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.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Week of Campeonatos!

Marcelo Castelo y Ruben
The beginning of Championship Week in Buenos Aires (especially the Campeonato Mundial de Tango) included a Milonga Contest on Sunday in Mi Club, a milonga organized by Marcelo Castelo in Banfield (Province of Buenos Aires).
The Trophies
The Winners

Fifteen couples competed in two rounds of two milongas each--first a slow then a fast one. The club was packed with good dancers and it was so fun to be there and be a part of an event outside of El Centro! (Ruben and I also did a little milonga demo.)

A great evening! Congratulations to all who participated!
Ruben with old friends
Your Judges

Tuesday, August 24, 2010


Yesterday was what I thought would be our final trip to Migraciones, at least for a couple of years. Ruben was sick with the flu, the traffic was unbelievable, and we wanted to get to La Trastienda to cheer our student who was competing in the first round of the Campeonato.  But we knew we had to get it done before my 2 month old DNI expires this week. When we were there last week they gave me a folder with all the requirements of the Pensionada Visa, and so I had them all, the photocopies, the new pictures, the police clearance, etc., in addition to pounds of papers I had from previous tramites, just to be on the safe side.

The clerk didn't give a damn about anything that I had, and would only scribble on a Post-it note a new list of papers I need before the expiration date of Friday, Aug. 27. She wanted me to bring a letter from the U.S. Consulate about my pension, and wouldn't even look at the apostilled, officially translated and approved, letter from the Los Angeles Public Library which affirmed that I have an early retirement income, and which proved my status oh so many years ago when I originally applied for residency. She said that I need $2,000 usd/mo while the brochure says it's 2,000 pesos Argentinos. "Oh," she said, "That brochure hasn't been good since July 6th!"  "But they just gave me this brochure here last week!" "Doesn't matter. And you need a bank account in an Argentine bank." But I have all this papers that show all of my pension is withdrawn here and I spend it all here every month." "Doesn't matter," she says, without looking at my paperwork.

So I just returned from the Banco Frances where I had opened an account two years ago to satisfy another megalomaniac in Migraciones, but since I had never used it--we spend all our money every month; how to pay 60 pesos/mo for maintenance?--the account was of course closed. I can't open a new one without more papers from AFIP and an utility bill (only gas, electric or telephone) in my name, and those bills which I pay every month are in the name of the owner of the apartment.

If I don't have everything down in Retiro by Friday, I have to pay 900 pesos fine.
I'm ready to forget the whole thing and to just leave every three months like before, or just leave period.

Argentina is a fabulous vacation destination but it beats the heck out of me why anybody would want to live here if they had a choice.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

I Remember The First Time; or, Epiphanous Moments

UPDATE: How could I have forgotten to list The First Time I Had a Cocktail? When I was only 19 (too young to drink in California) I went with my boyfriend to the dark bar at the Beverly Hilton Hotel to drink Pink Ladies! (And it fits nicely into the "Food" category, doesn't it? Well the cherry and lime do!)

