Thursday, March 26, 2009

Just in case you were looking....

... you can find the "Embrace" in Macau, here:

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And it looks like this:

The Ruins of St. Paul's, Macau

For those who are a little more proficient at Castellano, Googlemaps is confident that "Abrazo" is located here:

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There's even a rotating 360 degree street view, so you can be completely sure about what it would look like when you encounter it:

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Could it be mere coincidence that both "Embrace" and "Abrazo" are to be found in places associated with Saint Anthony, who is often "invoked for the recovery of lost things"?

There's a major thesis in here somewhere, if I could just find it...

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Forget about "Tango Police".... What about "Tango Blogger Police"?

I'm the guy who tells you there are
guys you hit and there are guys you
don't. That's not quite a guy you
can't hit, but it's almost a guy
you can't hit, so I'm fucking
ruling on it right now that you
don't hit him, understand? - MISTER FRENCH, "The Departed"

Oh, it's so sad. Because of our beligerent ignorant attitude towards "El Mundo de Tango Blogging", we spent the entire week as "Tango Blogger Pariahs" - we go to a milonga, and everybody ignores us! We tried to say hello, but everyone turned away! No one will dance with Man Yung despite all his pleas on bended knees! All the special people of the milonga, from the world famous teachers and tango hot-shots to the lowest of the lowliest beginner all shunning us! Even the organizers of our favourite milonga could do nothing now that we have incurred "The Wrath of El Mundo de Tango Blogging" - forget about being seated in the hall, how's about a cosy seat next to the urinals? For our "Tango Sins", we finally get our just deserts - a little taste of Medieval "Tango Excommunication", anyone?

While I'm sure there's many out there rubbing their hands in glee - sorry to bust your bubble, but what I just wrote was completely untrue. We went to the milonga, said hello to everyone we wanted to say hello to - even the VIPs, and although many must be so disappointed, our friends didn't stop being our friends - ignored people we wanted to ignore, and had a great time dancing together and with others to great music and catching up with everything that has been happening over the past few weeks in Toronto. So much for being evil, hated "nobodies", and "Oh, my gosh, how dare you!" critics of GRICEL!

This moniker has been thrown around lately, and it's got us scratching our heads. "Tango Police" - nice actually, because "El Mundo de Tango" kind of needs this kind of public service lately, like the fashion world usually benefits from those who would act as "Fashion Police". Without the efforts of the "Fashion Police", everyone would be wearing off-shoulder oversized t-shirts over tight neon spandex bicycle shorts to work, and white socks with sandals to swanky restaurants.

Unfortunately, we cannot claim to be ever important and necessary "Tango Police". If we were, we would be standing at the door of all the Toronto milongas with tasers, zapping everyone who was not dancing exactly the way we would want them to dance. Alas, we really don't care to moderate how anyone dances - whether they are dancing badly or well, traditional or nuevo (yes, we're fine with people dancing nuevo - shock and outrage!) - so long they are not recklessly colliding into everyone, gouging people with their stilettos and heels and creating a hazard on the "pista". Please, continue to do what you are doing if you are enjoying yourself, why not? Irene and Man Yung are not your "mamas".

However, what is disturbing to us is that some "devoted" readers (why, why, if you hate us so much, do you read this blog anyway?) of this very self-same blog have appointed themselves "Tango Blogger Police". According to these illustrious individuals, Irene and Man Yung are not permitted to write honestly about their own, personal experiences or their own personal opinions. According to the TBP, Irene and Man Yung should shut the fuck up, because 1) they live in Toronto, not Buenos Aires, 2) they're Chinese (as opposed to Japanese or Caucasian or from Argentina, because this seems to be some of the criteria for Tango relevancy) , and 3) they aren't teachers, tango professionals or tango performers, so they must suck at Tango, and anyone that suck at Tango must defer to the opinions of those who either live in Buenos Aires, teach, perform or do anything to do with Tango professionally.

Who are you to tell us what to write, and to intimidate us by telling us to "be careful" or not to speak because we're supposedly "outsiders" etc.? Instead of contesting us fact by fact and making lucid, rational arguments to counter us, we get a whole crapload of insulting generalizations about us as the basis of why we should self-censor. Make all the rulings you like about the "guys" we can "hit" and the "guys" we "can't". Tango Blogger Police indeed - How about Tango Blogger "Mafia"?

