Monday, June 18, 2007

We missed the boat.

This weekend had fiasco written all over it. Well, sort of. Como se dice "fiasco" en castellano? Oh, fiasco? Okay, yeah.

Actually only part of the weekend was fiasco-esque. Friday night, for example, was pretty normal. Ariella and I ate dinner at El Pobre Luis, which is supposedly Maradona's fave parrilla in Buenos Aires. He should know; the man is huge. We had Uruguayan steak, provoleta (grilled provolone cheese with diced tomatoes on top), salad, malbec, and an "alemendrado" (I think?) for dessert, which is ice cream crusted with almonds and covered with chocolate sauce. Um, yum. Afterwards we went to a party for this top-secret group that Ariella is a part of, Small World, which is a social networking site that is very exclusive, so much so that there was a password to get into the party. The party was held in a bar with an unmarked door in Chinatown ("Puerta 1"), which makes it sound way more top-secret than it actually was. We stayed for a while and then headed to a boliche, El Punto, which reminded me of a typical Sao Paulo night club - smoky and dark with techno music blaring at such a volume that your ears ring for hours after coming home.

El Punto served as an unpleasant reminder of why I was not overly impressed with Argentine guys last time I was in Buenos Aires. One word - grabby. Actually, two words - grabby and gross. They're so creepily aggressive in the clubs, it's off-putting. I, meanwhile, have no patience for being manhandled by strangers, but repeatedly telling these dudes "No me toques" didn't seem to have much of an effect. At around 4:30 in the morning I had had quite enough of the overhanging cloud of smoke, boring techno and date-rapists in training on the dance floor, so I headed home with Ariella, feeling a bit disillusioned. I love Argentina and everything but I really don't see how women here put up with the guys in clubs, yuck. Plus, what's up with the mullets? Honestly.

Saturday, I spent the day shopping in my neighborhood. I got some cheap going-out shirts (since my nice silk shirt that I wore to El Punto now permanently smells like smoker's lung), a pashmina, a bufanda (scarf), and some makeup from a little boutique, since I dropped my compact on the bathroom floor on Friday night and it shattered into a million pieces.

That night, A and I went to an alternative theater production called La Isla Desierta, in the Ciudad Cultural Konex. The space was very interesting (see - it has several rooms for shows, some outdoor artwork and a cafe/bar. We had to wait outside in the frigid cold for a while before we were allowed to enter the room where the show was taking place, because the idea behind La Isla Desierta is that it's "theater of the blind." This means that some of the actors are actually blind, but also that the audience is made to feel blind, because the show takes place in complete darkness.

When I say complete darkness, I'm not talking about the kind of darkness where you pull the blackout curtains and close the door, I'm talking the kind of darkness where you can't tell the difference between when your eyes are shut and when they're open, and your eyes start playing tricks on you, showing you colors that don't exist. It's very weird and discombobulating. To get into the theater, we had to stand in line and hold each other's shoulders while the actors led us into the room and helped us into seats. The show was interesting - it involved smells, sounds (obvz), even water. A and I were unsure of what was happening for the majority of the show but it was still enjoyable and interesting, even the part where we got wet (which I was dreading since A told me she has been to alternative theater productions before where her clothes were completely ruined by glue and other substances -- but having Elmer's thrown on me is not my idea of a nice night out at the theater, ya know?).

The theater ended at around 10:30 and we went to a sushi restaurant in Las Canitas, a neighborhood which reminds me of Jardins in Sao Paulo -- very chic, clean, aesthetically pleasing, perhaps a bit soulless. My kind of place. Sushi here is sort of funny because it's pretty much all salmon, all the time. I wondered why people were studying the menu so intensely ("Hmm, should we have salmon, salmon, salmon, or, wait, how do you feel about salmon? I hear the salmon here is good. Oh, but look, they have salmon, honey, let's get that"). We ordered something involving salmon and some drinks, and Spencer came and met us. After sushi we headed to a party nearby for some girl's birthday and randomly met the granddaughter of Jacobo Timerman.

For our HLS class, our professor gave us Timerman's memoir to read, which is about being held captive and tortured during the military dictatorship. A very powerful and disturbing book, but also quite inspiring. It was interesting to meet his granddaughter, who speaks unaccented American English since she apparently grew up in both Argentina and the US, and now works in human rights here in Buenos Aires.

So, the aforementioned Fiasco unfolded on Sunday, when A, Spencer, his friend John and I decided to go to Colonia, Uruguay for the day. We had tickets for the "fast boat" leaving at 2 pm and were supposed to be at the port at 1 pm. We left our house at around 12:30, and after a slight delay in which Spencer ran back to his house to get his passport, we began to look for a cab to take us to the puerto. Apparently, though, since it was Father's Day and there is a gas shortage in Argentina, cabs were in extremely short supply, and we ended up waiting in vain for almost an hour, then desperately taking a colectivo, attempting the subte, and finally getting into a cab at 1:40, at which point we knew we were too late. We got to the port and were greeted by intractable Argentine guards who told us in no uncertain terms that the gates were closed to the ferry and we would not be getting aboard. Punto. After attempts at negotiation (failed), we decided to sack it off and go eat lunch in Puerto Madero. After being turned away at several restuarants which were full (Father's Day, again), we ate at a place called Sorriento, which specialized in seafood. Guess what I had? SALMON.

After our big lunch, which ended at 5, we went to a big bookstore called El Ateneo, in a converted opera house on Avenida Santa Fe. I bought a book called El Anatomista, a popular novel by a contemporary Argentine author named Federico Andahazi, apparently about the discovery of the clitoris. Yeah, I don't know. Go Argentine literature.

The rest of the evening was spent relaxing at home, and then at around 10:30, going to a milonga, which is an event where people gather to dance tango. This milonga took place at a club called El Beso, which was more of a bar with a dance floor than an old-fashioned tango salon. Ariella dances tango so she was actually there to participate, but I was there to watch. It was really interesting -- lots of older gentleman (some of whom wore ascots, seriously) and ladies of all ages in skirts and special tango heels. The way it works is that the DJ (yeah, there was a DJ spinning Carlos Gardel) will play a song and people will dance, and then when the song is over, the couples chat, perhaps introduce themselves, and then everyone goes and sits down until the next song. The women have to wait for the men to invite them to dance so it's quite ritualized.

While I was watching, the lady sitting next to me struck up a conversation with Spencer and me. She was very sweet and very enthusiastic about the fact that we work in human rights NGO's here. She told us that during the 1970s she worked at the Fiat auto plant and most of her friends from work were disappeared by the government. It's pretty chilling to just talk to normal people in Argentina and realize that almost everyone that lived through the dictatorship has stories like this - as horrifying as the stories are, they're not unusual.

So, fiascos and all, this weekend was good and culturally satisfying. Stay tuned, because today I get to meet Carlos Menem. The adventures keep on coming!

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