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November 24, 2014

Hello my darling one

 

How are you?

I am tired and content and in a charmingly lit cafe in Roma Norte, Mexico City.

I am swimming in my large and swanky armchair, a glass of red sits before me and there is busy chatter all about me.
Aaahh, good times.
Hello.
It has been some time, has it not?  Perhaps not thaaaat long in real time, but I feel like I haven’t put my fingers on a keyboard for decades.It was recently Day of the Dead here and I spent the day in Mixcoac Cemetery.  It is one of the largest in the city and was so very cool that I will never again view a cemetery the same.

Hundreds of people were scrubbing tombs clean, raking the old soil, erecting fresh flower beds and leaving offerings for their dead.

 

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Mariachi bands played sad songs for families who picnicked by graves.

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I saw one woman crying but mostly everyone seemed just delighted to be hanging out with the old crew. It seemed a true celebration of death and I loved it. Apparently, in the towns of Oaxaca and Michaocan they dine upon the graves during the night where the candle displays must be enchanting.

I bought a great big bunch of marigolds and placed single stems on the most neglected and grim-looking graves.

I have seen ofrendas all over town; altars and offerings for the dead.

 

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I visited the Dolores Olmedo Museum for their annual “ofrenda”.

Here is the butcher, the hairdresser and the shoe shiner.

 

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Dolores was loaded and a super fan of Diego, Frida and a strange breed of dog called a Xoloitzcuintle which has no hair and is almost extinct.  I actually mistook these odd-looking hounds for statues till one barked at me.  You might have seen them in one of Frida’s paintings.

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Image courtesy pbase.com

 

Today I visited the Tenochtitlan Pyramids which are just an hour away and are truly awesome.  I spent hours out there strolling cluelessly around collecting audio snippets from the occasional tour guide and climbing up and down deep, steep steps.

 

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I first visited them in 2001.

I had planned to live here with my lover but we broke up instead and I carried on home for Christmas.

While Mexico City is undoubtedly magnificent, I couldn’t live here long as the pollution gives me a permanent headache and a dripping left nostril.  Bodies will adapt but I’d rather mine didn’t.

Tomorrow I will leave on the red-eye for another city famed for its terrible pollution, Santiago de Chile.   Three days after landing there in 1999 I lost my voice for the first time, and by mid morning the Andes disappear behind the smog.

So…Cuba eh?  I believe the last time I wrote I was on my way.

It was beautiful, lively, friendly, crumbling, green.  So many mountains, so much sugar, such delicious avocados.

 

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Hugo and I decided that it has everything going for it as far as a holiday destination is concerned.

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Coffee

 

 

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Travelling with a gay Englishman about to embark upon another London winter had us at the beach quickly and regularly.

I rarely elect the beach but I almost found it relaxing.  All that lying flat, with all that sand.  The water was that exquisite Caribbean blue you don’t quite believe till you see it, and the temperature divine. I knocked back three books; one about the Cuban mafia in Havana which was fairly saucy.

It was hard in Havana to escape conversation, to the point that it drove us a little barmy.  So barmy in fact that when we returned Hugo turned us into Russians having spent 6 months in Moscow so could slip some words in while I kept dead quiet.  “Where are you from? Where are you from?” does get tiresome after the 67th time. “Niet, niet”.

Three women just turned up to this restaurant wearing fake fur.  It is cold but not that cold.

We scaled Cuba by bus and by car staying every night in the houses of Cuban locals.

We drank good rum in super sugary cocktails and chatted up the locals around the country usually steering clear of political opinions, both theirs and ours. Some people in Havana however, were particularly keen to tell us how hard they had it.  And they certainly do look undernourished.  Thank god for the cucumber and the avocado.

We swam under waterfalls with hummingbirds and woodpeckers.

Every second person was a doctor.

The toothbrushes and guitar strings were a hit though I wish I’d had some usb memory sticks for them.

Our favourite province was Granma, named after the boat that Fidel and his mates snuck in on from Mexico. The previous owner was an American chap who named it after Granny.

Sweet and proud Jose led us through the swampy Parque Nacional Desembarco de Granma (Granny’s National Park of the Disembarcation) where the revolutionaries had once hacked their way through.

 

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We walked through the Gran Sierra Mountains to their old treehouse hideouts in the Comandancia de la Plata,  and up to the site of the Radio Rebelde without which there’d have been no revolution.  It felt quite extraordinary and I felt very privileged hiking amongst it.

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Image courtesy alternativacuba-cast.blogspot.com

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To die for patriotism is to live

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Socialism or Death

 

 

We also loved the music capital Santiago de Cuba where I gave my drippy salsa a run for its money.  It was a chilled out Havana.

 

A man at the table with the furs just started to talk about Burning Man.

“Se llama Black Rock City. Es una locura.”

There is a man standing on the footpath here selling stuffed bears. Everyone seems to be street selling here in Mexico.

I know my photography is just awful, but if you look closely, these below are both Cuban butchers.

 

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Tea was tricky to come by so I took up coffee again (3 teaspoons a day) and on my final day I found this cafe in Havana which boasted tea.  It took her 10 minutes to brew it and then she threw in loads of sugar without asking. Yuck, but what are you going to do?

 

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Mexico is currently in great distress because 43 protesting students were last seen being pushed into vans up in the northern town Iguala, and the search continues for their bodies. It dominates almost every conversation and people continue to march while they keep stumbling upon mass graves of other people.  Apparently the town mayor gave the word for them to disappear so that they wouldn’t interrupt his wife’s speech and the crooked pair were found hiding out in Mexico City just this morning.

It is not a happy tale to end on, sorry.

I know I owe you about the desert in San Luis Potosi.  I’ll get there, I promise. There must be other tales I am forgetting to tell you too.

I am home to Sydney soon, with just a night in Valparaiso and five more back in Buenos Aires where I’ll put the doggie Monalisa on a plane.

 

All my love to you

k xxo

 

p.s.  a few hours later…..

