Sunday, March 15, 2009

MONDAY'S GRICEL - The controversy continues

The following is the recent comment from Deby regarding our GRICEL MONDAYS:
TangoSpam said...

I am truly sorry but you are speaking as an outsider, that is all I can say. The horrible table you are talking about? It is considered an honor in our "culture" to sit up front near the organizer. Sorry, but that is exactly where they want to sit. They could sit anywhere they want. They could tell Patricio and Adriana to reserve any table in Gricel and it would be done. I know that for a fact.

You just do not get it, and do not want to get and will not get it. Osvaldo and Coca sit where they want, and perform when and where they want.

As for DJs, the DJ at Gricel on Monday is not good. How you can compare him to Carlos Rey or Mario Orlando and say they are equal shows how much you know about music. Although Carlos Rey tends to play a little too loud at times, his music selection along with Mario Orlando's blows the DJs at Gricel off the face of the province. (They are DJs at Leonesa)

You make many generalizations, and while I realize they are your experience I beg you to please be careful.

Buenos Aires had inflation of 30% last year. Our prices continue to rise DRAMATICALLY. How can you say things are not that much more expensive? Last year the taxi meter started at 3.10 this year it is starting at 4.30. Food is 30% more. Clothing went up 110%. Maybe because you have "foreign money" it is no big deal to you.

I would like to know why you wrote about a milonga you absolutely hate and trashed. You trashed the organizers, the owner, the DJs, and everyone and everything. You were here for a reasonable amount of time. Why didn't you write something positive and nice about a milonga here?

I live here. I know what it is like here. It is not perfect. But I can tell you the worst thing to happen to our milongas is the foreigners who come here with a lack of respect.

March 15, 2009 12:43 PM

Our reply is as follows:

Dear Deby,

1. We were sitting with Osvaldo and Coca at their table. We were two of their birthday party guests, along with Martha Anton and Manolo "El Gallego".

2. Everyone at our table including Osvaldo and Coca themselves were complaining about the table. Osvaldo was wheezing and trying to breathe even while seated. He kept on fanning himself but can't get cool. Direct requests to Adriana and Patricio for a change of table from the party were completely ignored. Martha went to Hector Chidichimo to complain about whether this was the way that the organizers treat "a friend", and Chidichimo threw up his hands and said he can't do anything about it.

3. It was clearly expressed to us by Osvaldo and Coca, Martha and Manolo and the other birthday guests sitting at the table that a true table of honour would be next to the dance floor, in the middle section of the hall, and not in a dank dark corner with no air circulation right against the cloakroom and where people entering and exiting the milonga would be continuously disturbing people seated at the table.

4. We have sat with Osvaldo and Coca at tables in La Baldosa, Sunderland and Saraza and the tables that they were provided with in all of these milongas all occupied central positions adjacent to the dance floor. In none of these places were they ever seated next to the door or the organizers. And they certainly didn't complain about the table placement in any of these other milongas.

5. We heard Carlos Rey's music. Exactly the same (same selection, same order) Troilo Instrumental tango tandas, Troilo with Fiorentino milongas, Di Sarli with Rufino tango tandas, D'Arienzo vals tandas, and De Angelis instrumental tango tandas were played at Leonesa by Rey as in Monday's Gricel. There were many other points of similarity in the music selection. I always take notes. I don't know who DJ'd at Gricel on Monday - the music selection was not stella but certainly a "pass". The music at Gricel did not suck (if it did you can expect that I will step all over it) and sorry, but I don't think Carlos Rey blew Gricel's music “out of the province” - the music was too similar. I judge by the criteria for music arrangement provided to me by DJ Ruben Dario Lopez (the first DJ of Lo de Celia) and DJ Dany Borelli (current DJ of Lo de Celia). I'd love to have more ammunition but I'm not going to criticize something that doesn't need to be criticized.

6. Yes, prices have risen in Buenos Aires, but my comments serve as a counterbalance to the remarks by certain Torontonians who are returning from their trips and fear mongering and grossly exaggerating by saying that prices have gone up ONE HUNDRED PERCENT, or even THREE HUNDRED PERCENT from last year. There are even some Toronto tourists who are making themselves look like "insiders" by trashing everything about Buenos Aires to people who haven't experienced Buenos Aires first hand - if you are to believe what they say about rampant crime, abject poverty, galloping inflation, the horrible rude people and the absurd state of the milongas in Buenos Aires, who would want to travel to Buenos Aires? Should we join the bandwagon and write things that would discourage people from going to Buenos Aires? Should we boost ourselves as “experts” on the “dark underside of Buenos Aires” and write grossly untrue negative things that would have the effect of contributing to a drop in tourism to Buenos Aires? Does not a great part of the economy of the city depend on tourism? Do we want to hurt the economy of Buenos Aires recklessly in this way? Our tango teachers and friends depend on income from tourism, and we love them, we love Buenos Aires, we love the people who live in Buenos Aires – what a GREAT, WONDERFUL place it is. We think that it is worth it for people to travel to Buenos Aires to continue their tango education. Despite 30% inflation, it is still a great travel deal for tourists. We write from the perspective of a tourist for other tourists - you should all go, go, go to Buenos Aires, it is a beautiful place, and yes, it is still a great deal for your "foreign money" despite the inflation.

