there is a balance to be found even when slow traveling. To be considered and faithful to the experience you want to have, and the one that fornicates around you unseen. Unaided. If you set out to play with the structure of life that is particular to you right now, chances are it will prod and poke you to see if you mean it.
por ejemplo, my slow travel, here in the indefatigable, Autonomous capital of Argentina, has been leaning towards more seemingly static. Not static as in the crackling electricity that shoots around your body when you pull manmade fibre from over your head when undressing for bed, but …stopped. halted. immobile.
My frustration has risen more than once as my desired pace of life mismatched with reality. When I am at home I have certain things set up to aid my rhythmic existence. Things I do not take for granted. Items that give me freedom. Items that give me speed. They aid my movement.
One of these implements is the bike. Bicicleta. Peddle power is a blessing to me. The embrace of which enables me to do many tasks simultaneously. I can exercise whilst getting to where I want to go quicker than I can on foot. In hot weather, it cools me down. With a backpack it makes food shopping a lighter task. But this all sounds very busy, perhaps. But not when you consider that arriving at a place I want to go quicker than walking, it allow more time to relax at my destination. It gives me access to areas that perhaps I would have little time to wander because their distance from my base sucks up time just getting to. It also allows me more time with friends. It is a pass-time. A liberating pleasure that I can enjoy fully. My head is free from the worries and pressing needs of promptly arrivals, so my eyes sweep around me and savor the scenes that pass before them.
this is a long way around of me saying…I need a bike.
Reminded of the freedom of my skin woken by a moving breeze, whilst joining small group of tourists who took to the streets around Palermo and Villa Crespo (deliciously pronounced as Veesha Cri…spoh) on a street art tour, I was moved to grab my laptop upon my return and trawl Craigslist (they also have supermacado but it is in Spanish) and buy a 2nd hand bicicletta (bicycle).
We had glided around the streets and covered miles, some juddering over cobblestones, others with keen eyes alert to the steamroll of traffic, whilst gaining background to a little history of Buenos Aires, and its graffiti artists. Usually, I back away from tours like one would an agitated wasp nest, and let my nose be my guide, and I proved glad of my choice to move against my grain. I can be rather like (yeah, lets do some narrow minded stereotyping!) a man who is given a box of sawn wood and a leaflet of instructions and then attempting to assemble its contents freestyle. You may get there in the end but it will take seven times as long and have the inevitable piece left over that you don’t know what it is for.
Our Australian guide, a mere slip of a woman with gusty enthusiasm and a jolly gracefulness that came from the elongated handlebars of her bike which gave her the posture of a victorian lady on a penny farthing, managed to pack in so much information on our three and a half hour ride but it was received with the delivery of an easy-like-sunday-morning chat of a longtime friend. I’ve long loved street art. Me and my camera have courted walls daubed with colour and expression from San Francisco, London, LA and a few artsy beach towns of Blighty. But to know about the history. To know why Buenos Aires rose up in the political of the early 1990’s as a way to rouse a depressed nation to life again, as it was intended in the beginning, with fun characters sprayed onto sides of buildings or messages of hope and community is life affirming enough as it stands but to hear stories of street artists and the whys and wherefores of their particular style. Community exists among them, and the freedom they have gives added depth. It is seen as an honor by the portenos (locals) to have these artists paint murals on the side of their walls. City councils take credit for giving life to previously uninspiring piazzas’ that had once gathered street sleepers and drunks and left little space for buggies and prams. The rental laws in the city fall down so heavily on the side of the renter or squatter, that it has been known to take as long as twenty five years to regain access to your own property here that brings some to knock down their buildings and sell the plot their houses where on rather than spend half their life in court trying to evict tenants and reclaim what is theirs. So now, street artists are climbing the walls and dropping over high fences to paint on a wall that may remain. It’s gaining respect from the locals with murals of whimsical scenes or graceful, prairie animals.
As with any art, some people try and see the deeper meaning of wall art but, sometimes a face can be that of someone’s brother for no other reason than they felt like doing it. One graffiti artist paints unflattering portraits of ex-girlfriends. Can this be doing anything or his love life? I’m sure this would dissuade any future potential suitor!
Because of what street art is doing in terms of community and expression in BA and prosecution is rare, if ever brought, graffiti artists traverse seas and swathes of land to be able to create in at their leisure in daylight hours without fear of being shot at, thrown in prison and denied their human rights.
For me, street art, murals, not heavily outlined and illegible names written in metallic, but real art is about me attempting to understand and connect with the artist. As with any art it is about seeing a perspective of life or colour previously masked. It can be about beauty or comedy but also, it can be a way of me seeing a political message I’d not normally read about, or perhaps shy away from acknowledging. Mostly, the ones that linger in my mind are are about larger-than-life expression and a spray canned equivalent of me stopping to smell the roses. It is the latent desire within me, to display larger than life my truth or expression , that doths my cap, or lands a virtual high five to those that think less and do/be more, that marvels at their courage and appreciates their efforts to make me peddle or pound the streets with increased expectancy, curiosity and presence.
So, what has street art got to do with me buying a 2nd hand bike when I’m so short a time here in this country and how is speeding around the streets considered slow travel. As I say, atop a saddle I can see more, do more, stress less and sniff the atmosphere of a place that no open top tour bus or air conditioned coach could muster and I get to spend less time in the gym and remain fit and a fiddle to boot. What of the frustrations that I mentioned? The bike purchase in itself has been exhausting. A one hour walk to its current home and emails shooting hither and thither around the cyber zip wire all add up to time dripping away. But, as I learn the art of traveling slow, I choose to see it as an hour spent walking in places I’d not had thought to traverse, seeing neighbourhoods I’d never have seen and the emails are mini communications with which I practice a little espanol with people I’d not have ever met, and can entertain or teach just as any other. Nothing wasted.
Click below and see the slideshow and enjoy the streets with me. x