Buenos Aires Story

Economy class, the way I have seen the world. The seats cramped. Chefs would scoff at the pre-packaged culinary delights and there isn’t always a TV behind the seat. However, when it comes to population density, economy always wins.

There I was on a flight to Buenos Aires via Atlanta. While I struggled with my oversized baggage, my eyes locked with a very handsome fellow traveler. He was charming and gave me a smile. Down to earth and friendly, he started a conversation with me, since we were sitting next to each other. I pulled out ” Running with scissors,” he complimented my selection in proper airplane lit. I loved him already. We took off for Atlanta.

A couple hours later, I was boarding a plane to Buenos Aires. Surprise, Mr. down to earth and charming was my neighbor on that flight too. Unfortunately, my gaydar was down. I couldn’t tell if he was gay or straight. I fell asleep on that flight. Our flight descended through the enchanting pampas into South America’s very own slice of Paris, Buenos Aires.

As we passed though the customs line, I told him “it was nice to meet you” and made my merry way to baggage claim. Buenos Aires is one of those very romantic cities. Portenos (Buenos Aires residents) speak Spanish with Italian accents. The buildings are reminiscent of romantic European capitals and wine flows freely like the mighty Rio de la Plata. One of my most significant memories in the Argentinean capital was watching tango dancers, while drinking a soda on the street.

The dancers were so graceful as they danced cheek to cheek and moved in perfect precision to traditional tango music. It seemed romantic; I was on holiday and wanted to fall in love somewhere romantic.

One night while having dinner on Avenue Santa Fe, I saw my plane seat neighbor. He was walking with a group of bears with large beards. He’s gay. In a big city like Buenos Aires, when will I run into him again? Somewhere in the cosmopolitan jungle, he re-appeared. We said hello to each other very briefly and hugged. A few days later, he re-appeared this time with a twink. I go to myself “oh they must be dating.”

After running into each other 3 times in Argentina, we didn’t see each other again during the trip.  Serendipitously, we saw each other in the States, but once again didn’t truly hang out. Years later, I was on Facebook and found him. I friend requested him. He accepted.

Even though I was in New York, he in California, we kept in touch via social media. He had a serious boyfriend and we ended up becoming friends. Slowly, I humanized him and my own romantic feelings dwindled. Even though no romance ensued, we did end up establishing a friendship. I always love having guy friendships, especially with those I relate to.

 

Big In Tokyo

A group of old men playing chess while the quintessential folky earth mama sings about same sex attraction. The sweet scent of espresso is brewing filling the house with delight. This is the nostalgic coffee shop experience.

It’s a refuge from the workday without the hangover of a glass of wine. The coffee shop is also known the pub alternative where blueberry muffins, kitschy novels and cappuccinos populate the nerve of intellectual and social activity.

My twenties were spent hanging out in coffee shops. I love the coziness and the high level of creative activity. I’ve spent time in virtually every coffee house in Downtown Manhattan. My favorites are the Cake Shop (in the Lower East Side), the Bean (East Village) and Jack’s (West Village).

When I travel internationally, I typically have my coffee at 4 pm. My fondest memories are enjoying a coffee with my dad in Palermo Soho in Buenos Aires while being immersed in the bohemian environment. While in Madrid, we drank cafe con leche (a latte) with little pastries. However, the most grand coffee shop experience is in Tokyo.

The three things, I love the most are looking at city views, people watching and (here’s a shocker) drinking abnormally large quantities of coffee. The Tokyo coffee house experience offers all three. My favorite places to grab a cup of Joe vary. Le Cafe Doutor in the Ginza district is fancy schmancy.

It’s located in the heart of the most moneyed high fashion slice of Tokyo. It overlooks the main crossing, which is surrounded by opulence. It’s designer shops, grand department stores and chichi cafes. The white chocolate latte is my vice there. I felt quite fancy sipping coffee there. That same day, I visited another coffee shop with a view, Starbucks in Shibuya Crossing.

