Monday night was not a late late night, nor was it early. We were back at the hotel by 3:00 a.m., sleeping by 4 a.m. But this didn’t stop me from waking up like there was an alarm clock in my head at 7:00 a.m. - to transfer all the videos into Mp4 format for the iPad.
How I could be on such a weird sleep cycle all through the trip I don’t know. I’m getting snatches of sleep here and there, never in one solid block. At 10:30 a.m., we officially got up. We decided against breakfast so that we could eat more during Alberto’s lunch - so we were out by 11 a.m. to run errands before our noon hour appointment.
First stop was to cross the road to Ligier’s. Carrefour had run out of the the wine in boxes (we must have grabbed all of them - only the naked bottles were left) and well, for Alberto you have to dress up a little. There are always handsome young men at Ligier, but never the same one for some reason - and one came over to help us two steps into the door. “I would like some Malbec, around $30. A present for a friend.” I said. Of course he takes me to one that costs $36. As I was looking at the choice he made, he tried to get my attention to the other rack, with ones that were $42. I smiled at his attempt to break my budget and said, “No, this is enough.” We bought two bottles of whatever it was at $36 each. All Malbecs you can get in Argentina are good.
You’ve got to pay first at the bullet proof glass encased cashier before you can get your wine, which was tightly gift wrapped and squeezed into a paper bag with a handle. I just appreciate the wrapping, it doesn’t have to come with flourishes and bows and origami dragons - but five years ago, I believe that the packaging was fancier, and the wine cheaper!
Next was the flowers from the flower stall. No, Nicolas wasn’t there. Antonio, his partner was attending the store. Now, Nicolas had said $60 for a dozen. Antonio, on the other hand, was satisfied with $40. Was it fluctuating market prices or a scam? Anyway, at least the flower quality at this store was better than the one outside the Lazaro Costa, the “gravesite sale office”. We told Antonio to wrap a whole bunch of red roses with the baby’s breath - a present for a lady friend. He didn’t just give us two, he gave us loads of baby’s breath. Hey Nicolas? And then, Antonio mumbled something about wrapping it up - and then disappeared to the back. I mean really disappeared. When we went to the back, it was like a magic trick because there was no possible place that Antonio could have gone to!
As we stared jaws agape, astounded at the horror of the Bermuda Triangle at Santa Fe and Callao, the long-faced gentleman at the kiosk smiled at us and said “He went downstairs.” So, he went downstairs...how, I have no idea. But then how the flower store people appeared out of thin air whenever we stepped near the stall and showed some interest in purchasing flowers, we have not yet been able to explain. So we waited. Man Yung got me to stand closer to the wall because there was a mad rush of people where I was blocking the way. But that was in the sun. I kind of wilted, I can’t stand even 30 seconds in the sun without wilting. “Then step over into the shade over there!” said Man Yung. It was a little hot in the sun, cold in the shade. Must have been five minutes. I wandered back to the spot where Antonio had disappeared. Where could he be? Back and forth. The kiosk owner gave a sign of a “T” and said, just a moment more. Argentinians know “T” means “Time Out”. Interesting. Pacing again. Must have been like two hours. I was about to propose to leave. And then Antonio appeared - out of nowhere again - with a huge rose explosion in silver paper with greenery, ribbons and fireworks. Wow! Thanks man! Wait forgiven, he really spent all that time making the arrangement as splendiforossismo! as possible!
We get into the taxi looking like a couple of goofs with all the crap we were carrying - our electric kettle (we always store it with Alberto and Paulina when we leave Buenos Aires), the wine, the farcical roses. The taxi driver may or may not have decided (based on the goofiness) that we were chinese tourists rather than chinese mafia. He kept on driving up and up and up the road, until even Man Yung thought, hey, did he overshoot the street? Yes, he did overshoot by about a block. No, we were weren’t going to get out and walk, it was ok for him to circle back. Like we were going to walk with all that stuff, right? Oh well, all the streets were one way going the wrong direction, we made a huge circle. At least we made it to the door.
