Dulce de leche

Dulce de leche dessert

When I first moved to Argentina I was taken aback by how much sugar porteños consume. A lot. One thing I can’t fault them on is dulce de leche. Nothing has rocked my world more than this delicacy. This afternoon I ate lunch in Nuñez and treated myself to a little dessert. At first I thought I was ordering lemon meringue but inside was, you guessed it, dulce de leche. Yum. I have to remember to take a few jars back with me to Toronto.

Oh, the blackforest cake also looked yummy.

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Villa Ocampo

Villa Ocampo

Villa Ocampo

Unfortunately stepping on the grass is prohibited so the only way to get a decent photograph of the house is to crawl under a few trees by the gate.

Villa Ocampo is the former residence of the late Victoria Ocampo, one of Latin American’s most prominent cultural figures. She was most famous as a writer and Argentine intellectual. Villa Ocampo was a meeting place for Buenos Aires’ intellectual establishment, including Jorge Luis Borges. The house was built by Victoria’s father, and became her permanent home in 1940 and remained so until her death in 1979. She is buried in La Recoleta Cemetery. Villa Ocampo is located in the posh San Isidro neighbourhood. Photographs of the exterior of the building are permitted but not inside. However if you sneak downstairs to the basement where the public washrooms are located you can snap a few pictures of the laundry room.

Villa Ocampo

This is me near the kitchen. There's a tiny restaurant inside that I didn't bother to try.

Villa Ocampo

Nothing says decadence more than a statue!

Villa Ocampo

A fountain is also a clear indication of class

Villa Ocampo

The house is surrounded by lovely gardens and pristine gravel walkways

Villa Ocampo

It was a cloudy and rainy day in Buenos Aires

Villa Ocampo

I love how the houses in Argentina are painted with vibrant colours. I wish we did the same thing in Canada.

Villa Ocampo

The terrace is reserved for private functions, unfortunately!

Villa Ocampo

Out back is this cute Gazebo that used to overlook the Rio de le Plata. The view has since been replaced with old trees and over-populated roads.

Someone destroyed my favourite Gauchito Gil shrine

If you remember back in October I wrote about my introduction to the legendary Gauchito Gil mythology one evening while visiting my friend Cristian in Nuñez. Well the very shrine that captivated my attention has been destroyed by scoundrels! I am so upset, that I’ve decided to start a foundation to raise money to restore the shrine back to its former glory. Okay, no I’m not, but I’m outraged damn it! Who would do such a thing?

What the hell have I done to my hair?

Let me confess that I don’t have much hair left on the top of my head. On a particularly sunny day I have to wear a baseball cap to protect my scalp from sunburn. I would say that I’ve been slowly losing my hair since I was 22. It’s been very gradual. To be honest, I like my hairline a lot more now than I did when I was younger. I used to have way too much hair, it was thick, didn’t move and was impossible to style.

I am a red-head, but the side effect of male pattern baldness is that your hair colour dulls. Now my hair is more brown than red, but I often hear people refer to it as ‘reddish.’ I’ll take it. When I was growing up I used to hate having red hair. First I was the only kid in elementary and high school with the name Franco and second, besides Melanie, I was the only red-head. People used to call me carrot top, and I would reply that the top of a carrot was green. Dumb asses. Kids are so stupid.

Along with my receding hairline, I’m going grey. Grey hair is the best. I started noticing that my hair was becoming more sparse after catching my friends looking at my hairline one too many times. I didn’t know why they kept staring at the top of my head and then one day I figured it out on my own. I didn’t quite mind going bald, what bothered me was society’s reaction to a very natural process. I felt like I was losing my looks, or my desirability among other gay men. I don’t know why that bothered me, but it did. Now I’m older and more comfortable with my appearance. I’ve learned that if it bothers people that I’m showing signs of old age than that’s more their problem than it is mine.

But that’s sort of what is wrong with our global culture I find. Advertisers prey on our insecurities to sell their products that rarely work. All of us show normal and natural signs of aging, and it’s okay. If we were stronger and more secure with ourselves, it wouldn’t matter very much what people thought of us.