I approached that table as I left the restaurant…”sorry to interrupt, but I couldn’t help hearing you say something about Burning Man??…”

He hadn’t been but is desperate to and we are all now Facebook friends.  The three women are from Mexicali in Baja California which they all agreed is probably the most awful town in Mexico but with the friendliest people. The chap somehow ended up there a decade earlier where he met his fur clad mates while lost in the street.

He is an artist and has invited me to Cuernavaca tomorrow; “the land of eternal spring,” saying the drive past 18 volcanoes is worth the journey alone. My flight isn’t till midnight, so why not?

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Mexico

October 13, 2014

Darling You

How’s it going?

I am just fine and wanting to catch you up before I head off to Cuba tomorrow.

Cubamera has been cancelled. They are quite devastated but they had to pull the plug due to insufficient funding. I too would be shattered considering I returned to the Americas from Scotland to hang around for it but, just a week before I heard the news, I sent an email to Hugo in London saying “come to Cuba.” He is. Just too sensational. We meet in Havana tomorrow. Wicked wicked wicked.

Mexico has been good. I was all excited and tucked into street food on day one and knocked myself out onto the sofa with bad bellies for most of the week but other than that, Mexico has been colourful and kind and, once my courage returned, delicious. Chile, beans and corn, chile, beans and corn and grasshoppers.

Last week I snuck up to Real de Catorce; once an important silver mine, and now a pretty colonial town creviced between large colourful hills. One must journey through the one very narrowly carved tunnel that only skinny, teeny buses can sneak through too.

All the locals say I visited in absolutely the worst week of the year because it is pilgrimage week to celebrate a sighting of Francisco de Assisi way back when. I was told that “the magic this week is spread too thin” amongst the throngs of pilgrims and wasn’t able to sense its extreme tranquility or to see the architecture past all the street food and plastic junk stalls set up for the week. I did however catch whacky dancers with kinky feathered head gear, hung out with loads of young hippies from Mexico City selling their jewellery, had some good, long, cactus laden walks and several fine siestas in thunderous storms.

After a few nights in the charming Refugio Romania run by ex Italian Basketball champion and his grumpy Mexican wife, I moved in with Simone di Bologna.

Simone is an interesting cat, let there be no doubt, and he was the one contact I’d been given; via Riccardo, who put me in touch Andrea, who put me in touch Eduardo, who put me in touch with Simone.

His home is a little out of town yet all night and all day we could still hear banging drums, squeaky violins, and the voices of the thousands walking in to town to ‘feel’ Francisco.

Simone was really really naughty once upon a time (though he assures me he never killed anyone) but I can’t talk about it on the internet. A naughty naughty Italiano though. He has been in Mexico for over 20 years ago, is 45 and was top waiter at Bologna’s swankiest hotel at the age of 18. He said he’d be Bono’s waiter, and the star would call management to say “he must go to the concert, that is his work today.” He is well into the indigenous culture and spends his days in his workshop ‘Tipi’ by the one plaza where he carves leather into bags, belts and shoes. He also has a teepee on his land, misses Japan, hand grinds his coffee each morning, won’t touch Mexican street food, and once turned into the town vet with gruesome tales of diseased donkeys to share.

One morning we set off together in the dark, with his three hounds, to climb the Cerro Quemada (the Burnt Summit) so that he could sing to the Gods’ to ask permission for me to eat peyote. It is a very important and sacred place that many travel far and wide to stand on.

In the dark I took the wrong bridge to his place and was rescued by Maria del Refugio who called out across the valley to his house. It seemed absurd but his lights were on and after a few attempts he called back and we met up the way. Every morning she puts her 12 year old son on the school bus at 5.30 having decided to send him to a larger school out of town because he had stopped communicating after his father went to work the mines. She was an angel.

Up on the Cerro Quemada Simone explained that it is where a band of blue deer decided it was time to lift the dark veil on earth and give birth to the sun. We both lit candles and Simone placed a bunch of maize as and asked for a good harvest.

Halfway up he had offered me some peyote. It was a small amount and we nibbled more for medicine’s sake and open the gates to the Gods. He sang two songs to the four winds (he has permission to sing just two) and that night we lit a fire in his tipi beside his house and he sang again.

I didn’t really come here for peyote. I came here because 3 times I said Mexico and three times people suggested Real De 14; named that because 14 Spaniards were slaughtered there and thus become the Royal 14. There is ‘Estación 14’ nearby as well as ‘Real’ which is confusing.

While I was not terribly fussed about whether I sampled more peyote or not (a cactus if you have no idea what I am talking about) I had taken Eduardo’s advice to go to the desert town Wadley and to ask for Don Tomas. Heading off solo into the desert to eat cactus sounds a little too experimental but off I went to Wadley where there was to be more fiesta.

By the way, one of the dogs, Rosita, didn’t make it back down the hill with us that morning. A puppy, part jack russell. While Simone said that he rather leaves a dog to its own devices and that she was free to roam should she wish to, she kept coming up in conversation and no doubt he would be very relieved to see her. Someone spotted her the following day down in the desert but she wouldn’t respond to the call of her name.

Back in the pueblo, hoards lined up to enter the church and touch a box with an awkward looking figure of San Francisco sitting inside. They would touch the glass or the wood and then wipe their faces with the same hand. So I did the same.

I sat in a pew for a second and all of a sudden hear this horrendous thump thump bang, and in come 20 Mexicans with their big feather boers and shiny shoes, dancing and banging drums and rattling the instrumental legwarmers they wear. It was quite something.

The sacred desert with the sacred cactus is called Wirikuta. I sat on top of a jeep (strangely called willys) holding on for dear life as it bumped its way slowly down the steep hill. Pretty great rollercoaster ride actually and I met Mocho, a very proud indigenous bloke and Francisco who’d been selling potions all week.

Mocho offered to read my I Ching (first time for me) and said I’d be welcome to stay the night. As the willy was to terminate just a few blocks from his house I jumped off thinking to head the 8kms to Wadley before sunset, but then his young friend Eber turned up with a mate and we three shared a room so we could listen to Mocho and his stories.

