Fences always appear smaller ’till you try and jump them, then as if by magic, they seem to grow. Bythis point, though, you’ve committed, so growth or not, this is not a time for bullshit, up and over is the only choice. The fence around Plaza Vicente Lopez was no exception to this.
Since the late ‘90’s the parks in the City of Buenos Aires all have large iron fences separating their soft green grasses from the concrete of the rest of the city. I was told this was the final act of the last non-elected mayor of the city. It seems that for a large part of the city’s history, due to constitutional quandaries and military interventions, the mayor of Bs As was appointed by the President of the Republic. In ’94, though, as part of a larger series of compromises to definitively move the country away from the horrors its last dictatorship, the constitution was reformed and Bs As got to elect its own mayor. As a last grasp of this old system and ostensibly to fight crime, the city’s parks were ensconced behind black, tall ornate iron fences. Thus they have remained, empty in the nights, closed at 10 or 11. All done for public safety and to deny the homeless a soft spot to lay their heads.
Many nights like this, when I’m restless or pissed or just in need of fresh air I look at the towering trees, the grass and the ancient sprawling ombú tree and wanted their company. Trees have always been something I have held in reverence. No doubt some of those trees are the oldest inhabitants of this area, having seen more seasons than any person could, all the while reaching up into the blue skies and fresh air, almost in a slow race with the ever growing apartments that surround the park. And that ombú in the middle. That big fucker has to be hundreds of years old. I wouldn’t be surprised if in its sapling days this was still rural pampa near the banks of the Rio de la Plata. In its life it watched the arrival of the Spanish, their houses slowly climbing up the small hill it once commanded, escaping the disease and filth of the area of the city they had already built and subsequently fucked up. They arrived and build fancy homes. They began to fill in the river banks, then came the horse trams and gas lights, then cars and airport landing patterns above. Then large houses gave way to apartment blocks and the Rio flowed even further away- no longer down the hill a few hundred meters away, now down the hill across a road, then railway tracks and maintenance buildings and classification yards, then on to rows of shipping containers and the homes of people clinging to the city, drowning in poverty, across to docks and cranes on the now distant banks. Meanwhile, the tree’s pampa had been reduced, surrounded by streets, then sculpted with the style of the times. Playgrounds added and finally fenced to keep out the riff raff, and -apparently- at least one lonely son of the United States.
But tonight, I need the comfort that the old mother tree can offer, so fences can kiss my gringo ass. Luckily I’d hopped fences as a kid in my neighborhood in gringolandia, and more than a couple times running from cops drunk in high school. I’ve never been good at it. I’m not the once-in-a single-bound type, and no one will ever accuse me of being graceful. With a few tries to get the physics right, a plethora of various profane and impolie words and of course a fucked up ankle at the end I was up and over and limping through the deserted park towards the big old fucker.
I looked around and it seems no one saw me, or if they did they didn’t care. Let’s be serious, I don’t look homeless nor like an addict. At worst people might think i’m going in here to smoke a doobie or have a sketchy blowjob. Shoot up at worse, but even that possibility is a stretch. Nevertheless, I didn’t dick around, I made a b-line for the shadows and tried my best- the best a typsy possibly drunk person can, all the while stifling the laughter I tend to get after doing something like this. The mixture of euphoria and addreline always gives me the giggles, a serious impediment when I was trying to be sketchy in high school. Now I just laughed under my breath, no one here to hear really, and if they did it would just confirm the high hypothesis.
I made my way to the foot of the old ombú. It’s enormous branches came down to the earth and towered up to the sky. I was always shitty at climbing trees, and it would be horrifying to me the very thought of damaging- or I guess I should say hurting this tree. Nothing shitter than living since a Habsburg ruled this area only to be fucked up by some careless asshole. But I had seen some teenagers climb up one night when I was running in the park, and I assumed their ascent route was safe and non damaging. And even better for my clumsy, totally un-sure footed ass, it was easy. Though honestly I only climbed up a little. I sat amongst the leaves on a very firm branch that didn’t even move with my weight. I doubted I could be seen here in the sanctuary of this arbor cathedral, and it was exactly what I wanted. I straddled the branch and leaned my back against the trunk. As my fortune would continue to have, there was a perfect notch in the tree where another branch turned off that held the beer filled backpack perfectly. I placed it, reached in and cracked a cold one. I leaned back and sighed “Nice” a lot louder than I thought I would.