Buenos Aires revival

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In Argentina they have conveniently placed a revival fountain next to the toilet.

In Argentina they have conveniently placed a revival fountain next to the toilet.

San Telmo is the oldest neighborhood in Buenos Aires, Argentina. In the 17th century it was a blue-collar town. Dockworkers and brick makers lived here. Their families stayed in the colonial buildings that squat on city blocks like concrete linemen.

These days the neighborhood swarms with locals and tourists, especially on Sundays when the antiques fair beckons artists, musicians, vendors and scammers to Plaza Dorrego, the main square. It is not the tango, but when visitors pass shoulder-to-shoulder on these narrow cobble-stoned streets, it is a dance nonetheless.

A block away at the Mercado San Telmo, butchers prepare cuts of beef made to order and shoppers haggle over the cost of scarves and purses.

San Telmo, a neighborhood gritty on the outside but with the heart of a lovelorn poet, is where I am staying. It is littered with bars and cafes and bookstores and restaurants. And the place I am frequenting most is the bathroom in my first-floor apartment.

The reception for media was at times chilly. Photo by K.B. Binkowski

It’s been a week since arriving in Buenos Aires. Day One was spent trying to reach someone at Aerolineas Argentina, the airline from which my video equipment was stolen. Day Two was filled with incredulity as organizers of the Copa America gave media the runaround and a bartender revealed the pesos I had were counterfeit. Day Three through this moment have been spent on my knees in the bathroom, at times prostrate and begging for the travel gods to just take me.

There are occasions, as I lay dying, the song of the of the Argentine Jack-us Hammer-icus serenades me from first light until the shadows of evening set over the stained glass windows. Like its North American cousin, the woodpecker, the Jack Hammer likes to incessantly peck at things. Here, it pounds away at the concrete apartment until, like a spastic drum major, it keeps time with my throbbing headache.

Luckily, Argentines are a civilized people and they have conveniently placed a revival fountain next to the toilet. It is a convenient appliance. After a round of violent retching I place my face over the water spout and am revitalized enough to fight another day.

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And the question remains

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Where the hell am I? And can I get a little divine intervention of my own?

Where the hell am I?

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So the question is…

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Where the hell am I?

Where the hell am I?

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WTFIHTM!?

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"Little boxes on the hillside..."

A funny thing happened on the way from there to here. Things quickly went from “Where the hell am I?” to “WTF is happening to me?!”

Within hours of arriving it felt as if my head was being smashed with a shovel and I was forced to drink the remnants of my brain with a straw (that’s a dream I had the first or second night here, I don’t recall): The seconds interlaced with the minutes which were interwoven with the days and it all become one nauseated blur.

Once you have arrived here there really is no point in looking up unless all you want to see is the sun.

Once you have arrived here there really is no point in looking up unless all you want to see is the sun.

But this I do remember clearly:

• A patch of green, artificial or not, sure can break up a monotonous landscape.

• One image gave me great comfort in knowing that all around the world couples in love commemorate their devotion to each other by writing their names in hearts on giant statues.

• The warm prickly feeling I had on my face would have been almost enjoyable had it not been followed by quick decent into unconsciousness.

So, if any of you could help me figure out where the hell I was and WTF was happening to me, I’d be obliged.

You can follow me on Twitter: @starnewseditor

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En Route

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FIRST EULOGY

Airports are kind in reminding us that in the event our plane tailspins and we crash to the ground,we will be eulogized by an airline employee. Perhaps a captain.

Who knows why the mind does what it does.

Why it plays tricks on you. Games. Undermines your own sense of reason; provides a soapbox and megaphone to the hysterical voices that usually are only whispers in your head.

Reason says airline travel is safe. Safer than driving in a car on a freeway. But your mind—mine anyway—tells me I’m sitting in a cylindrical coffin. A steel tube hurling through the air at thousands of miles an hour, defying gravity and common sense. Birds fly, metal doesn’t. What are you thinking?

But here I am. Trapped in a plane surrounded by strangers. Random faces with whom, at any moment, I will plummet to earth. I don’t know why it’s never dawned on me until now, but the prospect of dying surrounded by strangers is depressing. Who the hell are these people and why am I spending my last moments alive with them?