One story I remember is that as each baby is born the entire tribe wait outside the delivery room. The ‘jefe’ (boss) then holds the child up in front of everyone calling out its name. Mocho’s real name translates to “one who rises with the sun” and was just as long in his language as it is mine. Thus Mocho.

He is not the first person to tell me that Mexicans are very racist, and said he and his people are some of the worst offenders. He doesn’t much like walking around town either, explaining the people make him feel uncomfortable.

My bed that night at Mocho’s was easily the worst of the trip and I knocked back one ibuprofen and half a zanax so I could snooze between the two crusty blankets and forgot the existence of bedbugs.

He painted his paintings directly onto the the walls and there were many peyote references about. His beautiful dog was half golden labrador, half coyote and he said she was a tricky companion, except in the desert. So he never let her out and the place was pretty stinky as a result.

He approved of my singing ceremony with Simone.

Eber was a charming flirt and it took me a couple of hours to realise he had only one arm. 15 years ago he’d lost it in a factory accident and was so capable without it I even felt out of line offering to help cut the garlic. He said he had covered and he really did. Eber and I and his mate Juan travelled on to Wadley together the following morning, which was super lucky for me for he knew the land well and knocked on several signless doors searching both bed and food for us three. Peyote had cured his depression.

As for Mexico, I seem to know more gay boys here than in other city in the world, perhaps even including Sydney. 15 years ago I visited for the first time, having just broken up with Fiddy. We’d planned to move here together but his cheap ticket wasn’t honoured after 9/11 and, as we called it a day in Bolivia, I came here solo. Landing in tears and into the arms of my one Mexican mate Guillermo it was hugs, tequilas and gay boys.

This time I am staying with Riccardo who also has a large group of delicious men for me to hang out with. He is the brother of Francesca, who you may remember from a few letters back, and is as equally marvellous as she. He has a cheeky grin, sports a Daliesque twist to his moustache and is talking of heading to Sierra Leone to help with the Ebola crisis for he works with Oxfam. Francesca and their mother have threatened to never speak to him again.

We had all planned to go on a Porn Tour but it was cancelled at the last minute. Apparently the cinemas had some ‘issues’ and I’m not surprised. If I was sitting watching porn in a dark cinema I don’t think I’d be dead keen for a tour to watch me watching. There would have been a second chick to keep me company.

I spent some hours in the anthropology museum which is so great I will try to slip back in before I depart Mexico next month.

I’ve been to the theatre with them all a couple of times, and understood most of it, kind of.
One play we saw turned into karaoke. I sang my usual, Goldfinger. It only lets me down in the last three lines.. a very high pitched ¨he loves gold, he loves gold, he loves goooooold!¨ As it is usually a few years between and I forget each time. I may have to change my song.

Riccardo now realises the handiness of having one “up your sleeve” and is likely to pull out ‘Volare’ from her on in.

Last night we went to micro theatre, which I just adore. 15 minute plays so you can see a few, in teeny intimate theatres, and I couldn’t help wondering if Sydney could pull it off. Maybe it already exists. I’ll be sure to check in to that hen I get home, and I heard that a Fringe Festival has begun since I’ve been away. Go Sydney!

Hugo and I are invited to a party at a musician’s house on the weekend in Havana and my bag is full of guitar strings and toothbrushes.

I´ll have to catch you up on the desert later…must fly.

lots and lots of love to you

k x

p.s Forgive the photoless world I seem to have fallen into…. something has gone skewiff

I am trying to put some in but they jump to the bottom here and all I see are letters on this telephone screen…

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North America : Chicago to Mexico

September 28, 2014

Hello my darling

How are you?

I am on an aeroplane bound for Mexico City and I am well.

I was on a plane bound for Northern Mexico one week ago but Hurricane Odile destroyed Cabo San Lucas and I was stopped in Dallas en route. I was headed for Todos Santos which is near Cabo.

American Airlines sent all the honeymooners from my flight to Cancun and told me to return in two days should I still wish to catch the flight down.

Considering Americans get about 7 seconds of holiday a year I guess you can’t blame them all for getting testy, but I did feel a little sorry for all the new husbands. Some of those chicks were frightful.

Natural disasters and cheap tickets equal zero airline accommodation so I ditched Dallas and headed immediately for Austin, on a bus the airport shuttle driver begged me not to touch. “You’ll be the only non-hispanic. Those buses crash each week. They change their names almost as often. Are you mad?”

Of course it was fine and I said “buenos tardes” to my fellow passengers as I jumped on. Imagine boarding a bus in Sydney and calling out “g’day.” You’d be locked up. But in Latino world you get a collective greeting in return.

A dubbed version of Men in Black blared away and the old girl next to me was headed to a funeral as I think was most of the bus.

I grabbed a taco from the Mexican joint next door just before we set off and said “buen provecho” to the large group of men staring at me. I have learned that fear or awkwardness is often melted by direct verbal communication and I suppose I did look a little out of place.

I was held up once in La Boca and forever after would shout big hellos to everyone I passed, as though they were my great friends and would rush to my rescue should anything bad happen. It never did again.

La Boca is a little famous for being a lot dodgy and I was sent there to collect people when once we cancelled a tour.

Two women turned up. One from Melbourne who was super chilled out and dealt with the news decently and forgivingly. The other was Nervous Nelly from Boston, who’d lied to her family about visiting La Boca and shook with terror at all times. She really wanted a sneaky peak and while I wasn’t very familiar with the tour at the time, I had an hour up my sleeve so took them up to Pasaje Garibaldi. There had been an ‘urban intervention’ and it would give them a snippet of both Boca and the street art scene. It is just off the tourist strip and the cops won’t enter.

I started on about a couple of the artists I knew.

“So this is Pastel, the architect..”, pointing high up the wall to his version of Buster Keaton’s house from One Week and then noticed some commotion out of the corner of my eye.

A boy was annoying Madame Boston so I said “Ché, dejanos en paz, eh”. “Dude, leave us in peace.”

He thrusts his chest right at me and says “Plata, plata, dame plata.” He was after money.

I was working and he was annoying so I told him to fuck off. And just as the f of the off landed on my lips I realised he had, or was pretending to have, a gun down his shorts. My fear kicked in but it was too late. I’d been too tuff. He apologised and left us to it. Amazing.

