There is a long stretch of parkway between the north and southbound lanes of Avenida Argentina in Valpo. On certain days of the week, vendors set up produce booths along the parkway (see Valparaíso: The Markets). Sandwiching these produce vendors are hawkers of all sorts of wares. Old housewares, cellophane-wrapped books, and shoelace-less shoes are all laid out on the ground. Imagine blocks upon blocks of garage-sales-on-picnic-blankets.
One of these vendors sells parakeets. Although parakeets count as charming two-legged creatures, what I found more interesting was the four-legged creature who was intently studying the birds. Surprisingly, the doggie was exhibiting no lip-licking; he was merely observing the caged two-legged creatures' every movement.
|This four-legged creature intently studies the two-legged creatures.|
Around the block from our rental on Cerro Alegre is a mural of a man watching two dogs shag. I found it funny that a street dog decided to nap on the steps below the mural, as the dog's position made him look as though he was dreaming of doggie fornication.
|This dog dreams of a different kind of doggie bone.|
It doesn't take a lot of imagination to envision dogs going at it in real-life, as you can observe actual doggie sex all along the streets of Valpo.
|Mr. Dog gets his hump on while Mrs. Dog sniffs through the garbage.|
Mrs. Dog was a baby-making machine. She had the biggest dog teats I've ever seen!
There is constant commotion among the street animals in Valparaíso. Dogs fight other dogs to defend their territories, and cats constantly tell dogs to buzz the hell off.
|Doggie wants Kitty as a playmate, but Kitty won't have any of it.|
Most kitties feel that life is best spent either lounging on tin roofs, where dogs can't reach them, or watching the world go by from behind iron bars.
|A kitty watches the world go by, safely behind bars.|
|Two fluff balls entertain themselves by watching "street television."|
Having spent a good six weeks in Valparaíso, we became quite familiar with the four-legged street life. There was the doggie Whitehead, for example, who always hung out on Almirante Montt. I nicknamed him "Whitehead" because he had a distinctive white dot on the top of his all-black body.
And then there was Dread Dog.
|Meed Dread Dog.|
Notice that he has mini-dreads around his nose.
Dread Dog's leg fur was fashioned into the most amazing dreadlocks. Even Bob Marley would be jealous!
|Dread Dog has incredible leg dreads.|
Dread Dog would usually hang out with his doggie pals in the vicinity of Plaza Anibal Pinto. One afternoon we set out on a mission to photograph Dread Dog. We laughed when we neared the plaza and spotted Dread Dog sitting right in the middle of the street, standing between us and Plaza Anibal Pinto. It was as if he had been waiting for us.
One and Two-Legged Inanimate Creatures
The four-legged doggie and kitty creatures add charm to Valparaíso, but so do the one and two-legged inanimate creatures.
I love passing this concrete woman who forever lounges atop a green patio box. I admire her confidence in her voluptuous curves.
|This curvey two-legged inanimate creature sits about for eternity.|
And I love how this angel in the Cementerio seems to float above the confetti-colored hillside.
|This angel watches over Valparaíso.|
One of the buildings on Rancagua is decorated with a plethora of... hmm... "interesting" objects. Here, a one-armed, two-legged goth doll hangs by his neck from a bicycle rim. Interestingly, there is a word in Spanish for a one-armed person; it is "manco."
|The goth manco doll.|
And then there is this creepy two-armed, one-legged tattooed doll. A one-legged person has a name in Spanish, too; it is "cojo."
|The goth cojo doll.|
Don't say I didn't ever teach you any valuable Spanish vocabulary!
I'm not sure which is more "charming" -- the mutilated crotch doll or the headless striped Barbie doll.
|More "charming" dolls.|
Ok, so maybe not all of the one and two-legged inanimate creatures in Valpo are "charming."
Two-Legged Animate Creatures
Although we will now move on to the two-legged animate human creatures, let's remain on the goth topic for a moment.
Brian and I first noticed goth-like two-legged humans wandering about when we were in the town of Osorno, further to the south. Kids in their late teens were walking about barefoot, adorned in torn clothing, and decorated with god-awful makeup on their faces and sticky egg yolks in their hair. The kids would approach the townspeople and ask for money. We saw these goth kids all over Valparaíso, too. (Unfortunately, I don't have a photo of these youngsters.) We later learned that it is a tradition for Chilean students to dress as beggars (though they looked more like vampires to us) and request money for their studies. In my opinion, these students earned every peso for being brave enough to walk barefoot on the poop-covered sidewalks of Valpo.
Let's now turn to "normal" two-legged human creatures. What a picturesque backdrop for a conversation!
|Two porteños chit-chat amongst a colorful background.|
I can only imagine what these two are talking about.
|This looks like some serious relationship conversation.|
Making out on benches in Chilean parks seems to be a favorite pastime for those who are "coming of age." What is really fun is watching these lustful teenagers. They look so awkward; their arms are uncomfortably wrapped around one another as they struggle to learn the fine art of necking.
|This school-aged couple looks a little more "advanced"|
with their making-out techniques.
