last entries
Jan 2008

Transition period

As soon as the date indicator on my Swatch jumps to Dec 24 a very Special Theory of Relativity seems to go in effect. Not the one which predicts that when moving at extreme speed the clocks tick slower, but one which postulates just the contrary: stay put and time will fly.
During the last business days before Christmas I'd been constantly running around trying to get people moving on my move - on my cargo, that is, which still sits (supposedly) in a storage shelter in Buenos Aires. Doing pretty much the same for days without any discernible effect gives the impression that nothing moves, not even the large hand on the clock on the kitchen wall. Now, on Christmas Eve, I felt a relaxing decompression, there was nothing I could do to accelerate my pressing business. The decision to go downtown was driven only by momentary inspiration and not the need to follow up on administrative foul-ups. The visit with Carlos at "Cinco Sentidos" served only the purpose to browse Internet or bookshelves and not to conduct yet another strategy session on how to proceed with insurance and customs issues. Even shopping for a couple of Christmas presents turned into an entirely relaxed affair, thanks to the low key character of a holiday season during summer months.
At 9:30pm I left home to join Claudia and Gustavo at a Christmas Eve party Argentinean style. About twenty five people, mostly young families with kids, met in the huge, almost empty living room of a house, partly still under construction. Dardo, master of the house, heaved one load of beef and sausage after another from the grill in the open fireplace on the big table, which was already overloaded with salads, potatoes, rice, beer and wine etc., etc..

Buenanoche_Clau - - - Dardo_asado_7048

At midnight "Papa Noel", aka Santa Claus, arrived and handed out a couple of presents. No big deal, no competition for the most expensive gift, the most original Christmas card or the most illuminating decoration - very pleasant. And while the kids unwrapped their presents, the adults toasted to a Merry Christmas.


Christmas day turned out to be in stark contrast to the big, family-style affair of the previous night.
In my favorite bookstore I had met a retired doc, who had spent more than 15 years working in Boston. After finding out that I was a physicist he invited me spontaneously to a small luncheon in his house, remarking "..that a physicist is exactly what's missing in my club !" - Oh well...
It turned out, that the American Way of Life under the NeoCons was not his cup of tea at all, so he decided to quit and move back to his home country and settle in Patagonia. He lives in a wonderful house high above San Martin, with spectacular views. To get there, however, takes a lot of courage, some boy scout tracking experience and a working four wheel drive, as the last 4 miles resemble a steep hiking trail. Food and wine was great, conversation very interesting with a high entertainment value. Not only is the guy a knowledgeable connoisseur of classical music, he also has the equipment to celebrate his hobby. And he's also a bit "loco", or should I say: idiosyncratic, which helped no end whenever the conversation threatened to turn boring or mundane.

During the last days of the old year nothing much happened. Only time passed.
Then New Years Eve came and with it a kind of a replay of Christmas: a different circle of friends met, this time at Claudia and Gustavo's. Since the traditional fireworks had been cancelled due to extreme drought conditions in the surrounding forests, we could concentrate fully on gourmet food and exquisite wines - and on pleasant company...


Afterwards I stayed put and let time fly. Now we are already deep into 2008, high time to send out best wishes for a happy New Year. In Germany there is a proverb, which says that New Year's wishes are accepted until the first hay is cut. Well, here you have to be careful with that. Gustavo climbed already into the cherry tree while the "other" tree was still displaying its festive decoration!


So here they come: All the best for 2008 - health, success, fun, interesting adventures, profound insights and a bunch of great friends....

Life near hole 18

There is something to living on a golf course, even if one can't tell a number 2 from a number 7 iron and wouldn't know how to hit the ball off a tee with either one.
Above all it's the scenery. The carefully designed and 'built' landscape around the eighteen holes with their greens, ponds and bunkers resembles an expansive park, which constantly invites to a leisurely stroll. Discovering small, surprising details, like a fairway mirrored in the pond or the shadow from a row of pine trees cast across a green, makes one appreciate the creative thought that went into the layout. In the case of the golf course here, at the entrance to the San Martin valley, there's also the location in the hilly terrain at the foot of Chapelco Mountain, (from which the "Chapelco Golf & Resort" borrowed his name) which in itself is enough to create an almost magical atmosphere. From 'my' house, up on the flank of the hill on the eastern boundary of the site, I have a superb view, which, especially during the evening hours, is the best tele-vision show on any channel.

hills_eve_6824 - - - porch_eve_lenti_7037 - - - blackrock_evered_7011
Foothills of Chapelco, just south of the valley to San Martin - - - wave over my porch - - - burning clouds

mate_clouds_7034 - - - blackrock_evecloud_6856 - - Chap_eve_lenti_6958
my evening drink ( Mate tea) and evening clouds - - the last cumulus (for a change) - and lentis settling into the night

Secondly, there is a clubhouse. From its big saloon it affords magnificent views of lanes one, nine and eighteen with the mountains as backdrop and, as a kind of contrast program, one can watch the minors take their first swings on a little green serving as a kindergarten, while the majors battle it out between the hazards. Oh well, yes, of course, there is the food! This is a perfect place to get eyes and palate satisfied simultaneously. From the menu I conclude, that clubhouse and Hotel (five stars - Argentinean stars, that is) collaborate closely in the gourmet department: food and drink is excellent! Despite the upper class ambiance prices are very modest, at least when compared to a typical Swiss country diner.

