As some readers may have gleaned over time, neither of the authors of this blog are particularly religious, to put things gently. However, we both enjoy churches, both abandoned and not. The architecture speaks to a time when people would spend extravagantly and immodestly (unchristianly?) on places of worship that would make it clear to all comers just how pious they were. The pattern is very prevalent to this day here in Chicago, were successive immigrant groups pool their money as a community and build a church of their own. (This makes for some curious juxtapositions over time as demographics change: Czech churches now with wholly Mexican parishes, and staid German Lutheran churches on the South Side redone as vibrant Southern Baptist or COGIC denominations.) Buenos Aires is no stranger to this dynamic, as the beautiful Basilica de la Merced shows. In the heart of the Centro, or downtown, this church is now surrounded by office and bank buildings. Though Argentina remains a staunchly Catholic country, I’m not sure how many people live close enough to this basilica to sustain a large parish. When I visited on a weekday, the doors were open, but visitors few. I was lucky enough to get the lone Porteño engrossed in prayer.
When Byzantine emperors would build their churches in Constantinople, it was common to have a mosaic depicting the self same church being presented to Jesus or Mary by that emperor within that church. Though I can’t say for sure, it seems something similar is going on here with the two Spanish noblemen gesturing towards Mary within the altar.
My general impression of Argentinians is that they love a good demonstration. It could be that Buenos Aires, like any capital city, gets more than its share of them. I might have been there at just the height of protest season. Whatever the case, it struck me how little impact these affairs seem to make; the locals treat the protests with utter detachment. I witnessed men in fine suits going about their business or talking on cell phones while chants and fireworks roared from a square less than a block away. Surely some of the causes behind these gatherings are worthy; it’s just that the people whose minds they may seek to change are suffering from acute protest fatigue.
These people would unfurl their banner at red lights, then politely roll it up and return to the sidewalk before the light turned green again.
At the Plaza de Mayo, demonstrations were a daily occurrence. I staked out a spot on the edge of the largest one I saw one afternoon.
One thing I noticed with some dismay is the ethnic divide between protesters and the average Porteño (a Buenos Aires resident), the protesters being overwhelmingly indian or native, while the Porteños were largely of European descent. It goes to show that racial tensions are, unfortunately, global.
The tango originated in Buenos Aires, in what was (and still is) the rough-and-tumble neighborhood of La Boca. Unlike the blues in my native Chicago, which has atrophied into an Epcot presentation for tourists, the tango is still very much alive in Argentina. A common site are pass-the-hat performances like the one pictured here, where a young couple and a few musicians perform for passers-by, then literally pass the hat around periodically for tips. Of course, there are dance halls where one may try the dance oneself, but beware: the dance, as well as the attendant etiquette, is taken seriously. My dancing skills being as they are, I opted to enjoy this presentation from behind the safety of my camera.
I could title this post “How Tabula Rasa Led Us All Astray (sort of)”, but I won’t.
This past weekend was a bit crazy for me. On Saturday Tabula Rasa and I went out and had a full day of wandering with no buildings explored, not for lack of trying. We just found ourselves in a place with a few good buildings that were locked up and impossible to explore. In the end we ended up at Morton Arboretum, but this is not that story.
Sunday we had made plans for a larger than usual group (as in more than 3 of us), Tabula Rasa, BentBottle and I were going to take some friends to a couple of our favorite locations to show them around. We ended up off in the southwest suburbs looking for a graveyard. In a forest preserve.
The Bachelor’s Grove graveyard is one of those popular local “haunted” places, mainly by virtue of being really old by American standards and being located in a slightly creepy part of the woods. Literally. Tabula Rasa knew where Bachelor’s Grove Woods were, and being the human GPS that he is we trusted him to lead us to the graveyard with few problems. We struck out on the trail with more than a bit of excitement and enjoying the early spring song of frogs. In retrospect that was probably our first clue that we were not where we thought we were.
Soon enough we came to end of the trail. It was not a graveyard though. Instead we found the home of the frogs that had been serenading us all along our way down our rather short walk. We were faced a choice, do we go back down the trail and see if we can find another way around to the graveyard that we think is there, or do we strike out off the trail and walk around the pond to see if we can find it?
I freely confess that I agreed we should try walking around it, and I was the tie-breaker vote. Silly me. Tabula Rasa broke out his magical technological device known as a “cell phone” and loaded up the GPS, you know, so we wouldn’t get lost.
We quickly found a game trail that, as game trails do, quickly petered out into nothing. We found ourselves slogging through mud and shallow flooded prairie and I discovered that my previously waterproof shoes had developed a leak sometime over the winter. As we squished our way around the pond we realized that (as the city folk we are) none of us really had any idea of what direction we were headed in. We could hear the sound of far off traffic from our right, but that was it.
At this point I decided if I was going to be stomping around the woods in the early spring I had better find something interesting to photograph. We had kind of spread out and everyone was taking a slightly different path, just keeping Tabula Rasa in sight and following his general direction. Our merry little band of adventurers was rapidly turning into a sweating and overheating band of mildly concerned doubters.
We found ourselves back on the edge of the pond, and decided to take a bit of breather so our fearless leader could explain to us that he thought he had found the graveyard on the GPS, we just needed to head off in “this” direction. Jo took the time to show us all up and conquer a tree while we tried to revive ourselves.
During our little break I noticed something odd about the moss of the fallen trees around us. It seemed, shaggier, than regular moss.
At some point I began thinking we were living in a post-apocalyptic world searching for the bastion of humanity. We bravely headed off in the direction indicated to us by the person with the magical direction-finding device, acquiring new bruises in the process. (The largest of my bruises is amusingly bird shaped. And hurts. A lot.)
Then we found the parking lot and drove the mile to the part of the forest preserve where the graveyard was actually located. Tabula Rasa, being the person that he is, was immensely proud of himself for leading us ALL THE WAY AROUND THE POND and back to the parking lot. I, being the person I am, mentioned that he had bothered to consult his magical technological device BEFORE we headed out we would not have to walk around the pond.
I did neglect to mention that perhaps I had really enjoyed our little adventure in the woods, and would like to do it again someday, but I did imply it.
Part of the fun of returning to places we’ve already explored is finding when things have changed. Sometimes it is obvious, sometimes it takes you a moment to see it.
Case in point we visited the Power Plant again today and found that all the metal grate flooring was gone. At first I was wondering how the hell I missed the awesome view of the second floor from the ground floor, then I realized there was no such view last time I was there.
So who ripped out the flooring I wonder? Was it the town? Was it scrappers? The property owner? Either way it restricts what you can explore once you climb the scary stairs, which I suspect is why they were taken.
It is that time of year again! Welcome back to the Bristol Renaissance Faire, one of my favorite places on earth. I made a point of catching the falconry session twice in hopes of catching one or two good photos, I’m fairly happy with year’s turn out.
First let me introduce you via linky to Flight of the Raptor, please check them out. They provide the educational sessions for Bristol’s faire pretty much every year and no matter how many times I visit the show I am always impressed, enthralled, entertained and educated at the end.
I’ll start with the Harris hawks, always fantastic birds.
One of the more interesting things about Harris hawks is they will often work cooperatively. Here two of the capture the lure and battle it in an impressive display of strength.
One of the things I love about Flight of the Raptor is Ray, the lead falconer. His love of the birds and passion for falconry is magnificent. Here he calms his more nervous hawk before hooding her.
As Ray says, falconry is based on respect and trust, if you respect the birds, you will earn their trust.