He walked in the direction we too wanted and Boston was freaking out; panting, terrified, and continuously looking back to check where he was. Melbourne remained the coolest kid on the block and I thank you for that wherever you may be. I was trying to stay cool but my heart was thumping fast.

While we three girls slowly headed further into Dodgyville, I turned to see where he was and ended up in a staring competition with him. I won and off he went. I might add that I was wearing a bright red dress and lipstick for I had other plans for that Saturday afternoon. Tuff.

So my Austin mate is Moya and she came on a graffitimundo tour with me once upon a time. We finish every tour at Post Street Bar because hidden at the back is Hollywood in Cambodia; a gallery run by six Argentine street artists. After a beer Moya asked if we could hang out while she was in town, and so we did.

When I checked in with her from Dallas Fortworth she was in Detroit with her fella looking at property and wrote that I was super welcome, please please come, she’d be back the next day, and that I should let myself in and stay in her daughter’s room who was at dad’s for the week with her brother and sister.

Austin is just marvellous and all my new friends think I am moving there, just as soon as they find me a husband to get the government off my back. But I am not. I have promised Sydney 2 years and I plan to stay longer if all goes according to my very lightly sketched plan.

Their place is old and magnificent. A crumbling, free standing house known as a Nola house as it is like those from New Orleans Louisiana. There were massive trees shading all the ‘porches’ and wide white chairs swinging at the front and back, just like the movies.

And addresses like East 13th make it so much harder for me to get lost.

Everyone was in a total love zone.

Moya is madly in love with Colin and Colin is madly in love with Moya.

Her flatmate Deborah is madly in love with Bryan and Bryan is madly in love with Deborah.

It should have been sickening but it was really nice to be surrounded by lovers, true true lovers, kissing all about the place and just so very happy with how it’s all worked out for them.

We did group yoga classes in the mornings to tricky podcasts.

Deborah took me one evening to her regular singing jam and another morning to her regular Ecstatic Dance get together. The jam was cool, yet a desperate reminder that I really must learn the words to a song or two. Did I never listen to an album growing up? I could count Madonna and Kylie but ssshhhhh. I chimed in with Blue Moon and Pulp Fiction’s Let’s Stay Together. But Gnarls Barkley’s ‘Crazy’ was one I wish I’d known.

I remember when, I remember, I remember when I lost my mind.
There was something so pleasant about that place.

The fellow who sang it did a super splendid job solo though, hitting all those high notes and then casually picking up one of his 12 harmonicas while the two guitarists took it for a spin. Very nice times.

By the way, if you remember from an earlier letter my idea of singing Nature Boy on a quiet corner of Burning Man’s Black Rock City….and if you’re wondering, did I do it? No. I did not. It didn’t seem quite the thing to do. But I did sing it to three unsuspecting mini audiences throughout the week. Very intimate (not romantically) and a little intoxicated. Of course I forgot some of the words.

In case you don’t know the song I’m referring to :

There was a boy
A very strange, enchanted boy
They say he wandered very far, very far
Over land and sea
A little shy
And sad of eye
But very wise was he.

And then one day
One lucky day he passed my way
And while we spoke of many things
Fools and kings
This he said to me
“The greatest thing
You’ll ever learn
Is just to love
And be loved in return.”

It puts in me in tears in the opening credits of Moulin Rouge every time. It’s ‘cos I know she’s going to die and I don’t even like Nicole.

And I’m learning it on the piano. Well I was, and I will again when I hit Sydney.

Did I tell you that I’ve organised to continue my piano lessons via Skype? Bit of a different way to go about things, but why on earth not? Marcelo Katz and I tested it out from his house to mine one day and it seemed to work ok. And it’ll be good for my Español.

Also, if you were wondering about the Sufi Post?? A hit. A total hit. I loved it, and have kept it going. Moya, Colin, Deborah and Bryan should all be getting a Hafiz poem the day after tomorrow. As will their acupuncturist mate Peachy. As will the handsome chap at the paleo food van who I met when completely gaga after 2 hours of acupuncture. Aaah, acupuncture. When it is good, it is so so good.

It seems that every American I meet is polyamorous and on a paleo diet. I am not quite sure I have my head around the diet but I get the polyamorous bit. Untested by yours truly, Deborah approached me quietly one day after I’d been chatting to her beau. “It is ok if Bryan flirts with you, it’s totally fine, we’re in an open relationship.” I had no interest at all in her man but wondered if that might sound insulting so just mumbled “ok”. The paleo business on the other hand I have not got my head around. Hunter gatherer style, think cave man, avoid all grains.

As the Sufi Post at Burning Man, I would ask the punters if I might read them a poem. I’d slip my Sufi Post sign over my head, read it, then ask “would you like me to post that to you?” and reach for my miniature envelopes. I went a bit gung-ho on day one reciting poetry to half of Camp Anita and spent half the day writing poetry. With so much else to do coupled with my late arrival I took it easy after that and by Friday took down real addresses instead. I have been writing Hafiz’ beautiful words ever since.

BRC3PO was my chosen post office. Black Rock City’s 3 o’clock Post Office. Would you believe the city had three competing? I met a bloke who worked there one evening and he assured me their service was the very best so I trusted him.

And in Austin I saw an electric car station for the first time. I mean, a place for you to plug your car into to recharge. Seriously, am I that behind or does this sound like the foreign future to you too?

Last night I hung out on a Texan bridge waiting for the bats to pass overhead. Last summer I heard a whisper that some people were trying to move the Sydney bats on. Move them on? But the bats were first. Have you heard that too?

Yesterday I watched small boys play indoor soccer. Moya’s was the champ and we all felt very sorry for his team mate Milo. “It’s yours Milooooooo!!! Own it! Oooooowwwnnnn it!!!! MILOOOOO!!” The poor child almost kicked one in and his mother screamed out “that’s it! That’s it!!! You just need a taste!!”

This Ecstatic Dance business was after the football, and before we ate ‘barbeque’, which neither you nor your mates help to cook. Delicious and messy meat literally slipping off the bone.

