25 February 2008

February, on closing

I've had this impression that February has passed too quickly. True, it's only the 25th, and even though this is a leap year it still has four days to go, but that's mostly done.

This February has been a slow photo month, in large part due to the sun and the heat. I just can't bear doing my picture-seeking rounds in 30+ degree heat with humidity almost visible, least of all when that kind of temperature persists after sunset. (For practical reasons, also, on weekdays I can't stay up and far from home hours after sunset — because the sun goes away at 9 PM and I've got to go to bed at 11 PM to wake up for work the next day.) I guess photographers who don't mind the sauna-like weather, or who can sleep during the day, might be OK with this state of affairs and content themselves with fascinating night pictures of the city. I'm not.

Might it be that February is intrinsically slow? There are no public holidays in February, except Carnival. When I was a little child I remember the beginning of the Carnival season was a huge party — you'd get little water balloons and chase your mates around, or launch the balloons at the girls, and play with your friends and your parents, ideally beside the pool, throwing water around with your garden hose or with buckets. Not only was it funny, it was a public holiday — two days off for everyone, if I remember correctly.

That all seems to have vanished. There are huge Carnival celebrations in some places in Argentina, such as Gualeguaychú, but they're local traditions, not official celebrations. I hear that Buenos Aires City public employees get Carnival days off, but no-one else does. Children are still not going to school, but nowadays when children chase one another in the street, it's commonly with rocks or kitchen knives, and if you throw a water balloon at a random child, you'll probably get beaten by one or both parents, no matter how truly festive your Carnival spirit was.

February also seems to be somewhat deprived of interest to the majority of us who, for whatever reason, see it as a "sandwich month". February is short and stays between the excitement of the New Year, vacations, the fullness of the summer, and the coming of the first cooler spells of March and of the "serious" part of the year — when people start showing less skin, everybody deserts the beach, and children begin wearing school uniforms and filling the early buses. As I said, no holidays, even though February 3 is the anniversary of the Battle of San Lorenzo and February 27 should be the true Flag Day. It seems no-one wants to celebrate in February...

... Except the Rosarigasinos, of course! The photo group decided to gather at the door of the Museum of the City in Parque Independencia to hit the amusement park. The idea, proposed by one of the guys, was doing what he dubbed a "Don Fulgencio Tour", Don Fulgencio being an old comic cartoon character known as "the man who had no childhood". Grown-ups enjoying children's games was definitely a good idea... with some reservations.

First I wanted to try the Ferris Wheel, only to learn that the ride was out of service for some unspecified reason. So we went and rode on the Caterpillar (the local version is known as the Gusano Loco, or Crazy Worm), which was a lot of centrifugal-powered simple fun. I remembered it being my favourite ride when I was a child, and realized I must be getting old when I felt the brief, but cold, bite of fear during the first few turns.

Gusano loco

Then some wanted to check out the Mambo. Marisa and I decided that the Gusano had gotten us as much adrenaline as we wanted, so we and a few others stayed while the rest took their place in this round platform that revolved and rocked to the rhythm of cumbia and reggaeton, its passengers facing inward and pressed into their seats by centrifugal force, screaming and clinging frantically to the metal bars, a few heroic photographers trying to snatch pictures of the game from the inside.

Vanesa, Pablo, Lucho y Adolfo en el Mambo

Next the children wanted the Bumper Cars. I didn't feel like it; the cars were too many and so there was no room for anybody to bump into anybody as it should be done. Finally, we used our remaining tickets to ride the Loco Bus, a small, slow-moving pendulum ride with one big gondola in the shape of a bus with a cute face painted on the front. Harmless, childish even for an amusement park, good for grown-ups who don't really want so much excitement — so we thought. Wrong! The sensation of falling down backwards while your guts obediently stay behind owing to inertia was powerful enough. The swinging only looked slow from the ground. I got away from it unscathed, but others were not so lucky, and let's leave it at that. All I could say was, thank you thank you thank you for leaving the Ferris wheel out of service!

Loco Bus

So this was, in a way, my celebration of February, my Carnival. This week is bound to be gray and rainy, and next Saturday begins March. Let's see what the serious part of the year has in store.

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