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Buenos Aires Calling

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With the passage of the Santa Monica smoking ban, I thought it was time to write a how-do-ya-do from my new home on the road, Buenos Aires. Yeah, I'm still officially an LAist correspondent (I slept my way out of getting invited to the parties, so they don't know I'm gone) but for the time being, my party's taken a drift southbound, and I can't say I'm sorry.

Despite what some jerk in the Martini comments wrote about the smoking ban here in BsAs, it's neither all-inclusive nor repressive in the way any similar ban is in the US. For instance: Its level of enforcement is widely expected to vary from one season to the next, depending on temperature and humidity. Remember: Laws, like architecture and Jacuzzis, are much more inviting when they're scaled to a human level. That the United States has become a Spartan orgy of ritual deference to authoritarian fiat may come as a shock to many people presently enduring it, but it couldn't be clearer from the table where I'm sitting, smoking a Cohiba.

But the world still revolves around the States, of course, and when there's not a massive protest, it's the Royal Family's doings that make the front page. From my vantage point, an apartment a scant six blocks from where the Bush twins are staying, I've been able to keep tabs on all their comings and goings, known to virtually every waitress and taxisto in the city.

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Our driver said they went to the Boca match today. And they're staying at Home, a local hotel roughly level with the Standard, in Palermo Hollywood, the equivalent to Silver Lake. They bought clothes in the Plaza Serano a few days ago; and there was a fake fire staged by the authorities (inexpensive here) to cover their tracks at a restaurant in the Plaza Armenia. (This is what Joe Goldman is coyly referring to in his "up close" piece, although most locals strangely still believe there actually was a fire nearby).

But after downloading Borat and reading the news today (oh boy) it's hard to think of any message I could deliver them to take home to their daddy that would be worth risking life and limb to put across -- at least no message that would ring in his ears for the rest of his natural life (dig, Vladimir) like the Judgment of History or the collapse of the society under his stewardship. So unlike the locals, who are much more curious and less vindictive than you'd expect from a group who've been roundly fucked sideways by their northern counterparts, I've got no more interest in the case than simply stating what ABC News decided to censor, and moving right along.

That said, and on a purely personal level, I have to say I've never been so happy in my life. Leaving America has been like having an incredible weight taken off my shoulders. The stupidity, the rank tedium and repetition of advertisement and capitulation, of indoctrination and inaction that made up our daily bowl of televised, prescribed opium in the States has melted away; we're left with a crystal resin, an appreciation for what the human mind can do with architecture when no corporate entity has made postmodern fiasco from every possible use of space; a will to work and to pleasure in the open air, a lust to wine and love and learning and listening and fucking in public places; hearing the voices of, becoming a part of, subsuming oneself to a people who are barely noticed and whose thoughts are neither known nor understood by anyone back home who could even place the place we're living on a blank National Geographic map of the world. To Americans, the word "freedom" is a football team, a new car, at best a trip to Florence or the Bahamas. Maybe, for a rebel, it's the freedom to smoke a cigarette within twenty feet of the sidewalk, or to stay out after curfew (remember? There never used to be a curfew when it was a free country). Maybe it's the freedom to organize without being arrested or the freedom to have an attorney when you are; or the freedom to talk on the phone without being listened in on, or the freedom to be in bed with your wife and not be burst in upon by the police. And those are battles that are being fought and will be lost by the few people who still have an inkling, some tiny understanding, of what they think it means to really be free. But give up your nation; give up your home; have all your things stolen and pack what's left in a suitcase. Live in a Motel 6 until you've got it together to get clear of that fucking country, that prison, that shithole. And go anywhere else. And wake up when you want to; go to bed at noon. Free yourselves and the whole terrible nightmare of fluorescent-light regimen will fall away from your eyes like leaves in a southern summer breeze.