Thursday, January 12, 2006

Up, down & out in Buenos Aires

Word reached me at the cardboard box Olga and I have been "living" in that there would be a benefit milonga for us in Eugene. The news was like a ray of sunlight through the darkest of nights. After carefully folding the one dirty towel we have been using as a blanket and replacing it over Olga´s emaciated shoulders, I hobbled to the street corner and took out my wadded up hat more determined than ever to earn us the centavos we needed to go to the internet and thank all of you. So with renewed confidence I raised my red nose up, opened my jaw, and belted out all the old favorites with renewed vigor- "A media luz", "Porteno y bailarin", "Naranja en flor" never sounded so good ... I sang "Caminito" and taxis stopped to watch ... I sang louder. I sang "El Amanecer" and the birds stopped to listen. A crowd gathered speechless, small children with looks of disbelief came close! Then, as I finished my reprise of Piazzolla´s "Adios Nonino" Olga took her cue and shuffled out from behind the streetlamp. She was wearing her one good dress we made from an old tablecloth from a nearby Parilla with glued sequins and still with most of the tape intact. We did the old Zotto/Carolina routine complete with 5 different goncho figures, hand in pocket bit, three dramatic leg lifts, and the real crowd pleaser, the bum-slap-to-the-beat finish. We sweated so much and Olga fainted but boy did they eat it up! We made enough money for two empanadas and some soap.

- Rebecca

Monday, January 09, 2006

The dancing life

Rebecca woke up in the morning with huge eyes, still disoriented from her deep sleep. "What a dream I just had!" -- she exclaimed. "We were teaching tango in Eugene, a musicality class, with a huge turnout of people, and we were explaining how to step on the beat. And people just went crazy: they liked the idea of stepping on the beat so much that ... that they didn't know how to show their appreciation -- they shouted "Amazing!" "Genius!" "Thank you for sharing your deep secrets from Buenos Aires!"

Milongas in BsAs are quite an experience (or adventure). You can spend the whole night sitting and looking around, or you can dance the entire night with the best & most famous Argentine dancers. We normally go to Milongas after 2am. Before then, there are no tables available (which isn't really a problem: as an experienced tango bum I can change my shoes anywhere), but also it's very crowded and hot. Even if you dance with an experience dancer, who can 'navigate like a NY cab driver', somebody will crash into you, for sure, because more than half the population of the Milongas we visit, are tourists. I love dancing with Argentines, they are really trying to reach to your soul, and feel your blood. Even Argentine nuevo dancers are very different from foreigners.

Argentine men are very polite and nice, but sometimes they can be too nice. There is a man at one Milonga, a very handsome Argentino. My two girlfriends & I danced with him, and we all had the same experience. Each time he leads you to a front ocho, he tries to kiss you, sort of like paying a toll when you cross the bridge. One of my girlfriends tried to talk to him, in between songs, and the conversation went into politics - how bad american foreign policy is, and the american government, so the guy said "Yes, yes, your president is very very bad" ...... and he added "are you bad too?". The other girl in between songs was trying to explain to him that all she wants is to dance, no kissing, OK? He would agree, but couldn't stop the kissing part anyway ...

American men have a completely different experience with Argentine women. After having a good dance with a local girl, the innocent, open-hearted, enthusiastic americans say "how wonderful you dance ... thank you so much for the dance ... it would be so lovely to dance with you more!" The girl looks very indifferent, and you can read easily in her eyes - "man, you are not taking me home tonight!"

The famous La Viruta -- a very deep dark shitty basement, that smells horrible, with a floor covered in cigarette butts and spilled beer. The other day we were going down the stairs inside, and a man vomited right in front of us, like a geyser -- we had to jump a few stairs up to avoid being splashed. Well, the music is also very strange there - a mix between disco (very old american disco like Michael Jackson), samba, rock-n-roll (the second-favorite dance in Argentina) and tango which doesn't start before 2am. But at this place you can see the best tango performances in the world, and the best tango dancers are there. Each time I'm there I feel like I'm travelling in time ... and i'm at the high school dance. But, somehow, I like it there.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005


It seems like I'm coming back to tango. I really enjoyed dancing yesterday. On Tuesdays there's a "Practica-X", mentioned on the tango map, which you can find pretty much at every Milonga. Mostly it's a young crowd of dancers, nuevo oriented, mix of foreigners and argentines, and the music is nice with some alternative pieces in the end. Well, I had a really good time there, was asked to dance a lot, and for the first time in BsAs enjoyed tango again like I did before in Oregon.

