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.
Tuesday, July 31, 2007
Natalia, over at her ShimmyBlog, has tagged me for a meme. She wrote that she knows memes these days are "kind of trite," but she's going for it anyway: 8 things people don't know about me.
I dunno, maybe I don't fit in well in this blogging world: there are all these memes and contests and chains and things, and the truth is, I don't think anyone is interested in the last thing I ate today or what music I'm listening to right now.
Many blogs I subscribe to try to make money, and so they are full of tips about optimizing search engines and Google and Link Love and joining stuff to make more people read my blog. But making money isn't what I do (guffaw! Did you see my AdSense way at the bottom?)
Sure I sometimes promote my work with Ruben Aybar as a tango teacher and tour guide, but I want more people to read my blog because I love to write. For me the communication process isn't complete until someone reads it. That's why we bloggers love comments because it's proof that someone out there is reading and has an opinion about what we write.
I'm reading those technical posts too because I wish to heck I could figure out how to do some things with this Blogger classic template. Last week I "upgraded" and worked for a whole day trying to add a blogroll and Favorite Posts and "useful terms to know" on a sidebar, but it just wouldn't work, so I gave up and went back to this format.
I like this template--it's simple and elegant--but it's one column and I do want some other features. And I'd like to use a photo as the header. And anyway, maybe it's time for a new look. Can someone help me? (I have a mac). Hey, I'm talking to you out there who use Blogger, have a mac, and have real cool designs. Please?
But in the meantime, back to memes: I did one--it was the Me, Not Me photo meme, and I had fun with it.
OK, here it goes, I'll make it short. This is for you, Natalia.
8 Things People Don't Know About Me (and probably don't care to find out)
1. Hmmm, I'm thinking. My life has been an open book so everyone knows everything already. OK, here's one: I got hooked on French when I was 3 years old and took my first ballet class; I still remember how I loved the sounds of glissade, assemblé, pas de bourrée, jeté. It was like music or poetry, and changed my destiny.
2. I hope that in Heaven I can eat as much rucula, goat cheese, and raspberries as I want and wash it all down with Cosmos and Mojitos.
3. I cry more when I'm happy or when I see or hear something beautiful than when I'm sad.
4. I had a great relationship with my mother.
5. I was an only child.
6. If I could change one physical thing about me, it would be that I would have a lovely singing voice. I adore to sing, and I can't. I sing in church, but pray that nobody hears me.
7. I play the piano and have a big CD collection, but most of the time I like silence.
8. (only one more...) Even though I have countless tango shoes (the truth is that I'm afraid to count them), mostly Comme Il Faut, and I also still use the Flabella's that I bought years ago, I'm not a "shoe person." (You "shoe people" out there will know what I mean.)
Monday, July 30, 2007
I decided to take a little break from the angst of the Milonguero vs Tourist Tanguera discussion I started here, and before I soon add more fuel to the fire. The friendly empanadas tucumanas of yesterday with my fellow bloggers was a good start at The Lighter Side. (Next week I will delve more into The Dark Side of Tango.)
And it's also diverting to play with the bloggers' ever burning need to know, Just who the heck does some software geek think I am? So I followed Miss Tango's example, and completed the quiz to find out the all-important question of which Tarot card I am.
It's interesting that you have a selection of Tarot card decks to choose from--
I Am The Moon
Hope, expectation, Bright promises.
The Moon is a card of magic and mystery - when prominent you know that nothing is as it seems, particularly when it concerns relationships. All logic is thrown out the window.
The Moon is all about visions and illusions, madness, genius and poetry. This is a card that has to do with sleep, and so with both dreams and nightmares. It is a scary card in that it warns that there might be hidden enemies, tricks and falsehoods. But it should also be remembered that this is a card of great creativity, of powerful magic, primal feelings and intuition. You may be going through a time of emotional and mental trial; if you have any past mental problems, you must be vigilant in taking your medication but avoid drugs or alcohol, as abuse of either will cause them irreparable damage. This time however, can also result in great creativity, psychic powers, visions and insight. You can and should trust your intuition.Note from Cherie: I think the software guy knows I have a cat named Phoebe: Goddess of the Moon (because she's loony). And how come if I picked green as my favorite color, this card is in orange--which anyway I love? But I like being the Moon.
What Tarot Card are You?
Take the Test to Find Out.
at Chez Cherie in Boedo
included Holly [on the far left] from Tango in her eyes, Marce from Pip in the city [Marce baked us two delicious desserts -Thanks Marce], Diva from Buenos Aires through my eyes [under the smiley face ;-)], and me. Nathan was also present from exnat. Thanks again to Alan for organizing the get-together, even though he had to be out of town and totally missed out!!
