Archive for November, 2011

Stuck in Miami

Posted: November 23, 2011 in Uncategorized

Peyehue volcano in Chile has erupted again, sending ash clouds over Uruguay and Argentina. Our flight was redirected back to Miami, destroying our relief at the thought of returning home. Flights are backed up into next century.


Witness to a conversation

Posted: November 21, 2011 in Uncategorized

During a stint in the USA, we were at a party where there were two uniformed army soldiers on leave from Fort Benning. They had recently returned from Iraq.

Granted, liquor was involved, but one of them started in on talking about how he hated Iraquis and wanted to see them all dead. When asked about women and children, he said he didn’t care, he wouldn’t discriminate if given the opportunity. Kind of creepy.

Oprah’s sofa from Hell

Posted: November 1, 2011 in Uncategorized

The Sofa from Hell story started a few years ago. To shorten things, the basic premise is that we needed furniture. Sitting on a mattress in the living room worked, but had no back support and encouraged lethargy because, well, you’re on a bed in front of the TV. Pretty soon the room was nothing more than a bed on the floor, a TV on a TV stand, and a path through the dirty plates, pizza boxes, and other sundry trash that accumulates in an apartment without furniture.

We needed a proper sofa on which to stack our dirty plates and pizza boxes in an organized and more presentable fashion. And so the search began.

Most furniture we find here and in Buenos Aires is a blend of Bauhaus minimalism and micro-chic Italian minimalism, neither of which are used to bring about anything that could be confused for comfort. Yes it looks cool and as if it belongs in 2001: A Space Odyssey, but functional it is not. Straight and short backs, square corners, and everything way too small and close to the floor. I am taller than 6 feet and I need MAN FURNITURE. I simply do not fit in the doll house stuff they sell en masse down here.

It’s like the whole continent has nothing but airplane seats. And their sofas are made to airplane seat specifications. Airplane seats made to fit a bulimic SpongeBob Squarepants. They even have an overabundance of bizarre square toilets and accompanying toilet seats to accommodate said square pants-wearer. When I asked the toilet store clerk if they had any toilets shaped for an ass that wasn’t square, it got a good laugh. But I digress.

When I sit in a chair or sofa I want it to take the weight off of my feet and distribute it to my ass. Otherwise you may as well stand. The standard fare available in Uruguay simply cannot fulfill this simple request. Surely, one thinks, Uruguayans would like to sit in comfort too? Yet the seating in so many places: restaurants, hotels, even peoples’ homes, is all made like airplane seats. Maybe they have buns of steel.

In and out dozens of stores, none of which had anything that was stylish, comfortable, or affordable (and forget cheap). Until we found Oprah. Not TV Oprah, but a store with the same name. They offered sofas to order, your choice of fabric, pillows, etc, and had a 2-piece model with a sort of chaise section that appealed to us. It did have square edges and a shorter back than I preferred but it included a set of pillows that promised to alleviate this issue.

We ordered the sofa, in black synthetic leather with microfiber pillows in black and white. It will be done in 3 weeks, we were assured. So we planned our schedule to include this, and did things like set up an official housewarming party to celebrate the fact that we had a furnished house, could now entertain friends, and actually had space for them to sit.

Said party had to be cancelled.

After about 9 weeks the sofa finally showed up. Half of it, anyways. No call to confirm that we were home or set up a delivery, just 2 guys showing up randomly at our door one afternoon saying that they were to haul this thing up into the apartment. We were expecting the full set of 2 sofa pieces but there was just the one. The delivery guys didn’t have any information. Just following orders.

We tried calling Oprah several times, about every other day, and left messages to please call us back, which were ignored. Several days went by with no answer from them. They were not picking up their phone. We enlisted a few local friends to try calling them from different numbers, which were picked up instantly, confirming that they indeed were using Caller ID to ignore us on purpose.

We pressed them for information and found out that the delay was because they did not have enough of the proper fabric to complete the full sofa and had to order more. As a result, our already-late sofa was even more late. Not a huge problem had we been informed from the beginning; honest mistakes happen. But a small problem becomes a big problem when folks refuse to man up and tell the truth, especially when they try ignoring the problem away.

Just 10 days or so and the fabric will be in, and then it should only take a day or two to get the other half finished, we were promised.

Another 6 weeks or so passed before we actually got it. After the first 2 weeks without answer or truth or any kind of sensible deadline, we were running out of friends with unknown Caller ID numbers to infiltrate the enemy communications stronghold.

To top it off, when the second part of the sofa finally arrived, the delivery goons had torn the fabric on the back, a huge gash about a foot long, right in the middle of the sofa. We had the delivery guys call home base to give the news, because we knew our line would just ring and ring and ring, with a nervous store manager standing over it, looking at the Caller ID display.

And what’s worse, they didn’t believe us. They insisted that they come and see it with their own eyes. I was more than happy to show them. The delivery guys took it back out the way it came, and the repairs commenced.

“How long do you suppose it will take to change the panel?” I asked the manager.

“Just a couple of days,” was the reply.

You can guess what happened in 2 days. Nothing. 1 week, nothing. 2 weeks, nada mas.

It took another month to complete our sofa. After all was said and done, I honestly could have gone out, killed and skinned a cow (after learning how to do so), tanned the leather (after learning how to do that too), built the frame (after learning, maybe even apprenticing), and upholstered the sofa myself. Then I would have had real leather to boot. And less stress and aggravation. Honestly every time we consider a piece of furniture I begin to wonder just how long it would take me to build it myself; would it indeed be less hassle?


Not all sofa experiences in Uruguay are hellish. We ordered a sofa for our new house from Fontenla (an Argentine company), this time in real leather. They actually had a MAN SOFA made to real MAN MEASUREMENTS. It is 9 feet wide, 3 feet deep, and the ass cushion has 2 feet of clearance from the floor. It also has a thick, high back, 8-inch-wide arm rests, and a shelf built into the back side for your remotes, books, dirty dishes, and pizza boxes. It weighs as much as a Cadillac Coupe DeVille and won’t budge a millimeter when I flop down into it (or engage in other activities which demonstrate the transfer of kinetic energy from one body to another). When I say MAN SOFA I do not use the words lightly. Many US sofas are not built as MANLY as this one.

The Fontenla sofa arrived within reasonable time, according to schedule. The deadline from order to completion was on par with what they told us. The only thing that was vague was the actual delivery time from when it left the factory; it took an additional 10 days or so to get to our house, But this additional delay was not a problem, and do you know why? Because they told us, honestly, up front, that the truck had several deliveries to make between Buenos Aires and Punta Del Este, that other than a week’s timeframe, they had no way to track its progress, AND that the local store was waiting to hear from them to relay any information, which they did. They actually called us when they said they would. AND they answered the phone when I called them to see if they had heard anything, and did not think it odd that I was waiting with baited breath for my ULTIMATE MAN SOFA. They actually called me to arrange the delivery time and date once it got to their local warehouse. It even arrived in one piece! Customer service? Here? Can it be???

Maybe I am finally reaching atonement for the sins of my past life (which must have been truly dreadful, like on a War Crimes scale)…

Then it took 4 guys 2 hours to heave its manly might up the stairs and into our living room, where it sits to this day, consuming half of our available floorspace in all its comfortable splendor.