Sunday, June 7, 2009

Jean Denis Blanc

I first met Jean Denis when he was living in Buenos Aires. Like myself, he's a world-traveler, originally from Marseilles. Jean Denis has a real electric personality and is a riot to be with.

I took this photo in November of 1999 in his department which, since his depature from Buenos Aires, has become mine.

Brunch in Buenos Aires

A group of friends of mine in Buenos Aires on the roof of my apartment building where I hosted a Brunch. While I drink mate and eat dulce de leche, I also try to introduce the best of American culture. Naturally this includes Sunday brunches and champagne and grapefruit juice mimosas.

Photo taken in June of 2000.

Hugh Dubberly

Hugh is a friend of mine who lives out in California. I often hit him up for design and typography advice.

I took this photo in June of 1999 on the Netscape office campus in Mountain View. I worked in his group there the previous summer.

Lauren Geetter

Lauren is a fellow American expat I met in Buenos Aires. She's back in the States now, but I we would often chatter endlessly on the phone while I cleaned my apartment, sharing totally unnecessary personal details and racking up local toll charges.

Helen Hobbs (my grandmother)

My grandmother. Photo taken in July of 1999 when I went to visit my grandparents in Salem, Indiana, where they live.

My Father at Bar Dorrego in Buenos Aires

My dad came down to Buenos Aires in June of 2000. I took this as we grabbed a cafe con leche in Bar Dorrego in the historic neighborhood of San Telmo.

German Isaurralde

German is a friend of mine who lives in Rosario. We work at the same company, altho we know eachother through mutual friends.

I took this photo as part of a series involving the very cheap pizzeria Ugi's. This was sometime around March of 2000.


Marcos is one of my best friends in Buenos Aires. I took this picture with his Mom on a trip down to Mar del Plata in October of 1999, where he's originally from.

Justin Miller

I first met Justin when I was a freshman at Harvard and he was studying CS just down Mass Ave. at MIT. He's extremely thoughtful and bright and I often seek out his opinion on many things. And he's gracious enough to respond.

I took this photo in spring of 1999 on the banks of the Charles in Cambridge.

Update: Justin passed away in 2008.

Chris Tilgman

I shared a suite with Chris my junior year at Harvard in Mather House. I snapped this as we lined up to march up to the Yard for our Commencement in June of 1999.

Eric Westby

Eric is a good friend who lives in Cambridge. I appreciate his incisive wit and sense of humor. He's one of the rare people I can talk to for hours and never get bored or run out of topics.

Matt Winters

I've known Matt since high school when we were both in the fall production of "God's Country". Fortunately we both went East for college; him to Brown and me to Harvard, and have managed to remain good friends all this time.

Matt early on gave me lots of photo advice. Here, I had just gotten my Pentax K1000 and Matt is expounding on shutter speeds, f-stops, contrast, composition, etc. This photo is from April of 1999.

Jean Denis & Javier

Taken on a street in San Telmo, just outside of a Parrilla. February, 2000.

Javier Zapiola

Javier is one of my best friends in Buenos Aires. He's an actor and very lively and funny. He has been very gracious teaching me the worst and most vulgar lunfardo words.

Photo is from September 1999.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

More Vanity on Flickr

I have a Flickr set of photos of me covering 1993 to 2006. It's here.

If you want to track my further aging, I please add me on facebook.

As a brooding freshman, January 1995

My friend Alena Williams took this picture during our freshman year at Harvard. This was taken in the middle of winter, sometime around finals.

At a picnic in San Francisco, July 1996

Back when I was young and cute.

Wearing Silly Hats in Trinidad, Cuba. December 1996

While in Cuba with my parents, we took a three day trip from Havana to this charming colonia-style village called Trinidad about halfway across the island. Here I am with my dad sporting some of the latest tourist-wear.

Sipping Cuba Libres in Havana

During my bus trip from California to Tierra del Fuego, I made a side trip to Cuba. My parents, jealous of my getting to a new country first, flew down to meet me (going thru Cancun since you can't fly direct from the US). Here we are celebrating.

Mather House Dining Hall, March 1999

Taken April 1999 in Salem, MA

Taken by my dad on a daytrip out to Salem, MA in April 1999.

Me on a Bad Hair Day

Taken by my friend Jean Denis in his apartment in Buenos Aires, January 2000.

Self portrait taken in Punta Arenas

Taken on a cold day in Punta Arenas, Chile in February 2000. It was very windy, hence the tear streaming out of my right eye.