Ruben was the "guest chef" and served up his famous Empanadas Tucumanas, completely made from scratch--I mean hand-cut beef, homemade dough that he rolled, filled, and pinched, and fried. Yum!Kiki from Buenos Aires Weekly took some great photos, as usual.
It was a beautiful day and from the terrace we could see the world. It's our world, the one that we blog about every day!
I so enjoyed getting to know these fun and creative people a little bit better, and hopefully our working together can make the Buenos Aires Blogosphere even more dynamic than it already is. Or at least create more parties!
Sunday, July 29, 2007
…There are gentlemen who showcase their skills dancing tango, milonga, vals, cumbias, and sometimes even folklore.
Lately they devote themselves exclusively to the foreign ladies. I ignore the reasons for such behavior, but I suspect that it is because the local well known milongueras have already got their number.
The foreigners, on the other hand, are eager for the tanguero ‘macho.’ They get carried away by the warm embrace, the ‘precise’ step between their legs, the ‘innocent’ feeling up. These women come, in general, from ‘cold’ countries where their men contrast with the idiosyncrasy of ours.
The tanguero then takes advantage of his prominence by employing all kinds of seduction, including the teaching of tango. These men, backed by their experience and always ready for the conquest, have found among the female visitors of other countries, a fertile ground to hand out ‘affection.’ And I emphasize from other countries, because we natives don't buy their act.
--Beatriz Pozzi, Los Aguilas, B.A. Tango, April 2000.
A letter from a milonguero
To the Touristango Woman:
Beaten, controversial, admired, tango is an inexhaustible source of pleasures. Each of us has an idea of it according to our feeling and to our search in the milonga. Frustrations, passions, love affairs, friendship, affections and loneliness make a carrousel of life experiences.
Since the revival of the dance, foreign female tourists have come to Buenos Aires to examine in its habitat that melancholic music, and its sensual dance which Argentines passionately dance. But they come "with advice" and they are suspicious of men.
There are a lot of claims about the male dancers' hounding behavior. Women feel men's approach as something frivolous and repeated. They come from countries where dates are scheduled and arranged like business commitments and where flattering remarks mean sexual harassment and is severely punished by the law. When they arrive at the milonga and they find the warm embrace, sweet promises of eternal love, an arm that surrounds their back and is laid in their waist, a warm hand that "talks" to theirs, the invitation to have the usual coffee after the dance, at first they feel invaded, and I say at first, because after a while, that attitude becomes a need.
The hounding issue is true. Maybe dancers sometimes go too far and with no signal at all we jump with no protection net, but, dear touristango friend who disbelieves the milonguero word, I'd like to tell you: milongueros are neither crooks nor liars, we are men who belong to a different society from yours, who work, who have a family, friends, and many professionals from several areas, like you, go to the milonga to channel their emotions, to share a life taste, to change the stuffy atmosphere of the daily rush; these are the men who hound you without taking into account your customs.
Dear touristango lady, very nice things that are a caress for the soul are born in the milonga. Couples, friendship, courtship, marriages arise from such a beaten environment and these are the nice face of the milonga. the trivialities of gossip, envy or rudeness are part of the same old inept ones.
Finally, the woman's soul is universal and I do not know any who does not like being wanted. From my table I have the answer. I can see on the dance floor all the touristango ladies embraced and dreaming on the shoulder of that dancer with no face who transports them to the fantasy world. I can also see many touristango ladies with their porteno partner and with the pleasure of having found their place in the world.
Dear touristango lady, you know what? From the milonga, you can also see the stars.
B.A.Tango, Julio 2007
Friday, July 27, 2007
You tango with the devil all night long, rise With the sun and sing the Lord’s song.
You’re on your way to an early grave
Keep dancing with that poison and you’ll Find your way
---by the sister of a young heroin addict
TANGO HOTLINE: (718) EL TANGO
My name is Cherie and I’m a Tango Addict. It could be worse-- nicotine, alcohol, cocaine, gambling, heroin? But still I spend time and money I don’t have chasing down a possible high anywhere in the world. When it’s good, it’s so very good that I want more, I need it again. I want it now! And if I don’t get it, withdrawal begins to set in and I get desperate, make poor choices.
But where is it? A certain partner, certain music, dance hall, vibe, ambiance, mood? How to get it again? Maybe in San Francisco this weekend. Maybe in New York. Maybe in Buenos Aires. And, off I go, credit card receipts trailing behind me. After all, endorphins are chemical, a drug. It’s easier to buy a fix of illegal substances than to go to Tango Heaven. It’s elusive, ephemeral, often just ahead, you know it, the next time, place, partner. And the hope of another glimpse of paradise for five minutes drives me to do things I shouldn’t.
