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.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Feliz Año Nuevo!

FELIZ ANO NUEVO to all readers, friends, students, and tango lovers!

May peace break into your house and may thieves come to steal your debts. May the pockets of your jeans become a magnet of $100 bills. May love stick to your face like Vaseline and may laughter assault your lips! May your clothes smell of success and may happiness slap you across the face and may your tears be that of joy. May the problems you had forget your home address! In simple words ............

Blessings on you. May 200
8 be the best year of your life! (Thanks, Lynn!)

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Tango Jargon

Our students come from all tango backgrounds and from all over the world.
To us there's only "good" and "bad" dancing, but sometimes we recognize someone's style of dance or of their previous teachers by just listening to them talk.

Terms "foreign" to estilo milonguero:

disassociation (whatever happened to "separation?")
one's center
"lead" and "follow" as nouns
"tango" as a verb

Can anyone suggest some others?

As far as I know, these terms are used only in English.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007


It's sure not snowing here in Buenos Aires, but I hope we all had a
White Christmas in our hearts!

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Christmas in Buenos Aires Redux

In case you missed it, no big deal, but for old time's sake, check out last year's post.

Too bad my camera was swiped, or I'd show you a picture of my new living Christmas tree! It's not a blue cedar (the poor thing died a couple of months ago after three years of trusty service), but some kind of fir that actually has a slight scent. And it's very beautiful, definitely not Charlie Brownish. And it may be the only real (not plastic) decorated tree in the whole city; well at least I haven't seen any others in four Christmases.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Christmas Milagro in Mexico--A Memory


Never ask God to give you anything; ask Him to put you where things are.—Mexican proverb.

I made it! As so many had done before me, Phoebe the Cat and I arrived in San Miguel de Allende to begin a new life in old Mexico.

Vicente was waiting for me at the Leon airport holding a sign with my name as prearranged by my new landlady. The road to San Miguel was long and obscure and Vicente drove carefully, mindful of the topes (speed bumps) in the middle of seemingly nowhere, and the dead animals by the side of the road.

The lights of San Miguel gleamed in the distant hills out of the dark countryside. Soon we were on the town’s bumpy cobblestones, surrounded by adobe walls, and a few old-fashioned Christmas lights. We actually passed a man in a sombrero and serape in a small plaza, and then climbed up the hill and down a miniscule alley, where we stopped in front of my new Mexican home. I carried Phoebe inside and Vicente brought in the two large suitcases.

“But where are the purple bags?” I asked in panic. We searched the car uselessly, frantically.

My carryon bags never made it out of the Leon Airport in Mexico. You know, the bags where I put everything too important to be checked-- camera, address book, eyeglasses, jewelry, medication, computer cables, software, family photos, business papers and bills, Phoebe’s favorite toy rat, my tango shoes? I don´t know exactly what happened, you can’t relax your vigilance for one second in life. I turned my attention to Phoebe, and poof, everything changed. And the timing couldn’t have been more poignant--it was right before Christmas.

I endlessly examined my two remaining bags. I couldn’t sleep. I only tossed and burned with worry about the loss of my irreplaceable belongings. I pictured someone picking up the bags, searching them for things to sell, and tossing the rest out the window of a pickup truck on some dusty Mexican road. The image of my family photos blowing through the cactus just made me sick.

The next day my new landlady called the airport for me because as yet I had no Spanish. But the news was bad: no found purple bags. She counseled me to forget it and move on. Easy for her to say in the middle of her Texas mansion plunked down in a garden in a beautiful, small highland town in Colonial Mexico. Not only did she own her huge hacienda and my apartment, she also had built and rented out a casa and a casita all constructed in the same walled compound. And of course all four dwellings were full of her things. In all the world I only had a cat and four suitcases, and now the two most important bags were missing.

This new loss after so many recent losses in my life caused me to mourn for days. I went to lovely St Paul´s, the gringo Protestant church, and prayed to accept the inevitable.

The day of Christmas Eve, the town was full of people carrying baby Jesuses hurriedly through the streets on their way to all the Nativities where the Holy Child would later appear in ceremonies that included rocking Him in cradles of lace. That night I went to a party given by a friend of a friend, and like seems to happen so often in San Miguel, in talking about a problem, help happens. At the party I met someone who was leaving the next day for New York from Leon, and she offered to inquire at the airport about my bags.

I took the bus up to the supermercado on the hill and bought some new underwear and makeup, although all of the shades were too dark for me. The bus was decorated with crucifixes and images of Our Lady of Guadalups, and a boy dusted off the windows at major stops and then collected the fares in a plastic bucket.

Gigante was like a surreal American supermarket, where things were kind of familiar, but upon close inspection were totally different. Open bins of sticky candies and pickles, and the smell of fish, strange looking plant things in the produce department, only frozen shrimp, ice cream and ice cubes in the freezer, guards with automatic weapons at the ready near the checkstands. Next door to the small supermarket in the center of town was a funeral home with a big stack of tiny white satin baby coffins in the display window. It was so foreign.

After five days, acceptance was growing. I figured this was just another lesson in how we don’t need things, how we are here not to accumulate but to live and do. I looked at the poverty around me of the Mexican and indigenous peoples with new eyes. I didn’t really need so many pairs of earrings, how often did I look at those photos anyway, and if my friends wanted to contact me they had my address, even if I didn’t have theirs. It would all work out, and I would be a better person for it.

In the last few years I had lost so much. I was sick and tired of loss, but wasn’t this just another lesson in how to live on my own? We come with nothing, we leave with nothing; we can’t take it with us, possessions are just a burden, etc. All the helpful cliches spun around in my head, actually making me feel better.

