MONTEVIDEO -- To get here from New York, you almost have to fly first to Buenos Aires. How different Argentina feels from my previous visits! How much better and more optimistic! Or is it only me? And my last visit was only two years ago. First, Aerolíneas Argentinas, which had all but disappeared as a functioning business, gave us a comfortable, efficient and very friendly flight. The stewards and stewardesses seemed to be happy with their jobs.

Stewardesses always smile, of course, even when unhappy, because that's part of the job. But it's easy to sense from body language and unconscious gestures or expressions, from the spirit of movement, when somebody hates the job, hates the boss and sees no future in what s/he's doing, and that was the way everybody looked in Buenos Aires two years ago -- the lucky ones, that is, the ones who still had a job to hate.

Problems continue to be very, very serious in Argentina. Kidnappings, sometimes carried out with large forces and military precision and sometimes involving mutilation -- sending a little finger of the victim to the parents, to encourage payment of ransom -- filled two pages of yesterday's Clarín. But the big front page story was of a rebound in manufacturing, and two full inside pages had the dramatic stories of reopening the cases against the torturers and murderers of the "dirty war" of 1976-83.

But we couldn't tarry in Buenos Aires. We'll be back there in a couple of days, and I'll be able to get a fuller impression. Now we're in Uruguay, but is the same only different -- a little like Toronto feels to people from the U.S. Same language, even the same accent, most of the same habits as Argentines, but a different (generally slower) pace, maybe a gentler humor. More later. I have to run to a meeting. We're here for the 10th reunion of the Seminario de Arquitectura Latinoamericana, with urbanists and architects from all over América Latina. So, as we say in Montevideo (or in Buenos Aires), ciao ciao.


Notes from the South, coming
In a couple of hours, Susana & I will be on an Aerolíneas Argentinas flight to Montevideo, for a conference, and a few days later we'll be in Buenos Aires. I'll write to you from there. Hasta entonces, ¡cuídate!

P.D. (that's Spanish for "P.S."): We'll be back in New York and open for business Monday, September 28.


Speaking of great cities under attack...
You may want to look at the notes I wrote two years ago, as we were still wandering around in shock and awe here in lower Manhattan. Five pages (one per day, 9/11-9/16/2001), beginning here.
Meanwhile, back in the fictional past...
My novel had some agents very interested, but none has committed to it so far. I think now I'm going to have to add another section to clear up "what happened next" in the hot and heavy romance of the Turkish warrior and the Byzantine princess, which I had deliberately left ambiguous. I think I've found a way to do that without compromising the (for me) more important story of how a great city (Constantinople, in this case) defends itself against its enemies. (For a synopsis and link to Chapter 2, see my main web page.)