Books I have read

You can tell a lot about someone by what books they have read. I present you my list, in chronological order, with very little comentary. "***" means I really liked the book, and I've linked it to Amazon. "~~~" means I really hated it. The rest I'll leave up to you.
Gladwell, Malcom
Foundation Asimov, Isaac ***
Foundation and Empire Asimov, Isaac ***
Emprise Kube-McDowell, Micheal
Enigma Kube-McDowell, Micheal
Empery Kube-McDowell, Micheal
Second Foundation Asimov, Isaac ***
Foundation's Edge Asimov, Isaac
Foundation and Earth Asimov, Isaac
Nemisis Asimov, Isaac
The Puritan Dilema Morgan
Prelude to Foundation Asimov, Isaac
Nightfall Asimov, Isaac and Silverberg, Robert
The Quiet Pools Kube-McDowell, Micheal
Imperial Earth Clarke, Arthur
Rendezvous With RamaClarke, Arthur ***
Rama II Clarke, Arthur and Lee, Gentry
The Garden of Rama Clarke, Arthur and Lee, Gentry
I, RobotAsimov, Isaac ***
Songs of Distant Earth Clarke, Arthur
The Naked Sun Asimov, Isaac
The Currents of Space Asimov, Isaac
The Stars Like Dust Asimov, Isaac
The Agony and the Ecstasy Stone, Irving
The Turner Thesis Turner, Frederick Jackson
Beyond the Fall of Night Clarke, Arthur and Benford, Gregory
The Robots of Dawn Asimov, Isaac
The Fountains of Paradise Clarke, Arthur
Robots and Empire Asimov, Isaac
Childhood's EndClarke, Arthur ***
Cradle Clarke, Arthur and Lee, Gentry
The Sum of All Fears Clancy, Tom
The End of Eternity Asimov, Isaac
Homage to Catalonia Orwell, George
All I Really Needed to KnowFulghum, Robert
It Was On Fire When I Lay Down On It Fulghum, Robert
A Brief History of Time Hawking, Steven
American Pageant Textbook
The Catacomb Years Bishop, Micheal
Fatherland Harris, Robert
2061 Clarke, Arthur
Becoming A Man Monette, Paul
Animal Farm Orwell, George
An Alien Light Kress, Nancy
Chemistry Textbook
Sex, Art, and American Culture Paglia, Camille
The Once and Future King White, T. H.
Applied Calculus Textbook
More Than One Universe Clarke, Arthur
Forward the Foundation Asimov, Isaac
The Pelican Brief Grisham, John
The Firm Grisham, John
Sphere Critchton, Micheal
The FountainheadRand, Ayn ***
In PatagoniaChatwin, Bruce ***
Atlas ShruggedRand, Ayn ***
A Time to Kill Grisham, John
The Hammer of God Clarke, Arthur
The Secret Sharer Conrad, Joseph
And The Band Played OnShilts, Randy ***
We The Living Rand, Ayn
Anthem Rand, Ayn
The Glass Menagerie Williams, Tennesee
The Night of January 16th Rand, Ayn ~~~
Crime and Punishment Dostoevsky, Fyodor
God's Country Dietz, Steven
The Man Who Used The Universe Foster, Alan Dean
Dragon's Egg Forward, Robert
Time Master Forward, Robert ~~~
Siddhartha Hesse, Herman
Ayn Rand Baker, James
Martian Rainbow Forward, Robert ~~~
Mars Bova, Ben
The City Not Long After Murphy, Par
Rama Revealed Clarke, Arthur and Lee, Gentry ~~~
The Mayor of Castro StreetShilts, Randy ***
A Streetcar Named Desire Williams, Tennnesee
Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead Stoppard, Tom
Waiting for Godot Beckett, Samuel
Peacekeepers Bova, Ben
Privateers Bova, Ben
Empire Builders Bova, Ben
Red MarsRobinson, Kim Stanley ***
The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress Heinlein, Robert ***
Night Weilsel, Elie
Green MarsRobinson, Kim Stanley ***
More Tales of the City Maupin, Armistead
Earthlight Clarke, Arthur
Postman Brin, David
The Dark Beyond the Stars Robinson, Frank
Ender's GameCard, Orson Scott ***
Speaker for the DeadCard, Orson Scott ***
The Forever WarHaldeman, Joe ***
The Man in the High CastleDick, Phillip ***
Xenocide Card, Orson Scott
Gateway Pohl, Frederick
The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch Dick, Phillip K.
Solar Lottery Dick, Phillip K.
The DispossessedLeGuin, Ursula K. ***
The Left Hand of DarknessLeGuin, Ursula K. ***
The Peron Novel Martinez, Tomas Eloy
The Old World and The New: 1492 Elliot, John H
Neuromancer Gibson, William ~~~
Moving Mars Bear, Gregory
The Hot Zone Preston, Richard
Hyperion Simmons, Dan
A Place at the Table Bawer, Bruce
Fall of Hyperion Simmons, Dan
A Wizard of EarthseaLeGuin, Ursula K. ***
A Canticle for LeibowitzMiller, Walter ***
The Demolished Man Bester, Alfred
The Stars My Destination Bester, Alfred
The Character of Physical Law Feynman
DuneHerbert, Frank ***
The Bridge of San Luis ReyWilder, Thorton ***
The Clocks Christie, Agatha
A Fire Upon the Deep Vinge, Vernor
Dawn Weisel, Elie
The Green Hills of Earth Heinlein, Robert ~~~
Lovelock Card, Orson Scott
One Hundred Years of SolitudeGarcia-Marquez, Gabriel ***
Remembering Denny Trillin, Calvin
The Art of the Long View Schwartz, Peter
Peddling ProperityKrugman, Paul ***
Peace War Vinge, Vernor
Marooned in Realtime Vinge, Vernor
True Names Vinge, Vernor
Permutation City Egan, Greg
Dancer From The DanceHolleran, Andrew ***
Magic's Pawn Lackey, Mercedes ~~~
Armchair Economist Landsburg, Steven
Queer in America Signorile, Michelangelo ~~~
Blue Mars Robinson, Kim Stanley
Quarantine Egan, Greg
The Swimming Pool Library Hollinghurst, Alan
River Out of Eden Dawkins, Richard
The Folding StarHollinghurst, Alan ***
Queer William S. Bourroughs
Snow Queen Vinge, Joan D.
Bastard Out of Carolina Allison, Dorothy
The Remains of the Day Ishiguro, Kazuo
The Kitchen God's Wife Tan, Amy
The Lost World Crichton, Michael
Beloved Morrison, Toni
Stones for IbarraDoerr, Harriet ***
Snow Falling on Cedars Guterson, David