Our observations of the price increase (and we dug out our receipts from 2008 and 2009 just to verify):

TAXI: The taxi meter currently starts at 3.80 pesos and not 4.30 pesos as you have incorrectly reported. Our records from last year show that a taxi ride from Santa Fe and Callao to Leonesa was around 20 pesos – it was around the same or no more than 1 or 2 pesos more this year, depending on traffic conditions. Cost this year of a taxi ride from Santa Fe and Callao to Lanus Este (Gerli) to Osvaldo and Coca's house was 35 pesos, but to Sin Rumbo in Villa Urquiza from the same starting point was over 45 pesos.

CLOTHING AND SHOES: The same Lacoste polo shirt which was $65 USD last March is now $72 USD - not 110% increase as you report. Comme Il Fauts costing 300 - 350 pesos last year are now 380 - 420 pesos. Men's tango shoes from Artesanal were 260 pesos last March and this March – the same price. But if you buy two pairs with cash, you get a 10% discount.

FOOD – Empanadas con Carne: 2.80 pesos in March 2008, 3.80 pesos March 2009 at La Madeleine. Tallarines a la “Parisienne” at La Madeleine - 21 pesos in March 2008, 25 pesos in March 2009. The “cubierto” at La Madeleine is the same as last year – 5 or 6 pesos, depending whether you had a tablecloth on your table or not. “Servicio de Mesa” at Chiquilin was 5 pesos last year – and 5.5 pesos this year. Mineral water at Chiquilin – 5 pesos last year, 7 pesos this year.

HOTEL – Exactly the same rate at the same hotel, averaging $100 CAD per night. The cost of laundry per item at the hotel – we have copies of the order forms for 2008 and 2009 – exactly the same prices this year and last year.

AIRPORT TAXI: Airport Taxi from the airport to the city centre costing 78 pesos last March is now 98 pesos. However, the cost of the return taxi from the city centre to the airport (we called the same taxi driver as last year) is the same as last March - 78 pesos.

Deby, you live in Buenos Aires and you have to deal with inflation on many levels, we understand that it is much tougher for locals than tourists due to many different economic factors. But in terms of a tourist speaking to other tourists (honestly, I write in English so that's my audience) regarding the cost (to a tourist) of shelter, food, transportation and clothing, the bottom line is that Buenos Aires remains a great travel deal and no-one should be discouraged from traveling to Buenos Aires based on incorrect and self-serving reports from other Toronto (or foreign) tourists.

7. I have not even started writing about our trip. You can be assured I will be commenting on all the milongas we went to. As I said, we went to milongas every night. Gricel was the WORST milonga we went to, but we had a fabulous time at all of the following: El Beso, Sin Rumbo, Sunderland, Saraza, Viejo Correo, Lo de Celia, Glorias Argentinas, La Milonguita, and Club Fulgor de Villa Crespo. We didn't have a fabulous time at La Baldosa, Dandi or Leonesa (Monday and Friday), but I can tell you that in all of the places I named the people were wonderful, the organizers courteous and friendly. In addition, none of these milongas appeared to us to be UNSAFE. In fact, after our first experience of Gricel Mondays, we didn't want to EVER go back. It was only when Osvaldo and Coca personally invited us to go to Gricel on the following Monday for their birthday celebrations did we go again – we couldn't say no to Osvaldo and Coca's invitation. When we were at Gricel for Osvaldo's birthday party, we can honestly say that it was the first milonga in Buenos Aires that we have paid the 15 peso entrada and not danced a single song.

8. Contrary to your assertions, I haven't generalized - I write completely from our direct experience. Why should we be “careful” and sugarcoat things when we are writing the truth that we saw with our own eyes and heard with our own ears? Talking about respect for a place – respect comes from writing the truth, not fabrication based on fantasy, and not lies. We write it as it is – nothing more and nothing less. Gricel Mondays was a HELLHOLE and a FIRETRAP – and until Adriana and Patricio face up to this, the conditions at the milonga will not improve.