Of course, if we’re lucky enough not to die chances are now I have whatever vile microbes these walking disasters are carrying. Typhoid, e.coli, hanta virus? We’re thousands of feet up in the air sharing recycled air. Every germ and virus they expel through their coughs, sneezes, yawns and appallingly rude and silent flatulent becomes a part of me.

Who knows where these people have been? What filthy diseases they’ve contracted and cultivated in their  wheezy lungs? These people—these strangers— are killing me slowly and I have nowhere to run.  I’m hurling toward my inevitable death in a toxic petri dish en route to somewhere and there’s not a damn thing I can do about it.

But at least the white fluffy clouds are pretty. They’re sort of relaxing. Except for that one we’re moving toward. The ominous one that stands alone in the horizon. The giant mushroom shaped one that looks like the kind you would expect to see after a nuclear bomb obliterates the earth.

• • •
Monica Montano is a winner. Anyone who knows her already knows that.

However, she also happened to correctly guess (sorta) where I was at the time I posted a photo via Twitter.

Monica’s guess was “airport.” And she was right. But she would have been more right had she guessed LAX.

A few others guessed “SAN” (which I assumed was the clever use of airport code for Lindbergh Field) and “Lindbergh.”  Those answers, obviously, were wrong. Now, had someone guessed LAX or Los Angeles airport, they would have been more right than Monica and we would be celebrating their astounding powers of deduction.

Speaking of …someone with the Twitter handle CVDEMCLUB wins kudos and a possible prize for guessing Mexico City after I posted a series of pictures (again via Twitter). It was an impressive display of geographical acumen.  Wonder how they did it…

If you’re interested in playing along you can find me at Twitter here: @starnewseditor. (I think. Or you can find me by following Star-News reporter Allison K. Sampite @starnewschisme and looking for me there).

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Stop me if you’ve heard this one before…

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"Dude, I can totally get you some publicity...I know the publisher."

"Dude, I can totally get you some publicity...I know the publisher."

A lesbian, a Jew, a gay guy and a Marine walk into a bar….

There’s a joke in there somewhere. But for now that’ll have to remain a wishful thought— a dream ending to what’s going to be a bloody fight for the mayor of San Diego’s seat in 2012.

When Rep. Bob Filner announced Wednesday he was running to be San Diego’s next mayor, he brought to four the number of people who want to lead the country’s eighth largest city. The only Democrat in the race so far, Filner joined District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis, San Diego Councilman Carl DeMaio and California Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher in their quest to be number one.

What’s it all mean? Nothing really. Not now. At least not to the average voter.

Between today and November 2012 there are summer vacations, back-to-school sales, winter holidays, Olympic Games and presidential debates to get through. The global catastrophes of the week, celebrity scandals and mini-dramas of our own lives will preoccupy those of us who don’t live, eat and breathe politics.

"So I says to him, I says, 'You don't have the balls to arrest me.' Who knew!?"

"So I says to him, I says, 'You don't have the balls to arrest me.'... Who knew!?"

For those who watch and cover the political game the way some sports fanatics monitor their favorite teams during the off season, however, the next few months will be a time to immerse themselves in the minutiae of their team’s behind-the-scenes moves. They’ll analyze the strengths and ponder the weaknesses and gab incessantly about the “what ifs” of individual match ups.

The players, on the other hand, are going to spend the coming days honing their message, campaign strategizing and, of course, raising money. Lots and lots of money. After all, to make it to November they have to survive next year’s June primary elections. In a crowded field of relatively well known brands, it’s going to take a lot of money to set their product apart from the rest.

But once the dust settles and the melee is over, San Diego’s mayoral election takes on minor historical significance. The changing of the guard in San Diego could mark a first in the city’s political history. It certainly will  signal a change in that city’s attitude.

When Bonnie Dumanis was elected District Attorney in 2002 she became the first openly lesbian DA in the country. Her election was a political milestone for San Diego county, given its conservative leanings. If Dumanis were to come out on top in November 2012,  she would be the city’s first openly gay mayor.

Likewise Carl DeMaio. San Diego’s first openly gay councilman would also be the city’s first gay mayor. Though he wouldn’t be the county’s first homosexual man in the mayor’s office (that distinction belongs to former Chula Vista mayor Steve Padilla), DeMaio’s promotion would signal that military-friendly San Diego has a so-what-who-cares policy when it comes to service in the mayor’s office. What’s more, given his relationship with the publisher of San Diego Gay and Lesbian News, DeMaio would be one of half of the city’s first power couple.