So, Ecstatic Dance is basically a sober dance party on a Sunday morning with smiley people who might give you a sudden hug. I don’t think it is my thing but I am pleased I can erase it from my curiosity bank. I tried to get into it, sat it out when the thumping house beats kicked in, and when I dared myself back in to the fold, a stinky, sweaty man came and gave me a long, stinky, sweaty hug. Bit too long for my liking, but I hugged back because that’s what I’d signed up for. After he left a bloke clad in royal purple started ‘contact’ dancing with me. I think that is what it was as I’d heard all about ‘contact’ in Buenos Aires where they’re all about it. He rolled his back and body around mine and didn’t quite get the hint when I tried to pull away. My back wasn’t strong enough to be honest, and I was pushing back from the nearby wall to gather more strength. Eventually I said “too much buddy” whereupon he started to hum “gently, gently” and moved us onto hand to hand energy work. Again I played along but then he wanted us to touch hands, then he stroked my face and then put his hand near my crotch and on my hip. That was me done and I sat down to join the others “omm” and have ocean waves wash over me. Finally the hundred of us sat in a circle to say our names whereupon I discovered that the sweaty hugger was Divinely Present and the face stroker was Wonderfully Lost. I was just me.

Austin was also full of house cracking thunderstorms, swimming holes, a reminder that I like experimental electronic music if I get to lie down while listening, and lots and lots of good conversations with modern thinkers. Lovely.

So…..you may be wondering about Chicago. It didn’t work out. I probably ought to have stayed in Colorado but you can’t get it right every time. And had I not gone to Chicago I’d not have ended up in Austin because I’d not have run away to Calgary and I’d not have taken Carla’s advice to visit Todos Santos, so I’d not have been stuck in Dallas and so it goes.

The fellow, who I seem unwilling to name, met me with his band of merry trippers and all was ok for a second. Then I realised this fun shamanic charmer was a grumpy alcoholic stoner trashbag mess. I managed two nights in his toxic company and bailed.

I did manage to get a little snippet of Chicago though.

I sat on a beach gazing at Lake Michigan, I went to an excellent design show, and I wandered downtown amongst those extraordinary and colossal buildings. And I went to a comedy gig at Second City where Saturday Night Live and Mike Myers were born. I needed some humour back in my world.

I hung out one evening with my ex-neighbours from Buenos Aires who are great. They took me out for negronis for old times’ sake and the best ramen ever in the West Loop. They had been my back up plan in case the dude turned sour but unfortunately had to leave for weekend weddings so couldn’t stick around to play. I didn’t camp with them because they’d given up their downtown apartment in exchange for Argentina, and were living in the sticks with mom and dad; oddly in the same neighbourhood as Macdonald’s main headquarters which they say is nice.

The day I left the trashy shaman I wandered through the Mexican neighbourhood Pilsen in hopes of finding a noticeboard or I don’t know quite what. I’d had to escape is all I know. Bit of an odd move wheeling my little bag up the one street, going in and out of cafes and shops asking about potential hidden rooms for rent. One kind girl working in a cafe offered me her sofa, but not till midnight, by which stage I’d found a last minute cancellation on airbnb. Thank God. What an angel though, I knew Pilsen had a nice ring to it. To tell you the truth, I spent many hours that week looking for a room or an apartment that wasn’t a Hilton or 30 miles out of town for my visit coincided with the Riot Festival and a massive conference. It was a bit booooring and stressful and is no doubt as dull to read as it is to write so my sincere apologies for being dreary.

When I arrived that night in the Swedish neighbourhood Andersonville my bag handle decided to bust. Good. Great. I was handed a glass of red by Jacob who works in the makeup industry, who immediately set to work on my eyes. All a girl ever needs to get back on track is a glass of a plonk and a laugh with a camp make-up artist and his new lover. Thanks fellas, I’ll catch you in Chicago for round 2 when I am not temporarily blinded by the scent of romance.

The other half of the flat, Melanie, was also terrific. And she is soon headed to Australia for 6 months so hopefully we’ll hang out. She loves the joint and dated a boy in Perth for a while and spoke fondly of goon in the backyard.

We were all sad that they had to boot me out on Friday morning and, as I was desperate not to stay in lonely, fancy hotel rooms, I bailed for Calgary for a quick reset with old mates, a few more glasses of vino and some of Carla’s amazing home cooked food.

And a gopher museum.

I wheeled the bag in the rain to the mom and pop hardware store where that fine chap persevered for a good 20 minutes and fixed it. Legend.

And now I am in the sky leaving what has been one wonderful and eventful month in the United States of America. Cheers for having me team, see you next year in Nevada. I hope.

I always ramble on and on and never remember to ask how you’re travelling? Is everything going ok in your world? Are you happy and well? What’s news?

Lots of love

Kirsty xxo

p.s When this machine stops misbehaving I’ll try to put up some photos

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USA : Nevada to Utah to Colorado

September 11, 2014

Hello my darling

How are you?

I am well. Warm, sticky, well and in Moab; a most striking and apparently hidden treasure on earth. It is adventure nut central and tomorrow I will bail after my brief interlude with rock climbing. I may just be hooked for it is a bit crazy good, but that is enough for the time being.

When I boarded the train in Reno there were two conductors hanging about; one scanned our papers while the other told us how to behave. The good manners lesson went on and on and on. For at least ten minutes, which is long, especially considering the train was stationed waiting for us to be schooled.

“I don’t catch all o’ you smokers all o’ the time, but I do catch a great big percentage of yer.” Shoes must remain on at all times, we weren’t to take on any troublemakers ourselves…and so it went. It was and indeed remains a little worriesome to be told how to behave on a train but perhaps it was a Reno thing because the joint was so chock full of ‘burners’ and perhaps they thought there’d be strife, but I have this funny feeling that this is not a Reno thing. I really hope I am wrong.

