In Puerto Madryn, a studio behind Mariano’s house serves as a world away from home and weekly meeting place for Meta Mate, his band. Fire engine red walls splashed intermittently with a vicious lime green provide the backdrop for their practice sessions, as band members dot themselves around the space on chairs, stools or atop a varied collection of rugs. Starting slowly, a few chords are run on guitars while hands are warmed up on the taut skins of drums.
Mate, as may be expected, is ever present. A touch of beer also makes an entrance, as these sessions are not militant operations, but rather a place to spend an colourful couple of hours in the company of good friends who can also swing an awesome tune.
The beautifully panelled coffee table made from reclaimed wood had been a constant feature in my time at Andy’s place in El Calafate. Long and slim, the wooden slats fit together like a cocktail of different woods. It provided a place to rest the glasses of whiskey I had actually been starting to enjoy for the first time in my life. It was a desk and a dinner table. More than once, I was found lying beside it rendered exhausted by a long day of sightseeing or the work involved in digesting an asado dinner. Little did I know that Andy himself, not even a carpenter by trade, had designed and built it.
My time as a guest at both Mariano and Andy’s got me thinking about the hidden talents that people posses. Both men work in areas far removed from their “other” lives as musicians and carpenters, yet when they come home from the world of work, they are sucked delightfully back into another place, where their interests are lucky enough to meet a good dose of natural skill.
Mariano looks complete when holding a guitar, and even more so when accompanied by one or more of his band mates. Andy, when revealing how he’d conceived the design of the table, described its puzzle-like complexity with an ease that my mind simply could not follow.
An interest. Combined with natural talent.
What are my talents?
This thought, and the veritable avalanche of others that spidered off it, occupied my mind throughout the days that followed.
As when confonted by a question of personal significance, I turned to my friend, the list. I made a mental one of things that I can do well, and as with any exercise that requires you to compliment yourself, I drew several initial blanks. After a little bit of sweat, I could see clearly that my skills fall into the category of the intangible. That, if life were a trade, it seems that my hands would not feature too heavily in my toolbox. Heart, mind and words…these things would bring home the bacon.
What are my interests?
This was a much easier space to tackle. Interests, ohhh easy peasy – filling a mental notebook was a matter of only a few seconds thought. But obsessions? Many less, if any. It seems to be the case that I can try any number of new activities or put myself in novel or uncomfortable situations without creating a cycle of needing or wanting a repeat.
Does talent require obsession?
Obsession has never rung very true with me. Often it’s been the case that when meeting people who are phenomenally talented, or have fostered an interest in something delicious – be it windsurfing, the piano, acting, computer hacking or 16th Century Chinese silk – that the conversation is never given a moment to be steered more than a few words away from the topic in question. (When I haven’t shared an interest in…say…German agricultural techniques…the help of much red wine has been sought to get a word in edgeways, or begin to care at any where near the same level as my interlocutor.)
This kind of interest-becomes-socially-awkward-obsession was not at all the case with Mariano and Andy’s guitar and carpentry adventures. The reason for this could be that their talents were hidden. Their facility with these skills acted as an extra, rather than as their entire motivation for continuing to breathe in life instead of just vegetate here on Earth.
Traveling this path where interest becomes passion and in turn talent…but without passing through the land of socially obtuse obsession is where I’d like to be.