And look at this guy peeing next to the "Urinating prohibited" sign. Oh wait, that's El Mecánico!
|Dude, urination is prohibited in this place!|
And here's El Mecánico again! Ladies and gentleman, this is not a slide at a children's park. Nope, it is a slide in one of the town's plazas, enabling people to easily descend from one level of the plaza to the next.
And here's a camoflauged Sarah doing her yoga pose:
Quite frankly, I think Brian and I are the most charming (read: "funny-looking") two-legged creatures in all of Valpo. We wear the same thing everyday. Everyday we don our black shirts, zip-off travel pants, Teva sandals, and blue'n'yellow striped hats. (Note that Brian knitted the hats while we were on this trip. What a talented fellow -- a mechanic, a chef, AND a knitter.) It's not that we purposely try to look like an annoying tourist couple, it's just that we don't have a whole lot of outfits to choose from.
|The annoyingly charming tourist twins.|
As you may recall from my Valparaíso: Murals #1 and Valparaíso: Murals #2 posts, Valpo is full of artists. While many of these two-legged artists are graphic-oriented, others are musically inclined.
There is a place in Valparaíso called the Parque Cultural Ex-Cárcel. "Cárcel" in Spanish means "prison," and so "Ex-Cárcel" means "ex-prison." When the prison closed in 1999, artists quickly covered the crumbling cellblocks and exercise yard with graffiti. With time, the ex-prision morphed into a grass-roots cultural center for local artists. Today, the Cultural Park contains a theater and many talleres (or artist workshops). Brian and I have visited the Ex-Cárcel numerous times; it has been a valuable contribution in exposing us to Chilean culture.
Do you remember Rodrigo? He was our host during Our Stay in Cohayique. During our Cohayique visit, Rodrigo shared his extensive music collection with us, thereby introducing us to a number of Chilean musicians. There was one musician, Chinoy, whose music I connected with instantly. Chinoy is a sort of Chilean James Blunt; he is a talented singer songwriter who has a unique nasally, breathy voice and who knows his way around an acoustic guitar.
You can imagine my excitement when I looked at the Ex-Cárcel's performance schedule and saw that Chinoy would be performing during our stay in Valparaíso. Woohoo! Here is a photo of Chinoy from his concert at the Ex-Cárcel:
|Chinoy at the Ex-Cárcel.|
You can watch the video below to hear one of Chinoy's popular songs, called "Klara":
Although we watched a number of musical performances at the Ex-Cárcel during our stay in Valpo, there was one other musician who brought smiles to my ears. The musician is Mora Lucay. Her boundless energy was contagious and quickly spread amongst her audience.
|Mora Lucay at the Ex-Cárcel.|
Watch the video below to hear a sample of Mora Lucay's beautiful voice:
One day, near the end of our trip, we found ourselves in the Plaza at the corner of Brasil and Eleuterio Ramirez. There was an entertainer in the plaza. He was quite an interesting character -- "ballsy" comes to mind. His voice was fine, and while his stage presence was certainly acceptable given the circumstances, he had some truly unusual behaviorisms.
We later learned that the singer was named "Yo Soy Raphael." He is a professional imitator for Raphael, a well-renowned singer amongst the Spanish-speaking world. I, personally, had never heard of Raphael. Then again, I'm not really of the Spanish-speaking world.
An internet search revealed that Yo So Raphael, the man we saw imitating the real Raphael, had been on a popular television show called "Yo Soy" ("I Am"), where contestants compete as imitators.
Here's a short video about Yo Soy Raphael:
And here is Yo Soy Raphael's appearance on television. (Suggestion: Keep watching, it gets better.)
Although I really took a liking to Chinoy and Mora Lucay, and though I found Yo Soy Raphael to be "entertaining" (in a different kind of way), the most charming two-legged musician in all of Valparaíso was our host, Manuel. Though Manuel is now a retired musician, in his heyday, Manuel accompanied all sorts of famous musicians at the famous Miramar Hotel in neighboring Viña del Mar.
Here is a photo of Manuel in his younger days:
|What a handsome organ player!|
A Magna Doodle (i.e. Etch'a'Sketch) rendition of the above photo hangs on the walls of Manuel's home.
|Manuel's Magna Doodle portrait.|
As guests in Manuel's home, we had the great fortunate to be able to hear Manuel and his group (a singer, a guitarist, and a percussionist) practice in Manuel's home. How fun to have a concert all to ourselves! The next night we listened to the group perform at one of the restaurants in town. Though there were plenty of other guests in the crowd at this concert, we thoroughly enjoyed it nonetheless.
|Manuel plays his keyboard.|
There's a great write-up about Manuel on the Sunday's Folks blog, which you can find here: Manuel - Musicien (Presque) par Hasard. (If you can't read French, you'll need to translate the page to English.) The blog includes a musical clip of Manuel accompanying his singer, Jenny, as well as a handful of photographs of the inside of Manuel's home, where we stayed during our time in Valpo.
Many thanks to the kitties, doggies, sculptures, scary dolls, and humans for making our stay in Valparaíso a charming one.