Shibuya Crossing is the busiest place one could ever visit. It’s Times Square x 100. I’ve walked Shibuya Crossing many times. However, I never bumped into anybody. It’s amazing. I wish more cities would adopt diagonal crossing. The Starbucks there overlooks that very busy crossing.

I know I could get Starbucks here, but none have the view of the Shibuya Starbucks. It’s a similar experience to Le Cafe Doutor only the crowds are funky. It’s more street fashion as opposed to haute couture.  I felt like a bird perched on a tree watching the millions of people watching below. It was simply amazing and my excuse for having Starbucks in Japan.

Unlike most cities in the world, Tokyo can offer the best coffee house experience anywhere you go. In Japan, the vending machine is big. New York wired me to have no patience. Therefore, standing in line can be a rather frustrating experience.

In Tokyo, I never had to worry about waiting in line. I could purchase a hot coffee from the vending machine, pick up a pack of cigarettes (back when I was a smoker and also from the vending machine) and have a quintessentially stress free experience. Afterwards, I would wonder around the city, put on some folky tunes and indulge in my own private coffee shop anywhere from a park to frenetically paced Shinjuku.

I love the quintessential coffee shop experience. It’s the pub alternative, where I’ve done everything from written huge thesis papers to job-hunt online. In Tokyo, the vending machine is queen and is my to go form of coffee on the run. Nothing beats the Tokyo coffee shops with grand views will always be my favorite places in the city.

Men Folk

I came out at fifteen years old. My biggest supporter was my dad. Even as a Marine, he always accepted not only my gayness, but also all those personality quirks. As, I grew older; he wanted to understand me better.

Therefore, we went to a gay bar. When we would travel, my dad wouldn’t tag along to the bars. He always wanted me to go out and have fun on my own. Surprise, I had a blast. On a trip to Paris, I finally invited him to a gay bar. It was a chic haunt in uber gay Le Marais, the capital’s rainbow heart. It was male dominated. The guys had classic Gallic features and dressed impeccably.

They looked straight out of Paris Fashion Week. In fact, the bar would make a great after catwalk drink meet up. My dad felt very comfortable being the only straight guy there. He sipped a beer and I had the gayest of all beverages, a martini.

A few months after our big Paris trip, we traveled to Buenos Aires. I love men who look natural. In fact, I prefer a six-pack of beer to a six-pack on a man. However, there was this handsome guy who kept following us all over the city. From the world’s widest street, 9 de Julio Avenue to fashionable Recoleta to the coffee shops of Palermo Soho, he appeared. He was a classically handsome Argentinian, shirtless and armed with a beautiful smile.

This Latin lover was in an outdoor advertisement for men’s cologne. He was plastered all over the city. I told my dad, that I thought he was pretty hot, even though he wasn’t my type. My dad giggled. As we walked passed the billboard, the handsome Argentinian man kept smiling back at me. I told, my dad I want to take a picture, but felt like a nerd doing it.

My dad took the camera from my hand. He took a picture of Mr. Latin lover and handed me back the camera. Here you go, he said with a smile. The only loving I got from that trip was the mountains of dulce de leche I devoured.

After we came back home to the good ol’ U.S of A, I laughed at our Buenos Aires pictures. The outdoor ad guy looked hotter in person than photographed. Nonetheless, it’s great showing my dad a side of my life other sons would not dare talk about. Being upfront and accepting has kept are bond strong.

Artists

When I was a kid, my mother took a trip to Mexico City. She told me about how amazing it was to visit Frida Kahlo’s house. During the visit, she brought back Frida’s biography. The book was filled with pictures of Kahlo’s most intense paintings.

As an impressionable child, the images shocked and frightened me. It actually gave me nightmares for a while. I didn’t tell my parents this. However, many nightmares the paintings gave me, curiosity took over. I still looked at the book and developed a great degree of fascination with her art.

As an adult, I grew to admire and understand Frida Kahlo’s art more. In Buenos Aires, I went for a trip to the Museum of Latin American Art. They had a Kahlo painting on display. I was beyond excited to see one of her paintings in person.