We rang. Buzz. Alberto’s voice. Paulina’s coming down. We wait. Paulina is down. She sees the roses. She loves the roses but she feels that we shouldn’t have. I say, they aren’t for you, they are for Alberto! We hug and kiss. We give her the roses (who were we kidding). We go up together.
Paulina goes and finds a blue translucent cylindrical water jug with handle and reenters with the whole bouquet with wrap in them, just sticking out there. It looks unstable. She puts it on top of the piano and it still doesn’t fall over. A miracle. Alberto keeps on talking about something a little bird told him. What? A little night bird. Do you understand what a night bird is? What? Ha ha ha ha! (Repeat several times). A night bird told me that you went to El Beso after we dropped you off at the hotel after dinner on Sunday! Who was it? A friend. What did he look like? He was just a friend. Was he the same person we almost got into a fight with? Ha ha hahahaha! No, he wasn’t. Then did he see us getting into the argument? No, I don’t think he did. And then I explained to Alberto about the elbow dancer, while Paulina was getting the table set and ready for lunch.
They brought out black olives, bread and guacamole. Alberto poured out the wine, the “agua con gas”. “Salud!” said Alberto and we clinked our glasses together.
While we ate we talked about where we went. “Did you go anywhere to dance?” I asked Paulina. “You must have been very busy with work since you came back.” [Alberto and Paulina returned to Buenos Aires from their North America tour just days before we arrived] Paulina nodded. “We went to El Beso on Thursday, and Maipu 444 on Sunday."
“As for us, we went to Pinar de Rocha on Sunday night,” I said. Alberto makes a disapproving face. “How was it?” asks Paulina. “It was ok, but the terrible thing was it is impossible to get a remise to return to the city from the milonga!” Alberto laughs. “You can ask me for my opinion before you go to any strange milonga,” Alberto starts to say, but I reply as I did before, “We were invited by the DJ Julio Cordi.”
I like to tell spicy stories. “We had to go through Fuerte Apache to get there - the taxi driver asked for directions and was told to go right through WITHOUT STOPPING,” I said. More laughing from Alberto (I tell it funny). I ask Paulina, whether there was another slum in the city and how that compared to Fuerte Apache. “There is also Villa 31 in Retiro,” she said. “How does that compare with Fuerte Apache? Better, or worse?” Alberto and Paulina agreed that Villa 31 was “better”, in a sense. “There is a better organized community in Villa 31. The people want to work and want to have better lives for their kids.” Fuerte Apache, by comparison, was wild west with cowboys and indians. “It is an interesting social phenomenon, the youth taking the streets by night and being lawless and reckless.” Sounds really horrible, glad we didn’t encounter any of that.
Change the topic. Alberto brings out his “invention” - the Chicken with Vegetables. It’s in a big blue marine styled plate. “This plate is originally for fishes,” Paulina said. It’s chunks of chicken with the bone in eggplant, string beans, pickled peppers. Alberto serves me first, and then the others. The chicken is moist, the vegetable broth is tasty and the vegetables agreeable. I have two helpings.
Lunch at Alberto and Paulina's house - Alberto's famous "Chicken with Vegetables"
My glass of wine is still half full. Man Yung gets some more wine, but after helping them clear up, they bring out the dessert. Ice cream (Alberto presents with a flourish) and a big pile of strawberries.
Time to leave. Paulina suggested that we can have the experience of taking the bus with her as she went to work. We said no, we can take a taxi to her work first. OK, that would be more comfortable, said Paulina. We said our goodbyes to Alberto.
We went to the corner with Paulina. We got on a taxi - which promptly took us down Santa Fe. I wish we had time to walk down longer stretches of it, but who has time? Took us down, down, down.... right past the hotel, turning the corner on Rodriguez Pena. What? Paulina’s office was right on the corner. You couldn’t tell until you look up at the banner that it was one of the university buildings. We decided that we could walk to the hotel from there. We disembarked. Paulina asks, “Would you like to see my office?” I didn’t really mind but Man Yung had to decide whether Paulina was just saying that or whether she really wanted us to see her office. No, she really wanted us to see her office.