One nice positive thing about being "Tango Blogger Pariahs" is that without having to spend a single cent or going through intensive interview and candidate selection processes, you can get other tango bloggers to be the clearing house of negative comments about you! If you don't believe us, go check out the blog of "Ms Tango in Her Eyes" - instead of commenting directly to us, you can log onto her blog anyday, lots of people are writing to her about us right now! From now on, all anonymous comments and all negative comments about our posts can be directed c/o of her. Awwww, thanks for all the free publicity and for providing a nice safe forum for people to criticize us and vent, you don't know how much we appreciate it!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Canyengue on Thursday with Martha and Manolo

Apart from their regular and master classes in Milonga, Tango Salon and Canyengue at the Escuela Argentina de Tango, Martha and Manolo are also teaching Canyengue every Thursday night in Almagro in La Salsera. In addition, it looks like they are having a Canyengue Milonga on April 25!:

Martha told me that at their first ever Canyengue Milonga at La Salsera was well attended with over 100 participants.

Beelzebub's Bodacious Backyard - MONDAY'S GRICEL! (The comments fall fast and furious)

More comments from Deby - and our reply:

Blogger TangoSpam 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?

March 17, 2009 8:35 AM
Blogger 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

March 17, 2009 9:23 AM

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.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Back in Toronto


Yes, we are finally back in Toronto after our third trip to Buenos Aires. And no, despite any fears other people may have after reading on other blogs about "travel experiences in Buenos Aires" - we were not robbed (or targets of attempted robbing), nor were we ripped off in any way, and we've always had excellent experiences with waiters and waitresses, taxi drivers, hotel staff, store personnel, etc. etc. Neither were we close to either being run over in the street or in a car accident despite all the seemingly "crazy traffic" - drivers in Buenos Aires must be the most skilled drivers in the road, they can maneuver in what would be regarded as "impossible" situations here in Toronto!

In all, apart from even more friendly people (and I suspect that's because my Spanish has improved) and a slight increase in prices, Buenos Aires has been exactly the same beautiful place on our third trip as it has been on our first and second trips.

Buenos Aires is exactly like any large city in the world - you need to have your common sense to stay safe in any city. Of course you have to be continuously alert and be careful when you are crossing the street, but the city is not dangerous so long you stay out of obviously dangerous places and you keep an eye on your personal belongings at all times. In fact, Man Yung says he feels safer walking around in most downtown places in Buenos Aires at night than he does walking around downtown Toronto at night. There's poverty in Buenos Aires and lots of people rummaging through garbage for recyclables, but there's poverty in Toronto too. However, unlike Buenos Aires, here in Toronto you never know when people will start pulling out guns and shooting willy-nilly in a street filled with innocent bystanders.

Still, we would rather live in Toronto than anywhere in the world - this is where we've made our home. The only thing we have to say that we really don't like and would not miss about Toronto is... Toronto Tango.

It's not that Toronto has bad dancers - Buenos Aires has its share of bad local dancers too. And it's not that Buenos Aires has better dancers (although it's true that Buenos Aires has lots of better dancers - it's not the mecca of Tango for nothing) - there are plenty of dancers in Toronto that have taken heaps of private classes with "world-reknowned instructors" and has loads of "skill" to show for it.

What the difference is for us is that in Buenos Aires, even a lot of the bad dancers are dancing. The leaders may be doing only one figure, or two figures the whole night, and they may not be able to lead anyone else but their regular partners, or perhaps they are dancing nothing but verduras (vegetables) or even kicking their partner's feet and knocking into their partner's knees - but at least they are dancing.

Here in Toronto, most of the people on the dance floor are performing, not dancing. Instead of enjoying the experience of dancing with their partner, their eyes roam the edges of the dance floor, scanning for information on who's looking at them, who they want to be looking at them, and then turning inwards to their overriding concern - what they want to look like to attract the most attention. They are tied up in knots about how cool they should be looking, doing all the steps that they have paid good money for and should therefore regurgitate, and what "style" they should be conforming to to be "authentic". And what for? For recognition, for self-esteem, to impress potential customers/students/tango associates - for a piece of that truly tasteless and minuscule pie called "Toronto Tango"? So-called "dancers", teachers, DJs or would-be DJs, organizers, "tango professionals" etc. all fighting tooth and nail over that same tiny piece of nothing.