Early Christmas morning the phone rang: "Cherie, your bags are here!" It was the lady from the party, calling from the airport on her way to New York.

Twenty minutes later a sleepy Vicente and I were tearing along the empty Christmas morning road the 150 km to Leon. At the airport we searched through the lost luggage and my bags weren´t there, although there was a similar purple one and I thought probably that was the one my new friend saw.

But Vicente also wanted to check in Customs up by the gate. And when we approached, we saw my orphaned bags behind locked doors. There they sat, both of them, like my oldest friends in the world. Traveling unlocked with me on the plane, now they sported plastic security seals. I offered a tip, but the officials waved it away, smiling at the tearful reunion of a gringa and her stuff. Gracias, muchas gracias, Feliz Navidad! I sang, walking through the airport hugging my luggage.

Vicente and I laughed all the way back to San Miguel where, after cutting off the plastic locks, I found everything completely untouched.

Getting my things back was a miracle and the best Christmas present ever. But those five days without the security blanket of the cherished contents of my bags gave me perspective. I could have managed without them, I had been managing. And it had not been the end of the world. I had even learned something about myself. Nevertheless because of the kindness of strangers and a miracle of good luck, I had a very Feliz Navidad in my new home town, and an incredible Bienvenida a Mexico.

And Vicente invited me to his extended family´s Christmas celebration that night. But that is another story of milagros, magical realism, and me in Mexico.

All photos but the Baby Jesuses and margaritas by Gail Miller.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007


With true love and tango
Each other now embrace.

God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen
from the Christmas Song Generator.

Get your own song :

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Wits' End

Yup, that's where I am.

I meant to write today about December 8th being the Day of the Virgin, and the official day to put up your Christmas Tree (which we will do tonight after the milonga.)

But I am sssoooooooooo frustrated about so many things, and I just feel like whining and ranting. Those readers who can't take it can just click off now.

Sure I know many of you are suffering from snow and bad weather and here below the Equator the weather is perfect (if polluted.)

But counting my blessings, while causing me to be thankful, doesn't make me less nervous and angry.

Ever since my husband died, the holidays have been hard; the children gone, and my beautiful house also. That's why when I could, I flew on Christmas Eve to Amsterdam to dance tango. That's why I moved to Paris to live after completing my chemo and radiation with my French fiance on Christmas Eve. That's why I moved to Mexico with Phoebe the Cat on Christmas Eve.

But in my heart of hearts, I want to be with my family on Christmas, go to my church on Christmas at midnight, hang Christmas cards all around the front door, serve Christmas goose on my grandmother's Bavarian china, long-since sold.

A Latin country is not the best place for an expat during the holidays; everyone is with their extended families. My first year here in Buenos Aires I planned a Christmas Eve dinner at my apartment, but everyone canceled at the last minute--too hot, no transportation, a girlfriend's invitation for dinner with her family.

A couple years ago I tightened my belt and looked for a spa or resort to spend the holidays alone. But after being repeatedly told they were closed so the employees could be with their families, I just figured I'd go to a movie like I used to do sometimes in L.A.. Walked to the mall on Christmas Eve, and guess what? Movies all closed.

Last year I fell at the gym on December 26th and broke two ribs.

This year, however, I do have a plan that just may work: my friend Ellen and I are going to Tigre for Christmas--way far away on an island close to nothing. Now all I have to worry about is New Year's. I really hate fireworks.

I can't stop missing my camera, I can't get over my nervousness about the mugging two weeks ago, I can't find a Locutorio that can print PDF documents, I returned to Imigracion for the umpteenth time and for the umpteenth time they requested a new document with an apostille while in the meantime my FBI clearance is expiring. I'm sick of going to Uruguay (but I'd love to visit Punte del Este, but I have a one-day Colonia budget).

Sorry, no pictures, I'm just too crabby to steal some off the internet. I want my camera back! Wah.

I'll feel better tonight after I dance with Ruben. Poor guy, he just doesn't understand why I get so upset. He says I have to get used to Argentina, but will I ever?

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Teatro Verdi En La Boca

Built by Italian immigrants, Caruso performed there as well as other stars of opera, theater, and music. Now it's in constant use for classes in dance, music, yoga, acting, and for political rallies, events, concerts, and milongas. But it's a ruin of what it once was.

When the photo (above) of the facade was taken, the theater was already 125 years old. In the last four years it has deteriorated even more. Ruben used to dance Chamame there 30 years ago, and the only improvement he noticed when we went last week was the rotten wood floor had been replaced with tile.

Last Wednesday night, Ruben and I went to hear the hot new young orchestra, Fervor de Buenos Aires.

Another orchestra like Orquesta Típica Fernandez Fierro (seen playing on the streets of San Telmo). Pianist Javier Arias directs Fervor de Buenos Aires (name inspired by Borges) that plays in the style of Di Sarli.

We arrived early, I incredulous over the beautiful art nouveau lobby, while two tango classes were in progress under the auspices of Pedro "El Indio." My jaw dropped inside the hall at the colorful swirling art nouveau boxes on the three sides of the proscenium.

There was an occasional viejito, but most of the many dancers were young. Ok, so I didn't like the classes of the Dreaded 8-Count Basic with low-volume DiSarli coming from the computer, nor afterward, how they all danced in the milonga.

But they were having fun. Mostly tourists, they were experiencing Tango in Buenos Aires and would never forget it.

The orchestra took the stage, the tourists danced in their sandals and tennis shoes, there was an over-abundance of youthful tango energy in the ancient crumbling theater. I liked it a lot.