Once you become a tango addict, it's really life-altering… It changes your social life 3,000 percent… —Al Gates
They see the tango, and they are goners.—The Denver Post
All clothes must be tango-able. Web search: cheap tickets to Buenos Aires. New email address: tangoaddict. Yes, I am past denial. I have an addiction.—Laura Shin
I signed up for a full docket of lessons with local and visiting instructors. I began collecting Argentine tango music and then constructed a dance studio in my basement with red walls and ceiling. Once I did that I couldn't stop. There was no way out.
The Dark Side can begin when tango becomes an addiction instead of a pastime. When people begin staying home from work so they have more energy to dance at night, buying only shoes and clothes they can dance in, only traveling to places where there is tango, giving up old friends who don’t understand, exhausting their resources. We tell jokes and email about Tango Addicts’ 12 Step Program parodies and being Tango Junkies, but it’s more serious than funny.
We obsess about why we don’t dance as much as we want to, become irrational, self critical and consider radical measures like plastic surgery. We will sleep with men so that they dance with us (men dance with women so that they will sleep with them.) (“Would I have danced more if I had worn a different/shorter/tighter/sexier outfit? Would I have danced more if I had sat on the other side instead of where I sat? Would I have danced more if I had sat alone instead of with other women?”)
Our CD collections become entirely Argentinian, the only theater we attend is exported shows like Tango Argentino and Forever Tango, and suddenly the decor in our houses changes to tango posters and empty rooms with hardwood floors.
Our friendship with other tango dancers is tenuous, depending on who dances the most and the resulting jealousy (among women) or who dances with the youngest and prettiest (among the men) so especially in small tango communities, the big competition for partners works against long lasting genuine friendships.
Whereas it might be possible for the women to gather together in support of those swept to the Dark Side by men with motives, unfortunately, in tango, it’s every woman for herself. If I as a woman and follower, get invited to dance often by the best tangueros, suddenly my girlfriends no longer feel the same about me. If the instructor repeatedly selects me to demonstrate with, the other women in the class may gossip that it’s for other reasons than my dance skills.
The Dark Side is always there, lurking in the shadowy corners of Belle Epoque ballrooms, waiting for us to grow older or desperate to dance. A junkie can’t quit without pain. When the withdrawal starts, the restless unease, nervous anxiety and panic--we who are addicted to tango do what we must to get relief. And in the process, sometimes go to Paradise.
This is the way the tango is danced, a tango like a flower. Feeling in the face the blood that raises with each beat, while the arm like a serpent coils around the waist that is about to break. Mixing the breath, closing the eyes to hear better, as the violins speak to the bandoneon... A tango like a flower. The rest... the rest it does not matter.
Tuesday, July 24, 2007
Monday, July 23, 2007
Last Sunday, when it was cold and rainy, Ruben and I took a student to the Feria de Mataderos as part of her Tango Tour. I called out there before we left and they said, "not raining here, all is well!" And so off we went to my favorite Sunday activity and one our student was also looking forward to as part of her research on the History of Tango.
But by the time we got there, the booths were being dismantled, the stage was wet and barren, there wasn't a gaucho or horse in sight, and it was freezing cold. (Maybe it should have snowed to make it more interesting and a little less sad.)
When in doubt, eat, right? And anyway a parrilla lunch was included in the tour, and so we went to our favorite one where usually we sit outside and watch the gaucho games. Sunday we were happy to sit inside the old workshop of the slaughterhouse among the huge hooks for hanging beef carcasses but now had antique utensils, an old drum, an iron, a candle chandelier, and a bin of hot coals on the floor to keep us warm.
The vacio and asado and chorizos came in from the parrilla steamy hot, accompanied by hot, hot french fries, and the best bottle of vino tinto they had (which wasn't the best in Argentina, but was perfectly fine.) The waitress was relaxed and jovial, as there sure wasn't much work to do, and all the people enjoying lunch in the cozy room seemed happy to be there.
Since the stands weren't able to sell outside, some vendors came to us, and our student was thrilled to buy a beautiful pair of leather boots for only 40 pesos.
We went to the museum (the first time for Ruben and me) which had probably the largest attendence since the last winter storm as it was warm inside out of the rain. The museum, like the restaurant, is in a very old original building, and hopefully one day will be restored a bit, or at least the mold removed from the walls. Nevertheless the exhibits were varied and interesting, but if truth be told, I didn't spend much time in the room displaying all the different meat cuts of Argentina.
Mataderos was the old slaughterhouse district of Buenos Aires, and for this reason their social club is named Neuvo Chicago. We thought of dropping in to dance because at least it's indoors, but as we peeked in the windows and saw the hundreds of empty tables and heard the loud cumbia music, we kept going.
While Ruben went to look for a taxi, an old man descended from the bus and stared straight at our student and myself. With a gorgeous smile, he proceeded to give us a heart-warming piropo: Ah, at last I see the sun come out when I look at you two beautiful ladies! We both looked like bundled up Esquimos, but as we got into the taxi, we had warm smiles on our faces.