I always joke with my tango friends about about having these really short lists of leaders I want to dance with in Toronto. Last time I checked I was down to three, and I wasn't really happy with that. I've decided enough is enough. I refuse to be involved in a tango that has nothing to do with "dancing". Let me take this opportunity to just send this short message out to Toronto Tango - if you are not Man Yung, please just don't bother about asking me to dance. Don't waste your time, because I will say no. The dances I get seem to be all about leaders checking how well they are "dancing" after they've been to Buenos Aires/Taken hours of private classes/Taken hours of private classes in Buenos Aires, or leaders checking how well I'm dancing (especially since I have just returned to Buenos Aires). I may be dancing well, or mediocre, or maybe my dancing is the worst thing in the world of dance since the "Chicken Dance" was invented, but it is none of anybody's business.

Every time we are in Buenos Aires so much happen it takes forever to get the reports ready for the blog. This time we had about two free waking hours between the time we woke up on our first day in Buenos Aires and our meeting with Alberto Dassieu at his house at noon - and we've not had a single free afternoon, evening, or night since (mornings we are passed out in the hotel so there's really nothing we can say about that). We have been rushing about town seeing people, attending the festival Camicando, being sick (I even went to Hospital Aleman's emergency room) - and writing all of this down. I'm still working on getting Buenos Aires 2008 in shape - hopefully by the end of April I'll have something up, followed by Buenos Aires 2009.

So for now, it's just a promise I will get the reports ready... soon. One last thing before I go - as many may have realized, I have this big "thing" about "standardized Villa Urquiza/Campeonato/Tango Salon style" and I rant a lot about it. Well, from what I've seen in Buenos Aires this year, it is starting to be "out" in all senses of the word. Sure, people are still teaching it and people are taking the classes, but as a style to be danced in the milongas - no way. It is contrary to navigational principles in a crowded Buenos Aires milonga to adhere to the "12-point Tango Salon competition" requirements of straight back, protruding butt, "long elegant walks", "fancy giros" and the like - you just can't do it. Of all the places we went, we saw only one young couple doing this at Sin Rumbo, and another couple at Viejo Correo, and perhaps Dante Sanchez and his partner at La Baldosa - and that was it, and we were out at a milonga every night. The truth of the matter is that if you are going to dance like this in a crowded milonga, you are in other people's way and you will be shoved. The locals were practically laughing at the serious and sour "Standardized Villa Urquiza - don't disturb me I'm channeling the spirit of Tango Salon!" faces of the two dancers at Sin Rumbo. All this elegant posturing may catch people's attention for a while, but once it becomes more about conforming to a style than really dancing and expressing the music (in this case, in the context of a crowded Buenos Aires milonga) - people lose interest very quickly.

So, tango evolves. Here's to another year of tango in Toronto - hopefully with more dancing and less "performing", more good music and less people claiming to be "the best DJs in Toronto" (whatever that means in this little pond of mediocrity), better navigation and more courtesy on the dance floor. And as always, more tangos with Man Yung (and more with Irene) -

Friday, March 13, 2009

If there's ever a milonga to be found in HELL... it would be brought to you, lovingly, by Monday's GRICEL

Thank you to Cherie, Debbie and Janis for your comments on my previous post. We always appreciate comments on our posts. We can never be certain whether our perspective is right or wrong - we can only be certain that what we write is coming from our own experience - so we welcome different perspectives on the same issue.

Our previous post on GRICEL (Mondays ONLY - we have heard that GRICEL on other nights are wonderful) was based on experiences over two Mondays. These are our observations of the venue, the people and the atmosphere in general:

1. The music at GRICEL Mondays is neither better nor worse than the other places we have been with a lot of tourists, i.e. Centro Region Leonesa (any night), El Beso (any night), La Baldosa. The sound system is better than Leonesa, but worse than El Beso.

2. Some of the waitstaff work at the other venues. We saw one waitress from GRICEL at Lo de Celia on another night. They are professional and courteous, and they do their best under the very difficult circumstances where there are lots of people and lots of people not speaking Spanish.

3. Air circulation in GRICEL is poor. There's only one visible air conditioning machine by the entrance, and the air in any of the areas outside the five metre range of the air con gets stuffy and hot. Condensation from the system drips down at odd places, disturbing some of the patrons. Contrast GRICEL with a modest milonga like FULGOR DE VILLA CRESPO - FULGOR has about 1/3 of the space but two air conditioners of the same size as GRICEL, and the air inside the venue is always fresh and cool.

4. GRICEL Mondays is crowded. The floor is a disaster zone - the crowded conditions and the almost universal disregard for navigation make it the place with the most bumping per square inch we have encountered in Buenos Aires (we qualify this by saying that we have not been to LA VIRUTA, PORTENO y BAILARIN, or PLAZA BOHEMIA this time). In fact, the crowded conditions and the poor quality of many of the dancers aggravate the bumping, in that people get caught in the milonga version of "road rage" - pushing and shoving past one another with no sense of respect or decorum. It only takes one or two pairs of crazies to ruin a whole dance floor - and here there's way more than one or two.