Also at the museum was a Diego Rivera painting, Frida Kahlo’s husband. My mom loved his art too. She actually bought a bevy of posters to decorate our house with. Till this day my family home looks like a Mexican restaurant. Unfortunately, we don’t always have chips and salsa.

Seeing a favorite artist’s painting in person is one of the true joys of life. I remember seeing my first Andy Warhol painting at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and Claude Monet at London’s National Gallery. It’s the equivalent of seeing a piece of history only read about it in books.

My most memorable art experience happened in Madrid. Spain’s capital is the nation’s high culture hub. The Prado is a shrine to the Spanish creative senses. I learned about everyone from Goya to El Greco in those proper walls of art. Nothing could prepare me for seeing Pablo Picasso’s Guernica at El Centro De Arte Reina Sofia.

That day, I entered the museum and scrambled to see the painting. In a dark room shining brightly from a distance with grey, black and white hues was the Guernica. It was grander than I anticipated.

Staring at the painting is an emotional experience. The significance and history behind it make it a historic piece. I analyzed the painting carefully. Standing up close to it then taking a seat to see it from afar. The cows and men all perished during the Guernica bombing were there with Picasso’s Cubism style of art.  It left me glued; the hues depicted were bleak and perfectly captured the misery of that dreadful day. The Guernica was one of those pieces, which was hard to leave.

I roamed around El Centro de Arte Reina Sofia. It was very accomplishing to see the vast art collection. However, I’ll never forget the Guernica. It’s been years, since I last met eyes with Picasso’s masterpiece. I am truly eager to see and analyze it again one day. I’ve been lucky enough to experience Mexican, Impressionist, Pop, Renaissance and even Avant-garde art in my lifetime. Going to museums will always be one of my favorite pastimes.

Playing Photographer

My father and I were driving through Palm Springs. Rather, than heading toward, the town’s main drag. We took an unexpected path. As we went up a side street, kitschy homes from the 50’s and 60’s welcomed us.

Heading to the foothill of the mountains was  glorious. The mountains of Palm Springs are a tall and magnificent sight. However, I’d never come that close. Stop, I exclaimed excitedly. The rocks were imposing hues of brown and black. I was inspired to take photos with my iphone.

As we continued our journey further up hill, the desert town was lush with green palm trees from the slight hill. I kept stopping the car to take photos. Capturing my life via the lens of a camera and mobile has been a significant part of my life’s story.

Abroad, I would walk the streets of Tokyo desperately wanting to have my picture taken in front of the many sights I dreamed of. The only two words, I know in Japanese are konishiwa and arrigato. At first, I was intimidated to walk up to perfect non-English speaking strangers to take my picture. Sometimes, I was shot down. However, most of the time they politely obliged.

I pointed to the camera and they took the photo. Arrigato, I proclaimed. Thanks to the kindness of Tokyoites, I have pictures in front of the Imperial Palace, the fashion frenzy of funky Harajuku and drinking coffee in Ginza.

Than there were the times, I didn’t want to stop people and just took the photos myself. In London, I photographed myself everywhere from Piccadilly Circus to Trafalgar Square. Therefore, I made an art form out of taking self-portraits.

My cameras have captured the grand avenues of Paris, the bohemian chic of Buenos Aires’ Palermo Soho neighborhood and even the austereness of Plaza de Cibeles in Madrid. However, there have been photographers who actually wanted to use me as a subject.

Now, I don’t have any male model like qualities, unless, I suck in my chubby cheeks and pucker up my lips. While walking around New York’s Washington Square Park, I was approached to pose for the New York Times style section. Wow, I was intrigued, although I didn’t love my outfit that day.  After taking the picture, I was told that if they were going to use my image, I would receive an email. Needless to say, I didn’t get an email, but I was very flattered nonetheless.

Photographers I admire include Mario Testino, Wegee and Annie Lebovitz. I especially love the desert photography of Ansell Adams. On my recent trip to Palm Springs, I didn’t plan on taking photos. However, the mountains, rock formations and white sands inspired me eyes. I didn’t want to leave without making a memory of my trip. Although, the desert is inspirational nothing tops grey skies and old buildings.

