vinceconaway: (Default)
I'm not good at openness, at sharing my deepest thoughts and feelings. I very much feel that it's my role in life to act as an inspiration, to encourage by example other people to reach far beyond what I'll ever manage. But there's a dark side as well.

A lot of what I share is built around the idea of "this is what it looks like to accomplish your dreams". I want my life to serve as a goad, giving permission to people who are questioning their own paths, but having reached my dreams brought problems as well; I was so used to striving that I didn't know what to do once the heights were attained.

It caused a pretty serious personal crisis, and it's only five years later on that I'm really open to showing my pain. It was 2011, and I had everything I ever wanted. My festival career was on a solid foundation, I had eight tours of Italy under my belt, and a good relationship to top it all off.

But I was miserable.

I had spent years building my life and I didn't know what to do with the edifice I'd created. I understood my basic problem so I set new goals for myself, but since they were artificial I didn't care enough to exert myself and then I had a failure on top of the previous dissatisfaction.

So I took a vacation.

Having achieved one dream, maybe it was time to find a new path. I loved traveling for work, but if I liked hobby travel better then maybe it was time to find a new career. And I knew where I had to go: Buenos Aires.

My great-grandfather had emigrated from Italy to BA, where my grandfather was born before the family moved back to Italy. When his children all went to the US, my great-grandfather retired to Argentina, where he is buried. Having spent significant time in Italy and with a visit to Ireland accomplished, Buenos Aires was the last significant family place I hadn't seen. The last entry on my bucket list.

And that was a part of it, as well. Maybe I wasn't done with my career, maybe I was done with living, and by going to Argentina I was giving myself permission to commit suicide. This wasn't ideation, I wasn't having fantasies or plotting methods, but acknowledging the possibility as a legitimate choice.

And so I went, and spent ten days wishing I'd brought a dulcimer; I enjoyed the trip, but wanted to be a busker. I realized that my career still had heights to ascend and side roads to explore. And I embraced my latest challenge: difficult music. I had spent much of the fall banging my head against an Elizabethan lute tune, Dowland's Lachrimae Pavane, and decided that such music was my new goal.

But it wasn't for several years that I took suicide off the table. As someone who sees his Purpose in setting an example to others, I realized that I would undermine everything I ever achieved, everything I ever wanted, if I pulled a trigger. Instead of acting as an Inspiration, I would become a Cautionary Tale, and anyone who might have been encouraged by my life would be, instead, warned away from bold choices.

I can't have that. I won't have that. And so I'm on this ride until something else brings it to an end.
vinceconaway: (Holland Head Shot)
I've been thinking about long-term touring goals: I managed two big tours in 2006, 2009, 2010, 2011, and 2013, and I hope I can make it a regular part of my schedule. Right now I look most open in April and October, though I'm certainly flexible about which seasons I spend abroad.

I'm currently planning my next Italy trip, tentatively March 25 - May 6. I want to go back to northwest Italy, I've yet to fulfill a long-term goal of seeing Sardinia, and I'm spending a week in Rome with a partner, so I'm figuring out how to tie them all together. As a bonus, I'd like to busk Pisa: I've never liked it as a tourist destination, but I think it may redeem itself through its university nightlife.

Next fall, schedule permitting, I'd also like to go back to South America. The last trip was an amazing experience while being financially difficult, but I think I've figured out ways to make up for it. I'm going to stick with one country, I've found a local source of cd duplication to avoid immigration hassles, and I had an epic week in Valparaiso so Chile it will be!

And I continue to brainstorm future tours. I'd like to combine southeastern Italy with Croatia and Bosnia, hopefully in 2016. I'd like to do another Argentina trip, focusing on the Rio de Plata region and dipping back into Uruguay. And, tentatively in 2017, I'd like I celebrate my fortieth birthday as I spent my thirtieth, on an extended tour, which hopefully will concentrate on Greece and Italy.