Just how military friendly San Diego is could bode well for Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher. He wouldn’t be the first Marine elected to office—former governor and mayor Pete Wilson did his time with the Corps—but he would be the youngest candidate to be elected mayor.

As for Filner. He wouldn’t be the first Jew to be mayor of San Diego. That honor is Susan Golding’s. He also wouldn’t be the first Democrat, though you have to go back more than two decades and recall the tenure of Maureen O’Connor

"Yeah. I like women. So what?"

"Yeah. I like women. So what?"

before you find a Democrat in the mayor’s office. He also wouldn’t even be the first former council person to leave and then come back to the mayor’s seat (again look to Maureen O’Connor in that regard). But if elected, Filner could very well be the only candidate with a criminal record ushered into the mayor’s office, having been arrested in 1961 for his part in the Freedom Rides. Of course, he has also been cited for civil disobedience and assault on an airline employee . So if Filner does become San Diego’s next mayor, he may very well be the first one to have such a demonstrated disregard for “The Man.” Kind of ironic, if you think about it.

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2010 Election Wrap Up

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Grannies for Gunny Pop.

Grannies for Gunny Pop.

Go ahead and to take her sign from her. She dares you.

The loudest and most boisterous supporters of the night were, by far, the men and women who wanted to see Republican Nick Popaditch unseat Rep. Bob Filner in their battle for the 51st Congressional District seat.

Chanting “Pop-a ditch! Pop-a-ditch!” throughout most of the evening, the Marine gunnery sergeant’s followers relentlessly waved their campaign signs and shouted Popaditch’s name any time a Filner supporter crossed their path.

But the usual civil political rivalry that’s found at Election Central turned tense quickly as Popaditch supporters chased down the Congressman and surrounded him in the Golden Hall lobby. At one point Popaditch squared off with Filner and called him a “Damn liar.”

In the 60s Filner marched during the Civil Rights movement. He spent time in jail for his role in the Freedom Rides. Undoubtedly the New York native has been shouted at and down by people with different perspectives.

But that was more than 40 years ago. Since then it’s hard to guess when the last time it was that Filner was chased down by a mob and the candidate they were supporting. It was a surreal moment.

One observer said Popaditch  had dead eyes. In reviewing the video, Gunnery Sgt. Popaditch reminded me of a great white shark. His is a massive presence. But with all that said it was the crowd that was predatory.

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2010 Election Wrap Up

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Future kingmaker?

Future kingmaker?

And the winner is…this guy!?

Sure, Patricia Aguilar defeated Larry Breitfelder in their contest to win a seat on the Chula Vista City Council. But the real political winner might just be Ed Herrera.

Eddie, as he’s affectionately referred to by some people, was the extremely garrulous leader of those who were opposed to Chula Vista’s Prop. H, a measure that would have generated revenue for the  financially strapped city.  But thanks to Herrera and his minions, Prop. H died an unceremonious death at the polls.

It’s the second time Herrera has lead the charge against tax revenue. Last year Eddie sounded the alarm against a one cent sales tax increase in the city.  That died, too. And the city is that much broker.

Having established or been a founding father of the South San Diego County Chamber of Commerce, the Chula Vista Civic Association and the Chula Vista Taxpayer’s Association, it could be that Eddie’s developing political clout in the form of voters hearts and minds. And if that’s the case, how long before we’re referring to him as the Honorable Mayor Eddie?

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2010 Election Wrap Up

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Does God prefer Juan Vargas to Brian Hendry?

Does God prefer Juan Vargas to Brian Hendry?

Juan Vargas once was this close to becoming a Jesuit priest. Brian Hendry (inset) is currently a South County pastor. Given that there’s a high likelihood that both men may have prayed to God for victory on election night, does that mean God likes Vargas more since he won the 40th District State Senate Seat?

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2010 Election Wrap Up

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Maybe they were naughty.

Maybe they were naughty.

Sanny Claus is a Republican? Who knew!? (Though that could explain why those worker elves don’t have a union). Judging by his shirt and button, Kris Kringle didn’t get all of his Christmas wishes granted, given that Popaditch and Powell lost.

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