Does this look like tango to you?
As for me, I have questions:
Why is her left finger sticking up like that?
Why is she concentrating on the camera instead of her partner?
Why does he look so bored instead of sensuous and passionate?
Do you think they know how to do a tango embrace?
We already know why her boobs look like tennis balls, but is his left thumb fingering one? (That goes against the Codigos!)
Is she a transvestite?
Is he a computer nerd by day?
This photo below looks more like tango to me:
Sunday, July 22, 2007
Si la belleza fuera delito, yo te hubiera dado cadena perpetua.
If beauty were a crime, you would deserve life in prison.—Buenos Aires piropo
Before Sarah's next trip to Argentina, she invited Santiago by email to stay with her in a hotel in Congreso. She had bought a travel package for a fast five days in Buenos Aires with last fall’s living arrangement in mind. She thought Santiago would enjoy getting out of his flophouse and into a decent hotel, and the packaged five nights and airfare was less than her plane ticket usually cost. Heaven knew she would enjoy being—and dancing—with him for five days.
And so she had reserved for two when he answered Si in his email. Last fall it had been his idea to move together to the Casa de Tango; as he had put it, why should they each pay for a room when they can stay in one together? An extra person was only $5 a day at the hotel and included breakfast. Naturally it was Sarah who would pay for him, but it added up to only $25, so who cared? It was what she paid at the pension where she usually stayed just for herself and without breakfast.
He had offered to come to the airport to meet her, but it was no surprise when he wasn't there. She took a taxi and soon after she checked into the hotel on the Avenida de Mayo, he showed up and registered. He had an excuse about his sick father or his car or something.
They immediately went to La Ideal, Sarah only excavated her tango shoes from her luggage and left everything else in a tangle. It was Sunday afternoon and she couldn’t wait to see Maria Esther, Cristine, Graciela, Helene, and all of the milongueros. Sarah also had agreed to meet with an author from San Francisco gathering information for his new novel set in Buenos Aires.
But as the women and Bill the author sat together near the bar at La Ideal, Maria Esther observed that Santiago was acting like an histeric, completely unlike his usual behavior. He ran around the room from woman to woman, barely dancing with Sarah. The only way she knew he was with her was his cell phone staking a claim on their red tablecloth. Maria Esther knew what the situation was between them and that Sarah was crazy about him, but she was also a porteña who understood beautiful milongueros like Santiago. Maria Esther just sighed and shrugged her shoulders.
The next two days were the same, but worse. Monday after the milonga at Canning, he didn’t return to the hotel or leave a message. Tuesday at Viejo Correo with Maria Esther, Sarah had enough rejection and disappointment. She went up to where he was sitting at a table full of young pretty girls and inquired very loudly, Cuando vuelvas al hotel a buscar tus cosas? (She had asked Maria Esther how to say it in Castellano.)
He said, QUE? while wearing a shirt Sarah had brought him from Tucson.
And she repeated more loudly, Cuando vuelvas al hotel a buscar tus cosas?
Hablamos manana! he almost shouted at her, and turned to the stunning girl next to him, dismissing Sarah.
The following day he came to the hotel and they did talk--she had made a list of words and phrases the night before from the Spanish dictionary to describe why she was unhappy: grosero, tonto, imbecile, solamente un rato agradable. He asked, astounded, where she had learned them.
She left for an appointment with Graciela, agreeing he could take a shower in the room before clearing out. She wanted to remain friendly. So it hadn’t worked out to stay together for whatever reason of his, but they could be pleasant about it.
But when she returned later to the room, there were even more of his clothes there, like a tomcat marking his territory. She threw them in a plastic bag, even the gifts she had brought him from the States, and gave them to the maid.
That night Sarah was sitting alone in El Beso when he flounced in with an older French woman who, coincidentally or not, sat next to Sarah on the banquette near the bar. After parking her at Sarah's side and giving her a kiss on the cheek, Santiago went off to work the crowded room and Sarah started a conversation with Simone in French.
“Oh you take lessons from Santiago? Yes? And you take him to dinner as well? That’s nice. Oh, I have to leave now, would you be so kind as to give him a message for me? Please tell him that I threw all of his clothes and personal things at the hotel into the trash.” Simone stared at her.
And Sarah went to Lo de Celia to dance with the viejos.
When she returned to the hotel at 3 a.m., she had his name removed from the registration so he could no longer come up. Senor Perez se fue.
The next day, her fifth and last in Buenos Aires this trip, he showed up late at El Arranque where Sarah was sitting at a table of friends. Maria Esther said he was looking at her, but Sarah never looked at him in the tango Code of invitation.
Finally when her friends were leaving for dinner, he walked over and greeted everyone stiffly. And then to Sarah, Quieres bailar? A milonguero never approaches a woman’s table to invite her to dance.
