of sweet potatoes. I figured I could work out any menu in Spanish, but once in this cafe, I realized that there are many varieties of fish the names of which I don’t recognize in English. Whatever this was, it turned out great.

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This was a real winner. Rolled goat kid with berries. Fatty and delicious. I took one bite and said, “Oh, Christmas!” Some of the berries were clearly raspberries, but I’m thinking some cranberries must have been involved. And a lot of rosemary.

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This dish was advertised as salmon prepared with white chocolate, plus something about tomatoes, pesto, vanilla, and lavender oil. I didn’t really detect any white chocolate, vanilla, or lavender. Which actually might have been a good thing. I ordered the dish because it sounded like something I’d never try elsewhere, but who really wants to eat fish that tastes like a decorative candle?

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This is me using the WiFi in Plaza Serrano, which is more or less Union Square with no grass, fewer political protests, and substantially more handmade jewelry for sale.

*This includes a British woman who came into a boutique asking for “the cheapest boys’ shirts you have.” When the clerks didn’t understand her, she said, I swear: “You know, like cuánto cuesta es but LOW!”

Today’s Adventure in Argentine Shampoo

January 9, 2009

I’m in Argentina! What do you like your hair to smell like?

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In Buenos Aires, we like it ASSY.

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