A blog which may appeal to those who enjoy stories about people, politics, economics, sports, and travel. In and around Argentina and the USA.


Torquato Tasso

In late June I made a stop in Ferrara Italy. This is a great town to visit. On a quiet summer afternoon you can check out the castello estense, medieval streets, renaissance palazzios, and the city wall. In the evening things picked up as stores reopen and locals emerge, stopping their bicycles for friendly chats in the square.

Not long after the university there started accepting students in 1391, a place called Hostaria del Chiuchiolino opened nearby (ciucco is italian slang for drunk). Copernicus took a law degree there in 1503 and while I'm sure he was very studious, the story is that he lived above this establishment, which is now called Al Brindisi(The Toast). I went there with a group of students from California and their italian professor. They told me the best time to jump in the moat is early morning - after the night watchman has gone home to bed. But having a flight out the next morning I was not able to enjoy a morning swim.

Back here in Buenos Aires I went to the live music venue called Torquato Tasso that's best known as a milonga. I was surprised to find out that the name does not refer to a difficult tango step, but rather to another famous patron of Al Brindisi.

Torquato Tasso's wikipedia biography is long, confusing and contradicts other sources, so here is a summary of his story compliled from the internet for those who are interested.

Torquato Tasso was a 16th century poet who received an invitation to join the brilliant court of Ferrara at 21 years of age. By this time Torq was already a famous poet and a veteran of the Italian court circuit. As poet-in-residence at the house of Este, Torquato found many pleasures. Byron later wrote of his legendary love for princess Leonora d'Este, daughter of Lucrecia Borgia and Duke Alfonso d'Este. Tasso's benefactor was princess Leonora's nephew, Duke Alfonso II.

Tasso was also in love with two renowned singers who were members of the court's illustrious concerto delle donne: Laura Peverara and Lucrezia Bendido, the future wife of Macchiavelli.

But Torquato was always in and out of crisis mode. His mental health deteriorated over the years and he became more and more paranoid and neurotic. In 1577 he knifed a servant he thought was a spy and was put in a convent. Later he disrupted the Duke's third wedding by shouting insults at people and was sent to St Anna's hospital where he stayed on and off for seven years. After his release in 1586 he wandered around Italy behaving badly. Physically and mentally he continued to decline. But Tasso was admired and loved by so many that he always managed to find new benefactors such as Pope Clement VIII. He died in 1595 at the Convent of St Onofrio.

Tasso's poems were instant classics and required reading in Europe through the 19th century. Goethe wrote a play about him called Torquato Tasso.


High School Soccer Coach

Materazzi finally confirmed that he provoked the head butt. This week Marco admitted to referencing Zinedine's sister.

United States fans will recall that Italy was actually on the delivery end of the World Cup's most violent act: the wicked De Rossi elbow that almost broke Brian McBride's face. (In this photo, just hours before US v Italy, James flashes hang ten to the amusement of young friend.)

These events had me recalling my earlier experience with Italian-style soccer.

Our high school soccer team was unfortunately a perpetual loser. We finished either 0-10 every year or close to it. One September we were told a new coach was coming in. What they didn't tell us was that he was a short, snuff-sniffing, perfumed Italian-American New Yorker who showed up for after-school games with a five o'clock shadow.

After the first contest, and our first lose, he told us to play more physically, by which he was careful to explain he meant play rough and don't get caught. Try to kick the shin or throw a knee into the lower back, he said. But his teachings had little effect on thirteen undersized boys and a girl who practiced on scratches of dirt in Central Park and played every game on the road. We carried on losing. Soon he got tired of this and surprised us with the decision to put himself in the next match. On game day he showed up in the locker room early and spent about an hour shaving his face, neck and truncated legs, while steadily inhaling tobacco powder through the nose. Our new "coach" was a kid recruited from the basketball team complete with overcoat and clipboard. As promised our real coach put himself in after halftime and proceeded to go to work on the other side. Soon the opposing coach and the referee were angry and getting suspicous when time ran out and we lost the game anyway.

For the final game he actually recruited our high school music teacher to impersonate him and this time played the entire match. I don't recall winning that game, it's possible that, like Italy, we overcame bad karma and tied one. The following year another new coach came in.


Dinosaurs and Ford Falcons

Only George Bush could love a oil town like Comodoro Rivadavia. This stretch of coast along the Gulf of San Jorge is not ideal for sightseeing. I continued on to Trelew where I stopped to check out The MEF. This is a quality paleontology museum in the heart of dinosaur country. Patagonia is to paleontologists what Vegas is to gamblers. I don't know if these guys are better at finding old bones or coming up with fun names that convey size: Megaraptor, Titanosaurs and Giganotosaurus are good examples. It's no coincidence that oil companies and dinosaur scientists are operating in close proximity here. Solyent Green is people and fossil fuel is liquid gasosaurus.

In the old welsh frontier town of Gaiman I found a $25 room in an 1867 hotel on main street. This part of town feels like an old western - patagonia style. The room, with its creeky hardwood floors, high ceilings and big antique bed, did not disappoint.

Later that day I stopped at a welsh tea house visited by Princess Diana 10 years back. There you can see the chair she sat in. (I have a picture of her in my mind from the day I saw her coming out of a hotel in New York). The tea house gardens and the nearby river are also beautiful to see.

Returning to main street I was surprised to find 15 to 20 Ford Falcons lined up in front of the hotel for a thunderous rally. The surprise was the setting, not the vehicle, since the Falcon is the classic car in Argentina.

The young Ford enthusiasts gathered in Gaiman that afternoon were writing a new chapter in the Falcon's history. Here were more than a dozen examples in very good condition and each one sounding as loud as an F15. Everyone was making good use of that dinosaur oil.

The next day I was heading west on Route 25 and moving fast when I came up on a venue of huge bald vultures feeding on a rabbit carcass. When they saw the Kia approaching they started flapping and taking off, but one made a bad low turn and the truck slammed into him at high speed. I could feel the weight of it at impact. I stopped in a state of shock. I went back and looked around but couldn't locate anything. There was blood on the bumper but he was gone. I waited nearby but obviously the rabbit was now deemed too risky by these living dinosaurs. They didn't make it this far by being stupid.