Days of Obligation Rodriguez, Richard
The Bean Trees Kingsolver, Barbarh
The Blind Watchmaker Dawkins, Richard
The Hobbit Tolkien, J.R.R
A Place I'Ve Never Been Leavitt, David ***
The Fellowship of the Ring Tolkein, J.R.R.
The Two Towers Tolkein, J.R.R.
The Return of the King Tolkein, J.R.R.
Our Man in HavanaGreene, Graham ***
The Mote in God's Eye NIven, Larry & J. Pournelle
High Fidelity Hornby, Nick
Lonesome Dove McMurtry, Larry
The Diamond Age Stephenson, Neal
Invisible Man Ellison, Ralph
The Rapture of Canaan Reynolds, Sheri
And Then There Were None Christie, Agatha
The Name of the Rose Eco, Umberto
The House of the SpiritsAllende, Isabel ***
The Picture of Dorian Gray Wilde, Oscar
A Civil Action Harr, Jonathan
Ship Fever Barret, Andrea
Family Dancing Leavitt, David
Arkansas Leavitt, David
Barrel Fever Sedaris, David
O Pioneers! Cather, Willa
A Thousand AcresSmiley, Jane ***
Ceremony Silko, Leslie Marmon
Refuge Williams, Terry Tempest
Into the Wild Krakauer, John
Distress Egan, Greg
Snow Crash Stephenson, Neal
Guns, Germs, and SteelDiamond, Jared ***
Native Son Wright, Richard
Sweet Soul Music Guralnick, Peter
Gay New York Chauncey, George
On Heroes and Tombs Sabato, Ernesto
The Honorary Consul Greene, Graham
Antarctica Robinson, Kim Stanley
Common GroundLukas, Anthony ***
Kiss of the Spider Woman Puig, Manuel
A State of Fear Graham-Yooll, Andrew
The Wedding of Zein Salih, Tayyib
After the Despots Graham-Yooll, Andrew
Into Thin Air Krakauer, Jon
Visual Display of Quantitative Information Tufte, Edward
Investment Biker Rogers, Jim
Where I'm Calling From Carver, Raymond
Permission Marketing Godin, Seth
Influence, The Psychology of Persuasion Caldini, Robert
Philip and Alex's Guide to Web Publishing Greenspun, Philip
The Design of Everyday Things Norman, Donald
The Orchid TheifOrlean, Susan
Understanding ComicsScott McCloud
Maus, I & IISpiegelman, Art
On PhotographySontag, Susan ***
Designing Web UsabilityNielsen, Jakob
Yanomamo: The Fierce PeopleChagnon, Napoleon
The War of the End of the WorldLLosa, Mario Vargas
The Death of Artemio CruzFuentes, Carlos
Seven Dials MysteryChristie, Agatha
Murder at the VicarageChristie, Agatha
Mrs. DallowayWoolf, Virginia
The HoursCunningham, Michael ***
A Universal History of ImfamyBorges, Jorge Luis
Foucault's PendulumEco, Umberto
A Map of the WorldHamilton, Jane
Gabriella, Clove and CinnamonAmado, Jorge
Inside the SkyLangewiesche, William ***
Kitchen ConfidentialBourdain, Anthony
DisgraceCoetzee, J.M.
SunnyvaleGoodell, Jeff
The Tipping PointGladwell, Malcom
Demonic MalesWrangham, Richard
Mr. Wilson's Cabinet of WonderWenschler, Lawrence
The Art of InnovationKelly, Tom
The SpellHollinghurst, Alan
A Home at the End of the WorldCunningham, Michael
Flesh and BloodCunningham, Michael
The IntuitionistWhitehead, Colson
From Bauhaus to Our HouseWolfe, Tom
Buildings That LearnBrand, Stewart
Confessions of an Advertising ManOgilvy, David
The BeachGarland, Alex
The Secret HistoryTartt, Donna
Independence DayFord, Richard ***
ClassFussel, Paul
City of QuartzDavis, Mike
Midnight in the Garden of Good and EvilBrendt, John
The Heart that BleedsGuillermoprieto, Alma
Looking for HistoryGuillermoprieto, Alma
The Naked Civil ServantCrisp, Quentin
Memory of Fire: GenesisGaleano, Eduardo
PeoplewareDeMarco, Tom & Lister, Timothy
Delirious New YorkKoolhaus, Rem
Sahara UnveiledLangewiesche, William
The Other PathDe Soto, Hernando
The CorrectionsFranzen, Jonathan
The Story of ArtGombrich, Ernst
The SportswriterFord, Richard
Invisible CitiesCalvino, Italo
Rivertown: Two Years on the YangtzeHessler, Peter
American GroundLangewiesche, William
RagtimeDoctorow, E.L.
SymposiumSpark, Muriel
What am I doing here?Chatwin, Bruce
Anthropologist on MarsSacks, Oliver
Island of the ColorblindSacks, Oliver
MoneyballLewis, Michael
Slouching Towards BethlemhemDidion, Joan
Before Night FallsArenas, Reinaldo
Farewell SymphonyWhite, Edmund
Plagues & PeoplesMcNeill, William
Oaxaca JournalSacks, Oliver
The Years of Rice and SaltRobinson, Kim Stanley
The Beautiful Room is EmptyWhite, Edmund
Cleopatra's Wedding PresentMoss, Robert Tewdwr
SonglinesChatwin, Bruce
Sheltering SkyBowles, Paul
The Outlaw SeaLangweische, William
Paris to the MoonGopnik, Adam
The Autobiography of Alice B. ToklasStein, Gertrude
The Shipping NewsProulx, Annie
AmsterdamMcEwan, Ian
A Death in BrazilRobb, Peter
Reading Lolita in TehranNafisi, Azar
The Happy Isles of OceaniaTheroux, Paul
Midnight's ChildrenRushdie, Salman
The Line of BeautyHollinghurst, Alan ***
The Death and Life of Great American CitiesJacobs, Jane
Blue HighwaysLeast Heat Moon, William
AtonementMcEwan, Ian
Maximum CitySuketu, Mehta
SaturdayMcEwan, Ian
City of BonesConnolly, Michael
Reversible ErrorsTurow, Scott
The NarrowsConnelly, Michael
Devil in a Blue DressMosley, Walter
The Black IceConnelly, Michael
The White AlbumDidion, Joan
The SearchBattelle, John
Oracle BonesHessler, Peter ***
1491Mann, Charles
PrepSittenfeld, Curtis
The ClosesrsConnelly, Michael
The Ghost MapJohnson, Steven
The Blind SideLewis, Michael
The Places in BetweenStewart, Rory
The Faith Healer of Olive AvenueMu�oz, Manuel
The Last CoyoteConnelly, Michael
Daughter of FortuneAllende, Isabel
You Can RunArcher, Jesse
Brief Encounters with Che GuevaraFountain, Ben
Wyoming StoriesProulx, Annie
A Darkness More Than NightConnelly, Michael
KnifeboyWilliams, Tod Harrison