The day before my departure I went hunting for some flowers “you want fresh flowers???” and came up with an azalea for Jan and Stan to plant. It is a more pushy present than I’d hoped to give them but it was that or floral plastic and I remind myself that it is not a puppy and that Jan and Stan have a good sized yard. And at the supermarket check-out my coins were not handed to me but spat out of a machine instead. Odd. Germs or efficiency I wonder. And there was a bloke outside the store busting out moves while listening to his yellow Sony walkman. Oh the cassette tape. Oh the good old times.

I got off the train in Green River. Green River Station to Moab was a mini mission but, with the help of my new mate Gino the Roman, it was pulled off with fortunate ease.

image

I caught a whiff of the challenge earlier on when chatting up a conductor on one of the breaks for the smokers who, by the looks and the grumbles of them, must have been sitting on that Amtrak voyage desperate for decades.

“So, you got someone collecting you at Green River?” he wonders.

“No.” His face dropped in horror. “Well, that’s really no good, no good at all.”

He mentioned a shuttle he’d never spied that charges $100 for the 50 miles to Moab, wished me the best of luck and screamed “all aboard.”

I had lashed out and got a sleeper for the 17 hour journey and the carriage steward whispered that the chap in number 10 was also alighting at Green River. Enter Gino.

Gino is a charming Roman, ex financier, ex advisor to Italian governments, son of a film producer turned film producer himself, snooker shark (we held off playing when I told him I was a bit ‘hit and miss’), a husband who just got sprung cheating on his missus, and a man with even less clue about Green River than I.

“I might stay a couple of nights” he says before we had even pulled in. I told him I would do all I could to avoid such a situation.

We looked to be in strife in Utah. We were the only two getting off the train (they all knew), and there was not even a chair on the platform let alone a loo. The sticks. We shared pancakes I had grabbed as take away (I bullied him into trialling bacon and syrup) and headed for Main Street.

Green River was once a mining centre, a Wild West film location, and a missile base. Green River is now one broken down hotel and cafe after another and a river called Green. We made a pathetic sign “Moab” and I stuck out a thumb while Gino entered the one open diner and sweet talked Sylvia the Mexican chef to shut up shop and drive us where we wanted to go. We got very very lucky.

image  image

Yesterday afternoon, while Gino bumped around on a tour in a jeep, I paid a bored bloke called Jay to take me climbing for a few hours. I went up and down the one short face Schoolroo

m, and any time I asked if we might visit another rock he would say “if we have time.” It was ok, but kind of tiring and a bit boring after the first 3 shots at it.

Yesterday’s simplicity however was made up this morning by Bud the Brilliant. He’d been eavesdropping as Gino and I checked in at the Adventure Inn; a place where people have sent snail mail letters thanking Jim and Chris, Bud’s good mates, for their kind hospitality. He collected me at the crack of dawn and taught me like the true beginner I am/was.

image Dear Bud.

Etiquette was very important (“if there’s just one thing I teach you today…share the rock, use your own anchor”) and I am now able to belay a bloke and thus be a useful buddy. I became a bit dizzy with the lingo but I’ve heard it all once now and the first time is surely the dizziest part.

There was some to-ing and fro-ing….

B: “Belay on” K: “Belay on”
B: “Belay off” K: “Belay off”
B/K: “Climbing”
B/K: “Climb away”

It was really really scary at times. I mean, you know you’re not going to fall, but bloody hell, it was steep and sometimes I was holding on to nada, with my toe resting on a crack. They scale up from 5 here and I will later brag to anyone who cares to listen that I climbed 5.10. And then probably learn that it isn’t worth bragging about and shut my mouth again. But Bud did say that I am a natural. Charm’ll get you everywhere.

He wouldn’t even let me pay for gas, only a burger for his lunch. A real gem, who takes people out just for the love of it.

Gino kept on insisting on paying for my dinner too, I must look like a real bum.
…………………..Tomorrow today……………………

I am back on the train. Gino and I just spent another four hours at Green River for the freight companies own the train tracks and today, Sunday, is a good day for repairs. We just met Roma walking the streets, most of town at the Green River cafe, and the pastor at one of the three churches. We were an hour early for the service which, for some reason, we thought might be an interesting way to pass the time. Still sinners.

What is remarkable is that Gino said a short while ago that I am teaching him about patience. Me? I am one of the least patient characters I have ever laid eyes on, but cheers Gino. I just didn’t want to get on the Greyhound.

image Impatient Gino heading off for the Greyhound. He’ll be back.

He has been writing a script and scouting for a documentary he is making about food culture in the States, hooking up with some famous chef called Alice who began the famous Chez Parnasse in Berkeley. And he is now considering casting me in it and thinks I should be a comic actor. I have been chatty it is true, and I am in a good mood, but with a camera in my face capturing my every move I would go weird and shy and so I say no. Not that he is saying yes, and if one day he wanted to fly me to Roma for a casting, well, I’m sure I’d say alright. But no, I don’t think so.

There really is nothing like an Aussie accent in Utah to inspire banter with strangers though. It is working so deliciously well it is no wonder I can’t leave the States, and it reminds me how completely in love I fell with the place during last year’s visit. In the UK you’re just another bloody Aussie but here I feel a teeny bit exotic again and what can I say, I love feeling just a teeny weeny bit exotic.

I did let Gino in on how famous I am in Argentina after that, and my massive role as a Swedish lesbian in Bien de Familia; a mini series which was pretty dreary but made it to air the month before I left. I was meant to be the daughter of a Swiss banker, working for Medicines Sans Frontiers and saving children in Africa, but by the time I came in at episode 8 someone else in the cast had accidentally referred to me, Gudula, as Swedish instead of Swiss. Sueca is close to Suiza, it is true. I tried to argue with the continuity guy who rushed in to correct me after one of the takes (there was some improvisation to add to my awkwardness as the only foreigner and the only one who’d never acted) and his response was, and I quote, “no pasa nada. Es todo lo mismo.” Whatevs mate. It’s all the same, innit?

It was a family drama about self medicating Argentine psychiatric mothers and badly investing Argentine fathers, and my debut into the lesbian scene involved one kiss and one hand on one thigh. Not a terribly steamy role. Reading the script I worried less about kissing chicks and more about the expectation that I laugh, cry and be terrified. Thank God for the director’s improvisational stance as I didn’t have to do or be any of those things….I was just good ole’ Swedish me. Crying I reckon I’d have been able to pull off, maybe, but fake laughter? Forgetaboutit.

