Nov 9-10:  Los Angeles to Buenos Aires

Starting weight = 165 lb.

I had a 12:45pm flight from LAX connecting in Dallas.  Some woman "got sick" (I assume that's a timid American Airlines euphemism for "blew chunks") as soon as she boarded the plane, and the rest of us were delayed a bit getting on while they quickly cleaned the carpet.  That's the second befouled plane I've been on this year.  Vomiting on an aircraft should result in a lifetime suspension from flying.  Come on, how hard is it to avoid excessive drinking the night before a flight?  I haven't experienced "reversal of fortune" since 1999 and it took most of a bottle of rum on a Sunday night to do that, and I damn sure wasn't flying the next day.  And I haven't thrown up for a non-alcoholic reason since I was a child.  Maybe these chronic vomiters are OCD germophobes who haven't built up an immune system.  You freaks need to start touching a bathroom doorknob every now and then.  Get some bugs in you.  They're good for you.  Nature's inoculation.

I didn't have time to eat in LA, so by the time I landed at DFW I was starving.  But even before we got to the gate I looked inside the terminal and saw a Wendy's, so problem solved.  Actually once I got inside I saw a Taco Bell next door so I ate there.  Also I had a Sprint bill I wanted to mail and for some reason couldn't find a mailbox in LA (walking to the subway station, at Union Station or at LAX).  But DFW had a big ol' blue mailbox sitting on a pedestal next to the escalator, so problem solved again.  (Christle, you were right about DFW.  Excellent facility.)

I landed in Buenos Aires, Argentina (continent #6, country #30) and caught the Manuel Tienda Leon bus into the city.  On the bus I reminded myself to change into my sturdier sneakers for sightseeing that afternoon.  The line "hand me down my walking shoes" occurred to me and for a few minutes I struggled to remember what song it's from.  Then, seriously, the next song that came on the radio was "Walk of Life" by Dire Straits.

The bus let us off at the station downtown and then I took the subway to the Hotel Novel.  The subway is only 70 centavos (~23 cents) per trip.  When I checked in my roommate John (who I addressed as Barry because the guy at the desk called him by his last name) was already in the room.  When the door opened the first thing I saw was John in a towel and a girl on the bed, so I thought I was interrupting something, but the girl was his sister Brid, and both of them were on our tour.

This is the view from our balcony, looking east along Av de Mayo, I think.  I kept getting my directions screwed up because the hotel's web site has a map that's upside down for some reason.

I put on my walking shoes and went out for some sightseeing:

Casa Rosada, the presidential office building.  This is technically the back of the building, but those balconies facing Plaza de Mayo have been used for addressing the masses.  Eva Peron orated from there in real life, as did Madonna in the movie.  By the way, before I left on this trip I tried to watch "Evita" to learn something about Argentina, and barely made it through 10 minutes.

Plaza de Mayo.


Obelisco.  Note that it is obelisk-shaped.

Teatro Colon, the southern hemisphere's largest theatre until the Sydney Opera House opened.

Av 9 de Julio, the Widest Street in the World, looking south toward the Obelisco.

This is in the triangle across from Plaza San Martin.  I don't think she's coming, pal.  This reminds me of "What's My Line" on Sesame Street:  "Our mystery guest is a nose."

Torre de los Inglesas, around the back of Plaza San Martin.

From what I'd read, I expected Buenos Aires to have a European flavor, but it really looked like the downtown of any American city.  I saw a fair number of hotties walking around, though many had aged and discolored faces.  But even the chubby girls were stylish.

From the central area I headed for Recoleta Cemetery.  The whole place is laid out like city streets, except instead of houses there are sarcophagi.  It's a veritable necropolis.

Eva Peron's family mausoleum.

Close-up of her grave marker (upper right in the previous photo).

This is just some random tomb containing a stack of caskets.  Contents unknown.  It occurred to me that the Undertaker and Argentina's own Giant Gonzalez never had a Casket Match.

I thought that was a mummified family cat, but then it moved.

One of the "streets" in the cemetery, and another cat.  There are a lot of cats there.

Same cat.

One of the intersections.  You can't really tell from these photos what the cemetery looks like, but it's cool.

I walked back in the general direction of the hotel.  Along the way I tried to call Elias (Mr. Domestic) to proclaim myself the new Intercontinental Champion, but all the phones stopped working in the middle of his number, as if I was entering too many digits.

One of the side streets off Av Montevideo was closed off for police activity.  I saw a news van and shattered glass from a phone kiosk.  Getting a closer look I saw numbered markers on the ground outside an HSBC.  Cool!  Bank robbery!

Palacio del Congreso, on the way back to the hotel.

John pulled a switch so he could room with Brid, so I had a new roommate, Bob.

At our first group meeting we met our tour leader Roberto and most of the group:  me, Bob (Canada), John and Brid (Ireland), Lori (Canada), Radha and Shaneela (UK), Graham (UK) and Lance (New Zealand).  A 10th member, Eli (UK), was hanging out with her boyfriend and would be joining us later on.  A possible snag arose right away when Roberto said we needed yellow fever cards to get into Brazil.  Four of us didn't have one, since it wasn't mentioned in the trip dossier and wasn't a requirement for getting the visa.  It's only required if you've been to certain infected countries like Peru, where Roberto is from, so I think that was the source of the confusion.  I wasn't worried but Lance started making plans to get a shot just in case.

Dinner was at Siga la Vaca (Follow the Cow), where we had all manner of meat and much wine.  That Argentine beef is as good as advertised.  We thought Roberto told us at dinner that this was his first tour, but actually he's been with GAP 10 months, and was doing this particular tour for the first time.  In any case I could already tell that he was better than MJ, my tour leader in China, and I told Roberto the same.

At a newsstand I saw that they were selling Felino magazine, which I assume is the Argentine equivalent of Cat Fancy, which my sister reads to her Small Orange Nickycat every night before tucking him in.  I did not know Spanish, "gato" is the word for both cat and pumpkin.  This makes sense given the evolution of "pumpkittens" that I explained in a 2003 e-mail to my sister:

There's an interesting history behind the term, and it involves the fact that pumpkins are descended from cats.  In ancient Egypt, orange cats were considered divine.  The fattest, most spherical of the orange cats were often selected to be companions for the pharaohs.  These regal creatures evolved into a distinct species, though over the centuries they gradually lost most of their feline features, became quite docile, and began to grow on vines in so-called "patches".  The name of these creatures evolved, too, as it passed through numerous regional dialects.  Originally they were called "plump kittens"; this was later shortened to "pumpkittens", and even later to "pumpki'ns" as we know them today.
Equally interesting is that despite their obvious physical differences, cats and pumpkins are still genetically similar enough that interspecies reproduction is possible.  This is why you often hear meowing coming from pumpkin patches, especially at harvest when the pumpkins are ripe.  Autumnal cat-pumpkin relations formerly served as the basis for many pagan rituals; Halloween continues to incorporate images of cats and pumpkins as a throwback to the holiday's pagan roots.
Maybe Nickycat came out of a pumpkin himself!  Maybe he's constantly worried that someone might turn him into a small orange pie, and that's why he sometimes hides.  You never know.

Lance wanted to go out after dinner (like 11:30) but I was drunk enough on the wine so I went to bed.  This was easily the best first night of any of my 6 group tours.