My Biggest Big Bro. (Sixto Baby Sixto)
Day 8 Monday February 4 PM
We landed in Bahia Blanca at about 6PM, it was a tiny airport and when we walked out into the lobby there stood Walter with Marina, a lovely friend of his that often translates for him. Big, giant hugs were shared as we walked out to the parking lot singing and laughing, Walter was so excited to see his old friend Amos and his new little sis - ME!
We all piled into the van and made our way to Walter’s mothers home where we would be staying. They told us of a German fellow, a printer, who had come to town to see Watler’s place all the way from Germany! We dropped off our stuff and headed to the Sixto Laspiur Futbol Clubhouse that Walter Io Uranga runs as well as resides with hid lovely wife Sylvanna and daughter Juliette (Hoo-Li), and surprisingly it is aldo where his printshop is located. There is so much happening in this space. Did I mention he has 13 dogs, and loves cervaza? Have I died and gone to heaven? Perhaps.
We looked at presses, oogled at his type collection, and watched as he pridefully pulled out poster after poster of every kind that he had done. Walter has been in the printing industry for most of his life and is damn good at what he does. At a moments notice we were notified that a TV crew was coming to interview the whole gang! We stood there as they set up, we were pretty much completely in the dark about what was happening most of the time, but just went with it. In the meantime, we met Willi The German, he was an interesting guy and had already become a part of “The Sixtos”. We all stood in front of the camera and answered a few questions as they translated. This was all over as quickly as it started. The whole time, more and more people were showing up at the shop. This place was more of Grand Central Station than even my shop can be. Kim and I were getting used to the greeting of the south which is to “air kiss” on the cheek every single person that comes into your presence. At first it was weird, for both of us, Kim would do this “head cupping” thing that I thought was hysterical and I was overshooting and kissing people in the ear. We eventually got it worked out and decided that it was the most beautiful way to start an interaction with a stranger. Seems that people from the States, myself included, have a fairly big space bubble and I get that, but sharing a mini intimate moment with every person you encounter is just so very simpatico.
The grill master, Adrian, was working the giant wood fired grill (which everyone here in Argentina and Uruguay has and uses daily) and there was so much freakin meat. There was a ton of beautiful fish to eat for those few vegetarians among us. Out on the futbol (soccer) field was a huge table with 30 place settings. It was a feast served family style and we were the guests of honor. Everyone was a character, there was Marcelo - apparently the greatest drummer ever in these parts, that may be true but what I liked about him right off the bat was his hat. It read: “My mom says I’m special so, fuck you!”. Then there was Alejandro, a blues singer and all around blues savant, his brain was a library of all facts, names, dates, and songs having anything to do with the Blues. I like him because he would start singing a song as he walked towards me, I would join in and then we would have the whole gang singing! There was Gustavo, who at dinner, right after Walter gave this long sappy toast about how happy he was to be surrounded by his friends, raised a toast and said: “chinga tu madre!” (Google it) now that is some funny shit. Then there was Silvio Sinatra, a smooth and sweet fellow that just took care of everyone, he brought many bottles of vino, beautiful empanadas, all the while making sure everyone had full glasses and smiles on their faces.
There was so much beer and conversation with and without translators, and as it turns out, you can mostly get to to root of what people are trying to say with a smidge of patience a lot of gesturing (and google translate). It was a helluva party, there was singing, chanting, hugging, laughing, sharing and drinking. I truly felt that these were the warmest, most kind people I have ever spent time with, they were instant family.
Day 9 Tuesday February 5
We slept well at the small house that Walter grew up in, it seemed that we had finally acclimated to the heat. I have also become hugely accustomed to the Mate but I miss my coffee con leche, and I was jones’n hard. We walked over to The Sixto (about a 8 block walk) and were immediately greeted with besos (kisses) and hugs. Sylvanna asked if we wanted coffee and I wanted to weep, yes mi amiga, yes indeed.
We hashed out a plan that we were going to print posters for a friend of Walters that we had met the night before at the party. This friend was a young man named Lisandro, who was a circus kind of guy that was trying to promote an upcoming show. Perfecto. Amos and Walter worked on the top half of the poster while Kim and I again, teamed up to take the bottom portion. All we had was a small piece of paper with the text and the rest was easy peasy-lemon squeezy. Once ready, Walter ran the press as Kim and I put the posters in the drying racks, the posters were good… like really good.