Also yesterday I tried my new shoes I bought for practicas - and they're great! Shoes and dancing are like a horse and carriage - they have to be carefully put together. Well, my new pair of sneakers is very comfortable, light and very well done. I bought them at the place called "Tango Brujo", they also sell very nicely designed clothes for tango practice, very comfortable (maybe a bit too fancy for my taste). From what I've heard "Tango Brujo" is the best place to get shoes for practice. And the selection is amazing! Different styles, colors, materials - you can choose something for your taste and purpose.

While trying on few different pairs of shoes, I talked to the girl about the business. They have a little factory, not in the same building, and eight old shoemakers (only men of course) work there. They have a diffficult time adjusting to the modern demands (sneakers for instance), because they are classically-trained professionals.

My neck still hurts from the plane, and and from the unhealthy life in Russia. Yesterday I decided to fight my laziness and take care of myself. So I went to yoga at "DNI studio" - a beautiful place! It's an old building, full of light and air, with huge windows, a lot of nice rooms for classes, little inner gardens and a very friendly atmosphere. Yoga costs only $10 and the teacher is amazing!! I feel much better today!

Spanish classes are next -- so I won't feel like an idiot when people ask my name.

Monday, December 26, 2005

Hello Buenos Aires.

I came to the extreme south from the extreme north. From the gloomy short days of Moscow to a bright colorful life. From gray serious faces to smiley friendly people.

I used to wake up in the morning in Moscow and hear the sound of big metal shovels scraping the snow from the asphalt for hours. Russian street cleaners start very early (about at 6 am) and the sound (better call it noise) goes for hours, making you crazy and restless.

Here, I go to bed pretty late also. Normally I walk back home at 6 am, after the late Milonga. And I hear birds singing very loud, and it makes me happy - I go to bed hearing this lullaby.

I'm staying in the Palermo nighborhood, which looks a little bit like the East Village in NY -- a lot of art in the streets, people are partying all the time, and all places are open very late. On the other hand, it reminds me of Eugene - every weekend there's a market in the plaza Serrano - people are selling handmade stuff - just like Saturday market - a lot of jewelry, mate gourds, clothes, and people dress in kind of alternative hippish way. Well, I bought for myself a couple of t-shirts with handprinted native american symbols of the moon and the sun ($7 dollars each!) and pants from the same girl - very comfortable and casual, good for tango practice ($13). I think the selection of clothes at these markets is very good for women - everything's local and pretty good quality for such little money.

But the main difference here in BsAs, from other places I can compare to (there are not many - only Russia and the US) - is that it's really fun being outside, especially if you are a woman!

There's so much flirtation in the streets, all the time. I never had so many compliments in my whole life! I've heard from my argentine girlfriend that argentine women are really bored outside of Argentina, and now I understand why! Well, I kind of like it, it´s very gentle, and as far as I can understand spanish - men are saying very nice things, nothing vulgar.

One problem I´m having here is a WIFI connection. As far as my research goes, there's no wireless place near where I live. Most of them are Downtown, which I didn´t explore much yet, I've only done some shopping at the main mall - "Abasto". But you can find Internet access (with their machines) pretty much everywhere.

Well, I have to put a special line here about orange juice. It´s amazing. I´m so addicted to it here - Argentines make it just perfect, pretty much everywhere. It´s pretty simple - they just squeeze the oranges, maybe add lemon or peaches if you want. And I think the key to taste, is that it´s real good fruit, and they don´t use ice! I think ice kills the taste. When I´m back home, I´m going to use this juice squeezer for sure.

Speaking about food in general, it takes time to discover a good place to eat. There are a lot of cafes and restaurants, cheap and expensive. But price really doesn´t add to taste here. For myself, I found a local nighborhood place called "El Perferia" (I think), everything's cheap there, of good quality. Argentines don´t use much spice in their food, so pretty much everything is kind of plain everywhere. But as long as it fresh, I like it. Also I´ve notice that argentines use a lot of cheese in their food. If you order pizza - you´ll get a pool of cheese with tiny bits of other ingredients, maybe.

I want to write about tango and stuff related to it. But it´s a separate subject, and it´s going to be the next entry....

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

I'm here!