“No,” she said coldly, grabbing her street shoes and coat, and stalking out to the lobby to wait for Maria Esther and the others. Sarah was worn out, emotional, hurt and hungry. She couldn’t breathe anymore, or watch Santiago dance with another. They had made love once and danced together only two or three times in the whole five days.
What a fiasco! She knew what kind of man he was, but still she hadn’t expected this, even though of course she should have. Six months ago when they stayed together for two weeks, it had worked out. She thought it would work this time for only five days. She couldn't now understand why he had even agreed to stay in the hotel with her in the first place.
Sarah hadn't put up with his inexcusable rejection for more than two days before ending it. The woman in Atlanta took two months! But still it hurt. Maybe it was all her fault for feeling comfortable with the idea of being his temporary "girlfriend." Men like Santiago generally do whatever it takes to maintain their liberty. Sarah vowed, no more milongueros, especially if they were beautiful!
Que lastima! Sarah had wanted to help him as it was true he was a gifted teacher and dancer; of course she wanted to have fun with him. Most importantly, she wanted to dance with him. Maybe she made a mistake not to dance with Santiago at the end? Could they have forgotten all of this rubbish and had a momentary peek at Tango Heaven?
Saturday, July 21, 2007
(He) walks in beauty, like the night Of cloudless climes and starry skies, And all that's best of dark and bright Meets in (his) aspect and (his) eyes;
I never trust a man who is too good looking.
Sarah arrived at the Confiteria Ideal with her suitcase direct from the airport, and it was like she had never left. It was always a timeless experience. Certainly the building never changed, including the hole in the dance floor’s pink stone surface near a marble pillar. Many of her favorite partners were there, Maria Esther was waiting at a table for her, both the host and the DJ remembered her warmly, or at least acted like they did. There were the Barbies sitting over in the corner. It felt like home, even though it had been six months since her last trip to Buenos Aires.
But she only had eyes for Santiago. A previous flame was there as well, a milonguero who also made his living from teaching tango to foreign women. They had had a short fling some time ago, but he became too possessive and aggressive, wanting to sit at her table at the milongas, whereby no one else would ask her to dance. He had even called her in Tucson a couple of times. In Buenos Aires he used to take her out to dinner and buy her roses off the street, then the next day ask her for a loan. That got old. So they didn’t dance anymore. Too bad, as he was excellent and fun to dance with, except when he was showing off for his friends at tables around the dance floor, leading moves to exhibit his partner’s derriere. But Sarah had never felt about him like she did now for Santiago.
It’s a tough call: if they want to have sex with you, invite you to “coffee” and you refuse, they no longer will invite you to dance. If you agree to sleep with them, then they no longer invite you to dance after the conquest and it’s over. You can’t win.
Santiago seemed glad to see her. He had streaked his gorgeous black curly hair while in the States and had gained a small panza. "Too many hamburguesas y cappuccinos," he said, patting his tummy. But he was still beautiful.
She thought Santiago liked that she was non-possessive and independent. She felt they had a connection and a natural camaraderie. They fell into the habit of having dinner after the milongas at inexpensive places, primarily El Tenedor, a chain of cheap Chinese-owned buffets. Yes, sure, she paid. And after a while he stopped talking about how badly Doris had wronged him in Atlanta.
Santiago’s only source of income was from teaching. And actually he was an incredible teacher. He had marvelous technique and was able to pass it along. There was no fooling around or flirting when he taught, he was seriously all business. Tango wasn’t fun or a means to an end, it was his life, he said. But he kept instructing Sarah at the milongas. Once he starting teaching her, he couldn’t stop. He would get angry if she slipped on a slippery floor. “Look at me! Do I slide? No, and you must not either!” Her dancing became personal to him, and it wasn’t the same as before. Instead of dancing in the moment and enjoying the music and the connection, she would worry about her little mistakes upsetting him.
He took her to his hotel one night. He had to sneak her into the huge old building of several floors that once, maybe a hundred years ago, had been grand and graceful. Now it was a flop house. The bathroom was down the hall, and there also was a community kitchen of sorts on each floor. His room was tiny, neat and windowless, and full of his two unpacked suitcases from his recent return from Atlanta. They had to be quiet, because he would have had to pay for her to be in there with him, or maybe it even wasn’t allowed. He asked her afterwards if she wanted to sleep there with him, but she couldn’t wait to leave. She was afraid she would have to use the bathroom, and she didn’t want to even see it.
He helped her to find a taxi when the sun started coming up, but not before saying, “You know, it’s silly for you to pay for a room and for me to pay for this one, which as you can see, isn’t nice at all. Why don’t we stay together someplace?”
