The thrill of poverty

For everybody but the poor, that is. Lively discussion of global slumming going on right now on the list of Latin American historians. Here's an example from Buenos Aires. I guess there's nothing new about the phenomenon. It was called "slumming" when the New York downtowners would go up to Harlem in the 1920s. And I imagine that well-to-do Romans, looking for a frisson, must have done the same thing back in the days of the Republic. Still, it's always interesting when somebody from the slums is slick and quick enough to take advantage of the bourgeois' curiosity to make a buck.

Geoff Fox


What we're up to

My friend and colleague Mark Engler (see his website Democracy Uprising for links to his many articles) just asked where we were these days. Here's the story:

We just got back to New York last week. We plan to remain here until May, when we need to be back to Carboneras, where Susana & I are building our future castle in Spain. Then back to the US in July, Argentina in August and Caracas & Mexico in September, Spain again in October & November. Kind of hectic. The trips to South America & Mexico are for our book. I actually managed to complete a chapter while we were in Spain -- well, nearly complete it; I couldn't very well do final revisions until I got home and could make print-outs. Now that chapter, "The Sacred Urbanism of the Maya," is done, and I'm on to working on the built environment in the pre-Hispanic Andes.

Now it turns out we will have to schedule another trip, to Berlin. Susana's work on memorials (Susana Torre, "Constructing Memorials" in Enwezor, Okwui et al. eds. Experiments with Truth: Transitional Justice and the Processes of Truth and Reconciliation, Documenta 11, Platform 2, Hatje Cantz 2002, pp. 343-360; see also her Architectural League presentation regarding the NYC 9/11 memorial) has attracted serious attention. Cristina Fernández de Kirchner had her people call her when she was in New York last fall; she had read the essay, and wanted to meet with her regarding the memorial to the disappeared they're planning for the old ESMA torture center. And yesterday some folks in Berlin called to invite her to a conference, comparing the "memorial" issue in Germany & Argentina.

Meanwhile, we've got ourselves pretty nicely integrated into Carboneras & environs. We've got as many friends there now as we do here, and (after some effort) I've got better at approximating the local way of speaking (though, if I'm not careful, people still take me for Argentinean). To keep in touch with those folks, I just inaugurated a Spanish-language blog, Lecturas y Lectores, but I don't think anybody has discovered it yet (they're not big Internet users).

I'm not even trying to do journalism these days. It's just LAU (Latin American Architecture and Urbanism, the book we're doing for Norton), completing the revision of my novel in odd moments (e.g., between LAU chapters), and advancing the Spanish project, which is a whole new adventure, in land development. Four houses and four apartments (3 substantial and one tiny, for temporary guests), right "front line" on the sea.


I'm trying to get used to this new template. Let me see if the "comments" function is enabled, as it's supposed to be.


King Juan Carlos I in NY and Spain

We just came back from the King Juan Carlos I Center at NYU, where the overflow crowd in the little auditorium kept us from seeing the documentary, El Milagro de Candeal, directed by Fernando Trueba, about Bebo Valdés's journey to Salvador de Bahía (Brazil) to be reunited with his African roots. It's funny. Just a couple of days ago we got back from Spain, where we saw the real King Juan Carlos I on TV almost every night, along with Queen Sofia (they were on state visit to Morocco) and their tall son Felipe, Prince of Asturias. So we're back home, listening to our CD of Bebo and Cigala; that'll have to do.

The other thing they've got going at the Juan Carlos Center is a big photo display celebrating Pamplona and Hemingway, with lots of quotes from The Sun Also Rises. That guy could really write action scenes.


All writ out

I was planning to write something intelligent in my blog today but, sorry, I'm all writ out. I've been writing all day, fixing the chapter I'm calling "The Sacred Urbanism of the Maya," and I think I may finally have got it right. I'll give it a rest and read it the day after tomorrow; I hope it'll still make sense.

The only other things to report: last night, with our good friends Michael & Marta A., we saw "The Controversy of Valladolid," Jean-Claude Carrière's play at the Public Theater. Big disappointment. It's as exasperatingly dull as Charles Isherwood says it is in today's NYT. No matter. It was good to get together with M & M, whose daughter Nurit has us all both worried and proud -- she's reporting for the Washington Post from Afghanistan.

Also, on Saturday Susana & I took our last chance to see "The Gates" in Central Park. Fantastic! Made me think of Mongol-Turkic mounted hordes arrayed with their banners (this has something to do with my writing a novel about Mongol-Turkic hordes). And imagining myself as a Turkish mounted archer, I persuaded Susana to join me on the prancing, ferocious steeds of the Central Park carousel. I must have had a good time, because some women who had been watching us said I looked like a delighted twelve year old. Gee. Well, it did feel good.