This month Cate Blanchett agreed to pose for the cover of Intelligent Life without Photoshop. Airbrushing is out of control, so much that celebrities don’t look like real people anymore. Unfortunately this has become an expectation when it should be blacklisted. Blanchett received a lot of criticism on the comment section of many blogs, calling her old (she’s 42) and past her prime. Oy. Some people get what she was doing, and others clearly don’t. I wonder how some of the latter individuals will cope when they turn 40.

We shouldn’t pretend that we can defy the physical signs of aging. It’s okay to get older and to find that our bodies are changing. The majority of us don’t want to be judged for things that are out of our control but we’re so quick to point the finger at others, without acknowledging how hurtful and damaging it can be to someone’s psychology.

We often speak without thinking, and what I mean by that is that we say things without having ever thought about the counter argument. We’re simply regurgitating what we’ve heard from others in the desperate desire to fit in. Rather than acceptance, we choose to ostracize people who are different. You know, high school all over again.

A few months ago I was listening to Rosie O’Donnell speak about her friendship with Madonna on Howard Stern’s radio show. Rosie expressed that in the beginning of their relationship it was shocking to her how many people would introduce themselves to Madonna and openly criticize her appearance to her face. Rosie asked Madonna why it didn’t upset her and she responded, “Their criticism is more a reflection of how they feel about themselves, and has nothing to do with me.” I appreciated her resolve. It was refreshing.

Okay so back to me. I keep my hair very short because a) it doesn’t grow long or down, but up and b) I don’t like to touch my hair. I was a little bored yesterday afternoon and decided to give myself a haircut. Here is the result.

Self haircut

The funny part was that I kept telling myself, “It’ll grow back.” But maybe it won’t!

In the past I would have shaved my head entirely but I kind of like it, and I am curious how people will receive my new style. In Canada, WASPs will stare and pretend nothing is out of the ordinary and then later, behind your back, say something cruel. In Argentina, porteños are cruel right to your face. I prefer this instead of the alternative. So far no one has said anything, which I find disappointing.

I would like to say that I don’t care about other people’s opinions about how I look, but it’s a daily challenge. I have to keep telling myself that the only person who I have to please is myself. But I think we all have this problem to some extent, and it’s based on the perceived notion that there is only one standard of beauty. I don’t want to look like Brad Pitt. I want to look like myself, and I want to be appreciated as much as the next person.

But still, even after I’ve written all this, I can’t help but ask myself, “What the hell have I done to my hair!?”

Girl Gone Wild

Too many lazy journalists spend their entire album reviews comparing female artists to one another. Tori and Kate. Madonna and Lady GaGa. Tiffany and Debbie. You get it. What they’re conveying is that there’s only room for one woman, in every discipline, all the time. Male musicians are rarely compared to one another, even though they influence each other. But women are punished if they do the same thing.

I’ve been reading a lot of  reviews of Madonna’s new album, MDNA, to be released on Tuesday in North American. Yawn. They can’t resist mentioning her age, as though it’s an insult. Yes Madonna is 53-years-old and she’s looking good. If only everyone took such good care of themselves. Women are damned if they do and damned if they don’t. If Madonna had let herself go plump, the media would persecute her for that. But I digress. I say to anyone who wants to complain about Madonna’s age: You be 53 your way, and she’ll be 53 her way. Done.

I don’t understand reviews. I think that a good reviewer has to separate their expectations from their criticism. Even those reviewers who cite their comprehensive musical knowledge as reason for their credibility I take with a grain of salt. I’ve read a lot of album reviews criticizing particular artists solely on the basis that the album was too long or the lyrics not accessible enough and I can’t help but think how more a reflection that is on the reviewers ADHD than the artistic merit of the work. If the artist is happy with what they have created than I think that’s all that matters, because let’s face it, making music is not easy, and the majority of us can’t do it.

Personally, I like what I’ve heard off of Madonna’s new record. If it’s not your cup of tea, then great, I guess I don’t understand the vitriol that comes when people criticize her. Just get on with your life.