Some Comentary

In 1992 I visited my grandparents in Indiana for a week. Fearing boredom I brought along a few Isaac Asimov books. I knew he wrote science fiction and altho I had never really read any books for pleasure before this, I thought it might be interesting. In the stack at the library I noticed a lot of his titles had the word "Foundation" in it. I figured this would be a good place to start. Little did I know this would set off a years-long love affair with science fiction.

When I started college stopped reading so much, altho looking at my list you wouldn't necessarily see it. The year I took off to travel across Latin America (96-97), I read a lot. I don't read too much science fiction anymore, which is too bad. I miss the sense of wonderment and the dreaming it inspired within me.

CDs I own

Kind of pointless now with mp3s and all, but here it is.

My Favorites are marked with an '*'

Constant Craving (single)
ABBA Songs In Disco
S.O.S (single)
Los Abuelos de la Nada
Ace of Base
Lucky Love (single)
Afro Medusa
Pasilda (single)
Moon Safari
Sexy Boy (single)
Allman Brothers
A Decade of Hits 69-79
One More Night (single)
Sexual * (single)
History (Greatest Hits)
Tori Amos
Silent All These Years (single)
Professional Widow (single)
The Animals
Best of the Animals
I'm Outta Love (single)
Marc Anthony
Desde Un Principio
Marc Anthony
Caribe Atomico
Gozo Poderozo
Backstreet Boys
Everybody (single)
Greatest Hits, Chaper One
Bad Company
10 From 6
Bad Finger
Straight Up
Erykah Badu
Greatest Hits
The Band
The Band *
Barenaked Ladies
Brian Wilson (single)
The Old Apartment * (single)
One Week (single)
Beach Boys
Pet Sounds *
Good Vibrations (Box Set)
Please Please Me
Hard Day's Night *
Beatles For Sale
Revolver *
Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band *
Magical Mystery Tour
Yellow Submarine
The Beatles (White Album) *
Abbey Road *
Let it Be
Past Masters vol. 1
Past Masters vol. 2
Midnight Vultures
Maria Bethania
Millenium Series
Big Star
#1 Record/Radio City
Third/Sister Lovers
Black Uhuru
Ruben Blades
Buscando America
Blind Faith
Blind Faith
Atomic/Atomix (The Best Remixed)
Bloomfield, Kooper, Stills
Super Session
Blue Boy
Remember Me (single)
Migue Bose
Lo Mejor de...
Girados en Conciento (w/ Ana Torroja)
Box Tops
Ultimate Box Tops
Brandy & Monica
The Boy is Mine (single)
Toni Braxton
You're Makin' Me High (single)
Unbreak My Heart (single)
Meredith Brooks
Bitch (single)
What Would Happen (single)
James Brown
Star Time
Chico Buarque
Millenium Series
Buffalo Springfield
Last Time Around
The Best of
Jerry Butler
The Very Best of
The Notorious Byrd Brothers
Greatest Hits Vol. 2
The Byrds (box set) *
Cafe Tacuba
Avalanche de Exitos
Mariah Carey
Dreamlover * (single)
Fantasy (single)
Honey (single)
My All (single)
I Still Believe (single)
Kim Carnes
Mistaken Identity
The Carpenters
Singles 1969-1973
The Cars
Just What I Needed, The Anthology
Johnny Cash
The Sun Years
Chairmen of the Board
Harry Chapin
Greatest Stories Live
Tracy Chapman
Tracy Chapman
Give me One Reason (single)
Skin (single)
Cheap Trick
Authorized Greatest Hits
One By One (single)
Believe * (single)
Strong Enough (single)
Greatest Hits
Dance, Dance, Dance
Tubthumping (single)
Eric Clapton
Timepieces, The Best of
Change the World (single)
The Clash
London Calling *
Johnny Clegg
A Collection...
Patsy Cline
12 Greatest Hits *
Club 69
Drama (single)
Alright (single)
Muscles (single)
Bruce Cockburn
Stealing Fire
Phil Collins
John Coltrane
A Love Supreme
Sam Cooke
Man and His Music *
When I was Born For the 7th Time
Gal Costa
Millenium Series
Counting Crows
August and Everything After
Recovering the Satellites
Cowboy Junkies
Miles from Our Home
The Trinity Session
Lay it Down
Deborah Cox
Who Do U Love (single)
Things Just Ain't the Same (single)
Nobody's Supposed to be Here (single)
Sentimental (single)
The Cranberries
The Hits
The Very Best of
Creedence Clearwater Revival
Chronicle *
Chronicle, Vol. 2
Crosby & Nash
Wind On the Water
David Crosby
If Only I Could Remember My Name
Oh Yes I Can
Crosby, Stills & Nash
4 Way Street
Crosby, Stills, & Nash (box Set)
Lia Crucett
Disco De Oro
Celia Cruz
Grandes Exitos
Mi Vida es Cantar
The Cure
Staring at the Sea *
Daft Punk
One More Time (single)
Dario G
Sunchyme (single)
Dark Latin Groove
Greatest Hits
Miles Davis
Kind of Blue
Dead Can Dance
Within the Realm of a Dying Sun
The Serpent's Egg
Into the Labyrinth
Toward the Within
Deep Dish
Stay Gold (single)
Delaney & Bonnie
The Best of
Sandy Denny
The Best of
Depeche Mode
It's no Good (single)
Derek and the Dominos
Layla *
Jackie DeShannon
The Best of
Neil Diamond
The Classics
His 12 Greatest Hits
Celine Dion
It's all Coming Back to Me (single)
My Heart Will Go On (remixes) (single)
DJ Miko
What's Up (single)
Greatest Hits
Doobie Brothers
Best of the Doobies
The Doors
Waiting for the Sun
The Soft Parade
Morrison Hotel *
LA Woman
The Best of
In Concert
Nick Drake
An Introduction to Nick Drake *
Duran Duran
Duran Duran
Bob Dylan
Blonde on Blonde *
Greatest Hits, Vol. 1
Greatest Hits Vol. 2
Blood on the Tracks *
Time Out of Mind
Love and Theft
Their Greatest Hits 71-75 *
Greatest Hits, Vol. 2
Earth, Wind & Fire
The Best of, Vol. 1
Electic Light Orchestra
Greatest Hits
Disappointed (single)
Missy Elliott
Sock It 2 Me (single)
Cross of Changes
Shepherd Moons
A Day Without Rain
Breathe of Life (single)
Always (single)
Don't Say Your Love is Killing Me (single)
Rain * (single)
Gloria Estefan
Party Time (single)
Don't Let This Moment End (single)
Greatest Hits
Everything But The Girl
Amplified Heart
Walking Wounded
Wrong (single)
Fabulosos Cadillacs
Vasos Vacios, Los Exitos 1985-1993
20 Exitos
Fairport Convention
Fairport Convention
Unhalfbricking *
What We Did On Our Holidays
Liege and Lief
Insomnia (single)
Vicente Fernandez
Historia de un Idolo
Bryan Ferry
Street Life
Fifth Dimension
Greatest Hits on Earth
Find Young Cannibals
The Finest
Ella Fitzgerald
The Best of the Songbooks *
Fleetwood Mac
Fleetwood Mac
Rumours *
Flying Burrito Brothers
Farther Along, The Best of *
Fool's Garden
Lemon Tree (single)
Fountains of Wayne
Fountains of Wayne
Four Tops
Aretha Franklin
30 Greatest Hits
One Nation Under a Groove
Some Pirated Greatest Hits
Stupid Girl (single)
Charly Garcia
Obras Cumbres
Judy Garland
Judy At Carnegie Hall
Marvin Gaye
What's Going On *
Midnight Love
Gloria Gaynor
Greatest Hits
Turn it on Again (Hits)
Leon Gieco
Coleccion Aniversario
Gilberto Gil
Millenium Series
Joao Gilberto
Millenium Series
Disco de Oro *
Gipsy Kings
Gipsy Kings Live
Gladys Knight & The Pips
Best Of
Grateful Dead
Europe '72
Skeletons From the Closet
Macy Gray
On How Life Is
The Id
Al Green
Let's Stay Together
I'm Still In Love With You
Al Green Explores Your Mind
Call Me *
Guess Who
Best Of
Guns 'n Roses
Appetite for Destruction
mmmbop (single)
Phanthom Remixes '94 (single)
On My Own (single)
Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes
The Best of
Emmylou Harris
Greatest Hits
George Harrison
All Things Must Pass
Sophie B. Hawkins
Damn, I wish I was Your Lover (single)
Dreamboat Annie
Jimi Hendrix
Axis: Bold As Love
Electric Ladyland
The Ultimate Experience
Don Henley
Building the Perfect Beast
Heroes del Silencio
Canciones 84-96
Lauryn Hill
The Miseducation of
Billie Holiday
The Quintessential, vol. IV
Greatest Hits
Buddy Holly
Greatest Hits
Whitney Houston
Step by Step (single)
It's Not Right but It's Okay (single)
I Learned From the Best (single)
My Love is Your Love (single)
Julio Iglesias
Agua Dulce, Agua Sala (single)
Enrique Iglesias
Ilya Kuraki
The Impressions
Anthology *
Incredible String Band
Hangman's Beautiful Daughter
La India
Lo Nuevo y Sus Exitos
Indigo Girls
Indigo Girls
Isley Brothers
Isley Brothers Story vol 2
Jackson 5
18 Greatest Hits
Janet Jackson
Together Again (single)
I Get Lonley (single)
Michael Jackson
Your Are Not Alone (single)
Nicole Jackson
The First Time Ever... * (single)
Rick James
The Ultimate Collection
Space Cowboy (single)
Cosmic Girl (single)
Virtual Insanity (single)
Jefferson Airplane
Pieces of You
Tom Jobim
Millenium Series
Billy Joel
Greatest Hits vol. 1 & 2
Elton John
Goodbye Yellow Brick Road
Love Songs
Greatest Hits
Greatest Hits, Vol. 2
George Jones
Super Hits
Grace Jones
Island Life
Tom Jones
Janis Joplin
Greatest Hits
18 Essential Songs
Joy Division
King Crimson
Larks' Toungues In Aspic
Greatest Hits 64-66
Something Else By
Kink Kronikles *
