After eleven years living, dancing, teaching tango, and writing in Buenos Aires, I came home to L.A. in 2014, where I'm reconstructing my life.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Home is Where the Cat Is

Phoebe in Hollywood

Phoebe in Mexico

My cat was on Prozac. When I decided to move to Mexico from Los Angeles in 2001, I gave away or sold all my things. But what about my cat? Phoebe and I had gone through a lot in the five years we had been together. She is very high strung and was under a vet’s care for nerves. Of course I had to bring her with me. So we flew down together to Mexico on Christmas Eve and lived for 2 ½ years in San Miguel de Allende.

When the time came to move to Buenos Aires three years ago, there was no question that Phoebe would come too. But it was much more difficult and complicated to fly to Argentina than going to Mexico from Los Angeles.

The day before the early morning flight, a friend drove us in his van to Mexico City, 4 hours away. We sneaked Phoebe and her sandbox into the hotel and I put the Do Not Disturb sign on the door to keep the maid out. Then we went to see the Swan Lake ballet they do in the park--with a real lake with swimming swans, and horses, and boats with torches, and good dancing, too. And afterwards we went to Garabaldi Square where all the mariachis hang out looking for work. A great going-away party.

But as we walked back to the hotel, two young men ran up behind us and took Jaime’s money, his watch, cell phone, and, worst of all, his car keys. Me they frisked, putting their hands in all my pockets, but not finding the purse I carried under my coat. No weapons, no violence. Jaime had to spend all night in the hotel garage with a locksmith making new keys to the van that contained everything I owned and was taking on the flight to Buenos Aires.

In the airport ticket line the next morning, a small inexperienced woman had to open every single thing for inspection, and then couldn’t pack it back together right as it was like a jigsaw puzzle, so tightly crammed. The regular man whose job it was didn’t do it because of fear of touching my underwear!!!
So my 3 suitcases, 2 boxes and a painting (see below) got checked, but they had no record of Phoebe’s ticket. So I bought another one.

Jaime helped us up to the security line, we said our goodbyes, and he left. I hoped the gate wasn’t too far away because of all that I carried. But when I got to the x-ray machine and took Phoebe out of her carrier, the attendant demanded some kind of special paper I had to get at the other end of the airport. The travel agent in San Miguel had called twice to Mexicana for their pet regulations, I did too, as well as look up their policy on the web. This was news.

I could hardly carry the cat, my 2 coats, computer, and bag, and the plane was due to leave in 30 minutes. I found a skycap, and he found the Sanitation office, where they fiddled around with all the papers from the vet, etc., making copies, and complaining that one was printed from a computer, and on and on with minutiae, and they had to actually look at Phoebe--mind you, she had just been examined by a vet a couple of days previously and given papers of good health.

Anyway, the skycap got me back to the x-ray point, where I took her out of the carrier again for the process, and off we went to the gate. I could hardly carry everything. I thought I would pass out. When we got there the gate had been changed to the other end of the terminal. I almost gave up, but then one of those electric carts came along, and I flagged it down, and the nice man took us to the gate.

Then they wouldn’t let me take Phoebe on the plane without the Captain’s OK, which he finally gave while we waited at the gate. Once on board, in the back of a full flight, I started to relax, when the attendant said the cat couldn’t fly in the cabin but had to go with the luggage in the hold. I demanded to talk to the captain, I talked with every attendant, I raced back and forth and up and down the aisle. Everyone told me something different: people complained, people were allergic, there was no space. Finally they ripped her out of my hands and we took off, 20 minutes late, with me crying. I had been assured when I bought my ticket she could ride in the cabin as it was too hot in BsAs for her to survive the landing at that time of year. I paid a lot more to fly Mexicana instead of a cheaper flight on another airline just because of Phoebe.

But she was there waiting for me as I stepped off the plane. And the only luggage of my 6 pieces that arrived with me was my painting!! The rest went on vacation for 5 days to Rio.

The following is the Epilogue to my memoir THE CHURCH OF TANGO, describing my transition to Argentina:

I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I intended to be. --Douglas Adams

It was finally obvious to me how to follow my bliss. And so I packed up Phoebe the Cat and moved to Buenos Aires, leaving Mexico above the Equator and in my heart.

But in my search for Heaven, I learned that, as Joe Louis so rightly put it, “Everybody wants to go to heaven, but nobody wants to die.”

There’s a price for everything, and wherever you go, there you are.

So I learned that cliches are always true and I don’t need to keep on testing them. Even though it does take two to tango, I’m continuing with my solo tango every night in the milongas of Buenos Aires. Nights of three minute relationships are enough for me now. And then I go home, alone, and satisfied.

The Rapture Tour is over. But the dance remains.

Into a dancer you have grown
From a seed somebody else has thrown
Go on ahead and throw some seeds of your own
And somewhere between the time you arrive and the time you go
May lie a reason you were alive but you'll never know.

-- Jackson Browne

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