Friday, November 30, 2007

Rio Gallegos

I was just interviewed by the local TV news in this gritty industrial port city in the far South of Patagonia. The interviewer was a squat man with a the thickest black mustache I've ever seen. Maybe this mustache is the reason he is a newscaster - the Patagonian version of Anchorman.

He would ask a question, then put the microphone under my chin and stare at me over his mustache sympathetically nodding along as I tripped and stumbled over my ten words of Spanish.

The funny thing was, I didn't understand a single question. The topic was tourism, but that's the only clue I had.

The microphone would come into my face, the mustache would turn in my direction and I'd just say - Gracias - Me Gusto Patagonia! Me Gusto Rio Gallegos! Sometimes I livened it up a little by listing the names of places in town I had visited, or the names of towns where I'm going next.

Both the cameraman and the Anchorman took it all very seriously. "Gracias, Senor Patterson," they said at the end, then shook my hand politely, got back in their van and drove away, leaving me wondering for the umpteenth time - what the heck am I doing here?

Here's a link to a music review I posted on Matador from Buenos Aires a couple days ago - Shit Soul Tango!

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Monday, November 26, 2007

Spring in Buenos Aires

Well, here I am.

Long-shadow evening light overlooking the Parque Lezama from David Miller's apartment in San Telmo, an old barrio here in Buenos Aires, the megalopolis of Argentina.

To my right, I can see the yellow and blue stadium where the legendary Boca Juniors football team plays (Fenway Park would be the American equivalent). To my left are modern glass highrises, beyond them, the Rio Plata river delta, wide as an inland sea.

This morning, driving into town from the airport, the taxi driver was whistling a tango and horses grazed in the shadow of dilapidated tenements.

David and I spent the afternoon walking around San Telmo and Centro, downtown, past all the old statues celebrating the Europeans who conquered this land in the name of Christ and Gold - the symbolism so stark, a man (Don Pedro, father of the city) with flowing hair and a black sword in front of a topless Indian woman, her arms thrown back in an attitude of surrender.

We walked around the Plaza del Mayo, where mothers of the disappeared gather to remember their sons and daughters, kidnapped and tortured by the military dictatorship not so long ago, their bodies often dumped from helicopters into the river, just over there, beyond the new luxury condos.

Buenos Aires is an ode to indecent grandeur, a burst of human creativity on epic scale that straddles the end of the world. Economic collapse is a recent memory; political repression and corruption are simply taken for granted here - but people go on with their lives, eating meat, drinking vino - teenage lovers in the park, lost in each other's arms.

"It's still America," says David. "America with the blood still fresh on the streets."

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Sunday, November 18, 2007

Interview / Manifesto

I'm busy tying up loose ends before heading to Patagonia next week, but wanted to post two links before I leave.

Link number one will take you to my first audio interview, with Craig Martin of the awesome Indie Travel Podcast. Craig and I talk about the benefits of taking risks while traveling, getting outside your comfort zone and trying to speak some of the local language.

The second link is to my "Manifesto" - an essay that poured out of me late one night and was just published on In 2 days over 6,000 people read this piece and left over two dozen comments - a real outpouring of support that has truly touched me.

Here's the beginning of the essay...

Today I ended my hypocrisy. Today I made a step towards moral and existential sanity. Today I stopped supporting a malevolent, inhuman and amoral force.

Today I sold my stock in multinational corporations.

Read more!

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Friday, November 09, 2007

Interviews: Ted Conover and Tim Leffel

I've just published two interviews.

The first is with Ted Conover (pictured), who is one of my personal heroes:

"How to introduce Ted Conover?

He’s a writer, perceptive and eloquent, motivated by boundless curiosity. He’s a journalist who pursues in-depth stories with unmatched tenacity. He’s an intrepid traveler who once took a year off from college to live as a railroad hobo."

Full Ted Conover Interview

The second interview is with Tim Leffel, editor of the outstanding online travel magazine

"Tim Patterson:

What do you see as the weakness of big, corporate media like Travel+Leisure and the New York Times travel section?

Tim Leffel:

They have to be, in the words of some departing writers, “page view whores."

Full Tim Leffel Interview

I'm really happy with how these interviews turned out and hope you get a chance to read them!

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Thursday, November 08, 2007

All Over The Map

My head is spinning - only partly because of the moonshine my parents brought home from Macedonia.

So many potential projects, so many places and people and issues on my mind.

I'm researching trout streams in Tierra del Fuego, reading Darwin's Journal of the Beagle, learning about the indigenous peoples of Patagonia, getting a taste of their language and culture, so deeply rooted in the land、they were hunted down like dogs, exterminated.

Vermont's Energy Future. The conference - there is so much to write. Windmills, big, white windmills on the ridge-lines, General Electric design. I could spend the next 40 years here in Vermont working on the transition to homegrown, renewable energy sources and be perfectly fulfilled, challenged, content.

Or I could stay in Patagonia. The island of Chiloe in Chile look nice. I was looking at pictures.

And thinking today - gosh - I should really go to Siberia, get a sense of the scale, tour the old gulags.

Thinking also - if I was born a little earlier, somewhere else, thinking as I do - would I have been sent to the labor camps? Would I have been shot in the back of the head?

Anything could happen. If Rudy is elected president, all could be lost. I'm scared and exhilarated and wondering about things like insulation and why the Chinese communists simplified the written Chinese language.

Integrity? Wind power or electric or none at all?

"That's why we need to reprocess the uranium we already have," the Entergy spokesman told me.

'But wouldn't that create weapons grade plutonium?" I asked.

"Well, yeah," he said. "You gotta be careful."

Last night, I spent almost an hour looking at photos from nuclear bomb tests. Nuclear energy is safe, clean, reliable and efficient. Right. Tell that to Hiroshima. Tell that to the New York I hope to God my children never know.

Listening to Ben Bernanke on the radio today, thinking about credit markets, thinking about China, thinking about sanity, eating some bread and cheese, adding a log to the fire.


There's too much - too many books to write, too many friends to contact, too many fish to catch, too many hearts to touch and break and heal.

moving, moving, always moving on.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Random? Hell No! Why "Vermont's Energy Future" Conference Made Me Feel Like A Rat In A Cage

This past weekend has been extremely interesting.

I was a "random participant" in a deliberative polling conference held at the University of Vermont designed to involve residents of the State of Vermont in the issue of Energy.

Although participants were told that their selection was random - and technically, it might have been - I am beginning to suspect that very little about this poll or conference was actually random.

I think the conference was very cleverly engineered to have the maximum effect of stimulating civic engagement on the issue of Energy Policy in Vermont.

This is a good thing. We need to talk about Energy in Vermont.

I don't have the whole story - yet. I'll get it. Even though I feel like a lab rat, I'm going to run on the wheel until I figure a few things out:


Just how socially engineered was this "deliberative poll"?


Were there any hidden agendas? If so, why were they hidden?


Why did the state and the energy utilities spend around $500,000 on this unique weekend event?


Most importantly, what decisions do Vermonters need to make about our energy use and production?

I'm in the library now reading the academic papers of the Stanford and University of Texas research teams who designed this event, and I'm going to stay up all night following this trail.

There is a VERY big story here.

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