Come Dancing, Best of 77-86
Patti LaBelle
When You Talk About Love (single)
k. d. lang
Ingenue *
Live by Request
Latin All Stars
I Like it like that (single)
Cyndi Lauper
She's so Unusual
Led Zepplin
Led Zepplin (box set)
Laura Lee
Greatest Hits
Legiao Urbana
Mais do Mesmo
John Lennon
Shaved Fish
Annie Lenox
Little Feat
Dixie Chicken
Little Richard
The Essential...
Livin' Joy
Dreamer (single)
Follow the Rules (single)
Don't Stop Movin' (single)
Louvin Brothers
Tragic Songs of Life
Lynyrd Skynyrd
Their Greatest Hits
Immaculate Collection *
Ray of Light
Secrets (single)
You Must Love Me (single)
Frozen (single)
Mamas & The Papas
16 Greatest Hits
Unplugged *
Todos sus Exitos
Aimee Mann
Magnolia Soundtrack
Ultimate Collection
Manfred Mann
Greatest Hits 64-66
Chapter Two
Marcy Playground
Sex and Candy (single)
Bob Marley
Natural Mystic
Natty Dread
Billy Ray Martin
Your Loving Arms (single)
Ricky Martin
Maria (single)
Dave Mason
Alone Together
The Best Of
Fortuna Mazal
Fortuna Mazal
Paul McCartney
Roger McGuinn
Born to Rock n Roll
Loreena McKennitt
Mummer's Dance (single)
Don McLean
Best Of
Men at Work
Business as Usual
Natalie Merchant
Wonder (single)
Live in New York City
Metallica (Black Album)
George Michael
Fastlove (single)
Robert Miles
Children (single)
Steve Miller
Best of 68-73
Mitch Ryder & The Detroit Wheels
Rev Up: The Best of
Joni Mitchell
Blue *
For the Roses
Court & Spark *
James Bond Theme (single)
Modern Talking
Greatest Hits
Moody Blues
To Our Childrens Childrens Children
Seventh Sojourn
Every Good Boy Deserves Favour
Van Morrison
Into the Music
The Best of
Mousse T vs. Hot 'n Juicy
Horny (single)
The Move
Greatest Hits
Billie Myers
Kiss the Rian (single)
Milton Nascimento
Millenium Series
Graham Nash
Song For Beginners
Willie Nelson
Red Headed Stranger
New Order
Best of
Randy Newman
12 Songs
Los Nocheros
Nuyorican Soul
Nuyorican Soul
What's the Story (Morning Glory)?
Billy Ocean
Greatest Hits
Back Stabbers
You're Not Alone (single)
How Bizarre
100 Proof (Aged in Soul)
Os Mutantes
Millenium Series
Fito Paez
El Amor Despues del Amor
Gram Parsons
GP/Grievous Angel *
Dolly Parton
The RCA Years 67-86
Parton, Ronstadt, Harris
Paquita La del Barrio
Chichi Peralta
Pa' Otro La'o *
De Vuelta al Barrio
Luciano Pereyra
Pet Shop Boys
Absolutely Fabulous (single)
Se a Vida E (single)
A Red Letter Day * (single)
Somewhere (single)
Tom Petty
Into The Great Wide Open
Greatest Hits
Walls (single)
Wilson Pickett
The Best of
Las Mejores 30 Canciones
Pink Floyd
Soundtrack from the Film More
Obscured By Clouds
Dark Side of the Moon *
Wish You Were Here
The Wall
Pizzicato Five
Happy Sad (single)
The Platters
Message In a Box
Porno for Pyros
Pets (single)
Sour Times (single)
All Mine (single)
Elvis Presley
Elvis' Gold Records, Vol. 5
The Pretenders
Greatest Hits
Prince Music from Purple Rain
The Hits 1
The Hits 2
John Prine
John Prine *
Greatest Hits
OK Computer
The Rascals
Greatest Hits
Elis Regina
Millenium Series
Murmur *
Life's Rich Pageant
Out of Time
Automatic for the People *
E-Bow the Letter (single)
Electrolite (single)
Bonnie Raitt
Longing In Their Hearts
Real McCoy
Another Night
Red Hot Chili Peppers
Some pirated collection of all their ballads
Los Redondos
Los Grandes Exitos
Otis Redding
The Very Best of, vol. 1 *
The Very Best of, vol. 2
Lou Reed
Find Another Woman (single)
Leann Rimes
How Do I live (single)
Jerry Rivera
Grandes Exitos
Robin S
Show Me Love
Los Mejores Temas
Rolling Stones
Through The Past Darkly *
Exile on Main St.
Diana Ross
All The Great Hits
Paulina Rubio
Paulina Rubio
Los 20 Exitos *
Greatest Hits
Alejandro Sanz
El Alma al Aire
Encore une Fois (single)
Stay (single)
Savage Garden
To the Moon and Back (single)
Bob Seger
Greatest Hits
Seru Giran
Pies Descalzos
Donde Estan Los Ladrones *
Duncan Sheik
Barely Breathing (single)
Duncan Sheik
Wishful Thinking (single)
Simon & Garfunkle
Sounds of Silence
Parsley, Sage, Rosemary, & Thyme
Bridge Over Troubled Water *
Paul Simon
Paul Simon
There Goes Rhymin' Simon
Still Crazy After All These Years
Graceland *
Negotiations and Love Songs
The Rhythm of the Saints *
Songs From the Capeman
Frank Sinatra
Songs for Swingin' Lovers *
Only the Lonely *
Classic Sinatra (Capitol Years)
September of My Years
Sly & Robbie
Rhythym Killers
Sly & The Family Stone
Anthology *
The Small Faces
Patti Smith
The Smiths
The Singles
Smokey Robinson & The Miracles
Soda Stereo
Los 20 Exitos
Yo si Quiero a mi Pais
Sonny & Cher
I Got You Babe (single)
Mercedes Sosa
30 Años
Alta Fidelidad
Space Monkeys
Sugar Cane (single)
Phil Spector
A Christmas Gift For You
Back To Mono (1958-1969)
Spice Girls
Say You'll Be There (single)
Spice Up Your Life (single)
Spin Doctors
Pocketful of Kryptonite
Elija y Gana
The Spinners
A One of a kind Love Affair
Dusty Springfield
The Very Best
Bruce Springsteen
Tracks (Box Set)
Greatest Hits
St. Etiene
Only Love Can Break Your Heart (single)
He's on the Phone (single)
Lisa Stansfied
#1 Dance Hits (EP)
Never Gonna Give You Up (single)
Staple Singers
Best of the Staple Singers
Music Sounds Better With You (single)
Ringo Starr
Stars on 54
If You Could Read My Mind (single)
Steely Dan
A Decade of Steely Dan
16 Greatest Hits
Rod Steward
Mercury Anthology
Ooh La La (single)
Stephen Stills
Stephen Stills
Stephen Stills, Neil Young
Long May You Run
Greatest Hits
I'm so Happy... (single)
Sugar Hill Gang
Best of
Sui Generis
Los 20 Exitos *
Donna Summer
On the Radio
Carry On * (single)
The Supremes
Talking Heads
More Songs About Buildings And Food
Sand In The Vaseline
James Taylor
Sweet Baby James
The Temptations
10,000 Maniacs
In My Tribe *
Our Time in Eden
You Happy Puppet (single)
More Than This (single)
Candy Everybody Wants (single)
Few and Far Between (single)
Amor a la Mexicana
Third Eye Blind
Semi-Charmed Life (single)
Richard and/or Linda Thompson
Dreams Fly Away
(Guitar, Vocal)
I Want to See the Bright Lights Tonight
Shoot Out the Lights *
Waterfalls (single)
No Scrubs (single)
Toots and the Maytals
Funky Kingston
Tower of Power
Tower of Power
Mr. Fantasy
Smiling Phases
Ike & Tina Turner
Greatest Hits
Unforgettable Fire
Joshua Tree *
Best of 1980-1990
Achtung Baby *
All That You Can't Leave Behind
Where the Streets Have No Name (single)
Staring at the Sun (single)
Ultra Nate
Free (single)
Found a Cure (single)
Suzanne Vega
Solitude Standing
Caetano Veloso
Millenium Series
Velvet Underground
The Velvet Underground & Nico
White LIght/White Heat
Velvet Underground
The Verve
Bitter Sweet Symphony (single)
Rufus Wainwright
Scott Walker
No Regrets
It's Raining Today
Dionne Warwick
Dionne Warwick Collection *
Hidden Gems
The Waterboys
Fisherman's Blues
White Town
Women In Technology
Barry White
All-Time Greatest Hits
The Who
Live At Leeds (reissue) *
Who's Next (reissue) *
Who's Next *
Thirty Years of Maximum R&B
Being There
Hank Williams
40 Greatest Hits
Lucinda Williams
Cars Wheels on a Gravel Road
Brian Wilson
I Wasn't Made For These Times
Your Imagination (single)
Jackie Wilson
The Best of
Wing's Greatest
Stevie Wonder
Talking Book
Music of My Mind
Innervisions *
Fulfillingnesss' First Finale
Songs In the Key of Life
Tammy Wynette
Greatest Hits
Dare To Dream(can you believe I own this?)
Neil Young
Neil Young
Everybody Knows This is Nowhere
Live Rust
The Legacy of... (bootleg)
Sleeps With Angels
Mirror Ball
Change Your Mind (single)
We're Ony In it for the Money
The Zombies
Singles, A's & B's
Compilations and Box Sets
Beg, Scream, & Shout *
Best of the Girl Groups
Disco Years, Vol. 1 *
Disco Years, Vol. 2
Disco Years, Vol. 3
Hot Soul Hits, 1974
The Philly Soul Box Set
Soul Hits of the 70s, Vol. 2
Soul Hits of the 70s, Vol. 5
Soul Hits of the 70s, Vol. 8
Soul Hits of the 70s, Vol. 9
Soul Hits of the 70s, Vol. 14
Soul Hits of the 70s, Vol. 18
Cassablanca Records Story
Best Hits of the 60s
#1 Hits of the 60s
Billboard R'n R Hits 1966
British Invasion vol. 7-9
Born to Choose
The Burt Bacharach Collection *
Rock 'n Roll Instrumental Hits
Fizz Pop Modern Rock
Living in Oblivion, vol. 1-5
New Wave Hits of the 80s, vol. 14
New Wave Hits of the 80s, vol. 15
VH-1 Big 80s
Q 1998: The Best
Dance Mix Classics
Dance Mix USA, Vol. 3
Mega Dance Mix '96
JP Radio Hits (Brazil) *
Radio Party (Arg.)
Los 20 del Siglo XX (Rock Argentino)
Songs from Almodovar
Batman & Robin
The Full Monty
Grace of My Heart
O Brother, Where Art Thou
Saturday Night Fever *
When Pigs Fly
Terminator 2
New Jack City
The Civil War