Incidentally, my marvellous French flatmate told me at the time of filming that the name Gudula in France is a synonym for a very butch, truck driving lesbian. Excellent.

So now I am patient and I am running with that, just so you know.

After Gino and I ate some steak and wandered down Main Street towards a bar called Woody’s (the town’s one other bar is Eddie McStiff’s) we passed an out of towner who’d spent his evenings that week showcasing his gigantic telescope and aiming it at the moon for all us fine punters passing by to have a squiz. Gino and I lingered long enough for him to swing it around to Saturn. Fantastic.

We and this very late train are headed now to Glenwood Springs by the way, and in the next few days, instead of practicing my newfound patience, I intend to chase a strange boy to Chicago.

He is possibly the oddest character I have ever wanted to kiss twice and I am going to the Windy City to find out more. Or to freak out at my careless and rash decision at which stage I will throw myself out of the United States of America and get myself south of the border where I am meant to be.

Apple picking is definitely not happening though.

And I am on stand by for changing Cuban Cubamera dates.

It has been way too long between kisses and I am just tinkering with ideas of romance and affection. I miss it and I want it some more.

Must have been that workshop I joined one morning at Burning Man titled “Open your heart chakra though movement meditation”, where I was invited to ooze green Saturnian rings through my heart, the playa and then of course the entire cosmos.

I kissed a couple of other boys at Black Rock City. Doctor Love was the best kisser (Aussie lad) who was hanging out with Hugs and Trouble. Mustang from Wisconsin sadly coughed up about his girlfriend the day after we kissed and of course there was the kissing booth.

These strange names I speak of are Playa names. Like Strider and Polar Bear who I met from the Seattle Flight if you recall.

Mine was given to me on day 2. I was wandering back from Embrace having attended a funeral service with my entire camp, Camp Anita. We each dressed in white and walked to the Temple to celebrate their friend from Camp Anita and one girl’s mother who had died earlier in the year.

image Indy and Arturo in front of The Temple of Grace

Indy (who later became Pirate), with whom I shared a campervan (RV) hadn’t yet crawled about inside Embrace so after the funeral we ventured over.

imageEmbrace

We split up and when we eventually found each other she was outside about to kiss some fellow. I left them to it and as I wandered away I asked a Frenchman cycling past, Lolo, for directions to 630 and Isfahan. When I offered just Kirsty and no Playa Name he said “from now on you are The Baroness.” “The Baroness!!” He repeated it like it was an order and cycled on his way.

I mean, I kind of liked it, but as I am not actually a baroness it did seem a little on the pretentious side.

I ran it by Hurricane, my other Rv flatmate and lady boss of the camp. “It’s good.”

And the following day I met Tricky who, detecting something was up as I hesitated to introduce myself, helped me workshop it a little. He insisted that I introduce myself as “the” baroness, and not simply baroness. And so I did.

And to think that Lolo didn’t even know that I had long white leather gloves and a nasty cheap but perfect white furry coat in my wardrobe.

The gloves and the backpack are now long gone and Gino commented on what a light traveller I am. You can only imagine how delighted I was to hear those words.

I’ll have to start another letter later with more about the “burn” as this one is surely already too long.

I hope you are wonderfully well.

Lots of love

The Baroness xxo

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Nevada : Burner Express

September 5, 2014

P.s. Oldish tales

Darling You

We are heading off on the burner express. I have two peanut butter and jelly sandwiches in my bag and all is well in the world.

The playa was flooded and they stopped all entry to all vehicles yesterday. I went back to my new home at Stan and Jan’s and chilled out, walked the dog, skyped their daughter/my mate Jenny.

As we stood in a long queue and found out about the cancellation, a pair walked up and down (we checked in yesterday to avoid more delays today) saying people were welcome to throw a mattress down on the floor of their room if they could not afford or find elsewhere. Back up plan : pool party at the grand Sierra 7pm.

Stan lent me his 4wd, probably not instilled with great
confidence as I asked him to remind me which side of the road I am supposed to stay on. I made it downtown eventually via some massive highways and found two blokes walking in as I did, clearly burners.

“Nice outfits fellas.”

One had a tophat and massive lampchop sideburns, the other’s suit reminded me of that screen on a TV station when there is no TV. They asked if I was headed to Lex. ¿Que? Thievery Corporation was playing. I like Thievery Corporation and ducked my head in for a while, now dusted with a golden glittery bindy over my third eye from a bloke out by the pool who’d slammed us all with one. The pool party was cancelled by the way due to lightning.

I had a battery problem with my car years back and instead of changing the battery I lifted the bonnet each time I wanted to restart the engine. Bit stressful if I stalled at the lights but it was ok, and the Thievery Corporation cd was eternally stuck in the CD player. That was until the golf ball hailstorm hit Sydney and I lost the car, the player and the cd for good.

I made some new friends at the pool bar and spotted a girl with a sign on her backpack asking “please please please, can I have a burning man ticket?”.

A few hours earlier I had received word from my mate saying he’d no longer be coming, and so sold it to her for what I’d paid for it. I am now a goddess. Last week I went hunting for tickets for a mate and they had tripled in price. More karmic brownie points for me.

I thought my mate had been “incarcerated by love” all weekend and thus no communication on his part. I congratulated him. Then, at 530am this morning awake with jetlag, I realised he had been “incarcerated, love”, sprung with narcotics in Wyoming. Oh no, poor bugger. I know no more.

In the queue yesterday I met Robin whose camp does foam performances. Showers are forbidden at Burning Man, so he says, and I think I shall never shower again, from here on in I shall have only foam performances. His camp is called faux mirage and he tells me it is hidden away, at 230 and e. I am to get there early.

On Sunday Jan and Stan took me out to lunch in Lake Tahoe. Once again my hosts are spectacular, this pair have been treating me like a daughter they’ve not seen nor fed for a decade. I mean, to give me a car? I have my own section downstairs and the comfiest bed since Argentina. Luxurious times in the ‘burbs and I have been barely allowed to clear the table.