The Tourist Trap

Times Square, half of my working life in New York took place here. I’ve jaywalked the crossroads of the world in the middle of a blizzard, maneuvered my way through the people traffic and avoided the urge to eat at Bubba Gump Shrimp. Sure, it’s the center of the city, but it’s a Disney-fied collection of chain restaurants one would find in Middle America.

That said, working in Times Square had its perks. Late at night, I’d turn off all the lights and watch the bright lights and extravagant outdoor ads smiling back at me. It was always a real treat.

Not so entertaining was catching the subway back to my apartment. Tourists tend to struggle with swiping their metro cards. At 42nd street-Times Square station, you could write a whole three act play, while these bewildered people attempted to enter the subway.

Times Square is classified as a tourist trap. This is any place prominent on a guidebook that is looked down upon by locals. Unlike a mousetrap, a savory slice of cheese is not needed to allure unsuspecting tourists. The only cheeses around are the souvenirs and overpriced caricatures, which are a mainstay of the tourist trap.

Even I have fallen prey to the tourist trap. Travel guides make some places completely alluring. Paris is a sophisticated town filled with high culture and an endless amount of tourist traps. Montmartre (the hill over looking the French capital) and the Eiffel Tower are more like a shrine to postcards and snow globes than anything the cool French bobos (French upwardly mobile bohemian crowd, somehow the French make hipster look chic) would ever frequent.

My favorite French tourist trap remains (drum roll) the Louvre. I’ve been there twice, I always took a picture in front of the pyramid entrance way. The art collection is overwhelming literally. The best art is skipping the Mona Lisa. It’s so small in real life. Paris will always be my pick for the world’s most beautiful city.

In Buenos Aires, the architecture screams Paris. There are cluster of buildings in Buenos Aires, which look as though they escaped chilly French winters for the humidity of Argentina. My most morbid tourist trap experience was the Recoleta Cemetery. It’s where high society is buried and Eva Peron, remains it’s most famous resident.

Not to culture shock anyone, but I was obsessed with the Evita soundtrack as a kid. I’m a huge Madonna fan and loved the film. I would hum and sing, ” Stand back Buenos Aires.” Some guys had loud hip-hop growing up, while I pumped up my Evita soundtrack. While in Buenos Aires, I wanted to see Eva Peron’s grave. Recoleta looks more like a small colonial town than a cemetery.

I kept asking people ” where is Eva Peron’s grave?” There was group of elderly American tourists. I followed them. There in a black marble grave was Evita’s grave. It wasn’t anything to really write home about.

Buenos Aires has this eclectic cosmopolitan population. Jewish, Italian, Spanish and Chinese make up a collage of cultures. However, one rarely sees the gaggle of American tourists (the stereotypical ones in tour groups, usually elderly and armed with fierce fanny pack) on the streets of Buenos Aires. They’re always too busy trying to find Eva Peron’s marble palace at the cemetery.

A hop, skip & jump over Brazil, the Equator and way up the Atlantic is London. It’s one of my favorite cities.  The red double decker buses, the novels of Charles Dickens, Brit pop from the 90’s, pubs (obviously), the edgy fashion and even the royal family’s history inspire my love of Cool Britannia. Like Paris, London makes tourist traps into very historical sites.

St. Paul’s Cathedral, The Tower of London, Westminster Abbey are quintessential and important slices of British history. All are touristy, but incredibly interesting to visit.

I love the National Gallery and sometimes-even love hanging out on Trafalgar Square and staring at Big Ben from the distance. However, one touristy part of London, I can’t stand is noisy Leicester Square. Think Times Square meets Meatpacking District (douchey nightclub bottle service heart of trendy New York). The fast-food chains and huge discos don’t exactly inspire haikus.

Living in touristy New York, visitors were always identified by a fear of jay walking, a love of movies turned into Broadway musicals & stopping traffic to capture the city for their friends back home to enjoy. My current home in California is not a tourist trap. At times I do miss taking the subway at Times Square and the energy.

All cool places have their tourist traps. Regardless of how un-cool a typical tourist looks, I do give them props for exploring new and exotic worlds, even if they are armed with fanny packs.