So they moved, he and Sarah, to the Casa de Tango in Almagro. They had a nice room, with a bathroom right next door. There was a kitchen downstairs, and best of all, a studio where he could teach and they could practice. The manager thought that Santiago was a visiting tango professor and Sarah was his girlfriend. Otherwise there might be problems about a local milonguero and a tourist staying together.
Santiago had said he was a good cook and enjoyed it, so they invited Maria Esther for dinner, and he prepared a marvelous, simple meal while Sarah just watched. She felt like his girlfriend, and it was a good feeling.
They stayed there for two weeks. Some nights Santiago was out watching football with his friends as he said, or doing whatever, it didn’t bother Sarah. They were getting along well and she was happy. When they ate together, she bought the food, but it was inexpensive and didn’t add up to much. She paid her own way into the milongas, and he got in for free.
Several of the milonga organizers paid him, and other popular milongueros to come and dance with the women who didn’t dance a lot, similar to the policy of cruise ships. So he and Sarah couldn’t dance too much together, but that was fine because she enjoyed dancing with many men, although he was her favorite. Of course there was the chemistry, but also his high level of skill. Despite her not enjoying his picking apart her dancing, she was improving.
When the two weeks were over, he drove her to the airport in his car, his pride and joy, the only thing he owned besides his dancing shoes.
His handsome face was sad when they said goodbye. “Email me,” he said, “not everyday, but maybe three times a week, OK?”
Sarah had decided long ago that you had to choose between a handsome man who was nice and a good person, a good dancer who was handsome, and a nice man who danced well: you couldn't have it all. But maybe there was an exception?
...to be continued.
Friday, July 20, 2007
TANGUERA TALES: THE BEAUTY Part 4
He danced well, as if it were natural and joyous in him to dance, [with] a certain subtle exultation like glamour in his movement, and his face the flower of his body.
-- D. H. Lawrence
Santiago took his index of women contacts with him when he left Buenos Aires and went to Atlanta with Doris. He emailed Sarah regularly in Tucson and sometimes even telephoned her.
Doris, “La Gorda,” as Santiago referred to his hostess and benefactor, had built him a dance studio in the basement of her large home in the suburbs in Georgia, gave him access to her computer, telephone, car, and Sarah supposed, to her. Sarah accepted that now he had all that he had been working for.
But after a few weeks he wrote Sarah that Doris was crazy, had thrown him out one night late to sleep outside in the cold. He was saved by another woman on his list from Atlanta who, when he called, took him in. So now he complained bitterly about Doris in his emails to Sarah.
Why is it that a woman is “crazy” if she no longer puts up with rude and unacceptable behavior from a man? “Crazy” if she no longer puts up with him? Santiago’s gripe was that Doris was in love with him, whereas for him it had all been purely a business arrangement from the getgo: so many hours of private lessons in exchange for room and board. Listo.
“But Santiago, did you sleep with her?” Sarah asked, during one long phone call.
“Of course I slept with her! So what?”
His two month tourist visa was almost up. Was Sarah going back to Buenos Aires soon, he wanted to know?
Well sure, she said. She tried to go for a week or two every six months, like so many foreign women who lived to dance tango in Buenos Aires. Tango in Tucson just wasn't the same.
Hasta pronto, they said to each other over the phone with 2,000 miles of the United States between them.
...to be continued.
Men are very important in tango communities… When women want to feel feminine in a dance, they need men. Men have an enormous power to give women pleasure. That means they hold power which can be misused and abused…
Sarah may have been “Santiago’s woman” but she wasn’t the only one. In fact, after their one night at the transitorio, he was more or less “bought” by another American woman. At least that’s the way Sarah explained it to herself, as he no longer danced with her in the tango salons. He danced only with a large middle-aged woman who couldn’t dance very well, but probably paid for everything. And they sat together, something which is not done unless a man and a woman are a “couple.”
So Sarah figured he just went to a higher bidder, even though she hadn't bid, or he had had her and therefore lost interest. Or maybe he had really understood that she wasn’t rich. Or the woman from Atlanta had made him an offer he couldn't refuse.
On her last day in Buenos Aires, when she sadly told him Adios, he excitedly said he'd be leaving himself to go to the U.S. in a couple of weeks, traveling to teach tango in Atlanta, the fat lady's hometown. He wanted Sarah's email address and she imagined him crossing the world with his files of American cities and the women he had met who lived in them.
...to be continued.
Thursday, July 19, 2007
Don't think that the Argentine women don't resent us because they do. We fly in, dance with their men, some of us sleep with them and then we leave. There is deep resentment against foreigners… But I had experiences on the dance floor of intimacy, seduction, sheer perfection and creative genius.
---Melanie, a norteamericana
There was no neon sign announcing the small hotel, a transitorio, where you could pay by the hour. Santiago seemed to have found it by radar. Sarah lurked in the corner of the dark reception area, conscious of her short black dress and fishnet stockings. Santiago dealt with the desk clerk who was sealed behind a window, probably bullet proof, she thought.
