Thursday, February 5, 2009

Chapter 10 5/8: The Big Milonga in the Sky


In the last chapter of "A History of the World in 10 1/2 Chapters", Julian Barnes presents a vision of heaven.

Apparently, it is a place where you can shop with limitless credit, have sex with whomever you want and improve your golf score so much that you will be scoring 18 every time - FOR ETERNITY.

So, at the end of the road, for all those tangueros and tangueras who have managed to avoid going to "the other place" by being either super-duper good, fairly well-behaved, or even "just ok" (it seems that for Barnes, admission requirements are not terribly high) ---

What would it be like, that "Big Milonga in the Sky"?

Of course it follows that it will be a nice place where the music is always excellent and danceable and the cortinas are never annoying. The floor is never sticky and champagne is always on ice.

I'm also pretty sure that there will be the usual heart-wrenching sentimental eye-misting stuff like:

- Those absolute favourite tango shoes with heels that you have worn down to a nub and have thrown away are miraculously resurrected. They are almost brand new, just a little worn in to fit you like a glove - so you can dance for hours in them like you used to in their glory days in perfect comfort.

- Or alternatively, you suddenly find that you are the proprietor of every single style of Comme Il Faut known to man (or not yet dreamed of), and dancing in any pair is just like dancing on air.

- Not only that, you have your own personal foot masseuse on call 24/7 who is never grumpy or tired and gives the best foot massages for HOURS. Oh, and you have a free foot massage card that expires in - well, never.

- You get to see all your Tango friends again, and every single one loves you and is happy to see you. Your conversations consist entirely of good news:

"How are you?"
"Never better! My arthritis is gone and my doctor says my blood pressure and cholesterol levels are so sublime I can eat and drink anything I want. How about you?"
"Just super - my son has won the lottery again and all my grandchildren just got accepted into Princeton."

- Instead of people disappearing from the milonga by becoming too sick to dance or dying, more and more people are appearing at the milonga, and they can all dance like no-body's business.

But realistically, that Big Milonga in the Sky cannot all be about good music, comfortable feet and happy people (or Argentinians dancing to rock and roll and "tropical" every second tanda). Most people we know will insist in any or all of the following:

- The dancers always follow the line of dance and they never ever collide - either because they have improved their navigation to the nth degree in the afterlife, or because they simply don't have to improve their navigation. The laws of time, space and physics don't apply and objects can't collide - they merely pass harmlessly through each other.

- Everyone is dressed like they were competing in the Mundial and what's more, there's plenty of space to take great big whopping elegant "walks" and complex and intricate enrosque sequences which elicit polite or even enthusiastic applause from the afterlife versions of people like Miguel Angel Zotto or Fabian Peralta.

- Or alternatively, everyone is dressed up like they were hanging out at La Viruta (all the girls have great skinny legs in those leggings and all the guys never have pot bellies to complement the "shirt out of pants" look) and there's plenty of space to make great big whopping colgadas and complex and intricate enganche/gancho sequences. Ditto the applause (but this time from people like Gustavo Naveira and Chicho).

- There are Tango talent scouts everywhere and due to your spectacular performance on the dance floor they will single you out and sign you up to be the lead dancers in the best Tango Show in all of Creation.

- You can put away your loudspeakers and impromptu missiles - not only will you never have to throw a tantrum or throw things to get the waiter's attention, you can dance with whomever you want, whenever you want, sometimes even without asking.

- And wow, they charge the same entrada for locals and tourists!

Sounds pretty great, doesn't it? Except I have a few questions -

- Who are those waiters? Does it mean that some people's idea of heaven consists of waiting tables in the Big Milonga in the Sky? You may still be able to find some folk who find endless pleasure in massaging feet - but taking orders and bussing tables?

- Are there people who really want to spend their time in Tango Heaven scouting for talent or applauding other people's "talent" on the dance floor? Wouldn't most people want to be "the talent" themselves?

- If there's a bunch of people who want to dance Nuevo Tango with other Nuevo Tango people, and another bunch of people who want to dance Villa Urquiza Tango with other Villa Urquiza Tango people, and a bunch of people who want to dance Milonguero style Tango with other Milonguero style Tango people, etc. etc., does that mean that there will be several different style-dedicated "Milongas" in the Big Beyond? Will there be power struggles between the different groups for Tango Heaven Supremacy? Which will emerge as the true and most "Authentic" and "Victorious" style in Heaven?

- If both locals and tourists pay the same entrada, who are the locals and who are the tourists? Do the tourists get recycled every million years or so? Or do they stay and try to renew their tourist visas?

Truly mind-boggling.*

*If you are curious, Man Yung and Irene's vision of Tango Heaven looks pretty much like the Buenos Aires on earth, warts and all. Just give them a table way at the back of the milonga where they won't be disturbed - and where they can have a beer, hold hands and collect material for incorporation into this blog - and they are all set.


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Alberto Dassieu

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