We arrived in Córdoba early in the morning. Going through customs, my dad missed the agent’s signal to move his bags down for inspection. Instead, he reloaded his bags on his cart after they emerged from the x-ray machine. When the agent found out we were visitors, he just let us pass. My dad has been having a lot of good chuckles about these little “Innocents Abroad” moments.

Lore’s family picked us up at the airport, and then we had breakfast at our hotel. If this was a movie I would be anxious about our parents meeting, but I don’t feel this way. Despite the language barrier, and the bottleneck of conversation as interpretation is funneled through Lore, everyone gets on as well as I expected they would.

We are staying at the Hotel ACA (owned by the Automobile Club of Argentina), which is nice, across from the park, and near downtown. Taxis are inexpensive, less than 10 pesos (Ar$10.00 or about US$2.50) to El Centro. Even though the time is only three hours different from Iowa all the travel has made it hard to get a handle on the time of day. We mostly slept after getting in, then changed some money downtown, then slept some more.

We had picada Friday evening with Lore’s family at their home, which means we ate from plates of cheese, meats, breads, and olives. Argentinians stay up late, so we left well after midnight and slept some more.

Early Saturday morning Lore woke me up, thinking I was somehow shaking the bed. It felt like a gentle rocking and steady rocking as if riding a train, but it lasted for a good minute or so. I’ve been through a few earthquakes before and this would be the longest and strongest. There was no damage to Córdoba but it was a disaster in Chile and is almost the only thing on the news.

I walked around Parque Sarmiento, across from the hotel, Saturday morning. It was warmer than Friday. In the afternoon we visited Lore’s grandmother and aunt. The live in cute old lady house with beautiful antique furniture. Lore’s aunt has a treadle sewing machine, which she uses to make dresses. We have one at work, but it is a museum artifact.

The big event this weekend was the party with Lore’s family and friends to celebrate last summer’s wedding. I’ve met many of Lore’s friends and relatives before, but not all of them. Several said they recognized me from Facebook. Good old Facebook.

I wrote about Argentinian wedding receptions last time; it’s not worth repeating at length, but as always there was lots of:

  1. Meat
  2. Dancing late into the night

My parents were good sports. They stayed up for the whole thing, until it ended at about 4 a.m.

This Sunday is a day of sleeping late and of long naps. “Your culture is killing us,” my dad joked to Lore. After two late nights he was wondering if Argentinians ever slept, but was relieved to hear that Lore’s family was asleep most of the day too.

We went for dinner at Paseo del Buen Pastor. The city seems to be upgrading the busier pedestrian areas to make them more accessible, replacing the high curbs with gently graded gutters and bollards. It was indeed busy; the students who populate the neighborhood were all over the place. Power went out during dinner but then came back on.

Adventures in tipping

We had a slow start in Miami. LAN didn’t open the counters until 9:30 a.m., making sort of joke out of the edict to “get to the airport three hours before international departures.”

All that waiting, though, is to get to a seven hour layover in Lima. We landed shortly before sunset, so I could see that the Peruvian coast has a rugged and barren landscape. That’s about all I saw of Peru besides the airport.

A young man, an employee of the airline pushed my mom’s wheelchair from the plane to the security control. My dad, thinking the young man was done helping us, offered him a tip. He politely declined, but after my mom was through security, continued to assist us. In the elevator he explained that he couldn’t accept tips in front of the security guards. My dad was horrified by the though of getting this nice kid in trouble but thought this probably explained the careful, item-by-item scrutiny of his carry-on bag.

Later, after we had dinner in an airport cafe, my dad mistook the a “1” written in the South American style for a “7” and unwittingly gave the waitress a 33 percent tip. None of us caught that one in time.

We didn’t venture out into Lima because it was getting dark, and because we don’t know the city. I had to rely instead on my surveys of the airport gift shops to learn about Peru. I concluded that Peruvians like to sell llama and cholita souvenirs. A notebook with an illustrated covers might also be illuminating; one had a cartoon of a Spaniard humping an Inca who in turn was humping a llama. There were also a couple of silver shops dealing in jewelry and plateware.


The hardest part of any trip is getting started, especially when getting started at 2:30 a.m.