The room at the top of the stairs was all mirrors and pink satin, and very clean. The bathroom was also the shower, and Sarah turned on the faucet and watched the water spray over everything, including the toilet and sink. There was a squeegee in the corner for drying the tiled floor. While he took a shower, she quickly got undressed and wrapped myself in her black fringed shawl.
The headboard of the bed was like the cockpit of a jet plane: controls for everything—different lighting combinations and effects, radio, the TV. She wanted the light out so he wouldn’t see her and her body scarred from illness, age and childbearing, but at the height of his acrobatic zeal he flicked the switch to turn it on. She needn’t have worried about him scrutinizing her body, because he had eyes only for himself in the mirrors around and over the bed.
They were interrupted by a knock on the door by the reception clerk. She hadn’t signed the credit card slip, and it was passed through a sliding window making opening the door in flagrant delecto unnecessary.
Afterwards he was tender and gentle, and explained in simple Spanish about his family, his many brothers and sisters, the death of his mother when he was fourteen, and now how tango was his life and family. It was amazing to her that she could understand him. Before he slept he had her repeat in Spanish that she was his woman. Sarah de Santiago. How ridiculous, she thought while enjoying the conceit, and the sound. He had a throaty way of saying his name that was like a purr.
She couldn’t sleep. By the window’s moonlight she marveled at his halo of jet black hair on the white pillow and his strong profile with his striking Indian nose. He was the most physically beautiful man she had ever had in her bed. How odd at this time in her life! And why was he naked next to her? He was wildly attracted to her? Hardly. She was easy? Maybe. He wanted something else she had? Money? But she had made sure he understood she had no money, hadn’t she? But of course just being a tourist meant she had more money than most Argentines, and she knew her American passport made her infinitely more attractive.
She heard the clop clop of the junk man’s horse-drawn wagon, and later the laughter and bustle of children waiting under the window for the school bus in the dark morning as she lay there feeling Santiago breathe and her heart beat.
...to be continued.
Wednesday, July 18, 2007
(Names are changed, but they are Legion--for there are many.)
Santiago was like a cat, a beautiful proud tom who lived off his wits and body. Women were drawn to him, well, like cats in heat. The first time she saw him was in a tango salon in Buenos Aires. He was sitting among the men, and Sarah at a little table with the women on the other side of the room, as is the custom. When she caught his eye, he nodded his head in the way of the Argentine tango code, and they met on the dance floor.
Sarah had thought from a distance that he was no more than 29 or 30, but up close she could see the crinkles at his eyes and the vertical lines on his handsome face. He was exotically dark, having Indian blood in a land which had all but obliterated its indigenous people, and had thick curly black hair that he wore long, down his back, tied at the nape of his neck.
Unlike the older milongueros who haunt the salons in three-piece woolen suits, Santiago wore tight black jeans and a thin open shirt, the better to show his muscled body. Sarah pointed him out to her Argentine friend Maria Ester, who called him The Beauty and shook her head with a knowing smile.
On the dance floor, they just nodded wordlessly, and he enclosed her in the tango’s intimate embrace. Sarah wrapped her left arm around his neck, and he held her tightly with his right, as if he were hugging her affectionately to his heart. Her face was in his long fragrant hair. He smelled like incense, and she could hardly breathe. She closed her eyes. He led her and she followed and they created something new together with the music.
Between songs they discovered that neither of them spoke the other’s language, but nevertheless they were communicating. He was one of those people who seem to have sparks flying off them, who draws everyone’s attention when they walk in a room or move on the dance floor. And the sparks from his eyes shot into her soul.
After the tanda Sarah was thankful for the custom of the man escorting the woman back to her table because she was dizzy and faint and disoriented. She sat down clumsily, and he left her to go back to his table among the men. Usually it’s best to simply leave the milonga after a dance in Tango Heaven, to go with the glow. But Sarah was yearning for another glimpse; she couldn’t abandon hope until the last note of the evening was played, but they didn’t dance together again that night.
When she saw him next at Club Gricel, he was surrounded by a throng of tourists, probably American from the look of them in their bright colors and poufy blond hair. The women smiled and laughed with open mouths and gave their attention only to him, the sole man -- unmistakably the cock of the chicken yard. When he asked Sarah to dance, he performed for his flock. She didn’t mind. She was glad he had left his henhouse and picked her.
Later he approached the table where she was sitting with Maria Ester and spoke quietly to her in Castellano.
“He wants you to go home with him,” she said, turning to Sarah.
“OK.” Sarah looked at him.
“Oh for Pete’s sake, be a little hard to get! These guys enjoy working for it. Seduction is part of the fun.”
“Too late.” Sarah smiled.