Anonymous 4
On Yoolis Night
Anonymous 4
Love's Illusion
Hector Berlioz
Symphonie Fantastique
J.S. Bach
Brandenburg Concertos
Goldberg Variations (Glenn Gould)
Cello Suits (Pablo Casals)
Claude Debussy
Trois Images/La Mer
Antonin Dvorak
Symphony #9
Philip Glass
Philip Glass
Itaipu *
Osvaldo Golijov
The Dreams and Prayers of Isaac the Blind (Kronos Quartet)
Edvard Grieg
Peer Gynt Suites
Henryk Groecki
Symphony #3
Howard Hanson
Gustav Holst
The Planets
Masses For Five Voices
Symphonies 40, 41
Piano Concertos 23, 24
Carl Orff
Carmina Burana
Astor Piazzola
Soul of the Tango (Yo-Yo Ma)
Best Tangos
Rite of Spring
Vaughan Williams
Fantasia on a theme by Thomas Tallis *
Symphonies 3 & 6
Symphonies 7 & 8
Random Early Music
100 Masterpieces
[Postscript 2009: after my mom passed away and I moved down to Argentina to live with my boyfriend I sold all 1000-ish of my CDs on Craigslist. I got $250 or about a quarter per CD. I'd already ripped everything to MP3]

More Adventures in Bolivia

October 1996 to August 1997 I spent traveling from California to Tierra del Fuego overland, by bus. Bolivia was probably the most interesting country and, at the very least, made for the best stories. Here is a letter I sent from an internet cafe once I arrived in Santiago Chile. While not as amazing as the Freddy Tour, my silver mine tour and really bad bus ride are interesting as well.
The Potosi Mine Tour
After La Paz and that infamous prison tour I wrote about in my last letter I headed south to Potosi. the city sits at the foot of a hill at over 13,000 feet, making it the highest city in the world. The chief attraction to Potosi, however is the hill behind it and the some 5,000 mines (mostly abandoned) bored into it. The hill has been mined since Incan times but it was the Spanish who turned it into a big time operation. The silver from the mines financed the Spanish crown for over two centuries and turned Potosi into the second largest city in the world during the 17th century.

While most of the silver is now gone, mining continues albeit on a small scale. it is possible to tour one of these small, cooperative mines and observe the working conditions which are straight out of Dickens.

Tour companies arrange for tourists to go inside the mines and have a look around.Our guide was a former miner who had studied Englished and switched over to the more lucrative (and safer) profession of tour-guide. Before going up the hill we stopped off at the miners market to buy gifts for the miners, things such as bottled water, cigarettes, coca leaves, and dynamite (the miners typically have to buy their own so it makes a very useful gift). We were also with a coat, hardhat, and a gas lamp. We also began chewing coca leaves as this is supposed to help with, among other things, claustrophobia. The mines are at nearly 14,000 feet so it is hard to breathe even when you are not in a shaft barely the diameter of your body.

The entrance to the mine was a simple hole in the side of the mountain about four feet in height and hidden behind a pile of junk ore. At the entrance sat several miners calmly chewing coca and looking in no hurry to begin their work. The miners chew prodigious amounts of coca leaf for the dual effects of warding off fatigue and hunger. It allows the miners to work monstrously long shifts.

Geronimo and I entered the mine and descended several levels, crawling thru passages about four to five feet high. After a few minutes of descent we met yet more miners resting and chewing coca. It was morning and Geronimo informed us that they had been working since the night before. There was a manager (an equity holder in the mine) and two hired assistants. they had dynamited a passage and were now extracting the ore, carrying it up four levels in 90 pound sacks on their backs. this was a good find. When a passageway is mediocre a manger will work it by himself with a pick ax, not wasting expensive dynamite.

Next in the tour I was lowered by Geronimo down a 90 foot shaft with nothing more than a rope tied around my waist. Geronimo followed me sliding down the rope (an old miners trick, no doubt). I was a little surprised by my courage but by this point in the tour I had been chewing coca for quite a while and my judgment was, to say the least, suspect. At the bottom of the shaft we encountered two miners, brothers aged 19 and 15 working in the place of their father, who had recently died. Most miners, I learned, retire by the age of 35 so strenuous is the work. Even so, miners typically do not live past the age of 50, dying from one of the many miners diseases. Still, for the poor, indigenous residents of Potosi it is one of the few ways to make a living.

As bad as the conditions are in the mines today they are a vast improvement over the past when the Spanish sent thousands of Indian slaves to their deaths in the mines. Today, at least, the miners have a stake in the profits of the mine (there are some 200 mines in operations, mostly very small scale) and can take rudimentary steps to insure their safety. Last year (only) 48 miners died in accidents.

On the day of my tour there was a special ceremony going on involving the slaughter of llamas to give thanks for a prosperous year. After our emergence from the stifling mine we witnessed the slaughter of several llamas, all slit by the throat. Later the miners cooked up the meat on a large grill and buried the entrails in a offering to mother earth.

Geronimo and I descended to a lower mine where they were already cooking up the meat and helped ourselves to some. A miner came to us and bragged that llama meat has the lowest fat and cholesterol of any red meat. It struck me as a little odd that miner who will probably die before sixty would know anything about fat and cholesterol.

The meat was not bad, I should add, altho nothing compared to alpaca, which is delicious.
The Worst Bus Ride
It goes without saying that by this point in my trip I have become quite accustomed to bus rides. If ever I had an aversion to long rides I have long since gotten over it. Up until Bolivia my worst ride was a night bus from Arequipa to Cuzco, in Peru. For 13 hours I was subjected to the coldest, bumpiest, and dustiest bus ride of my trip, all while sitting next to a very large man with precious little respect for my personal space.

All this was mere preparation a ride I took in Bolivia. Since Colombia I had been hearing stories about the horrid condition of buses and roads in Bolivia but for the most part I had been quite lucky. My luck, however, ran out when I had to take a bus from Tupiza to Uyuni on a road connecting two of the most isolated corners of the Andean highlands.

The bus left at noon and the nice woman in the ticket office told me the ride would last six hours. Despite what notions you may have of how Latin Americans keep time, estimates of this sort were usually pretty good. This time it was an utter lie. The bus never arrives in under 8 hours, I later learned. Even so, an 8 pm arrival would have been a blessing.

My first inkling that all would not go smoothly came about four hours into the trip, after two hours of crawling up a not so steep road at barely 10 mph. At 6pm we pulled into the small town that marked the halfway point on this otherwise desolate journey. That is halfway, distance-wise. I assured myself that surely the road would get better if we were to make it even close to our schedule. In fact the road got worse.

Within 10 miles of this town we had two flat tires, the second of which took well over an hour to change. When I heard the clanging of a swift hammer on metal, I knew it was not an ordinary flat. From then on every time we slowed down to navigate a rut, which was quite often, I feared we were stopping for yet another flat. My body tensed up in the fear that we would not even arrive that night. The road was deeply rutted with a washboard grating and the bus (whose shocks were long gone) vibrated with such intensity that items in the overhead bins shook loose and it seemed the entire bus would come flying apart at the bolts.

