Argentina, November 2005
Day 5 Saturday (continued)
Well, I'm writing this on Tuesday so we'll have to see how good my memory is of the last few days. As I left off, Denis and Lynn had gone to take another lesson with Carlos and Romina while Roy and Nicole were catching a few Zs. I continued working on the computer and attempted to email the first volume of my travel journal to friends and family.
After dinner we again made a sojourn to the milonga at La Ideal. This time we came armed with information Lynn and Nicole got from Laura, the woman who escorted them and gave them an introduction to the etiquette of milongas here in Buenos Aires. The ladies sat at a table on one side of the room and the gents sat at a different table on the opposite side of the room. The idea was that it would be easier to connect with a dance partner if we weren't perceived as couples (well couples plus one, anyway). Further, we danced the first couple of dances with each other in order to be seen dancing. Side note: it's interesting to try to fit in yet to stand out at the same time. Also, this time we dressed in the best clothes we had and we looked pretty good, especially the ladies. Of course, the ladies always look good so it was only the men who had a bit of a challenge.
I'm happy to report that we all danced several times with others with great success. Before arriving, my unconscious thoughts were that all Argentines who went to milongas would be good dancers. Not surprisingly, that is not the case. Just as in the venues where I have danced in the U.S., among the porteños and porteñas, the entire range of abilities was represented. Also well represented were the hotshots who did fancy step after fancy step with no regard to what the music was saying and paying little attention to other dancers or the line of dance. While I cannot be certain, it appeared to me that most, if not all, of these were from outside of Argentina.
Day 6 Sunday
Breakfast on Sunday was on our own so we picked up some eggs and oranges at a corner market. Scrambled eggs and freshly squeezed orange juice were a welcome addition to the coffee/tea/cocoa and rolls that comprised our usual breaking of the nightly fast. We spent a leisurely morning then walked to a street flea market then to the more interesting street fair in and around Plaza Dorrego. We returned to the hotel to relax for an hour or so before meeting Peter and Ingeborg for a late lunch. It was good to see them and share experiences. Ingeborg will return to Corvallis a couple of days after we do but Peter is planning to stay through the end of January. The tango guide said that there would be an outdoor milonga at the Plaza Dorrego so we all strolled there after lunch. Instead of a milonga, there was a tango demonstration in the square and I noticed my friend and teacher, el Pulpo sitting on the ground behind the dancers. He greeted me warmly and told me that the man dancing the demonstration was a friend he had grown up with.
Later that evening, we went out for "coffee" and light food. The others didn't want to go to a milonga and I didn't feel like going alone so we all went back to the hotel and made an early night of it.
Day 7 Monday
Today was a shopping day. The first stop was a shoe store about five blocks away. Nicole, Roy, and I each bought a pair of dance shoes, none of us yielding to the temptation to get really wild and flashy footwear. I think it was at this store that I saw some really cool red and black men's shoes that I really liked. In the end, I stayed with a more understated black. There is a poem that starts something like, "When I am old, I will wear purple." Well, I guess I'm just not old enough yet.
We split three ways after the shoe store. The ladies went in search of clothes and hoping to find shoes for Lynn. Roy and Denis wanted to see some museums (alas, all of them were closed), and I was on a hunt for tango sheet music. Zivals, the CD store we visited the previous week had a small selection and I bought a couple but I was hoping to find music for some of my favorite pieces. Our host, Augustin, helped me locate one using the internet and I took the subway a fair distance and a taxi from there only to find that the address was a personal residence, probably a home business, and no one was home. Walking back to the subway station, I came across an Internet café and did some more searching, in part to make sure I had the correct address. I didn't have much luck but after paying for my online time, I asked the manager if he knew whether to find sheet music (partituras). His friend said that he didn't know a specific place but that the area around Zivals was filled with music stores and I should try there. I did and eventually came to Ricordi a store with a fair-sized offering. They didn't have everything I wanted but I found a book of Gardel songs and some other single pices.
Everyone was back by time I returned and we exchanged tales of our day. For dinner, we returned to the place we went our first night with the special consisting of a variety of meats. It turns out that it is mostly a fixed menu so we got the same thing again. It was really an interesting collection and quite delicious. It started to rain while we were eating but we walked to a nearby milonga anyway. We are Oregonians after all and we wouldn't let a little rain dissuade us from our goal.
The milonga was a bust. It was a small place with an uneven floor and few dancers. It turned out that most of the young crowd in attendance was there to hear the guitar duo who started playing at midnight. We decided not to stay as the others had to get up early for a side trip to Uruguay.
Day 8 Tuesday
I slept late so as to stay out of the way of those getting ready to leave for a couple of days. I decided to skip the venture because I wanted to do more dancing, which, after all, is the reason I came here. I have a lesson scheduled for six today and another at four on Thursday. After breakfast, I thought I would check out the museum of modern art which is within a reasonable walking distance. Unfortunately it was closed for remodeling. I had a light lunch of Empanadas and an ice cold beer then wandered the neighborhood looking at the various galleries and shops. I stopped in a small bakery and picked up a couple of pastries. My dad was baker, a real artisan, and I miss always having his rolls, cookies, cakes, pies, and other decadent pastries. Unfortunately I never learned to bake. All of my dad's baking done at work and not at home so the only time I got to watch at all was when I worked at the bakery for the holidays. And then my jobs were the boring repetitive ones and the dirty cleaning ones. I had to clean out the ovens once and that involved climbing in a waist high door that was about 12 feet wide and about a foot and a half high. I rode one of the six ferris-wheel-like shelves to the bottom where, in very dim light, I shoveled out the charred remains of years of drips, drops, and spills. No way was I going into that line of work.
Right now, I am sitting at my computer in the kitchen. In the living room, Augustin has left with his girl friend and the television is still on but is only background noise. I have a half-empty cup of tea and am working my way through the pastries. Each bite brings back so many wonderful memories.