He nodded seriously, grabbed his backpack, and waited by the door while she said goodnight to Maria Esther. It was four in the morning, and there was no one on the streets. A balmy breeze puffed at the fallen leaves and through her hair and they walked on the cobblestones with shadows of trees from the full moon, Sarah in her spike heeled tango shoes.
He paused and looked at her. El amor? He pointed to her, then to him.
Si, she said, and he kissed her. They walked some more in the quiet street.
Hotel? he said.
She said, Si.
Then after another block, No dinero. He patted his pockets.
She stopped. Mi no dinero, she said, reluctantly showing him her wallet with ten pesos in it, wishing one of them had whatever it took for a hotel room.
Then he asked, Tarjeta de credito?
...to be continued.
Tuesday, July 17, 2007
Like an invisible thread, envy entangles the dancers around the dance floor and the tables. Deadly sin that everybody commits. The ones in the back envy the ones in the front row. Those who come with their partner envy the loners, the loners envy the couples. The young envy the experience, the old ones, the freshness. Those who work early envy those who can stay up late, the unemployed envy those who have a job. The foreigners envy the potenos,and the locals envy those who come to steal the girls or the milongueros…
--Sonia Abadi, Tangauta, Feb 2001
Thursday, July 12, 2007
A Carnival of Cities is going on in the world of bloggers, and this month the host is Alan Patrick of Buenos Aires Travel. Bloggers who wish to participate write an article about a city, any city. I could write about tango in many cities around the world where I've danced (like Paris, Amsterdam, Madrid, even Havana) and I write all the time about Buenos Aires, so now here is my contribution to the Bloggers' Carnival: Surprise, it's Denver!
TANGO MAGIC IN DENVER, COLORADO, SEPTEMBER 1999
From afar, the white pavilion glows rose in the sunset.
The surrounding flowers and fountains frame
the quadrangle of Grecian columns and steps. It might be on an island in the Mediterranean but for the luscious green grass, the tall skyscrapers lit up behind the trees, and the reigning, distant Rocky Mountains.
Upon closer inspection, there's movement on the marble floor, couples in deep embrace responding to music. Rollerblading teenagers are perched on the stairs, strolling familes sit on benches to watch. On one side, there's an artist with an easel attempting to capture the magic.
I'm there, too, dancing with a stranger, and it feels like I'm in a movie. All of the many couples on the floor are framed between tall columns
against a golden red background of sky and clouds.
The perfume of barbeque smoke and other potluck food under
white tents feeds my totally turned on senses. I am in the
moment, and I am completely happy as the sky turns black
and a quarter moon rises over the "Tango Temple" in Cheseman Park.
Am I dreaming? No, it's just the finale of the Denver
Triple Milonga Weekend, where I and many other visiting
dancers had the time of our lives. Through cooperation and
hard work, the local Denver tango community organized a
great weekend of live music, milongas, classes, parties, casual
lodgings of visiters, and fun for themselves and visitors from
all over the country.
The above describes the first of the many long tango weekends in Denver that now several years later have become traditional in May and September. I returned three times before I moved to Mexico in December 2001, and then to Argentina in 2003. These Denver weekends were the best tango experiences I ever had in the United States.
Alan Patrick asked me to write a series of posts on where to dance tango in Buenos Aires, and the first one, an overview of types of salons, came out today. He illustrated it with terrific photos from several sources.
Alan's blog, Buenos Aires Travel Guide,
is a fabulous comprehensive site chock full of everything Buenos Aires.
Check it out.
Tuesday, July 10, 2007
The day commemorates the birth of Anibal "Pichuco" Troilo (above), known as El Bandoneon Major de Buenos Aires.
Here are some special commemorative concerts:
Wednesday, July 11
Anibal Arias and Osvaldo Montes
Fundacion La Casa del Tango
Guardia Vieja 4049
Entrada 10 pesos
Thursday, July 12
Former musicians of Anibal Troilo's orchestra playing original arrangements
Jose Votti, Juan Alsina, Ernesto Baffa, Jose Colangelo, Osvaldo
Berlinghieri, Alcides Rossi, Anibal Arias, Raul Garello, and the singer Nely
Centro Cultural Torquato Tasso
Defensa 1575 (San Telmo)
Entrada - free (get in line early)
Saturday, July 07, 2007
Thursday, July 05, 2007
ST. JOHN THE BAPTIST ANGLICAN CATHEDRAL
25 de Mayo 282, between Avenida de Mayo y Corrientes
This is one of the oldest (1832) and most beautiful churches in Buenos Aires. When it was built it was a block from the river. There is a fabulous pipe organ, which is played every Sunday, and lovely stained glass.
David George, Rector
Services in English: first and third Sundays at 9:30
Services in Spanish: first and third Sundays at 11:15
United Service (Spanish): second and fourth Sundays at 10:00.