To avoid the washboard sections the driver often choose alternate routes along the side of the road. This got us into our next bit of trouble. An hour outside of our final destination the bus got bogged down in sand and we all had to get out and push. At first I just had to laugh at the turn of events but the laughs soon turned in shivers. It was a cold, cold night in the desert. We were at 13,000 feet and the sun had set long ago. The temperature must have been in the teens. Thanks to that nice woman in the ticket office, who led me to believe we would arrive by sunset, I had left all my warm clothes in my pack, now totally inaccessible on top of the bus.

It took us an hour to get out of the sand, going 2 meters at a time. The driver and his assitant would dig out the area just in front of the back wheels and place a couple of boards there. The driver would rev the engine and the bus would lurch forward, rolling over the boards and then immediately bogging down in the sand again. It was while watching this farse that I decided that this was my worst bus ride, by far. Still, I mused to myself, it was not nearly at bad as some of the horror stories I had heard about buses in Bolivia, which included having the wheel fall off and being stranded by a flooded river and waiting 12 hours for the water to go down.

By the time we arrived it was just past one in the morning. it had taken us over 13 hours to go just under 100 miles. I got my stuff and quickly found a hotel room. I undressed and, filthy, went to bed, trying and failing to get warm under the thin sheets.

Adventures in Bolivia

October 1996 to August 1997 I spent traveling from California to Tierra del Fuego overland, by bus. Bolivia was probably the most interesting country and, at the very least, made for the best stories. Here is a letter I sent from an internet cafe in La Paz on May 16, 1997.

The best of these vingettes is the first, my tour of a Bolivian prison. It's followed by my ride on the Death Road and Skiing at 17,000 feet.

The Freddy Tour
Or my first acquaintance with the Bolivian penal system

I first heard about this tour from two American girls I met on last weekend's ski trip (which see). It is a tour of Bolivia's national prison given by the infamous (at least amongst travelers) Freddy, an inmate in the jail.

The National Penitentiary, as it is called, occupies one city block in the heart of La Paz. The main entrance faces a quiet tree lined square where children play and women sell gum and candies from kiosks. I walked up to the entrance with three other travelers. It was all hustle and bustle; guards searching visitors and checking their identification and prisoners on the other side of the gate waiting to see if anyone had arrived for them. Before we had much time to assess the situation a long-haired man standing on the prisonerÍs side of the gates called out, "I'm Freddy, it's OK, come with me." The guards briefly searched us, more concerned that we were not carrying any cameras than they were about drugs or weapons, took our passports (so they would know we weren't prisoners when we tried to leave) and let us in.

Once inside the man who had called out to us explained that his name was Ruben and that he was Freddy's assistant. It was his job to wait at the entrance and usher tourists into the jail. Freddy was busy with another tour but would be with us shortly, Ruben explained, so we could just sit and relax for a few moments. Ruben took our money, the price of the tour was 20 Bolivianos, or about four dollars. Freddy got to keep about half of this, the rest went to pay off the gaurds and his assistants.

Now that I had a few seconds to breathe I looked around the prison yard to gather some first impressions. First of all the place didn't look like a prison at all. The area where we sat looked more like the interior courtyard of a standard budget hotel (a little nicer, in fact). There were three floors with doors leading out onto a balcony. Each doorway was attractively painted white with a pine green trim. In the courtyard, where we sat, trees and shrubs were planted giving the place an almost park-like feel. Along the sides were kiosks selling candies and gum, just like one sees everywhere in Latin America. On the ground floor was a pool hall and a restaurant. The prisoners were all dressed in plainclothes and moved about with freedom. The only people in uniform were the guards who, aside from the entrance, were almost entirely nonexistent.

Freddy arrived and introduced himself. He was dressed in a red T-shirt, bluejeans, and a baseball cap emblazoned with the Nike logo. He started off telling us a little about the tour. He explained that we had nothing to worry about in terms of our safety. Freddy knew everyone at the prison and they all knew not to mess with him. He added that in the year he's been doing these tours nothing bad has happened, "until today" he said and smiled.

He began the tour with some explanation about life in the prison. The bottom line, he said, was money. With money a prisoner can have and do anything within the walls of the prison. For a price a prisoner can buy a nicer cell, have any kind of drug that exists, even bring his wife and kids into the prison to live with him (probably the oddest sight in the whole place was toddlers playing in the prison yard). And of course money can buy your freedom. "Your money is your justice," was a phrase oft repeated by Freddy during the tour.

The courtyard we were standing in was, what Freddy called, the five star section of the jail. It was here that the big drug dealers and traffickers lived. A cell in this section starts at $5000 and goes up from there. For this price a prisoner can get several bedrooms, satellite TV, even a Jacuzzi. When a prisoner enters the jail he is either assigned a cell in the bad section or giving an option to buy a nicer cell from an outgoing prisoner. At various points along the tour I saw 'for sale' signs tacked up outside of cells.

We left the courtyard and continued our tour. On the gate of the section we had just left was a sign with five stars on it and the name of the section, Los Pinos (The Pines).

Next up was the four star section. This section's yard had no trees and shrubs but was still nicer than some of the hotels I've stayed in on this trip. It was here that the assistants to the drugs lords; the chemists, and pilots lived. A cell here went for a minimum of $1000. In the corner was a restaurant serving rotisserie chicken.

The tour continued down thru the stars and into the prison's slums where, as Freddy put it, the dangerous motherfuckers lived. He told us that every year at least 20 people died in fights, mainly in the bad sections. The weapon of choice is a spear made from a sharpened steel rebar. Freddy recounted a couple of fights he had been in while a prisoner. He said it was not like the movies. It was best to kill your opponent with the first blow, no drama.

Presently we came upon a young and rather unkempt young man slouching in a doorway. Freddy walked up and kicked him a couple of times, hard, in the face and slung a long list of obscenities at him as he stumbled away. As he left away Freddy added a couple more kicks for good measure. Freddy turned to us and said, "That man is a junkie and he owes me money. If he does not pay me I will break his arm." During the tour Freddy's demeanor was friendly and courteous but I had no trouble believing that he could turn the bad motherfucker if need be.

Next we passed by the section where the prostitutes live. They, for the most part, are not prisoners, but they live in the prison because, presumably, business is so good. "Those bitches over there," Freddy said, "they are the ugly bitches. They cost 30 pesos. Over there, those are the good looking bitches. They cost 80." He seemed to like to use the word bitch. His surprisingly good English was peppered with obscenities, including the ubiquitous, "motherfucker. "

Next he led us into his cell, a cramped two floor cell in the three star section. Freddy paid $600 for where he lives. Here he talked a little about the crimes he had committed and what he was in for. A couple of years ago he was caught robbing a jewelry store and has been in jail since, altho, like most criminals in Bolivia, he's been involved in the cocaine trade. In fact, while we sat in his cell he offered us each some cocaine "98% pure" and only $3 a gram...almost as cheap as Colombia.

Freddy lives with his girlfriend, a Yugoslav woman he met on a tour about a year ago. She liked the drugs so much that she decided to stay, altho she is not a prisoner. Apparently the drugs inside the prison are the best and cheapest available in Bolivia. The girl works at night as a stripper, collecting tips and occasionally lifting the wallets out of her drunk customer's pockets. Freddy does quite well, all things considered. Through word of mouth this tour has become quite popular and he sometimes leads up to six tours a day of ten people each. Due to this income, and the money he gets from his girlfriend, Freddy saved up enough money to paid off the judge on his case. In less than a month Freddy will be released. $2000 was the price that bought his freedom. "Your money is your justice," he kept saying.

