Well, it was nice to talk to Alberto and Paulina and to give them the presents we had been planning all year to give them. Man Yung gave Alberto some of his calligraphy and a Chinese seal carved with a dragon figure and the words “Recuerdo” in Chinese - Alberto liked these very much because I told him that the calligraphy was describing and dedicated to his tranquil way of dancing. We gave Paulina a scarf made of felt pieces in the form of tiny leaves in all different kinds of blue, all sewn together - scarves are great fashion accessories.
We didn't want to make our visit too long, as we didn't want Alberto to feel too tired - so it was time to go. Alberto had a lot scheduled for the afternoon - physiotherapy as well as classes.
Leaving Alberto and Paulina's apartment, we went through the big Abasto mall to get to the other side where all the touristy tango stores were - Man Yung wanted to check out the Artesanal shoe store. We found it pretty easily (except it was kind of hard to find our way out of Abasto - we went in a big circle because we can’t find the direct route) but Man Yung couldn’t find any shoes he wanted after just a quick look. There was a big orange long haired cat with amber eyes though dazing on the chairs - and Man Yung woke it up and started playing with it with a piece of string he is carrying with him everywhere just in case he encountered cats in Buenos Aires. Fluffy cats with dark yellow eyes ….. Yummy!
We took the taxi to Lacoste on Santa Fe, about two blocks from Callao and Santa Fe. Time to buy Man Yung’s favourite polo shirts. They were having a sale so there were quite a lot of fussy people rummaging for deals. Alas, the classic polo shirts were not on sale (that is because they are “the best” Lacoste products, according to the manager). The staff actually remembered us from last year and the year before - the manager whom we saw two years ago and who was on vacation when we went last year remembered us too. They brought us stacks of shirts with all the colors for us to choose from. Man Yung bought four with what I called “washed out” colours - light blue, white, mauve, and one blue one. I got a red one and blue one myself, I didn’t bring enough casual shirts this time.
We walked back to La Madeleine and had our lunch. I was still not feeling 100% in anything (I had a massive cold just before the trip - and the ordeal with Air Canada did not help any), so I have been really careful about what I eat. Man Yung had a creamy ham and chicken pasta (Parisienne) baked with cheese and I had empanadas. The empanadas were not as good as Santa Fe 1234 in that the meat was kind of like pate and there was a tomatoes sour sauce inside. And they were more burnt. But it’s food that I can eat that won’t make me sick… yet. We noticed in both Santa Fe 1234 and La Madeleine that now they have a strap on the back of the seats so that people can secure their handbags and shopping bags. It’s a good idea… and shows that things are not as safe as last year.
Back at the hotel and they’ve put us in the same lovely room as the one from our first visit, the one with the huge cavernous bathroom and waterfall faucets. Except when we came back it wasn’t all ready because a maid and Newman from Seinfeld were installing a new tv (awwww…. Just for us). We had to wait about 20 more minutes before we could go in and relax.
This past year we connected with a well-known, expatriate tango blogger on the internet - N. Originally we weren't going to stay at the Wilton - N claimed the folklore dancing landlady of these tourist apartments was her really good friend, and she could hook us up. Well, it turned out to be a bit of a fiasco. Before we confirmed our booking, we were told there was internet - but then a little later we were told there wasn't any. Annoying, but not a deal breaker. We were also promised our own apartment (the landlady owned several), but then suddenly things changed a couple of weeks prior to our departure. We were notified by N that we were going to have to live with the landlady in her own apartment on the ground floor. It smelled fishy so we asked N to tell us honestly what was going on. Turned out the landlady found some other tenants who were going to stay longer than we were, so she bumped us out of the apartment we wanted. Sneaky.
Hmmmmm...what other "surprises" would there be in store for us? Just as Roberto De Niro's character had said in "Ronin" - "If there is a doubt, there is no doubt." We just cancelled and looked for alternative accommodation. I think we incurred around $1,500.00 in extra costs making this arrangement on recommendation and encouragement of N: we booked our flight without booking accommodation on Expedia, so we lost on the few hundred dollars in savings we would have received if we booked the flight with Wilton together. Then, we were planning to stay 11 days, but we extended our stay by several days more to accommodate the rental period of N's landlady "friend". Lastly, because we had to cancel so close to our trip due to the dubious last minute switcheroo, we had to book Wilton separately at a higher price for more days than we planned. Frankly, we would rather pay more than to risk any more funny business from the shady landlady.
Despite the very inauspicious start, we gave N the benefit of the doubt and called her once we arrived in Buenos Aires to arrange to meet. We got her machine the first time, but now, when we called her again, we reached her. Her eye has an infection so she didn’t want to meet up just yet. She sounds much lower pitched than I thought she did from her photos, and she was surprised that I sounded much more British than I look, heh. We could not make plans with her until she felt better, so we promised to keep in touch over the next few days.
With all that eating and visiting Alberto and moving to the new (old) room there wasn’t much time to rest before having to go to Martha and Manolo’s milonga class at la Escuela's location at Talcuahano and Santa Fe.
We took a quick taxi trip there (taxis are much more easy to flag down this year than before, because people can’t afford taxis anymore, I guess). This Escuela location is in a practice studio for Valeria Lynch’s show (she was the female lead and singer in the movie Tango Bar with Raul Julia) - the walls were adorned with huge glitzy posters of her mega stage productions. The Escuela seemed like a complete afterthought - a couple of flyers on a table was all the evidence that there was of the Escuela. We sat down on one of the few couches/chairs in the "waiting area", blown about by the huge whirring standing fans that they had put up to beat the heat.