The Suitcase Diaries

Waking up in Tokyo, the spectacular Shinjuku skyline told me ” konishiwa” every morning. On my first trip to Tokyo, the Hotel New Otani was my temporary home. It even came equipped with the world famous Japanese toilets. They are the haute couture of toilet seats. It comes with every kind of function to make the bathroom experience, one you’d wanna write a postcard about.

The hotel was huge; it had all these fancy shops, restaurants & Tully’s coffee, where I enjoyed my honey lattes twice a day. There are those who say hotels aren’t important. For me, I don’t mind just a simple room with cable TV in a nice a part of town. It doesn’t have to be the lap of luxury. I’ve stayed at very simple affordable hotels around the world.

My Buenos Aires hotel, the Wilton was modest, but had a rooftop. I would climb to the top of the roof & sit on the ledge on grey days where the air was like steam from pea soup. I loved watching the traffic go by & the Baroque buildings in the distance, while the horns were the equivalent Mozart for my ears.

Then there were the less memorable hotels, in London I stayed at a budget hotel. The rooms made my old New York bedroom seem like a football stadium. I couldn’t move around without the entire hotel hearing every bit of noise symphony. The benefit was staying walking distance from Hyde Park & Kensington Gardens, where every London morning commenced.

Being abroad & living out of suitcase, means making my hotel room into a home is important. This is a concept I learned from my trip to Madrid. While I had a great time eating tapas, going to the Prado, seeing the Guernica (for the first time) & late nights in Chueca. I soon caught a terrible cold & stayed in bed for two days. It felt awful; luckily my dad was with me. He brought me sandwiches; plenty of (surprisingly tasty) cough medications & books from VIPS (Barnes & Nobles meets a cozy bistro).

However, I didn’t feel at home. I familiarized myself with Spanish TV, which remains a hoot. Be aware of it late night, the cheeky talk shows feature plenty of body parts, which scare gay boys. It was boring being at hotel in the middle of an exciting capital city.

Now when I travel, there’s always an iPod (for musical enjoyment at all hours), laptop, good books, magazines & snacks from Pringles to peanut M n’ M’s. This gives my hotel room a cozy feeling rather than feeling thousands of miles away from home.

I don’t really get homesick. Nothing beats walking out of my hotel in Paris & knowing that the art of the Mussee Orsay, macaroons, the metro, fresh espresso & grand cathedrals are at my very fingertips. In a perfect world, I would wiggle my nose and go anywhere from a Brazilian chrurrascaria to an experimental art show in Berlin (in a split second, of course).

Hotels are what you make of them. I’ve stayed at nice hotels in the middle of boredom, but have stayed at grease spoon hotels, which generated fun, since they were in vibrant cities. No matter where I go, living off a suitcase is something I want to do more of. I’m ready for the next life adventure.

The Frugal Jet Setter

Old travel films from the 50’s reminds us of a time when life was in Technicolor. Beautifully dressed men and women, board Pan Am flights. On board they drink magnificent cocktails & eat gourmet prime rib & desserts. With the magic of film, this is the quintessential fantasy, which airlines wanted to portray.

Air travel is really a lack of legroom, long lines & germs flowing freely in a capsule. However, I love every minute. Airport & airplanes are some of the most exciting places for me. I love getting all dolled up like in the 50’s reels & checking in. The feeling that new adventures await never gets old.

Throughout my air travel, I’ve flirted with Mt. Fuji while landing in Tokyo. I’ve seen dazzling villages & the green rolling hills of Ireland en route to London & Paris. While on a flight home to New York, I met eyes with the Grand Canyon, which looked like nature’s interpretation of the Manhattan skyline. All of these sights were seen from my luxurious window seat.

I’ve never actually flown first or business class. Therefore, the densely populated economy class has always been home. Champagne, caviar & seats, which morph into beds, is a highly novel idea for me. I compensate by sitting at the window.