We had a layover in Memphis. Lore and I were looking around the airport for coffee. You can tell Memphis is not a coffee town by the seven-to-one ratio of barbecue restaurants to coffee shops.

For amusement, when not writing in my little book, I perused Sky, Delta’s in-flight magazine. It included a politely written six-page feature article about what a dipstick Ashton Kutcher is. According to the article, his life philosophy is based on using the word thrash as a noun. To quote:

You just gotta have thrash… Thrash is a wake of moving toward a target.

Anyway, we are moving toward our next target, Miami, where we will spend the night before the long trip tomorrow. Today we’re flying Delta. It’s a nice plane and a good flight with no problems, for a change.

Figure study

And as if one trip out to the rural western half of Johnson County wasn’t enough yesterday, Lore and I went to draw in an art studio in Cosgrove last night.

I haven’t done anything like this since my first year of college. I could hear my art muscles creaking as I drew. Unhappy with my initial sketches using a 6B pencil, I found what can only be described as a graphite brick in Lore’s pencil bag. I discovered that I liked it because it forced me to not be so precise. Some of the results:

Drawing of a woman reclining in a chair.
Figure drawing #1
Drawing of a woman laying on her side.
Figure drawing #2
Drawing of a woman laying supine.
Figure drawing #3
Drawing of a seated woman.
Figure drawing #4

As you can see I can’t draw faces, hands, or other extremities yet. I also was having a very hard time with their relative positions (some of the horizontal and vertical strokes are where I drew an ersatz grid by dragging the graphite across the paper).

The model was pretty cool. She brought a suitcase of clothes (when she bothered wearing any) and a mattress that could be folded into different configurations.

Annual fire training

Safety refresher training is an annual ritual for wildland firefighters. I attended the class in the Conservation Education Center, a nice facility park at F.W. Kent Park between Tiffin and Oxford. As usual, I took a short walk in the snow during our lunch break. There were some animal tracks but mostly people tracks.

People tracks lead to a hole in an ice covered pond.
Ice fishing hole
A bird house on a post overlooks a snow-covered frozen pond.
Wood duck box

The class itself usually involves watching safety videos and discussions of last year’s accidents. This year we had a new fire shelter video. I was getting sick of the last one. The fire shelters are our portable refuges of last resort. Anyway, the video demonstrated how the new models hold up to direct flame contact better than the older ones by pitching them (uninhabited, of course) among a small brush fire. At the end of the class, we practiced deploying the shelters. Practice involves shaking out the shelters and covering yourself with it while laying on the ground like a giant baked potato wrapped in foil.


Instead of saying “there’s a crow” when she saw one, my friend and colleague Debbie used to say simply, “there’s Crow.”

While depositing my recyclables in the bins at City Carton at dusk, I heard and saw a massive murder of crows overhead. There were easily two thousand of them or more circling the river basin just south of downtown. I’ve seen big noisy flocks before, often mobbing a threatening bird of prey that happened to be nearby. But usually it’s just a few dozen birds. Imagine being the owl harassed by two thousand noisy crows?

Since these birds were much more interesting than, say, looking for the “mixed paper” bin, I paused to watch them until they passed. A little later I saw them a couple of blocks away, sitting quietly on bare trees along the railroad. They made the trees look as if they had clusters of black fruits on their tops.

Remember West Nile virus? That (and if I recall correctly, shark attacks) was what we Americans were panicking about before September 11, 2001. Anyway, crows were especially susceptible to West Nile virus and disappeared from Staten Island for a while. In fact, I remember seeing one at work and thinking, “there’s a crow,” then realizing it was noteworthy only because I hadn’t seen one in a year. I haven’t seen very many since then, in any of the states I’ve lived.

Well, it looks like the crows are back. “There’s Crow” indeed.

The Blind Side

Thank heavens for rich white women. If America could fully mobilize its richest white women resources it could conquer almost one percent of all its problems. Why should the poor inconvenience the wealthy with higher taxes just so they can use their own government to help themselves out of poverty, when they can wait for a rich white woman to condescend to adopting one of them? Didn’t those poor folks listen to anything Cindy McCain said when she congratulated herself for her humanitarianism at the Republican National Convention a couple of years ago?