College kids she recognized were seated on the steps - it was a corridor to a very nondescript office building. There were security guards behind the metal grill. She said hello and we followed her. I wonder if the guards thought it was weird that we were tagging along. In the elevator, I said, “There goes the professora with the chinese mafia!” I think we went to the second floor. It opens into a space with nothing but yellow in it. It’s Kafkaesque. Her office is to one side. In it is a desk with a long faced blond secretary. Another door opens from that room to her office proper. It is very neat. And at least three times bigger than all the other professor’s offices I’ve been in. No clutter. Books on shelves, all vertical and none double-stacked. She grabbed a large photo of her wearing lilac with Alberto standing over a square lilac cake from behind her computer monitor. “Wedding?” I ask. “No,” she smiled and shrugged, “Only a birthday.”
We hugged goodbye and left down the stairs. Only one flight. It was time to prepare for our visit to Osvaldo and Coca. We walked to the supermarket and got: 2 yellow melons (again), one pineapple (I think it’s funny, don’t you?) 2 mangoes (because they hadn’t tried it before, hope they don’t break out in a rash), Halloween candy with packaging that promised a “surprise” (I hope it isn’t razor blades), two boxes of “Kinder Surprise”. We asked one guy where the pet food was. He pointed that-away. We went all the way over there and it wasn’t there. Asked another guy. He pointed back where we came from. I told Man Yung I knew it was the other way, it was logical because that was were the detergent and other non-food stuff was. Man Yung said he thought I was right. It was there as I thought, but no dog toys. We bought a pack of stick shaped colourful doggie snacks. I hope they aren't poisonous. We were back in the hotel by 2:50 p.m. - we made good time.
We went out at 4:00 p.m. Our taxi driver had a big shaggy head of hair - not huge but shaggy enough for me to think - “good guy, or scammy bum?” Actually it was a good guy. His meter was an old one. No he didn’t need to call HQ about prices, he just went. Traffic wasn’t too bad on the 9 de Julio, we were surprised. Highway vendors were out in full force. While waiting at one of the traffic lights, the driver next to us on the left beeped softly. Our driver thought it was him - no, it was for one of the vendors selling ice cream. “Do you want ice cream too?” we asked our driver. No, he didn’t, he smiled.
There were vendors selling bunches of jasmines too. Kind of regretting we didn’t get any for Coca this time. Man Yung said that if the next one that comes over is selling jasmines we’ll get like five bunches - four for Coca and one for the driver. But this didn’t happen, and we were already nearly to the end of the stretch.
Avellaneda. This driver took the route on the right instead of the left. I knew we were in for a lot of traffic and a bit of a roundabout - but I’d rather the driver find his own way than to confuse him with half ignorant directions. Sure enough, it’s congested. We were behind some pretty big trucks too.
Crawl....crawl...crawl. We got to see some of Avelleneda/Lanus. People going into heart specialist’s office. A football school that’s in a building with no sign of a field around. Schools. A series of big posters for a Magician’s show in some theatre, the magician looking like the serial killer Robert Pickton. We crawled by this one, taped all over the bridge underpass support walls. A girl on a bicycle with loose hair and flimsy cotton shorts? Summer dress? A tall victorian looking factory with soot and grime all over it, but a sculptural plaque of some workers. “What are they doing?” I ask. The driver told me they were glass works.
After a while, I suggest something. “I think we have to cross a bridge to the other side to Lanus....” Did I remind the driver? Anyway, shortly after we turned into the side street to look for a way to cross the road. I’m thinking, it’s impossible - I thought I saw no bridges, no traffic lights, just a concrete barrier. The first attempt was not successful and we had to turn back U-Turn style. One way street, one way street, one way street - ah, we could try again. This time we got it - Puente Gerli was the bridge we were looking for. The girl on the bicycle in front of us. We made some like of joke with the driver, like we could follow the girl or ask her directions or something. And from the bridge it was a very very short route to Osvaldo’s house. We were arriving from the “other” direction again, not the park. “That’s where my mechanic lives,” said our driver. “Do you visit him often?” “Yes, and we drink mate!”