Some performance tango couple was teaching the class before M&M, and there were lots of students in that particular class, although they weren’t really teaching anything that was useful or practical on the dance floor (back ochos into front sacada - but what for?) M&M were late almost half an hour, I think some students left, and there were only two other students apart from us who attended the class - one a total beginner. We were worried about M&M because they are never late. But this time they were - because they had just finished teaching a Master Class (classes for tango professionals/teachers only!!!) that’s part of a “Master’s festival” (Everyone in Toronto should take these...hint hint) at the Rodriguez Pena location, and that ran late.
So all the better for us! Because we don’t really want to be working that hard on our vacation. We thought that we could take it easy - but we should have know better. M&M are very serious whenever they teach and now with few people in the class their eyes were always on us - no slacking off! We were soon practicing so hard that we were sweating again.
Martha and Manolo's class at Escuela Argentina de Tango - Martha and Manolo are doing a little demo with Manolo's signature corriditas. The background waterfall noise is actually the noise of all the big electric fans - there was a mini-hurricane in there!
Manolo was so kind to demonstrate the corriditas he and Martha were teaching with me so we could film it clearly and practice when we got home. The move is amazing...but what is really amazing is my hair! How did I make it so straight, being so tired and busy on our first day in Buenos Aires? I can't make it as straight and as glossy as in this video anymore!
We have been taking classes with M&M for three years now and still they have stuff to teach us that we don’t know yet.
After the class we walked (very slowly) together to Santa Fe 1234, which was close by. Last year M&M weren’t able to eat anything with us because they were on a no salt, no flavour diet. This year apparently everything was fine so they ordered pizzas with so much cheese that there was more cheese than bread. Manolo has had a pretty bad bout of bad health, and they didn't tell us because they didn't want to make us worry even though we were constantly emailing each other. Something was affecting the nerves in his face and head, but after medicine and acupuncture and Chinese medicine from Barrio Chino (Chinatown) he is feeling much better - just has to avoid eating stuff that is too cold or too hot. Heaping amounts of oily cheese was ok though. Martha had her beer, Man Yung had pizza and I had some empanadas - and we had a chat about lots of stuff. They are a lot less stressed this time because Martha’s daughter is no longer sick, and because Manolo is feeling better. He is 77 the end of March, so he is very very old - but still in good spirits and happy to be teaching and living his dream with the love of his life, Martha.
We talked about the Villa Urquiza “phenomenon” which had kind of exploded all over Tango. Now you were not considered authentic unless you were "Villa Urquiza". They don’t think much of this "phenomenon" at all - people are just making a name for themselves with self promotion, and tagging "Villa Urquiza" onto their resume for marketing purposes. As for famous “Villa Urquiza Fino” - well, yes, he is a great dancer, but he wasn't from Villa Urquiza - he was from Paternal. They concluded that the internet is full of lies.
M&M went home and we walked the four blocks back to the hotel to get ready for our rendezvous with Alberto at El Beso at 10 p.m. We had a little rest before we went - if we didn’t take as much opportunity as possible to rest on our trips to Bs As, we would be dead. We did way too much already for one day.
El Beso was super quiet. Only twenty couples. LOTS of space to dance, yippee! Osvaldo Natucci wasn’t the DJ that night, it was “the other guy”. The music was not thrilling, they only played one tanda of vals all night and that’s when we were walking in. Alberto and Paulina arrived a little later than we did, and they were hungry so they had empanadas and beer. Alberto wanted to check out our dancing - he was pleased and generally proud of us. Paulina said that we were very “harmonious”. But then they concluded our style of dancing was only good for "no pause" music of Troilo, D’Arienzo, Donato etc. (that’s because despite all Alberto’s pains to teach us we still dance “Canyengue” - hee!). He didn’t like us doing “traspie” to Di Sarli milongas and got up to show us how to dance it properly. He also demonstrated how to dance to Pugliese, his favourite. His friend Juan Esquivel from Milonguisimo sat next to him and they were talking about us. We could hardly recognize Juan because he is usually in a suit and looking like a “President” (we mentioned that when we saw him last year and Jorge Uzunian from the show said, yes, “like President Chavez”). Juan is a very long-winded person. He is friendly but once he gets started you get a lecture. Well, I did learn something - about the “three eras of tango music” and how Alberto’s interpretation of Pugliese was correct (well, much better than the other dancers there in any case). He agreed that Alberto is a very good teacher, I guess we are “living proof” of that (heh, except we dance in everybody elses’ style except his!)
We left a little past midnight, we knew Alberto and Paulina wanted to keep us company but then it was getting late for them. As they drove us home, I asked them who was the person that they mentioned that was sucking the attendance out of Tuesday’s El Beso? Alberto says that someone (a semi-reknowned tango personality) had a grudge and had been telling the women that El Beso Tuesdays has Milongueros who won’t ask the women to dance. So the women went away, and then the Milongueros followed.
So that was our busy Tuesday. The first day and we were just about everywhere, seeing everyone but N.
By the way if you read this email and you see me mention “malingers”, what I really mean is “MILONGUEROS”, but the spell check changes them all to “malingers”, which is really kind of a neat description, don’t you think?
Wednesday to follow. Reading this is probably taking more time than your full day’s work!