I'm hesitant to share future plans because I'm superstitious and even when things go right they're subject to change based on my whims. However, I'm at a stage in personal growth where I'm deliberately trying to break out of my secretiveness and looking to generally overcome my superstitions, so sharing here seemed a logical step. I remain hopeful and flexible, which isn't a bad mantra to embrace.

Food

Apr. 8th, 2014 09:17 am
vinceconaway: (Holland Head Shot)

I had a delightful conversation with an Italian girl, commiserating over the miserable coffee* and bizarre cheese in South America, compensated for by good bread and incredible beef and pork.

*seeiously, cafe con leche is a thing because the only way to drink it is to drown it in milk. And I even like truck stop coffee...

vinceconaway: (Holland Head Shot)

Buenos Aires:

It's been a pretty crazy week! I know the city pretty well after nine days here in 2011, and as soon as the dizziness of jet travel wore off I was playing. With a Wednesday morning arrival that meant Thursday evening.

I tried something new this year: I never reassembled the dulcimer after last playing it in Italy. Since I have another, larger and more chromatic dulcimer for domestic performances, I left Maria detuned in her swaddling of bubble wrap. Having pulled out her bridges in Milan, I put them back in Argentina. And it worked, she went into tune just as easily as if I'd put her back together in the US and dismantled her again for the trip south.

I'd scouted pitches on my last visit, and my eye was good. Things came together and worked nicely. I was a little nervous about my welcome among the black market currency peddlers that roam the streets, but much like the knock-off purse vendors in Italy they were generally quite nice to me.

On Sunday, however, things got complicated. There's a massive market I've wanted to play since shopping there as a tourist, but it's much, much larger than on my last visit. It may be seasonal variation, or a symptom of the struggling economy, but I had trouble finding a place to play. I set up quickly and played a tune, only to be shifted by a plain clothes police officer. Happily, a vendor had liked my playing so much that she took me to her friend's stall, which was in an unregulated part of the street fair, and introduced me to some very kind and welcoming artisans.

Sadly, being unregulated, a very loud band set up across the street and blew me out of the water. I'd played a solid set by then, however, and moved along in good spirits. My weekday pitches still had some passers by, despite all the shops being closed, so I was able to play a decent second afternoon set. And Sunday night was surprisingly good, returning to the closed shops, ending the visit on a high note.

Today I'm catching a boat to Montevideo, Uruguay, for a new city and some more passport stamps!

Returning

Mar. 20th, 2014 03:34 pm
vinceconaway: (Holland Head Shot)

There's a certain magic in familiarity to a special place. It's one reason Alec Baldwin is my favorite part of "From Rome, With Love": the joyful recognition of walking streets once walked before, a step above strangers but not quite at home.

There are many parts of Italy that give this to me, as well as places in the US and Canada. I'm delighted to add Buenos Aires to the list.

vinceconaway: (Holland Head Shot)

It was 2011 and I was in line for customs inspection at Buenos Aires Ezeiza airport. As soon as I saw the X-ray machines I was glad to be traveling on vacation, rather than having to explain a few hundred CDs in my suitcase. Later, looking up the harsh Argentine import regulations, I was even more glad.

I wanted to come back and busk, but without CD sales the economics don't work. I was thinking on this mournfully while I was playing in Catania, Sicily one Wednesday evening in April 2013, when two CD sales saved an otherwise pointless evening of performance. The next day a cop told me that merchandise sale was prohibited.

Normally that's my exit cue: it's easier to pack up than fight the bureaucracy. But I've played every city within reasonable distance, and none held a candle to Catania. Plus, my hostel bed was prepaid through the weekend.

So I stayed. And I played. And I earned as much in tips alone as I'd expected to make in sales and tips together. Having just doubted this possibility, I took it as a sign to give Argentina a shot playing only for tips.