And they have the most beautiul hound, Shadow. Half golden lab, half huskie.

The girl, Ebony, who sits beside me here on the bus is also in the faux mirage camp. And we just worked out that her Italian husband will be a sound engineer for the music festival I am volunteering at in October, Cubamera. She will introduce me, wicked. Now I just have to find them amonst the 70,000. She has sensational, long plaited black and blonde dreadlocks so shouldn’t be too impossible to spot.

This is on a phone and I am about to lose reception so forgive the rough copy but thought I’d best get it in if I could.

Lots of love to you

k xxo

Sent from a telephone

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Edinburgh to Reno

September 5, 2014

p.s Oldish tales

Darling You

How are you?

I am ok but I didn’t get too far from Edinburgh yesterday.

It was a comedy of errors throughout which I somehow managed to stay in a good mood. It could have been really dreadful.

I was the last on the flight and an Italian woman was sat in my seat. Reluctantly they placed me in the front row, with the front row food. Yippee.

There was a lightning storm on arrival into Schipol, Amsterdam. We were able to land but not taxi all the way to the gate. We waited for 40 minutes on the tarmac, with many eager to get to their connecting flights, myself included.

I get to the gate and the Delta flight to Seattle is delayed by 3.5 hours.

I get my 10 euro voucher with the masses and find a place to stretch.

Stretch. Linger. Stretch. Sushi.

It is half an hour before boarding and I head for the gate. Empty. Gate closed. Oh dear. The board still says D7, and to go to the gate but the KLM women say it has been cancelled and I must stay in Holland for the evening.

I wait in one queue.

And am told after some time I am in the wrong one. But she gives myself and 6 others the hot tip to avoid the massive queue of people trying to get a room for the night.

We all end up on the same bus with the same bus driver who went 40 minutes the wrong way by which stage we are all besties.

Dinner cafeteria style but a swanky hotel to please us all. Danish Julia was very grumpy as she too is going to Burning Man and is responsible for not just her ticket. She handed out reese’s pieces.

The Alaskan brothers in the seat before me were coming home from Quatar where each year they repair musical instruments.

Canadian John knew exactly what was in our goodies bag as it was the second day his Seattle flight had been cancelled. He was in exceptionally good humour considering, and told a tale of how he’d hung out with a 90 year old US veteran the night before and they nearly got mugged together but fought them off.

Then Julie shared her mugging attempt tale. We were on the edge of our seats, as we sipped her Danish liquor no longer able to be carried through to Burning Man as she’d now entered Holland. A man had followed her home, she couldn’t find her keys, her shoulder against the door, a quick release to throw him off and elbowed in the ribs. Terrifying tale.

These tales all came out as we played “I have never”, a drinking game I had seen for the first time in a skit the previous day in the Fringe. That’s one way to get to know your fellow passengers “I have never paid for sex”, “I have never tried heroin”, “I have never been to Burning Man” .. and if you have you must sip.

It is a while since I have been in Holland. We were on the outskirts of The Hague and Canada John said there was a coffee shop nearby. It wasn’t so close and we’d since moved to the casino/bar next door. It was fun to hang out but the bar could have been anywhere so I headed off for an adventure.

I asked the waiters where to go and the taxi driver took me to “happy smile” where I bought a teeny bit of weed for the gang and rolled a racehorse. It was a pretty seedy place and I tried to fit in as best as I could…amongst men with heavy Eastern European Dutch accents all smoking spliffs. I caught some friendly smiles nearer my departure.

They looked a little horrified when I asked where the tram was located (I had the hotel’s address and 20 euro).

I got lost.

And there was no-one, almost no-one, to ask.

Someone I stopped on a bike wrote down the name of a street for me. Each time they said it was simple,…just go straight straight.

So I did.

Lost. Always so lost.

I found the tram tracks in the end and, looking for the stop, I realised the tram was never coming because there was a massive fence closing it off ‘under repair.’

Uh oh, mucked this one up a bit. Lonely large streets with only the very occasional car zooming past. I had no idea which way to even begin walking the 6 kilometres back to the Grand Winston.

It was problematic for only about 15 irresponsible minutes before Vincent the Savior rescued me. He was going to call me a taxi and said he was actually going back that way. Wicked wicked. Thank you Vincent, you saved me from bad.

They were all still at it when I returned. I was probably gone just under 2 hours and there was now a jam in session with the Alaskans (who are missing a gig at their mates’ wedding), Hussein the flautist from Lebanon heading to visit a mate in Portland, and another chick was singing along.

There was Polar Bear also going to Burning Man, who had worried about me (I’d been worried about me) and I chimed in with them when the Saints started marching in… there was lots of thigh slapping ..it was ridiculously silly and funny and I shall remember it for all time.

All my love

k xxo

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Returning from Black Rock City

September 4, 2014

Darling You

 

How are you?

I am terrific and in a bit of a rush. Got an overnight train to catch and the Pneumatic Diner in downtown Reno to visit before I board.

Plans have changed.

There aren’t so many apples awaiting me in Hermosillo (bad drought) and I have developed a desire to climb rocks.  So I just bought a one way train ticket to Utah having been told by some young base jumpers from New Orleans about Moab, Utah. I seem to be oriented well for exploring part of this beautiful country, with its friendly people and its very handsome and flirtatious men, and it appears I am in no rush to jump down into Mexico so to Moab I go.

Give me two weeks of yankee tucker though and I’ll no doubt be sprinting for the border.

I have two posts ready to go pre Black Rock City which I shall send in a bit and will catch you up on the festival in time. It was magnificent.  Burning Man takes place in Black Rock City, by the way, if I have confused you.

But for now, know that I am alive and well and happy and nervous again, for after all my new mates, I am on my own once more and it always throws me into a mild spin of semi-excited, semi terrified mode.  Utah? Who’d have thunk it.

And Colorado is just next door.

Anyone reading this with any mates in the area please do hook a sister up.

 

All my love

Kirsty xxo