"I cut my own hair and LOVE the Bidet," says Murdoch of his new life here in Buenos Aires. Photo by Greg Roden
Murdoch Stephens arrived on the Buenos Aires scene after seven months marauding through the Americas. He planned on getting here earlier, finding legitimate work, and settling down to raise a family, but none of these emerged. Instead he put finger to key and typed a number of articles for a number of periodicals, and subsisted by living in the cheapest house he could find on craigslist.org. He appreciates a good used bookstore, the seedy district of Once, puns, and Diogenes of Sinope, but is averse to descriptions of himself in the first person. Murdoch cuts his own hair, bakes his own bread, and is on the slippery slope to a vegan diet. He is a native of New Zealand, or - at least - a white native.
Q: What is the number one reason why everyone should visit BA?
A: The number one reason? How about the number one and number two reason. Bidets. A trip to the bathroom has never, ever been such a blast. Two thumbs up, ten out of ten, a big smiley sticker on your homework, a Christmas bonus from the office for the ‘generally positive’ quarterly performance appraisal: (don’t fear) the bidet.
Q: What is your number one tip for foreigners arriving to BA?
A: Try to arrive in the city from somewhere like Bolivia, rather than flying directly in from your home airport. For starters you’ll appreciate the drop in altitude. Then you’ll appreciate the food. Then you’ll appreciate the warmth. And you can smuggle in coca leaves… And never let one of the Recolleta hair salons touch your hair unless you want to hear the words ‘now you look like a futbol player!’
Q: What is your favourite city bus line and why?
A: It has got to be the #41 ‘Once-Munro’. For starters, it makes the most direct route from the Peruvian slum (in which I reside) to the swanky district of Recolleta, before making a bee-line for the Palermo parks, and then straight up Avenue Santa Fe which turns into Avenue Cabildo. And that’s just for starters – it picks me up about twenty metres from where I lay my head at night. Given the architectural design of the building I live in, this also means that whenever it passes the room shakes and my music is drowned out – a terrific feat when you consider I live on the fourth floor. So, when I look back at Buenos Aires in my golden years I’ll romanticise the noise and the shaking of the building, and the #41 will be a source of great nostalgia.
Q: What do you dislike about BA the most?
A: The uptight and withered co-tenants in my apartment block which are a specific example of the general tendency of some porteños to make up for the city’s general lawlessness through über-fascist control of those unimportant details that are within their talon’s clasps. Example one: no watching the sunset from the water-tower. Example two: constant nagging directed at the foreigners to make sure the main doors are always closed. Example three: an unwillingness to confront said foreigners about said door’s closedness. Example four: “don’t throw popcorn from the balcony”. Example five: no deck chairs on the roof. Example six: they smell bad. And the final thing, they don’t like the trannies who congregate on the street outside the apartment (for those interested: Adolfo Alsina 2900-3000 block). Well, at least the trannies say “hi” to me - or at least “mi amor” - which is more than the neighbours do.
Q: What is the most amazing or memorable experience you've had thus far since arriving in Buenos Aires?A: Swimming in the pool on top of the Hotel Pan Americano as the sun set on the city beyond, with a glass of wine in one hand, and a creepy moustache emerging from my otherwise innocent lip. To the right was the Rio de la Plata, and to the left, the Obelisk. Below was Avenida 9 de Julio with late evening traffic honking, swerving, and cursing at one another. In the background was the sound of a CD I had just acquired of Argentina’s finest: El Robot Bajo La Agua. Memorable and surreal.