The meter was like 70+ pesos but the driver says we have to add a surcharge of what, ten more? We gave him something like $85, and asked him if it was enough. He seemed happy, and said yeah, it’s something with a little tip! So they were charging a bit more to get into Lanus, more than the meter - but not quite as much as $100. Next time it will be $100 for sure with inflation.
I pressed the bell. Fat Huey [Huey was the name of a Labrador Retriever we once knew - he was a guide dog - now all Labs are "Hueys" to us] was already at the gate. I look at his eyes in that short fur on his face through the grill. He seemed keen to see us. Standing there, I had a delusion that Fat Huey would open the gate...but no, Coca did. While we hugged her, she was trying to stop Fat Huey from dashing madly out. Man Yung told me to give her the dog treats. She couldn’t open the package though and Fat Huey was jumping around all excited. Man Yung helped her open it and we gave one to Fat Huey. It kind of vaporized once Fat Huey got to it. Then Coca gave him another, and it rolled onto the floor, and Fat Huey went after it. “Not too many at once!” I said. What I really meant was: Don’t poison the dog (so quickly)!
Sometimes I wonder if Osvaldo and Coca ever get tired of seeing us. It was like visiting grandparents - they’re happy to see you, but that doesn’t make them less sleepy or less grumpy or less inclined to stick to their normal home schedules, because that’s just the way they are. We started taking the stuff from our bag - the fruit, the halloween candy. We gave the candy to Coca for her distribution to her grandkids. She wanted to open the halloween surprise pack first. I have a feeling she is just as or more interested in what’s inside than any of the kids. Out comes the candy. Out comes... a mask! It’s like a modified bank robbery stocking mask with a ghost face imprinted on it. Coca calls out to one of the granddaughters in the kitchen. She puts the mask (or rather, hood) over her face. As she is pulling it onto her head, I’m going, gah, gah, gah... is it going to fit? Or will it get stuck half-way on her head? No, it fits! Not too scary though - it just looks like Coca is going to rob a bank. She makes a “Mwuhhhh Mwuhhhh” ghost noise. The granddaughter thinks it’s only marginally amusing. If Coca wore the Knitwits cow hat with the horns the girl would be shrieking with laughter - we know because that’s what Coca did when Man Yung wore the hat.
So, what were we doing at Osvaldo and Coca’s house, exactly? We were going to watch tv, drink tea and eat cookies. Osvaldo puts on the Milongueando DVD AGAIN. We said we have seen that. Oh, really? Osvaldo is impatiently fiddling with the remote, going through the chapters AGAIN. We are watching Alicia Pons AGAIN. “Oh, here’s the video of that guy, your friend, I forgot the name... what’s-his-face” and then he went to the kitchen, so we boldly grabbed the controller and skipped all the chapters.
Their little granddaughter got a Kinder Surprise and liked it and her mom came to let us have an opportunity to kiss her because she was shy. Kinder Surprise is the right kind of surprise - so long they don’t swallow the little moving parts of the “surprise” inside (Yes, I am paranoid about product safety). We asked Osvaldo whether he wanted to see videos of some tango teachers from Toronto. Yes, he said. Osvaldo's impatient. We show a video of two of them performing in New York that we had downloaded onto our iPad. He seemed impressed that it was filmed in New York. And by the number of people sitting around. As for the dancing... he didn't comment. It seemed that he was more interested in the location than the dancing.
Then we showed them some other Toronto tango teachers we have taken lessons with. “It’s taken at the biggest tango club in Toronto.... with the worst dancers!” I said. Osvaldo was more interested at the number of people watching than the dancing. Again, Osvaldo had nothing to comment.