Taking off is the exciting part. Then comes the middle part of the flight. I usually combat boredom by watching long films on the airplane. I’ve seen Gandhi, Gone with the Wind & The Godfather on one of my many flights. Turbulence is something I rather enjoy. This is a mainstay of flights, which hover over Alaska. Often times, there is so much turbulence, it’s becomes a commercial break from the three & a half hours of Gandhi magic.

Plane food is usually terrible. It always comes with thick gravy, hard roll & an exotic pudding. After a bevy of gastronomic plane creations, bathrooms, which shake in madness & plenty of people coughing, comes the landing. Suddenly hours in the sardine can has produced beauty.

Landing is my favorite part of the trip. I adore landing in heavy fog & the sensation of flying through the cotton balls. Rome, Buenos Aires, Sydney, Madrid & Tokyo look like a toy display at F.A.O. Schwartz from up above. As the plane descends, the rush of excitement builds. I love hearing the flight attendant announce “ladies & gentleman welcome to London, where the current local time is etc, etc.” Even the airline music in the background is romanticized. Various 747 planes from the U.S., France, Japan & Israel pass by.

Life is no longer in technicolor. However, airline travel is still a most euphoric experience. Although economy isn’t the lap of luxury, seeing the world from the window seat is worth every penny. Traveling is like brain candy & will always provide a lifetime of stimulation.

Eating With Chopsticks

My holidays haven’t revolved around a Christmas tree in almost twenty years. Changing planes at airports for such exciting destinations as Tokyo, Buenos Aires & California were the norm in more recent years. Forget freshly roasted turkey, yams & a pecan pie, my Christmas dinner centered on Panda Express. Chopsticks, orange chicken & chow mien were the Christmas staple.

Sure, it’s not a proper New York Chinese eatery, but when you’re starving at Atlanta airport & changing planes it tastes as gourmet as Joe’s Shanghai’s (New York’s best Chinese eatery, in my opinion). There were the holidays where even having a loaf of bread was a blessing.

My father & I spent Christmas in Rome one year & couldn’t find any open restaurants. Therefore, we kindly asked the hotel to give us whatever they could find. That Christmas, we ate stale bread, while watching CNN International.

Italy proved a whole different animal from our family Christmases in the late 80’s & early 90s. My family, the Alas’ love Palm Springs. My grandparents had a beautiful vacation house in nearby Cathedral City.  We would all gather there & have family time. I always found a way to sneak a peek at my gifts & complained every time; someone gave me clothes as opposed to action figures.

There were truckloads of food. Everyone found a spot to pass out from food coma. My grandma’s famous turkey graced the table. A variety of apple desserts made everyone smile. The Alas family loves apple pie. Sometimes, the reunions felt as humorous as a Neil Simon play, other times they would’ve inspired a Shakespearean style production. However, those were fond memories.

As an adult, I experienced a very foreign concept, spending holidays by myself. New York is the holiday’s capital of the world. Fifth Avenue is decked in flashy Christmas decorations. As always there are remarkable window displays at tony department stores Bergdorf Goodman’s & Barney’s. The Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center sparkles with holiday delight. It’s the epicenter of holiday cheer.

This didn’t deter from missing my dad during thanksgiving. I moped around the Village, not feeling super upbeat. When I returned to my modest apartment, there was a special phone call.

My friend Rebecca called. I told her, I’m feeling awfully lonely. She goes ” that’s too bad, I’m at LAX right now waiting for my flight to JFK.” I jumped in excitement; my bitter mood transformed into sweetness only butterscotch could match.

The next day, I woke up in a very enthusiastic mood. Although, Rebecca couldn’t hang out with me till the weekend, I made the best of Manhattan holiday cheer. I went to Central Park that day & walked toward the edge facing Central Park West.  That day was my first Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade.

Of course, I watched it on TV. I’m not really impressed by parades. However, I love the artistry that went behind the floats, the music & just the cheer excitement. My jaded card flew out the window as the Harajuku girls, snoopy & superman floats passed by.

After the parade, I walked around the East Village & noticed many other people were alone too. I didn’t feel so bad. I didn’t enjoy my grandma’s famous turkey recipe that year; instead I had a burger at the diner for lunch. Then, my big thanksgiving dinner consisted of Chinese delights. Like my many Christmases at the airport, I utilized my chopstick skills & made it a great day.

