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.