Dog Driving

If you’ve been to Buenos Aires, you’ll have seen them: dog walkers. A man or woman walking three, six, eight, a dozen dogs. More at times, hogging a sidewalk. Even a lane of traffic. Well, here on the coast there’s a new way of taking out the dog, something I’ve come to call dog driving.

At first I thought, “No way, this can’t be.” I was out walking my dog, the traditional way, step after step. Good exercise. Well, I hear this car coming and move to the side. A white Toyota pickup comes down the sandy road in the pine forest behind the house. An American Pit Bull Terrier is running behind, its leash attached to the bumper. Past they went. Up the road and back again, whizzing by. Then they stopped, about a hundred yards away. The driver gets out. He lights up, leans against the pickup. Smokes his cigarette. The dog pants. The driver drops the butt of the cigarette on the road. Steps it out and gets back in the car and leans out. “Come on, boy.” And off they go again.

My wife doubted the veracity of my report. “No way.” Then some weeks later we’re driving on the roads behind the house. And the truck and his dog come whirring/trotting by. She turned to watch and says, “No way.”

Others must have seen because this morning I go out to walk the dog. I am step, step, stepping along and then out of the drive of a house up the road a blue Fiat backs out. Bounding behind is a Giant Schnauzer. Driver revs up. Schnauzer wags tail. Rev, wag. Rev, wag. And they’re off. They’ve done three laps of the back roads before I’ve even got there. The driver’s still in his pajamas. Looking sleepy. Sipping a coffee. Maybe next time I’ll take the dog for a spin.

What a Lovely Life!

I did it.

Yes, I did what friends have said they’d kill to do. I moved out of the mayhem of Buenos Aires to a beach house in a pine forest on the coast of Argentina, with the wife, a three-year-old daughter, a one-year-old boy and a surfboard — now a quiver of boards — for the fine waves that break with few to ride them.

You read about the perfect job. Turn a profit, live anywhere, travel whenever you want and work just a few hours a day. A life of freedom, fun and luxury. I wanted in. I built the house, packed up the family and headed to the coast.

Yet summer soon ended and the rain came and then the cold and then the doldrums. Empty sand streets. Shuttered-up houses. The favorite bars, ice cream parlors and restaurants closed until next summer. Village life for urbanites is not easy. Sure, the kids run wild through the pine forest, yelping and yeehawing. They have learned to ride bikes and climb trees and jump in enormous puddles. Painted themselves blue like Smurfs. A bit of fresh air and green for the children.

But soon my wife started pining for the city. Me too. Bars, honking horns, congested streets. Diesel fumes. On my first return visit on my own, my wife called from back at home in the pine forest. She made me hold up the cell phone as I stood on the sidewalk in the city so she could reminisce, hear the cars whizzing by, soak it all in. The noise. The grime.

That was then, though. Now we have the good life, the good country life. I set up my office. It overlooks the pines. The roar of the ocean is within earshot. Yet with each phone call I am back in the city, doing my work as a reporter, meeting deadlines, 10-, 12-hour days. Late-night press conferences covered by TV. The president is to speak — at 10 p.m. Another late night. Hang up the phone and the quietness returns. The roar of the ocean.

Our friends back home (the former home, the cramped apartment in the cramped city) keep calling with the fond comments. What a lovely life! Us parents? We keep up the mantra, a little fresh air and green for the kids (just keep the sand out of the house, and leave the muddy Wellies at the door, please — and likely with a few hopefully kid-friendly expletives to drill the command into their skulls).

The posts to follow are true stories about the beauty and complications of life in a pine tree paradise, with the quirky people and animals met along the way. The bothersome neighbors, out-for-your-money builders and repairmen, got-something-to-sell-you friends. And a few gems of people who all of a sudden are gone. Packed up and moved away while we keep up the good life. Or I do. The surf’s good, so why not? But my wife’s got a headache from the quiet — or the kids, or me — and we’re out of paracetamol.