Besides having a baby, what else can you do in nine months?

In nine months you can have a baby, complete the tenth grade, watch an entire baseball season from Spring Training to the World Series unfold — or you can start a new life in Argentina.

Nine months ago yesterday my friend, Paul Perrin, dropped me off at the airport in Washington DC. My gear bag over my shoulder, passport and ticket in hand, I was ready to head south.

Shaking hands in the freezing morning, it was about 5am, I thanked Paul for his hospitality and walked into the terminal and took a step into a new life.

Nine months ago tonight at 9pm I stepped off the plane in Buenos Aires. It was December 1st, but the weather was like a steamy August day — the kind that you remember sitting around the lake eating hot dogs with friends.

Passing through customs and answering all of the bureaucratic questions, I stepped through the fence and saw her. A smile on her face that lit up the hot Argentine night she jumped into my arms to welcome me to her hometown.

It’s not always been easy. I was robbed in February. There’s been our share of ups and downs. The downs because of me and the ups because of her.

We’ve worked hard on blending two lives, two cultures, two personal histories and there has always been the hurdele of doing all this through two different languages.

But Ale has been more than gracious, kind and loving through the whole thing and I’m slowly adapting to life here in Buenos Aires.

I’m not amazed anymore at the dogwalkers who handle 20 dogs at a time and I don’t shake my head as they let the dogs answer nature’s call anywhere they please.

Iconic buildings and landmarks that are on every tourists ‘must see’ list are common place to me now. While visitors stare and gawk at the balcony at Casa Rosada where Madonna sang “Don’t Cry for Me Argentina”, I light a cigarette and pass the building hardly noticing it anymore.

Congresso has become as familiar to me now as The White House. The site of many protests and demonstrations, the corrupt Argentine government gives people many things to protest about.

The world famous Cafe Tortonis where literary greats and Bobby Duvall hang out is just a few kilometers down the street and I duck into the wood paneled eatery often — not for the coffee, just to swipe some free WiFi.

A few more amazing events over the last 9 months:

– Watching “Last Samauri” on Argentine TV and not understanding a thing because the voices are in Chinese and the subtitles are in Spanish

– Sailing the open ocean between Buenos Aires and Tigre

– Being twenty feet from the horses as they come down the homestretch in the Hippodrome

– Going to Christmas Eve midnight service with Ale and having the sweat pour off me in the 90+ heat — in December!

– Walking with the lions and tigers in Lujan

– Sleeping in Plaza de Mayo with veterans of the Malvinas/Falklands War

I’m still haunted by the Argentine “Dirty War”. That period from 1976-1983 when the military junta “disappeared” 30,000 of their countrymen. Ale and I went to visit EMSA, the compound where most of the disappeared where taken to for torture before being killed and dumped over Rio de Plata. I go there and if my spirit is quiet enough, I feel I can hear the screams crying out for justice. It continues to shock me because, unlike the Holocaust, the Dirty War happened in my lifetime. And Ale’s.

She’s an amazing woman. A rare combination of beauty, intelligence and fortitude that I don’t believe I’ve ever seen packaged in the same way before.

She can tear up at a romantic movie, be enthralled looking at the flowers that the “florista” has for sale and will put herself between me and a “policia” when she thinks the police have it in for me. At barely five foot tall, that’s an accomplishment.

Life goes on in Capital Federale”. Ale and I still plan on making it make to the US to set up home there. In the meantime I haunt the streets and alley’s looking for that next shot or the next story. 3am in Buenos Aires is no more scary than 3am in New York City — and I’ve been in both places at that early hour. But Buenos Aires is losing it’s sense of strangeness and New York will always be strange.

And late at night after the sun goes down and I’m sitting on the porch listening to the portenos talking in the street, the distant plane taking off from the downtown airport and watching Tommy the cat play with the leaves, my mind travels back in time and distance to my adopted hometown and that bumpersticker that says, “Keep Asheville Weird”.

Man. If they only knew.


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