CRACK BANG BOOM CON, Argentina--PART 1
CRACK BANG BOOM CON, Argentina -- PART ONE
(now with handy phrase guide!)
So i’m sitting in this lovely outdoor cafe in Lucca, Italy eating this insanely great sliced-steak with Eduardo Risso (co-creator/artist of 100 BULLETS) and he says to me out of the blue, “Would you be interested in coming to a comic convention in my hometown of Rosario, Argentina next fall?”...hmm...let me check my schedule...uhhh, YEAH!
Cut to: One year later and i’m stumbling bleary-eyed through the airport in Buenos Aires after a 11 hour flight looking for Brian Azzarello and CAFE CON LECHE (coffee with milk). Now Brian’s not the snuggliest guy on Earth but seeing a friendly face 5,000 miles from home is enough to get him to give me a hug as he helps our driver Daniel throw my bags into his tiny car. I note with pride that Azz has about twice as much gear as me...he might be low-key about it, but he’s a dapper dude and a bit of a clothes horse. Brian’s got the shotgun but since he doesn’t talk anyway, it’s not a problem that our driver speaks no English. Haha!
Rosario is a three-hour drive from Buenos Aires, so i grab a quick cat nap -- one thing i’ve learned on all these trips is that while food, beer and coffee flows freely, sleep is always in short supply. Word is that Risso will pick us up at the hotel at 6:45 but dinner isn’t until 10...yikes...i haven’t eaten since the night before so I load up on hotel PAPAS (chips) and COCA (Coke) and hit the streets.
Rosario is strange spot...a city that’s transforming from an industrial port to a tourism economy but lacking in things that tourists want to see. It’s got the feel of a European city but it’s a little frayed around the collar. Its right on the Paraná River (which is like a block from my hotel) so there’s plenty to see and do on the water. I wander a little around the downtown, hit an ATM (4 pesos to the dollar!) and get back just in time to meet Eduardo. He gives me the usual kisses (if you’re not into kissing people DO NOT travel to Argentina) and introduces me to the con crew who will be running my life for the next week...His oldest boy Nico is there, Edus (who translated ALL of 100 Bullets and is one of the show organizers), Juan (who we later find out is a descendent of mafia kingpins!) and the man himself JIM LEE and his lovely wife, Carla. This is the first show ever in Rosario and the biggest show in years in Argentina, so Jim is a huge draw for them...so no pressure, Jim!
First they take us to see the flag monument...this impressive sort of Fascist-looking monument that celebrates where someone came up with the idea for the flag. Every town has one. We have a funny debate about who’s the best football club in Rosario (Centrale vs Old Boys!) and take a few snaps.
From there we head off to two gallery events that will kick off the con. One is inside a shopping mall (what?!) and celebrates the work of humorist Fontarossa -- who’s work in any language is hilarious. There we meet up with artist Leo Fernandez (NORTHLANDERS) and his lovely family. Then it’s onto another gallery show where we meet up with the Brazilian twins, Gabriel Ba & Fabio Moon, Ariel Olivetti, Marcelo Frusin, and my new soul mate, David Alabarcez (former assistant to Risso and all around bon vivant).
There’s a lot of speech making at both events. Unlike most American shows, shows abroad tend to be cultural/tourism events, sponsored by the local government ad businesses, so usually there’s local politicians and cultural ministers on hand to say a few words. In Lucca, i got locked in the bathroom during the same sort of speeches and no one came looking for me for 20 minutes! Anyway, we play the part of the ugly Americans abroad and use this time to raid the bar and hors d’oeuvres table...it’s Malbec (the wine of Argentina!) and some little baloney sandwiches...no one’s complaining.
FINALLY, its time for dinner and some CHOPP (draft beer). It’s like 11 pm and we’re just sitting down. Azz gets a steak but Risso is disgusted by it : “Oh no, Brian...this is terrible!” all the Argentines around the table agree with him. We don’t know any better and besides i haven’t eaten a solid meal in over 24 hours. I’m so hungry i order the “cheese and candy” for desert. It’s a piece of white cheese with a sweet potato jelly on top. It tastes about how it sounds. Asleep at 2 AM. Not bad for Day 1.
MONDAY: WHY IT ALWAYS PAYS TO TALK TO STRANGERS...