Hotel Jules Cesar
  • I ate rucula (Hotel Jules César, Arles, France).
  • I read Wuthering Heights.
  • I heard tango--the pianist played tangos for grand battements in ballet class.
  • I went to Havana.
In Club Español the night of our first date, March 2005
  • I saw Ruben dance--Lo de Celia in 2004.
  • I saw my first live professional ballet:  Sadler's Wells Sleeping Beauty with Margot Fonteyn at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles. I was 10.
  • I saw Argentine tango danced:  Tango Argentino at the Pantages in Hollywood.
  • I ate watercress (Los Feliz Inn, Los Angeles).
  • I danced tango in Buenos Aires--Glorias Argentinas in 1997.
  • I heard live jazz--at a bowling alley in Santa Monica:  Bud Shank.
  • I tasted Tomme de Chevre cheese in Evian-les-Bains, France.
  • I saw Notre Dame in Paris--from a 6th floor balcony at the Hotel Claude Bernard when I was 29.
  • I visited the UCLA campus knowing I would soon be a dance student there.
  • I auditioned for Gene Kelly when I was 16 at a studio on Melrose.
  • I danced for Jerome Robbins at Paramount when I was 14.
  • I went to Tango Heaven.
  • I saw each of my sons for the first time.
  • I performed on stage with the American Ballet Theater as a supernumerary in Romeo and Juliet, and cried my eyes out every performance at the death of Tybalt.
  • I saw Hair on stage -- at the Aquarius Theater on Sunset Blvd. near Vine in the 60s. We had to decide whether to see Hair or You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown. (We made the right choice.)
  • I saw the full glory of the falls of Iguazu.
  • I saw Jesus Christ Superstar in the open air of the Universal Amphitheater. It seems like yesterday that Ted Neeley was raised on the cross made of human hands while pot smoke wafted around us and the music of the orchestra carried across the Cahuenga Pass to the Hollywood Bowl.
Moments of life-changing epiphany, each and every one. Interesting that they fall into three categories:  art, food, love. (Is there a book in there? Oh wait, someone else wrote that one.)
Thank God I've had these and many, many others in my life. And with luck and paying attention, perhaps there will be more!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

If I Could Do It All Over Again would be so much easier!

I left my country in 2001, with boxes of CDs, photo albums, VHS cassette tapes, so many clothes, so many heavy things I didn't need. And each time after that when I would visit Los Angeles, I brought back more boxes of Persian scatter rugs, paintings and pictures, special quilts and blankets, photos, and of course, books.

Nowadays a soon-to-be expatriate can put all their music on an iPod and all their photos on chips, videos on DVDs, have everything on their international iPhone--many pounds less and so much easier. You can also bring your books on a Kindle, but I still can't give up the paper and boards of real books, which I find so alluring and sensuous. Maybe one day I will, but now, I still enjoy handling the real deal.

But if I were to do it again, I would bring my good pots and pans and linens--things I sold at garage sales for a pittance. (I had begged my sons to take them but they didn't and now they're sorry.) I didn't know then that such things were so difficult to find and that if found, they would be so expensive in Argentina. Or that these luxuries would be important to me.

Times change quickly--now it's much easier to be a multipatriate with all of the available miniature electronics that can help you feel connected and at home no matter where you are.

When you're emptying a large family home into a couple of suitcases, every decision is important, but there's no time to ponder the future of each and every item; it's this, ok, this and this and this, the Goodwill, this the yard sale, and this the trash. Folks are lucky if they can store items until they know what they'll need in their new home and then have them sent.

I had planned to ship my beloved grand piano, but thank goodness I woke up and smelled the coffee in time to send it to auction in L.A. instead. Shipping furniture with a tourist visa is a way to go both broke and crazy. So I just brought my sheet music and metronome in my suitcase.

Several of my expat friends say they were glad to rid themselves of material objects to begin a new life here. Unfortunately 10 years after my Big Move, there are many things that I wish I still had. It's not that I'm so materialistic, it's just that my memories are so happy of times gone by that I enjoy the mementos that remind me. And I also miss sleeping on my gorgeous Ralph Lauren sheets and eating off of my grandmother's collection of Fiestaware from the 30s. But you can't have everything. And now I have Buenos Aires.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The DNI Story

Here's the latest in the never-ending series of Paper Chase posts:

To catch you up, in case all the details of tangocherie's struggle for legality have slipped your mind, after seven years of trying, I finally received my first DNI  (I.D. card) last June, two months ago. It expires this month.

Yesterday Ruben and I went back to Migraciones to ask what to do. We took a number from the machine, #457, and took seats, well I did, as there was only one. They called #31. I saw Ruben in the middle of a tightly pressed group crowded around someone too short to be seen at the side of the room, everyone waving their arms. I read my book. Then a lady in front of me vomited and fainted dead away. Security rushed over with a drink of water, a doctor came, and her tramite was hand-carried to her, who by now thankfully had recovered. The atmosphere in there was terrible; I completely understand anyone being overcome by the crowds, overheating, screaming babies.

