last entries
May 2008

The four pillars of a successful day


The other day I spent a whole day in "el pueblo" as they say here. In "downtown" San Martin, that is.
I had a full list of to-do's, running from drawing money at an ATM to spending same money at an agency for personal improvement (hairdresser) and everything in between: grocery shopping, checking with the mecanico if the spare parts for my "antique" had finally been found, getting photocopies of my passport at one of the print-shops (for the 7th time), more shopping, checking my POB and on and on.
All in all, I figured, it would take me the better part of the Argentinean business morning.
No such luck! At 1:30 pm I was not even half way through my list. Rather than driving the 10 miles back to the house and return for a second attempt in the afternoon I decided to stay in town until it was scheduled to wake from its 3 hour siesta around 5pm.
I hiked a couple of blocks to my favored take-out kitchen only to find the doors locked.
Sh.., of course, it was Monday, which for "Los Patos" is the day off. No lunch!
I opted for a couple of the excellent 'media lunas" - the local version of a small Danish - for a quick sugar boost instead and headed over to La Pasteleria Piamontesa.
Success! The sweet half moons were deee-li-cious.
Off towards the lake, camera at the ready. But nothing struck my photographic eye. The streets were deserted - claro! Siesta! - the sun hid behind a thick grey overcast - no more radiant sky, no colors at all - and even my most reliable protagonists, the street dogs, had disappeared.
The hours dragged along.
Five o'clock, finally. I called the mecanico. No answer. I walked over, in the hope that he was working in the electromagnetic shade of his hydraulic lift so that only his cell phone was incommunicado. Nada!
Slowly, but inevitably, the level of my frustration rose.
Next stop: post office. Dios mios! A queue of about thirty people! I couldn't even get through the door!
Was it worth the wait to ask for the key to my box? when the chance to find something was perhaps fifty percent? No! (stupid me - why did I forget my key at home in the first place?)
Enough is enough! I decided to call it a day. A pit stop over at Cinco Sentidos and then back to the Golf was the plan
As I walk through the door of my favorite bookstore/cafe in San Martin I hear Ella's "Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered" waft thru the air. Ah! music is going to save me - and the day - once more! Now a cortado and the world is back in harmony again. I pick a heavy photo book from the shelves for entertainment and climb the stairs up to the cafe. As the smell of coffee hit's my nostrils and stimulates yet another 'sentido' a memory flashes through my mind: isn't this here almost like another place I love some 80 degrees of latitude to the North? Books, pleasant music, interesting clientele, great coffee, more books - The Boulder Bookstore, of course! How many Java's, Darjeeling's, Mary Jane's and pumpkin bars have I consumed in the Bookends Cafe, enhanced by whatever songs the crew behind the counter sent to the speakers. Not that I needed to be rescued from deep frustration very often, no, not in Boulder. Instead it was - and still is - a place, which rarely failed to inspire me in some way or other.
There are a few other 'hot spots' in Boulder, which are definitely capable to put a positive spin on any given day. Hit one of them and the day will be a success, because you know that you'll find what you've been looking for. And if you're not looking for anything, you'll find something all the same. In my book three stand out: Eads, the empire of magazines, periodicals and newspapers, Liquor Mart with its unequalled selection of wines of the world and McGuckins, which calls itself a hardware store - in unsurpassed understatement.
The second sip from my cortado, which would be something between "ein kleiner Brauner" (a little brown one) in Vienna and a mini-cappuccino in Italy, pulled my mind back to San Martin: could anything be found here, which is vaguely equivalent to those four pillars of a successful day in Boulder? I asked myself.
Sure can! I was enjoying the supportive action of one pillar right at this moment: the soothing atmosphere at Cinco Sentidos.

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Sitting above the bookshelves, nibbling on a ham and cheese tostada, checking emails or surfing the web on the gratis wifi, having a brief chat with Niko or Carlos who own and run the place and watching customers rummaging through literature and asking for recommendations, proved time and again to be the perfect time-out on a day filled with - mostly frustrating - chores downtown.

And then there is "La Piamontesa".

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For little more than a buck one gets four small pieces of pastry. Absolutely the best in town. And, believe me, I've checked out all the pastelerias within walking distance from the usual parking spots, all of them! The perfect supplement to bring the glucose level back into "feel good" territory. Fortunately, "La Piamontesa" is about as far west as you can walk in San Martin. Therefore, to succumb to the sweet seduction involves a modest stroll almost all the way to the lake. Pick up your media lunas and enjoy them at the beach. This little deviation powers you through the remaining tasks as if on turbo..
Shopping is the prevalent reason to drive down from the Golf, and often it's the little things, which I desperately need. Paper for the printer, form such and such for a rental contract, batteries. Shopping is also definitely different here. The 'all under one roof' supermarket does exist and is called Anonyma (how about that for branding...!) but often one is much better off searching for those little things in small shops.
One such small shop is Nehen Yav, which in the Mapuche Indian idiom means something like strong fight. Nehen Yav is as much 'only' a stationery shop, as McGuckins is 'only' a hardware store. You find everything from needles to wrapping paper to laptop bags to telescopes in the unfathomable depth of the establishment. While you're on treasure hunt they copy all your documents in triplicate, replace the cartridge in your fountain pen and count out the 17 paper clips you wanted.

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Ah yes, of course: the standard amount everything is sold in, and priced, is 1, one unit, one single piece. You want a box of 100 sheets of photo quality ink jet paper? How many do you really need? 23?, fine, so let's get you the 23 sheets. Very interesting business practice, saves the customer money, costs the shop time - but works somehow. Without Nehen Yav I'd still be waiting for my "Social Security"-id: a quick run over from the office and I had the five copies of my visa in no time, which convinced the bureaucrat behind the desk that I knew my way around San Martin and therefore had to have lived here for some time.
And without the "Yav" more than one trip to el pueblo would have been in vain. When the queue at the banco, the office of migraciones, or wherever was too long for my patience, I went there and took a quick trip around the store and left with one piece of something that made the 20mile roundtrip worthwhile. So this makes three pillars.
"Caso Commercial" completes he quartet. Even in what around here is considered an upscale residence (my casa at the Golf) a lot of little details need constant attention. Some of the light fixtures, for example, date back to the late 90's - of the 19th century! - and have to be replaced. And when the wind picks up the curtains start to move, telling me that I'd better buy 'burletes' and seal the frames and windows.

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It was Carlos who directed me to the Caso as the one-stop for all things house and garden. With the stuff in its historic warehouse - and archives - one could probably built the house from ground up, provided one understands the recommendations of the immensely competent sales people given in rapid fire local lingo.
So there you have it, the four pillars of a "successful" day in San Martin de los Andes.
Not that I have to rely on them every day, but I know they are there when I need them.
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