So, theoretically, between working (writing stories, articles and blog entries), relaxing and eating, there is not much incentive to leave the place. In reality, things look different. A lot of those little errands, which I usually (in Europe or the US) took care of online, via phone or email, require personal presence in Argentina. Paying a bill, any bill, means handing over the dinero to the guy at the bank, the lady in the office of the phone- or insurance company. And for that one has to go downtown. Which is about 10 miles away. No problem, if one has a car. Most of the vehicles I see driving around the course are compatible with the upscale environment. Large SUV's, monster-pickup's and every once in a while something more sportive, a souped up Honda or a spiffy Beamer, 'spare'-mobiles should the family car require maintenance.
With respect to the automotive segment of the resorts inhabitants I fit in nicely with my '94 Explorer. I am lacking, however, the trendy ragtop to cover for the occasional time-out my "Big Blue" needs, when the oil needs changing or the wheels aligning.
And it's then, that there's something else to living on a golf course: the challenge to get around without a car.
The first time I had to take my car to Jorge, the mecanico whose grandpa lived in a small village near Luzerne, Switzerland, was about a month ago. So I dropped Big Blue off and took the colectivo downtown, had a coffee at my favorite bookstore and then took the bus to Junin, the next town about 30 miles east. I told the driver to add a stop enroute at the "golf" and from the gate it was a 25 minute stroll to la casa mia.

Of course, it was the other direction, which posed the real challenge. There is no official bus stop at the entrance to "Chapelco Golf&Resort". And since it sits at a long straight section of Routa 234, where everybody goes at least 70 mph one last time before hitting the brakes for the first S-turn down into the valley, there's little chance that anyone would see, much less stop for a lone hitchhiker. So the options are to somehow flag down the bus from Junin or to call a cab from San Martin, a 12 buck one way extravaganza, which I wanted to safe for real emergencies. I walked to the gate to inquire. The girls told me, that the bus would be leaving Junin in about 10 minutes and take roughly 20 minutes to get here. Why don't I sit down in their a/c-ed booth and listen to music on the Internet while waiting. With five minutes to go I walked away from Salsa out in the sun.

After a short while an ancient Jeep - vintage late fifties, I'd guess - came out of the gate, pulled up and the driver motioned me to "embark". The thing was painted in light blue - yes, painted, with paint runs and orange peel surface allover. Heavy shipyard-steel was welded in, where time and weather had eaten away the original parts. And, just like on a boat, there was a windscreen, but nothing one could describe as roof or cabin or doors. Only the roll bar made of heavy tubing didn't seem to fit the rather maritime appearance. I parked my backpack on a roll of heavy-duty steel rope and stowed my legs underneath two big loudspeakers dangling down on thin wiring from a steel plate serving as instrument panel and firewall. Then we got rolling. Up to about 30mph the Oldie accelerated rather smoothly, but then we seemed to hit something like the sound barrier. Our vehicle started to shake and rattle, vibrations ran through the chassis and I was glad I had a heavy bar right in front of me to hang on to and thus avoid going over board. Obviously it wasn't an atmospheric shockwave, which agitated the poor Jeep to such a degree, and the surface of the road had nothing to do with it either: only smooth asphalt. The way my driver clung onto the steering wheel and the cautious manner in which he lifted his foot from the accelerator pedal gave the clue: one of the wheels had started to run amok, due to an unfortunate resonance between spring forces in the suspension and the centrifugal forces on a rotating tire. After a hundred yards, the front axle had hardly started to behave, I felt the faint pressure of acceleration on my back again. The needle of the speedometer, the only instrument in the panel, approached in erratic motion once more the dreaded 30mph mark. I realized: my fearless pilot went for a second attempt to find a hole in the barrier - and by sheer magic he found it. This time our topless racer slid without even the slightest shiver across the critical threshold and reached an amazing 47mph.
Everything was cool. Almost everything. My chauffeur still worked that steering wheel like in frenzy but nothing much seemed to happen to the direction the Jeep was going. That steering must have had a play of at least half a turn! All the while he was whistling merrily - and now, as we approached the infamous S-turn, he began adjusting his New York Yankees baseball cap, with both hands, as if this thing was on full autopilot. With the confidence of a true master he negotiated the two curves at full speed but then our ride in the "zone" had to come to an end: "Road construction, one lane only" a big sign warned. On the washboard surface of a torn up section our mustang went into full rodeo mode. Señor New York Yankees fought and swore and almost ripped off that wheel, but we made it. He stopped in front of Jorge's shop and I disembarked. As I felt solid ground under my feet I thanked my stunt driver and wished him happy driving. " Only to my mecanico" he answered and added with a grin " no more Jimmie ", imitating with his hands the wild gyrations of the unbalanced wheel.