Our last stop on the tour was the section where they keep political prisoners (mostly terrorists and guerrillas rather than dissidents and activists). These were the only prisoners who could not pay off a judge to have their sentence shortened. The government turns a blind eye to most corruption but not any that actually might endanger their power.

And finally the tour was over. Already another group of tourists was waiting for Freddy. We stood at the gate while the guard looked for our passports (a tense moment) and we were free. Of course, the outside didn't seem all that different.
The Death Road
Later that same day I took a bus to Coroico, a small town about half way down to the Amazon basin from the highlands. The road from La Paz drops over 10,000 feet in less that 50 miles on its way down. The road is far from safe, in fact, in 1994 the World Bank declared it 'the world's most dangerous road.' Amongst tourists that route is known, affectionately, as the Death Road.

Last year there were 26 accidents on this road, all fatal. What makes the road so dangerous is that it is a single lane flanked on one side by cliffs that are almost sheer and drop down sometimes as much as 500 hundred feet. Guard rails are in a universe far, far away. The day I went I made sure I got to the bus station early so as to guarantee a seat on the driver's side. If I was going down the Death Road it wouldn't be with my eyes closed.

On this road, as opposed to all others on the continent, cars pass each other on the left side. There is some sense to this. The cliffs are on the left side (going down) and the driver is better able to see how close the wheels are to plunging off the edge. This can make for some tense moments when the bus has to pass oncoming traffic and the wheels are literally less than a foot from the edge. There were points on the journey when I would look out my window and see nothing but air for 500 feet below me.

When the dangerous section started an Argentine traveler in front of me turned around and said, "do you believe in God?" I was not scared, altho there were some tense moments. I tried to treat the ride as a roller coaster. Of course, I think that any country would shut down a roller coaster that caused over 100 fatalities a year. At several points on the road the track was literally cut into the cliff, sheer face above and below us. We passed *behind* several waterfalls.

At the road's more dangerous curves little crosses and shrines are sprinkled about, memorials to less fortunate souls who did not make it. I've heard these referred to as Bolivian caution signs. As we paused at the edge of the precipice I had plenty of time to read the names of those who did not make it. There was this one plaque with a star of David on it and written entirely in Hebrew, memorializing some Israeli travelers who had gone over the cliff. Nationals aren't the only ones who fall victim to the road. The plaque was dated February, '97.

I arrived in Coroico safely having enjoyed the ride but relieved that it was over. But as I stepped off the bus I realized there was only one way back to La Paz.
Skiing at 17,000 feet
The weekend before all of this I took a one day excursion out to Chacaltaya, a downhill ski resort about 20 miles outside of La Paz. Among the resorts many distinctions are being the only ski resort in the tropics and the highest downhill run in the world. Base elevation is at 17,000 feet.

At 8 am that morning I met a gathering group of travelers outside the offices of Club Andino Boliviano, where we met the bus that would take us up. After a few requisite stops for food purchasing and gas we were on our way up the steep and narrow 4wd track that led up to the ski lodge. At such an altitude I half expected to pass out upon standing up, but surprisingly, I felt fine.

After a few minutes standing around the lodge we began to rent our equipment. It was as bad as I had heard. My boots were from the early 80's, my skis from even before that. And they were in horrible condition. They ran out of equipment before everyone had a pair of skis and several people had to share. Finally, tho, most of us were all suited up and we skied down to the base of the lift.

The lift is a story in and of itself. Dating back to the resort's inception in 1939 the list is but a plain, unadorned cable run by a small diesel motor that can barely cope with the altitude. The method of going up is that of a poma tow, whereby we are dragged up the slope by the lift while leaning back on a disc or T-bar stuck between our legs. The trick with this lift, tho, is that the skier has to hook his or her own T-bar onto the cable which has no hooks and precious little friction. In the disclaimer they had us sign (This was the first and last disclaimer I ever had to sign in South America!) there was a sentence concerning the lift that I particularly like. It said, "Based on our experience it should not take you more than 12 times to learn how to use the lift."

I myself never managed to hook onto the cable even once. The first time I was helped by the staff and it was all I could do to keep the hook from slipping off as I rode up. I got to the top, happy that I had made it but sorry that I left my camera back down in the lodge. I skied down to get it. When I went back out I found that one of my bindings had slipped and my boot no longer fit. By now that altitude was really starting to get to me and I just couldn't muster the effort to get it fixed. I decided I had accomplished what I had came for--skiing a single run --and retired to the ski lodge.

Udate: September 1999

This is an email I sent off to friends, family and acquaintences to let them know of my progress, about two months after moving to Buenos Aires.

Unfortunately I don't have any wild stories, honestly. I think Buenos Aires just isn't that kind of place. In my last email I told you a little about my apartment (1 bedroom, 400 sq. ft. $600/month). I've since learned a little more about my neighborhood, Recoleta. The neighborhood is basically Buenos Aires' Upper East Side; dense, rich, old, expensive. It also has a bit of old Times Square thrown in as well. The area surrounding the cemetery, where Evita is buried and just a block from my apartment, is notorious as a zone of high class prostitution. All around the cemetery are flashy discos with names like "Fun Girl," "Top Hat," and, oddly, "Hippopotamus" which are really just fronts for wealthy business executives to shell out $300 for a discrete night of pleasure (I told you Buenos Aires wasn't cheap). Of course, when I mention my address to any porteño (as the local residents are called) they inevitably point this out. I tell them that I am just a poor recent graduate and ask them if they know of more economical prostitutes, perhaps any they can recommend from personal experience. (this is much easier to ask in Spanish as I can just use the verb 'conocer' which means to know, on a personal level)

Today's newspapers were all abuzz with stories about deposed Paraguayan strongman Lino Oviedo. He's taken refuge in Buenos Aires, under the protection of his old buddy Carlos Menem, the president. As Menem is soon to leave office there is pressure mounting to exile Oviedo to Tierra Del Fuego (sounds very 18th century). Oviedo has requested that any decision regarding his fate be delayed for 60 days. His reason: recovery time for a recent face-lift.

I suppose I should mention the oft tossed about fact that Buenos Aires has the highest rate of plastic surgery of any city in the world. While I haven't actually seen this fact verified by a reputable source, I have come across some local data points. A friend of mine causally mentioned having a nose job when he was 15. He seemed very nonchalant about the whole deal. His family's insurance plan covers one operation (of any type) per year. No one needed any work or had any emergencies that year. Why let it go to waste? Besides, his nose was horrendous, so he says.

Some of you have asked what kind of work I have found for myself. Unsurprisingly, I am working for an internet start-up. We are really just in the initial stages, working on a business plan and a beta web site. My boss is a guy named Patricio. He's Argentine but has spent the last three years in Miami selling beef. You know those miniscule ads in the New Yorker for $50 Argentine steaks? Well, his company is probably behind them.

Our website won't be selling beef, or any atoms for that matter. Our idea is to sell Argentina (and Latin America) to the world. In the end this is that different of a business. For someone to shell out $50 for a cut of beef that costs $1.50 here they have to be sold on some image, romantic gauchos, endless pampas grass, etc. Patricio is fond of telling how he gained Balducci's as a client (they sell in inflight magazines). The founder, Mr. Balducci himself was on a tour of Argentina. Patricio took him out to one of the estancias to show him the natural conditions the cows are raised under: no hormones, enhanced genetics, or even grain fed animals, just happy cows munching away on abundant pampas grass. Mr. Balducci, so taken with the natural scene and the happy cows got down on his kneeds, grabbed a clump of grass and started chewing it himself.

Someday, we'll provide that very same experience.over the web =)

chau (which, btw, is spelled correctly if you're saying it in Spanish)


[September 28, 1999]