I met up with my buddy Rebecca & we had an amazing holiday weekend of walking around Midtown & enjoying dinner in the West Village. The following year, felt less lonely. My roommate & I hosted a wonderful thanksgiving dinner at our apartment. However, nobody bought a turkey. Our innovative alternative, tacos, enchiladas & other Mexican delights for the big day.

These days, it’s less plane travel on holidays. My dad & I usually hang out by the fireplace. In the past year, we traded chopsticks & turkey for steaks. In the tradition of the Alas family, there’s always a big apple pie & plenty of wine. Even though, I do love having my family close by. The magic of New York during the holidays is truly missed.

Life In Subtitles

My mom’s alternative to taking big international trips was exposing me to foreign language cinema. Thursday nights were always a window to the world. We were living in Riverside, CA at the time & the legendary Fox theatre always showcased a foreign film series every Thursday.

Gone with the wind first premiered at the Fox in the late 30’s. It has history & looked utterly majestic. However, in the dead of summer, it was quite warm. The amazing films from France, Mexico & Italy made one forget about the heat, which felt just like the devil’s oven.

Going to the Fox wet my appetite for more foreign language cinema. Till this day, I’m huge fan of Pedro Almodovar’s quirky films. Akira Kurosawa’s samurai films are worth the lengthy period it takes to watch them. The French new wave movement with Paris showered in black & white cinematography also captures my fancy.

At fourteen, I kept a list of films I wanted to see. However, I just didn’t want to watch these films, but travel to the countries they were filmed in. Throughout my teenage & adult life, I traveled all over. I speak a bit of Spanish, which helped me greatly in Buenos Aires & Madrid.

Although, I read Spanish, better than I speak it (have a heavy American accent), I still managed to smile afterwards & pull it off. Here are some of my favorite phrases from my trips to Spain & Argentina.

“yo quiero una empanada, por favor” I want an empanada, please

“adonde esta la farmacia?” where is the pharmacy? (I caught an awful cold in Spain)

Here’s the most important phrase “adonde esta la cafeteria?” where is the coffee house?

I survived the obvious languages in both nations. In Buenos Aires, I even had a full conversation with the cab driver in Espanol regarding Argentinian cinema. Yes, it was more like Spanglish, but it worked.

However, there are those places in the world, where the language is completely foreign to me. Tokyo & Paris were two such places. I’ve watched many Japanese & French films. The subtitles were always there like a life vest in a sea of foreign languages.

My index finger helped especially while using the metro. Although Tokyo has signs in English & Japanese, there was the rare occasion where a station would have the entire map in Japanese. I felt lost in translation (just like the movie). I would ask someone next to me “Ginza station?” use my index finger to point to the map & they showed me exactly where to go.

In Paris, I did the same routine. Only, I learned a few key French terms (the very basic) before my trip to France. When I went anywhere from museums to shops, I simply smiled & said bonjour/bonsoir. Parisians were very respective to this. Good manners go a long way in Paris, like anywhere else in the world.

In Sydney & London, I heard all these phrases & words that weren’t very common in American English. On the streets of Sydney, “no worries” is still a very common phrase. I thought it sounded adorable. Of course, I had export it stateside. While British euphemisms like the loo, bloke, knickers & cutlery, I use on a rare occasion.

I haven’t lost my curiosity of the world. In fact, I’m not that different from the kid at the Fox theatre mesmerized by the subtitles on the screen. I still love travel & foreign films. Before, I started traveling, foreign films were my window to the world. It was a wonderful way to learn about culture.

So, I say watch “La Dolce Vita” & learn about the Italian glitterati in the 60s. Watch a Pedro Almodovar film & have an understanding of La Movida (Post Franco Spain where music, film, art & sex were all very liberated after being under a dictatorship). Luis Bunuel’s films are surrealist/artistic gems. He directed cinema in Spain, Mexico & France.

Jet setting the world commences at your couch or the movie house. No English to French/Japanese/Spanish dictionary required.

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