Osvaldo slapped the table. “Show me a video of you!” Which one! “Any one!” How about the one from La Baldosa? “Go, go!” Osvaldo is even more impatient than usual. We played our performance. He had some suggestions. He didn’t like that Man Yung “walked too many” of the halting step that he was practicing. “Four, only four!” He didn’t have any other comment, not to compare it with the other ones, or to say what was good or not good. I was eating some cookies that Coca had brought out - the raspberry thumbprints and the coco ones, they were crunchy and mini. Maybe it was the video that triggered what we talked about next. “We showed a friend this video.... and she didn’t like it...” we said [As to who was the "friend" we showed it to - you'll just have to guess!] Dangerous territory. Man Yung said to me, tell them she told you you weren’t doing enough adornments! Oh-oh.... But I had to tell them. Osvaldo and Coca exploded. “No! No! What do you want to do, do adornments and flap around willy nilly?”
“What else did your friend say?” It was like walking on thin ice - and the ice was cracking beneath my feet. Did I really have to tell them? Part of me wanted to find out - well they kind of do have a right to know what other people said. “Our friend said that when we walk, we have to do it less like it was walking and more like it was dancing!” Not only was there thunder, there was also the scent of Osvaldo's burning eyebrows as they were lifted so high up they were actually scorched by the lightning coming out of the storm clouds circling above his head. The advice our friend had given us was exactly the opposite of what Osvaldo and Coca had said to us the last Tuesday we were there when we had lunch with them.
Now, thinking about it, of course Osvaldo would be flaming mad. The comments we got from our friend was taking the most important things that Osvaldo and Coca had taught us, and telling us that they were no good. We had do more adornments, not less; walk less naturally, not, more; and the whole way that we dance was Chinese style dancing! “Who is this person and how does she dance? Show me the adornments - what adornments?” Osvaldo asked. “Show me one of her videos, show me!” So we showed them one. Osvaldo watched with us but didn’t comment. Come to think of it, he didn’t comment on the other videos of the other dancers we had shown him. He could see what he could see and he thought it was obvious to us. He started counting some famous professional adornistas emphatically on the fingers of his hand with the fingers of his other hand. “Tell them to go win the championship and then they can come and talk to me! And tell your friends, whoever they are - that you dance better than them!” Coca said, “At La Baldosa, everyone was asking us about you!” Osvaldo stormed into his bedroom to look for something.
Osvaldo came out with the DVD of the 2004 Mundial, the one we had seen. “We have that one too!” I said as it started playing and I realized what it was.
We watched together from beginning to end. Osvaldo pointed out some of the dancers. “That guy, you can tell he is thinking of winning,” he said. Not a good thing. He liked some of the Japanese. Then he’d disapprove of some of the Latin Americans. It was very mysterious, for me, what was the standard? It seemed clear to Man Yung even though Osvaldo hadn't said a word. Telepathy? But then Man Yung always seems to be on the same wavelength as Osvaldo.
Osvaldo did point out to us one thing. “Look at this, all this stuff they are doing, they’ve ruined it.” Some couple was doing some tricky moves. “And look at this, they’re doing all this stuff that’s ruined it too.” The point he was making: “They are not dancing to enjoy. They are dancing to win. And it’s ruining their dancing.”
It was the count down to the winners. We asked Coca, was she nervous when it came closer and closer to the first place and they weren’t announced? They weren’t anxious about winning. Coca said she wasn’t even thinking about that, she said she was cold and wanted to get out of there quick! And then they were announced as winners and they popped out the champagne and sprayed it all around (“They made Osvaldo’s suit all wet! They made Elina Roldan’s butt all wet!” Coca said). Coca said that when they were announcing the winners there was a whole contingent of Columbians cheering their compatriots. “They kept on going “Columbia! Columbia!” and my daughter who was in front of them turned around and screamed “Shut up! My dad is going to win!”