5. But what is really disturbing to us is the way that the organizers let more and more people in without any concern about overcrowding or blockage of exits in case of emergency. It was so bad last Monday that literally people had to crawl over the tables and chairs to get inside the milonga - the density of the placement of the tables and chairs near the entrance was such that people couldn't really pull their chairs out to sit down or get up even if they were at a table. Some tourists were observed complaining very loudly about having paid the entrada - but were not provided any table at all, because none were available. They were told to stand in the spaces between the tables until a table became available. You can imagine this - a literal wall of tables and chairs tangled against the entrance, crowds standing in the aisles - the place was a death trap. Yet the organizers still let the people stream in. If there was any kind of emergency and a stampede for the door - I can guarantee you that people would be crushed to death.

6. I don't know how it is with fire regulations in Argentina, but in Canada and in Hong Kong, if this kind of overcrowding occurs, both the organizers of the event and the owner of the venue will be held legally liable for anything that happens. For the organizer to have full knowledge but stand back and let the organizer pack the place like a tin of sardines for the sake of getting more revenue without regard for health and safety issues - this would be untenable. I can't imagine that the owner would be able to abscond responsibility if tragedy occurs by saying "I just rent the place out, I have no control over what the organizers do" - especially when he was there observing the conditions as they occured. Maybe I'm too sensitive and this is ok in Argentina. Even after the Cromagnon disaster a few years back in which almost two hundred died, and hundreds more were injured.

7. I heard that Osvaldo Cartery is called the "Padrino" of GRICEL Monday nights. I don't know exactly what that means, but I would say that would usually connote kind of a link between his patronage and the success of the place in drawing customers, etc. In any case, he is a well-known and well-loved dancer and there is a mutually beneficial reason for him and the milonga to be associated - people would come to the milonga because he is there, and he can come to the milonga to be seen and drum up business. I would also think that due to this association, he should be shown some kind of respect at the place. It is not like he and his friends are showing up without paying the entrada - as far as I know, the thirteen people sitting at his table that he personally brought to GRICEL for his birthday party (and not counting all the other people not sitting at his table who may have shown up out of respect for him on his birthday) all paid the entrada of 15 pesos each. They were not freeloading. So why was he placed at the worse table in the room - pushed right up against the cloak room in a spot with no lights, no air circulation, and forming part of the wall of tables against the entrance where people were trying to get in and out of the milonga? His friends had made reservations for a table the day before the milonga. By contrast, a set of tourists arriving later than Osvaldo and with no reservation were placed at a table directly adjacent to the dance floor right in the middle of the room.

8. The organizers - they were a piece of work. Not only were they surly and sullen and completely unaccommodating to Osvaldo's party (and rude and pushy to people paying to get in - well, at least this can be considered to be "equal treatment), they would instantly change their expressions and be "all smiles" for the photo op. And how nice they seemed when they were announcing the Osvaldo's performance and the "birthday dance". I can't believe that there could be anyone in the Buenos Aires milongas who didn't know that Osvaldo was close to death last year with severe illness - and that he was in and out of hospital for the entire year. He is just getting back on his feet, and even one tango is very tough for him. So why would they continue to play the valses for the birthday dance again and again? Osvaldo had just finished performing a tango with Coca which was hard enough on his health. The organizers were not going to stop with letting the heavy ladies dance with Osvaldo .... until Coca went out on the dance floor to stop it. Osvaldo was wheezing and gasping for breath. You can say Osvaldo can't be forced to do what he doesn't want to do - but have you ever been put in a position of peer pressure or public pressure? Osvaldo and Coca are two of the sweetest, most accommodating (grandparents! for god's sake!) people in tango, universally beloved - do you think that they are going to just walk off the dance floor in like a bunch of divas? It would be difficult for even the most sophisticated person to say no to peer pressure/public pressure like that, let alone truly lovely people like Osvaldo and Coca. Continuous birthday valses + sticking Osvaldo in a corner with no air circulation = Are you trying to kill him? I'm half Osvaldo's age and in much better shape but GRICEL Mondays gave me a headache and a sore throat that I have still not been able to get rid of.

Monday, March 9, 2009


Looks nice doesn't it? Don't be fooled - this photo has been staged.
There's no actual space between the bodies on the dance floor in Gricel Monday Nights!