In this regard, Man Yung says he wants to add the following from the chinese writer Lu Xun (1881-1936), who once wrote (apologies for my rough translation):

If a ill person has a serious sickness that manifests with symptoms of bloating has a fear of going to the doctor to confirm the dire diagnosis, he will want to deceive himself by considering that he is not bloated, but has just gained weight. And as time passes, he will come to believe that he is not bloating, and is actually getting fatter. Even if he admits that he is suffering from bloating, he would want to believe that this is a special kind of bloating, not like the one that is the symptom of the serious illness. If someone dares to confront this ill person to tell him that he is not gaining weight, but actually bloated, and that the symptom is of a grave illness, then the ill person will feel disappointed and ashamed, which will manifest itself in anger towards the truthspeaker. The sick one will even try to intimidate and threaten the truthspeaker so that the truthspeaker will be put in fear. In fear of the violent reaction by the sick one, the truthspeaker will refrain from speaking the truth, and rather pretend to take a second look, only to confirm the sick one's self assessment of “gaining weight” than incur more anger. The sick one will feel reassured and will continue his merry and carefree way – still suffering from the bloating symptoms of sickness.


Anonymous said...

I won't comment on Gricel as I don't go regularly, but I'd like to make a comment about point number six. Prices HAVE gone up one hundred to three hundred percent for a lot of things since last year. It's not an exaggeration.

You have to live here to notice, maybe.

Irene and Man Yung said...

Dear Tina,

Then I would be very interested in specifics from you. Apart from the receipts I have from 2007, 2008 and 2009, I have also spoken to actual Argentinians living in Buenos Aires - ranging from our close friends as well as people we don't know well like taxi drivers, waiters and hotel staff - and no-one who lives in Buenos Aires that I've spoken to ever gives me a figure above 20% for inflation from year to year.


Joli said...

Gricel may have been a Hell Pit and Fire Trap this is your experience for sure. And your friends may not have been honoured in the manner that they should have. But the way the post was written, dragging their names and feelings into it, has really dishonoured them.

The way words travel around the internet and get mangled. It is your friends, Coco and Osvaldo that will end up dealing with the aftermath of what was written. After all they live here, not you.o

Anonymous said...

It varies from barrio to barrio. For example, I know that property tax in the barrio of Villa Urquiza went up 100%. This is 100% fact. I've also recently heard (this may or may not be true) that utilities will go up 300% in the next year.
A few years ago an empanada was just 70 centavos.
One week last year, I got a kilo of tomatos for 4 pesos, the next week it was 8 pesos.
Just some examples off the top of my head.

I know that tourists with dollars will still find this city to be a pretty good deal, and I hope they continue to come, but daily life here is subject to the weirdest inflation patterns, no matter how many taxi drivers you ask.

No, not all prices have gone up that much, but a lot of them have - at least for things that a tourist might never look at or spend money on.

I happen to live here myself and I'm not just imagining things, and I find it a little amusing -no, insulting, that you are disbelieving and asking me of all people for "specifics". What I can give you is what I have seen with my own eyes.

I may not be Argentinian, but I do live here and there cost of living expenses that you as a tourist will never see.

Irene and Man Yung said...

Dear Tina,

When I asked for specifics it was because I was interested in your viewpoint and not because I was questioning you - after all, you live there, not me - and I appreciate your information.

I'm sorry that you have to live with property tax hikes and grocery price increases etc., but yes, you live in Argentina and that's part of your everyday life.

In any case, as I have said in the post itself, I speak as a TOURIST to other TOURISTS, regarding costs that a tourist would be concerned with. Our experience is that although there has been price increases (for what tourists would spend their money on) they have not been prohibitively expensive price increases. Buenos Aires and Argentina, despite what people FROM TORONTO (and I've heard these comments with my own ears) have been saying to other dancers in Toronto, is still a good travel deal.

Thanks for your information about your experience on price increases as a resident of Buenos Aires, and your comment,

Irene and Man Yung

Irene and Man Yung said...

Dear Joli,

The mangling, dragging and dishonouring to our friends was already done - AT GRICEL. If you are talking about the "feelings" of the organizers and owners getting hurt - well, not only was Hector Chidichimo directly notified and confronted and the organizers confronted and questioned on the night in question about what was happening, several of the birthday party guests also submitted the "Recommendations and Comments" form kindly provided by the organizers regarding what they REALLY thought about how they were treated. It wasn't like the whole incident was hiding in a closet somewhere. Our post-aftermath blog post was old news.

Thanks for your comment,

Irene and Man Yung

Anonymous said...

Sure, that's definitely true, a visitor is going to have a much different experience with prices, and also as a tourist, one has the opportunity to do a lot of bargain shopping in advance as well.

Being down here over a year and thinking in pesos day to day causes me to forget that it really is a good travel deal for visitors. Which I agree, it still is.

Joli said...

hhmm...I think my point was lost on you.

It is crappy that the birthday celebrations did not turn out so well, due to poor management. That said, if you, who reads and writes in English, miss read my comment, imagine what is going to happen when some non-english reading person reads your entry using Google Translate. It just may not reflect back on to Coco and Osvaldo. It could end up being a big quilombo for them. I know you may not see it this way. But as a person with no emotional attachment to that particular event, I am going to see things from a different perspective than you.
I would imagine they (the Birthday Person) will handle it in their own, non public way. As they are the ones in the public eye, who have to live and work in this teeny tiny tango community called Buenos Aires.