It was time to go to Saraza. They got ready and we left in their usual car. Osvaldo took the small city roads to get into the city instead of the highway and 9 de Julio. It was dark out already - the traffic was looser. We passed by a giant commemorative model of a plane in the centre aisle between the traffic lanes. Osvaldo talked about some negotiations he was engaged in to come to North America. I said if they come to Toronto we can eat chinese food! Coca says she doesn’t like chinese food at all, she’ll eat it once and that’s it (heh, that’s the first time we heard that!) We reassured her that the chinese food she has experienced in Buenos Aires is not authentic. We told them usually we ate a lot of seafood. Osvaldo seemed to like the idea of seafood - we will go and eat that! A car tailgated them and then very aggressively cut in front of us in order to turn left. In fact, this visit, Osvaldo has been very calm in traffic. I don’t think I saw any raised fists, fingers - maybe just a small beep. The car ran over a big bump - a pretty severe shock to suspension. Will we have to stop right here? No, we kept on going.
We reach Saraza and it’s on a cobblestone street. We get out of the car after finding a space on the corner opposite the club entrance. The wall outside the gym has the sign for every kind of trendy martial arts there is - Taebo, Muay Thai, Kickboxing etc. - and there’s a class on. Man Yung goes to see what’s going on in the gym and I follow. Osvaldo looks at us like we were acting weird again and tells us to hurry up - for him, herding the chinese is just like herding cats. We rush back to the entrance and go through the long corridor that leads to the dance hall - but not before paying the entrada, which is only $10 each!
Class is going on with... Orlando Scarpetti! We see him everywhere, but we never got to know him. He was teaching with Paula who did not have any makeup on and was wearing tight beige satin capris. Paula looks a little like Charlotte in Sex in the City, but without makeup she looks tired.
The doors to the patio and the big windows were open meaning that the whole place was freezing. We were going to sit at the same table again as last time - but we wanted to sit closer to the kitchen, the front of the table was close to a completely open patio door and there was a steady breeze coming in. Osvaldo and Coca said hello to a blond woman with glasses who was going to sit on our table but closer to the dance floor. The portenos are polite but they ignore the gringos - that is, until you have whooped them with your dance. Osvaldo and Coca talk to the DJ who was the spitting image of one of teachers who had since dropped out of Toronto Tango (and I got the strong impression he was also in charge of the food) - let’s call him “S” - and S talked about the great desserts that he will have that night. It was like a real restaurant not a milonga with food.
People started filing in, but the class had not ended. Osvaldo and Coca were wondering, when exactly was the class going to end? It was already 9:00 p.m. Ah, it did end. What do you want to eat? I ordered a Milanesa Napolitana and a Matambre with “Russian” salad for Man Yung, Osvaldo had the same and Coca had a chicken with rice.
Osvaldo is like “So, what do you want to dance to?” What, this again? It is kind of funny to tease Osvaldo. How about not? But why not, you are leaving tomorrow, this could be your despedida, Osvaldo said matter-of-factly. OK then, we can dance to Pugliese. Osvaldo rolls his eyes. Man Yung doesn’t understand our conversation and that I’m pulling Osvaldo’s leg. He’s like “Di Sarli! Tell him we'll dance to Di Sarli!!” Now I’m rolling my eyes. After they stop rolling I have an idea. “What about ‘Carillon de la Merced!’” Osvaldo thinks it’s a splendid idea. He goes out immediately to his car to get the CD. I send Man Yung after him. So Osvaldo rummages through his car and can’t find it, while Man Yung stands nearby as his bodyguard (you never know, he might get jumped). They come back. They don’t have it. Don’t worry, S says he has it. No, wait a moment, Coca has it in her bag! She hadn’t taken it out since their performance last Friday at Salon Canning. So we write out names on a piece of paper for S and we are going to dance to Osvaldo and Coca's Carillon de la Merced. My throat tightens up and I feel like I am coming down with the flu. This giving exhibition thing, how do they do this all the time and not feel nervous?
The food comes. Man Yung is surprised that it tastes pretty good. My milanesa is good, “But of course not as good as Coca’s!” I said. We split our plates up. I am eating all sorts of salad, russian salad, mayonnaise on this trip and it seems like I have a cast iron stomach, no running for the washroom or anything. All I get is just queasiness of having to do exhibitions at milongas. The smell of grease and fumes from the kitchen are making us cough - but at first we didn’t know, we thought it was it was just the cold from all the open windows. I took some extra Cold Fx.