We finally were called, got the information that I had to re-collect new editions of the many official papers that I already had--police report, bank statements, photos, certificado de domicilio--and $600 pesos to apply for the renewal next week. As in any government red-tape in any country, it's all about ways to collect fees. Woe to me if I apply after the expiration date.

If you watch this video you'll know exactly how I felt. 

Off we went on a Mr Toad's Wild Ride to smog-filled Calle Tucuman where there was no parking. I had forgotten my inhaler, and I begged to forget it for today. (I was tempted to say forget it forever!!) But Ruben was doing his best, and that's the way it is in the Paris of South America. (At least the ride didn't end in Hell like Mr Toad's!) Stay tuned.

Monday, August 09, 2010

Going in Style!

What better way to arrive in Buenos Aires, tour the city, and be taken to a milonga than in New Yorker Fred's Silverstarcar Service! He now has a fleet of 3 luxury cars to do your bidding. Take advantage of low season prices now and try it. He and his staff/drivers all speak English, and I can personally affirm that they are nice and fun people, and the cars are G O R G E O U S! His Lincoln Town Car can comfortably fit 4 people inside with all their luggage in the trunk for a comfy airport pickup or delivery.

My friend SallyCat and several of our students have used Silverstar and highly recommend it.

(P.S. No payola was involved in this post; I'm recommending Silverstar because I know what a great service it is from what users tell me, and I know Fred. For Ruben and me, we go to the milonga in his batata!)

This Citroen C6 is the way to go!

Thursday, August 05, 2010

One By Me; One About Me

Your tangocherie is feeling pretty out there this week!

Festival of Tango, an article I wrote for Oryx, the inflight magazine of Qatar Air (which now flies direct to Buenos Aires) came out on the web and in the August paper edition.

And the newly re-named Argentina Independent (The Argentimes until a few weeks ago) published an interview with me for their Expat Lives series, written by Laura Mojonnier, with photos by Beatrice Murch taken at Nuevo Chiqué.

Sunday, August 01, 2010

On Display at the Milonga

Last night the Milonga de los Consagrados was completely packed full of hundreds of dancers. As was Nuevo Chiqué last Thursday. I don't know where the crazy folks who continue to blog about how "tango is dying in Buenos Aires" get their loco ideas! This is winter time, it's cold and last Thursday it was raining, it's the end of the month, and the onslaught of tourists haven't arrived yet for the Campeonato--yet the classic, traditional milongas are jammed.

But that doesn't mean that people are too busy to watch and take note and to pay attention to what's going on with each and every attendee. Don't think you can hide, folks, because no back table or corner is small enough. Which is a good thing. If you go to a milonga you probably want to dance and that means a cabeceo and for that you must see and be seen. People notice your clothes, shoes, how you dance, how often you dance, know where you're from if you're a foreigner, and see who you leave with to have a coffee--even if the departures are 20 minutes apart.

And even more to the point, they remember all of this. Sometimes for years.
(It's also important never forget that what happens in Buenos Aires doesn't stay in Buenos Aires!)

I figure that Ruben and I are invisible after all these years, sitting each and every Saturday night at the same table in Los Cons, with our Alice's Teaparty group of students and friends. Ruben seldom dances with others, and I rarely do. So I feel we are more or less under the radar.

I was reminded last night, though, that no one is beneath watching; a Porteña friend came over to ask us if Ruben and I were fighting as his chair was pushed back a little from the table (he had made room for last minute arrivals)! She walked all the way over to ask if we were arguing because of the placement of our chairs! I couldn't believe it, that she noticed the positions, and that she cared that much. She told us that she likes us so much that she was upset to think that we may not be getting along. We assured her that actually we haven't had a good fight in years, and she went back to her table more tranquila.

So this story is just to remind everyone to watch their body language, their attitude, their posture, and their p's and q's when in the milongas of Buenos Aires.

SMILE, you're being "recorded!"