And so I'm here, and while I have enough money to cushion me should I crash and burn, things would get tight. And I take a leap of faith once again.

vinceconaway: (Holland Head Shot)
My mother is always frustrated that when I'm in Italy I eat mainly out of grocery stores. A daily loaf of bread, a chunk of cheese, a bunch of fruit, and a weekly bottle of wine has hardly made me the gastronomic expert she would have become by now (though it has given me some serious exposure to Italian wines, building on the education that is living with Jamie Haeuser).

This trip, however, is of a different sort. Breakfast, as in Italy, consists of croissants (the local style, medialunas, are about a third the size of their european brethren). Dinner is a bit of fruit bought at market, sometimes augmented by street food. Lunch, eaten between one and two, is my main meal, and where I go whole hog.

I've had three steaks so far, two al chorizo (grilled) and one al criollo (served with peppers and onions). The default is "a punto", medium rare, and absolutely delicious. Flavorful and tender, and I'm thinking I should have written this before lunch instead of hours afterward. I might have to grab an empanada to get me through the night.

Because there are empanadas! Perfect street food, fillings (usually beef or chicken) baked into a pie. And cheap. Along with choripan, sausage sandwiches that are a local staple.

I had a calzone the other day, mainly because the restaurant (recommended both by my guidebook and the guy at the hotel) had a huge wood-fired oven. I didn't realize the calzone would be almost as big as I am, and while I'd planned to bring home leftovers it was too delicious to stop eating. The next night I went back for more typically argentine fare, a cazuela stew, which was fantastic (especially with bread).

And on the topic, oh my god the bread. I'm definitely in an Old World european culture because I haven't had anything that wasn't mind-blowing. Differing crusts, doughisness, density, etc haven't mattered. It's all wonderful.

And on to dessert! Argentine ice cream has a reputation for being the best outside of Italy, and I'd support that description. But the absolute best treat I've had here has been the fresh-squeezed orange juice. There are frequent street venders with a box of oranges and a press, and they turn 4-5 oranges into a brimming glass of happiness. Wow.

See mom, I do know how to live!
vinceconaway: (Holland Head Shot)
My feet are ready to mutiny, I should have known better than to break in shoes on a vacation. They seemed ok through New Orleans, but I'm really glad I thought to bring moleskin. 

Yesterday I wandered around the centro and today I'm meandering through the Palermo suburb. It's not a little Italy, per se, but a generally international district. Lots of ethnic food, and I'll be sure to come back when steak loses its charm, unlikely as that seems. 

My Spanish is coming along nicely, and when I fake a word using Italian my point seems to come across. It helps that argentine Spanish is heavily influenced by Italian; in Barcelona I noticed my accent but here it blends in. 

It's been raining off and on since I got here, but is supposed to clear up tomorrow and for most of my visit. Quite a joy to wander, though, especially since it's a warm summer rain. The best part of switching hemispheres, though, is a second chance for fresh peaches and cherries. 
vinceconaway: (Holland Head Shot)
This summer I made three itineraries, with two criteria in mind. I wanted to visit someplace warm during January, and I wanted to practice my Spanish. The itineraries were by budget, being San Juan, Mexico City, and Buenos Aires. 

It was during a bad day in July that I settled on the grandest of the three, deciding that I needed something to look forward to. I moved the trip to December when I noticed that I was short my 2011 air miles to retain elite status, and this trip took shape. 

Now I'm wandering a new city in an unpracticed language, lost in my own thoughts. Which is exactly the vacation I've been looking for.
vinceconaway: (Holland Head Shot)
This is the hard part.

I'm flying out tomorrow for Rio and Buenos Aires, and I'm compulsively making lists and arrangements. Every trip begins thus, and it will all disappear once I take my seat on the plane. At that point I've no more control, and am rolling with the punches as events unfold, but until then I'm a mess of generalized anxiety as I wonder what I'm missing.

I live out if a suitcase and have packed for 10-day trips dozens, if not hundreds, of times. I know what I'm doing, I just lack confidence in that knowledge. And there's nothing anyone can say that will help, this is all about my relationship with myself.

Which, at heart, is one of the reasons I travel; I learn more about myself with every adventure.

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