The food at Saraza is good... but it is freezing!
It is freaking cold. Coca is cold again. We give her Man Yung’s scarf so she doesn’t freeze. Osvaldo doesn’t have a big coat (Coca tried to get him to bring one when we were leaving the house but he just walked off - “That man, he never has his coat and he can’t get sick!” she said exasperated) but he brought a brown poncho, which he was not using. He was just in his shirt sleeves.
People are dancing to De Angelis again to begin with. We dance a bit, because it takes off the edge of my fear. None of the dance floors on this visit bother me - even at Glorias, where it is usually slippery like glass, it just seems normal. We meet a couple on the dance floor. “Do you remember us? From Glorias!” It was a short blond woman with a short man with gray hair. Do we remember anyone from Glorias at all? It doesn’t matter, they’re all friends if they say they recognize us! We kiss hello.
“Is that a guy or a woman?” Man Yung said, pointing to this person with long brown hair coming down the side where the women sat. Oops, it's El Puchu. He has his hair down and it’s so smooth and beautiful and glossy it looks like he stepped out of a Clairol commercial. He comes over to say hello to Osvaldo and Coca. We say hello too. We like the fact that he go to the barrio milongas and mix with the “real people” of the Buenos Aires milongas, not just the tourists. Except, of course, we are tourists.
But we’re tourists who get force fed by Osvaldo and Coca. They go ahead and have dessert - he’s having wine poached pears and she’s having strawberries and cream. Osvaldo offers a strawberry - I pick it up by the leaf and it falls on my skirt! Yikes! No harm done, “It’s black, no one can see anything,” I reassure Coca. Then comes the wine pears that Osvaldo makes me eat from his own spoon. I didn’t drop that one. Osvaldo gets and tissue and holds the pear by the stalk this way while he gets the last little bit of flesh with his spoon. “He doesn’t like fiddling around holding it by his fingers,” Coca explained. We offer them tissue and wet napkins. We are always prepared. Osvaldo gives us this look - like we have come to Buenos Aires just to dispense napkins. In a way, yes.
The people sitting on the front of our table is part of birthday party. The birthday boy is in a natty sports coat and looks like a miniature Alfred Hitchcock with jowls and the whole thing - but mirthfuller. Some guy from the group asks me to dance while Man Yung is off somewhere. I have to make a judgment call - and I look at Osvaldo and Coca. Should I, shouldn’t I? I take my time to get out of my seat. Osvaldo and Coca doesn’t offer any advice, but I figure most of these people are their friends. I take to the floor with the gentleman. For the first 5 seconds I adjust to his weirdness. He doesn’t do salidas, just continuous boleo like movements. It’s only three steps, even though all of them are weird and nothing to do with walking, more to do with swinging. Swing, swing, swing. I could imagine other people tying themselves in knots trying to understand when all they need to do is follow. Reminds me of Portalea in a way. It’s a whole tanda of swing to the left, swing to the right. Thank god it’s finished and I could sit down.
We have never seen Ricardo, the host of Saraza, smile. He always looks so grim. He does the announcements, and he tells the people about us and asks them (rather grimly, I thought) whether they would like to see us dance. To my surprise, many people actually shouted out - Yes! they want to see us dance. But first the Sorteos - they must have drawn like twenty tickets. How could they possibly have so many prizes? That may be the secret of success - Saraza has a lot more people than the first time we went there in 2009.
It’s finally time for us to take the floor - and we stand there like lost children. We kiss Ricardo and he whispers to us the line from the famous milonga - something like “Go and burn up the dance floor.”
