Sunday, January 22, 2012


I’m writing this with no shirt on. It’s not that it’s unbearably hot. I guess it’s probably in the low 90s during the day. Now it’s dark so it’s probably only about 85, but I’ve got the oven on and I’ve had the oven on for a while. I need the oven to be on when I’m printing shirts that have different colors of ink. There’s probably an easier process but mine involves the oven, which is making the sweat run down my body in saline rivulets. Given the week I’ve had I know only too well the febrile result of these sweat trails on both my clothes and my general disposition. For this reason, I’ve taken off my shirt, a luxury which I’m afforded by being in my home.
Since last Monday, I’ve been living in an exoskeleton. Sometimes it’s dry and chrysalis like, sometimes it’s damp and amphibian, but it’s persistent. The main reason for this being the long bike ride I have to work. Of course it would be expected that a long bike ride in Buenos Aires summer would result in a sweaty countenance, but the bike ride is only the beginning of my saturated days.
About three months ago, I started work with a theater troupe. It was sheer happenstance that led me to this job, but I’m quite happy with it for the time being, as I can’t remember the last time I had a job to which I really enjoyed going. The memorization can be a bit monotonous and nerve-racking, but after seven years or so studying at various universities, I’m fairly accustomed to the rigor of memorizing things and meeting deadlines. The major benefit to the job is that it will eventually result in a great deal of travel, which I suppose, makes me more content than just about anything else.
The group is known as The Performers. Essentially, the duties of an actor for The Performers are as follows: Learn three plays intended for the edification of English language learning students across South and Central America and Mexico. The plays are written with beginner, intermediate and advanced students in mind. The beginner play is a fairly straight-forward kid’s story, with easy-to-comprehend language, repetition and lots of singing and dancing, think: Barney or Teletubbies. The intermediate level play is a little more complex with more dialogue and a large amount of physical comedy. The advanced level play, in the past, has been an adaptation of any Shakespeare play (in the last few years Romeo and Juliet and The Tempest). This year it’s rumored that the more dramatic plays haven’t gone over as well and the effort to lighten the content has resulted in some sort of medley, although we have yet to see the script.
The beginner level play is called Sea Adventure and the intermediate is called Crazy Jekyll and Hyde, the ‘crazy’ is so you know that it’s an adaptation, I guess. I play Harry the Shark and Thomas, a Bi-Polar lab technician, respectively.
The Sea Adventure and Jekyll have been thoroughly rehearsed and choreographed, but they are both still about three weeks from completion. At the present moment, the workload is heavy. Every morning we go in for choreographing at nine and continue with rehearsals after lunch. As I mentioned before it’s been averaging about 90 a day. The air conditioning in the theater is really weak and often feels as if it’s not on at all. The result of this and continually repeated dance steps is complete saturation, partial drying and re-saturation to the point where one’s clothes become stiff with salt.
If it wasn’t for this job, I very much doubt that I would still be in Buenos Aires. If I was still here I would be searching daily for work elsewhere. The city is too familiar.
Antiquity sets Europe apart from the US while the culture has a number of similarities; I have always found it interesting that people tend to think of Europe as being so culturally different from the US, when, in fact, most of our traditions are derived, at least in part, from European counterparts, the only major difference being that in the US they are all blended together. German tradition mixes with Irish, Italian with Polish, Scandinavian with Spanish, added to this mix are African, Asian and Latin American traditions, but none of these are so very unique in themselves, they all have origins elsewhere. Of course Americans created some traditions of their own, but not so many that should render Europe unrecognizable to them. Still, the long history of Europe is plain even in the newer cities, such as Lisbon.
Africa and Asia are so culturally dissimilar to the US that they bristling with a sense of strangeness to the American visitor. The pious Ramadans and orthodox feast days, the overbearing sense of respect for the guest, the ubiquitous cigarette smoke, the crumbling streets, the loquaciousness of complete strangers, the traditional roles of men and women, livestock in the streets, the crowding, the lassitude all these things are so foreign to the American that they take forever to comprehend and are never entirely adjusted to.
Buenos Aires, by comparison, could be on the eastern seaboard of the US. The people would have to speak English, go to bed a little earlier and not spend quite as much time idling, and the bureaucracy and liberalism would have to be cut down a little, but in a country about the same age as America, made up mostly of European immigrants, teeming with McDonalds and Starbucks, there is very little else that sets it apart. Which is not to say that it’s not unique, but I think it’s safe to say that if one doesn’t like large US cities, one probably won’t like Buenos Aires, while it’s entirely possible that one would like, or at least find something very interesting in Rome or Damascus due to their differences from New York or Los Angeles.
So, this job has saved my adventure. I really don’t know where I would’ve contemplated going next, but I almost certainly would’ve had to leave this place, mostly due to the fact that city life doesn’t interest me so much. Unless you were born into it, I think big city life is mostly for people who still feel they are looking for something, an important part of their life they still have yet to discover. I feel like I am content with my station in life as I have never been before, and the result is that I would very much like to retire to a quiet place and spend my evenings and weekends working in a garden, reading and drinking coffee with my girlfriend. But with a job that pays me to travel and act, I feel like I can put off the domesticated life for another year or two; for the time being just knowing that I have reached a point where I would just contemplate getting a full-time job and buying a house is certainly enough. No need to rush into anything.
So, due to the job, I have been losing about a gallon of water a day, most of which is absorbed directly into my clothes. Luckily, we only have one more week of choreographing and then the workload should lesson a little. I will appreciate not having to take the unprecedented number of two showers a day any longer.

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