All you rude jerk-offs, bumper-car drivers, face-dancers, fakers, milonga exhibitionists, fancy high kick figure devotees etc. etc. out there - I highly recommend that you run, not walk, to attend GRICEL Monday nights. It will be a haven for you, because the organizers V. H. Patricio and Adriana Febbroni (Patty and Addy) are just the hosts for you - they will even give you the best table in the house! They love seeing their patrons gouge each other on the dance floor - "La Pista" is exactly like a bullfighting ring, complete with loads of Bull Caca a la mode!

As for real dancers like Osvaldo and Coca Cartery, "Patty" and "Addy" likes to stick them and all their friends in a most stuffy, airless, dark, dank hole in the corner behind all the pillars and in the way of all the people trying to stuff themselves into the milonga from the outside. There are no "real" tables for "real" dancers - only teeny tiny spaces barely one level above the commode.

Yet, they still make Osvaldo and Coca perform for the masses on this very important date - it is, after all, Osvaldo's birthday (if it wasn't they probably wouldn't be seating him at a table, but some place right in the loo) - and flock to his side when the photos are being taken for the obiquitous tango "revistas". Knowing full well that Osvaldo has been gravely sick with respiratory problems for a whole year, and still not yet 100% recovered, "Patty" and "Addy" force him to dance a "birthday" vals with all the heavy stiff chicas and then play another vals so that he will continue to dance, dance, dance - in the hope that so that he will die on the dance floor like a glorious matador of days gone by. Maybe that will be just the publicity needed to make even more people flock to the milonga, so instead of having one in five people complaining that they have paid the entrada and have no place to sit, the odds will be one in three, or perhaps one in two!

But I'm being too mean. What "Patty" and "Addy" really want is for all the old, good dancers to die off - they just occupy space in their milonga and they are too fragile and slow anyway. In the place of one milonguero, they can stuff say, AT LEAST FIFTEEN MORE American/European/Asian tourists used to dancing "contortionist" style in the milongas - you know, the way that they can stuff twenty clowns into a Playschool car at the circus? Boy, those foreigners are much tougher and they pay good and drink lots, they'll the ones you want in the milonga, not "real dancers" who need space and good music to actually dance tango! Running a Milonga is rough business, you know - there may be enough bodies in the room to make your milonga into a firetrap, but that doesn't mean you can break even, especially with the money that you are throwing away on your fake glow in the dark tans and plastic surgery. "Patty" and "Addy", after all, have to make sure they are extremely pretty in their ads and in their publicity photos - would you attend the milonga of an ugly person? Please.

I heard that the owner of Club Gricel is Hector Chidichimo (or is it Chimichurri?) Does he actually encourage this kind of thing from "Patty" and "Addy"? Does he get paid a premium per person over the fire hazard limit? God knows. I just know that he can stand by (he was present, seated two tables away) while Osvaldo is treated in this obnoxious manner and throw his hands up and say he can't do anything about it. Talk about respect from one dancer to another - El Senor Chimichurri certainly has LOADS of NONE. Applause all around.

Rumor has it that Hector's son, Chimichurri JR. has been invited by someone in Toronto to come to Toronto to teach MILONGA TRASPIE, or something that looks like MILONGA TRASPIE but bears no relation to the music (judging from the "astounding" performances that I've seen on Youtube). Man Yung and I are foaming at the mouth for his arrival. If this darling Chimichurri JR. has within his genetic makeup any of this "odor de GRICEL" from what I can tell from this fiasco, Man Yung and I will certainly bring a little "Air de GRICEL" welcome for him! Lucky duck!

Monday, March 2, 2009

Listen to these women...

...if you want to learn how to really tango:

Billie Holiday - "My Man"

Edith Piaf "Padam Padam"

周璇 - 天涯歌女 Zhou Xuan - The Wandering Songstress 1937

Bai Guang "Ten Sighs" 白光 - "嘆十聲"

When each of these women sing, they sing who they are, they copy no-one. If "who they are" happens to be a little squeaky sounding, a little gravelly, somewhat unconventional, weird, rough, even quite ugly - that's fine too. By not trying to be "Swans", they are much more lovely, beautiful, unique - and magnificent.

If we as followers can feel secure enough to dance the way that these women sing (and by this, I do not mean that one should "imitate" any style - what we should learn to to be secure enough to live in our own uniqueness, and dance from our hearts), we would all dance better.

Listening to Celine Dion may not have exactly the same effect.

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