It was so cool to work along side Walter, that big lug, he laughs, jokes, and sings non stop. He made up songs about Willi The German, a song called Mary Bruno, and got Kim and I hooked on “Sixto Baby Sixto”. It never got old. We talked about all 80s rock, he is a maniac for all things metal and was proud of the shows they used to host at the clubhouse before it got taken over by more and more presses. I knew about 99% of every band he referenced thanks to an 80s upbringing with a metal head older brother. We would start singing Quiet Riot, then Ozzy, jump to Iron Maiden and I hardly ever stopped laughing even for a minute.
The Ninos came around late afternoon to have practice at the club and we got to meet them and chat a bit, so freakin cute, every one of them. It is cool how Walter is so proud of the Sixto Club and invests so much time and love into these kids. That night was a sweet lil concert outside with Alejandro, Juan, and Marcelo, it was magical- the whole time Lisandro was being puppet master for the cutest little dancing skeleton followed by glowing juggling. Way to much beer but just the right amount of everything else.
Got up Wednesday- headed to the Sixto, got there to find to our sweet Sylvanna had prepared her magical cafe con leche and some pastries. Walter needed to walk to the paper store so we all decided to walk along with. We leave the Sixto and a pack of the puppalitos (my made up word that is starting to stick!) came with, my favorite, Cherry, the injured one that was really shy and the big twins. It was interesting how the dogs just did their own thing, off leash and independent, it made me nervous as they would cross the road but Walter didn’t worry so why should I? Watching Walter walk down the street of the city was like me walking through town in St. Joe. He knew everyone, and he stopped to introduce us to all of his friends, some people I don’t think he even knew but still he would introduce to us. The best was when we stopped to BS with these 3 dudes and the one I was chatting with told me to take his scooter for a rip! It was hilarious and awesome. We stopped into a little grocer and talked to that guy too, even posed for a pic with us, everyone was so damn sweet.
The whole walk Walter was telling us stories and the history of Sixto Laspier, he is very proud. When we got back the sweet Sylvanna had prepared a giant feast of fish and salad, and more cervesa.
Our friend Marina met us later that afternoon for a quick trip to walk around the city! We went to a bar for a cappuccino and walked around in and out of shops to find a few gifts to bring home. After a perfectly lovely afternoon in the city we decided we needed to get back and pack so that we could have a good last night partying with Walter and company. Ernesto, the lone dog that lives at the house was our trusty companion as we unpacked and then packed again, we have acquired SO MUCH STUFF. More posters then I have wall space for but I need to keep, everyone, every step of the way is so generous with their work. Walter gave me a kickass little lead bender, it is heavy as a mofo but I will get it in my carry on as god as my witness. Got everything set and walked back to the Sixto for the last time. All the boys were there to play more music, Silvio and his son were there with a massive amount of empanadas that were to die for and there was beer and wine everywhere! We gathered outside and listened to them play and sing for hours. It had cooled down finally and the breeze was the perfect addition to the night.
We spent the last hours together taking videos, selfies, petting all the dogs and laughing at all the stories people took turns telling. Marina decided to be the person to start the goodbyes so we planned out our ride to the airport for the morning then caught a ride back to the house. We got up and got ready and Walter showed up with Mate and pastries, it was starting to sink in that we were leaving my biggest big brother. Kim took a pic of me and Ernesto, a video of me, Walter and Silvio singing “Willi The German” and we made our way to the car.
With all of these friendships, exchanges, conversations, shared meals, shared joints, shared beers, and shared hugs, I keep coming back to the feeling that the world is both huge and expansive while also being so small and connected. I spent 10+ days in 2 countries where I do not speak the language and I had the time of my life. I feel some things have shifted in my perspectives. I am a processor so articulating that may take some time. I pushed myself to talk to people I did not know or could not easily understand, I opened my heart to become family with people I had never met but could not imagine my life without. Every single person on this trip has profoundly effected the course of my life and that brings me such an immense sense of happiness. I sometimes get sad when I do epic printing things that I wish my father could have experienced, but then I think that he did all the things he did so that I can do all the things I jump at the chance to do. He lived a big life so that my life could be even bigger. Thank you dad for all you implanted in me and for the drive I have to continue to chase big adventures all over the world. It feels good.
I am stateside now, back in Minnesota, I have already shoveled snow. Can life get any better? I am stoked to be home, get back into the printshop and get back to work. Thank you to everyone, especially Amos, for this magical opportunity.