The bells ring - loudly. Orquesta Tipica Victor's Carillon de la Merced plays and it feels like we have stepped into a church with pealing bells. We have seen Osvaldo and Coca perform to this tango - but we had never danced to it, let alone performed to it! I think Man Yung is surprised - he wasn’t sure what I was talking about when I finalized the music with Osvaldo and Coca. It catches him off guard, but he gets into the music quickly. He says that at the beginning of the tango he was just wandering around and he actually didn’t know what he was doing, the sound of the bells were still beating down into his heart. Then he focused. When he was doing the back and forth Osvaldo’s step, I hear the ladies at the side whispering “Esa! Esa!”. And then he did a series of sacadas in time with the sound of the bells and they clapped, and then the giro and they clapped louder, and when it ended there was a big “whoosh!” as the crowd all started shouting together. Enthusiastic applause! They were suspicious at first about the chinese mafia taking over the floor but at last we won them over. I see El Puchu standing near the washroom giving us a double thumbs up. Whew!
We go to Osvaldo and Coca and Coca looks like she’s been crying a little bit. Everyone is congratulating us. Someone says with some irony, “You are VERY FAITHFUL students of Osvaldo and Coca.” Then it’s Osvaldo and Coca’s turn - they dance to Di Sarli’s “Todo”.
They come back to the table. People who are congratulating us within earshot we tell them it’s because of Osvaldo and Coca (if they say we’re good - we can't take all the credit!). We were strangely a bit of a hit - they’ve never seen chinese people not dance tango like they were japanese. Man Yung says thank you to Osvaldo and Coca for lending us their song to dance to. I don’t think it even occurred to Osvaldo and Coca that they were giving up anything. Man Yung made me say it several times, actually. “But we took your song and you couldn’t dance to it tonight,” we said. Osvaldo and Coca replied, “But we didn’t know that we were going to perform beforehand either!”
Time for the evening to wind down. A tanda of tropical plays and everyone jives. El Puchu comes over - he’s very nicely taken some photos of us using his phone. We get his email address, and he also has Facebook (everyone seems to have Facebook - unfortunately, we hate Facebook) and he told us to email him and he’d send us the photos. Later, El Puchu asks me to dance, so I get to dance with a man who has longer (and better) hair than me. It was a tanda of D’Arienzo with Echague and it was too bad that Man Yung couldn’t tape us, because El Puchu danced many tricky steps - so many that I think he might have gone temporarily insane by the lack of people to dance with in Saraza.
A few tandas later, Osvaldo danced a vals with Coca, and we filmed it.
People were thinning out, it was getting late (maybe past 2 a.m. already, can’t remember). It was time to go, go, go - and then the command from Osvaldo came - “Let’s go!” and of course we have to be ready instantly to follow Osvaldo out into the cold. We made sure he had his poncho because he would freeze. While we were making our way out, Osvaldo and Coca were giving strange giggly looks at Man Yung because he had his pink knitted hat on again.
We got into the car and Osvaldo beeped the fellow who was looking after all the cars - he was busy talking to someone at the entrance. You know how impatient Osvaldo is - I think he was ready to bolt - but for giving tips, he waited a little more. The guy finally came running over and Osvaldo gave him some change.
Of course Osvaldo has his window wide open and Coca was freezing in the back. Osvaldo is perpetually hot, he doesn’t even want his jacket in the car. I offered Coca the extra Knitwits cow hat in our bag. “You can put on this hat so you won’t be cold.” She wasn’t convinced. Man Yung helped convince her. “Look, we’ll put it on backwards, it will look.....almost normal...” And I’m getting closer and closer with the hat and the Coca giggled and shook her head - no! She didn’t fall for our trick!
As we neared the hotel Osvaldo said, “Call me, call me immediately once you get back home.” He repeated several times - it was very important that we call him. We were at the hotel. We kissed them goodbye and they watched us go into the hotel - I saw their faces as they peered out of the car window. It was the end of all our Buenos Aires adventures - for now.
El Puchu took this photo of us performing at Saraza...so that's what it looked like from the other side of the room
We couldn’t help but laugh excitedly as we walked through the hotel lobby. Back in our room, the first thing we did wasn’t to take a shower - the first thing we did was to watch the video of our performance on our camera! We couldn’t believe it, twice in one trip, and this time it was pretty good too!
[So this is the grand finale to our October 2010 trip. Hope you enjoyed our posts and didn't mind having to skip over all the videos of us performing all the time!]