I can tell you care for these people and they are dear to you, but at the same time if they knew what was being written, they (your friends) would be a little bit mortified at the same time.

Irene and Man Yung said...

Dear Joli,

We understand what you are saying - we just don't agree with you. It's not the first time that something like this has happened to Osvaldo and Coca at Gricel. We were there the previous Monday too and we saw quite clearly the crappy table that we refused to take ourselves (Man Yung gave "P" quite the evil eye and we got a better table elsewhere) but that they were seated at when they arrived after us - but we did not expect it to happen again on Osvaldo's birthday, of all days.

As for "mortification" - well, neither of us will subscribe to the principle that we should approach bullying situations like this by saying - "Hush! Let's not complain about the bad man kicking our friend to the curb - maybe the bad man will kick our friend a little less hard next time if we keep quiet?" As far as we can recall, complacency didn't work to benefit of any victimized person or group either in history, and doesn't work in real life either.

In any event, if Osvaldo and Coca were so "mortified" as you claim they would have stopped Martha from complaining to Hector Chidichimo, and they would have stopped their guests from submitting the "Recommendations and Comments" form to the organizers which clearly set out what everyone thought about the disgraceful treatment. "A" and "P" knew full well that everyone was hopping mad - they chose to ignore it. Whatever it was that is making them behave in this way towards O&C has been going on for a while. It would be interesting to hear their side of the story - that's why we think allowing comments is a great idea.

Thanks for your comment,

Irene and Man Yung

n a n c y said...

I don't understand why Osvaldo and company would return the second week if he had been so badly treated the first. I it the tango version of the battered wife syndrome or does he just like the drama?

Deby N. said...

"Recommendations and Comments" form at Gricel? You have got to be kidding? How much champagne did you drink that night...Do they have these in all the milongas? I must have missed them. In the 9 years I have been going to the milongas in Buenos Aires I have never seen them. Oh yeah, and in case you didn't know...complaining is a part of Porteño life..we love to complain. As Joli says I feel really sorry for the mess you have made for the people you have written about. You have no idea what you have created because you do not know the culture. You want people to come to Buenos Aires and instead of writing about the positive things that would bring them here, you trash it. I would tell you to stay in Toronto, but when I read your blog, you trash Toronto as well. You might want to think about why you are sooo un happy that you have to be so nasty. It is not your content, it is your delivery. Maybe you should consider another dance since tango and everything about it seems to really disappoint you and whether it is here or in Toronto none of seems to meet your extremely high expectations of how tango should be danced, how milongas should be given, and how DJs should present their music. I still don't understand why you couldn't write about a positive experience you had here...or is your life just one big negative when it comes to tango?

Irene and Man Yung said...

Dear Deby,

We thought that you would be able to come up with something better than the comment you just left - didn't you go to Gricel last night to your usual Monday night reserved table and talk to your buddies "A" and "P" about our outrageous post about Gricel? Yes, we actually do know about that, and it is unfortunate that you weren't present at the night to write shining compliments on the "Comments and Recommendations" forms that were handed out. Before you conclude that we were the only ones that were "high" that night - We have ten witnesses (all argentinian) who were handed the same form - we almost burst out in laughter at the irony of it all. We've been to milongas all around the world ourselves and had never encountered this and of all places they would start trying to solicit suggestions and comments! When we handed in the completed form we were even given orange ticket confirmation "numbers" by the man at the front cash.

By the way, last time we checked, it wasn't like your blog was the bastion of "positivity" about everything you encounter. Call the kettle black.

We're disappointed. We thought that you would be able to approach this topic objectively instead of resorting to personal attacks. Lu Xun was quite right in what he said - but personal attacks and intimidation ("the poor people we are messing up?" Please, the only thing we are messing up is GRICEL) won't work on us. It must be your own vested interest in Gricel (take people to that deathtrap much?) that is making you act this way. Well, if you are taking the gloves off we will too - just to make it fair.

Yes, you can certainly say we are considering another dance - because "Tango" as it is "allegedly" danced by all the big show-offs that come all over the world to congregate at "Gricel" is a disgrace - god forbid if we would like to dance like that!

Stay tuned for our posts on positive experiences - that have nothing at all to do with GRICEL! And since all these comments we're getting for this post are giving us so much inspiration, we are planning a series of further posts lamenting the state of affairs on GRICEL as the epicenter of obscenity in Tango - i.e. the dancing we observed, the behavior of the people therein, whether the Argentinian authorities will close the place down if someone complains about the safety violations etc. etc.

Best regards Deby,

Irene and Man Yung

Toronto Weather

Buenos Aires Weather