Patagonia travelogue 2009: buenos aires redux

Day 9 in which I explore Buenos Aires, and contemplate New York.

I am a stutter step but waking nicely. We share a cab to the airport with two Irishmen, Aiden and Damon. My geopolitical stock plummets when 1) I ask if they are from the UK, and 2) I, after they use the phrase “hair of the dog” fluently and in perfect context, admire their “Queen’s English”. I thought the better of asking if they had seen Braveheart.

Mel and I do some souvenir shopping. Malbecs, alfojores (national cookie sandwich cake covered in chocolate) for everyone. Street walking. Stop into a pizzeria, Venta, which surprises us with its charm. High ceiling brick building, rustic, run by an Italian-Argentinian with a round knobby nose who talks way too fast and sloppy.

Notice to self: remember the painter Sigfredo Pastor.

I begin to notice the state of security in this city. In every tshirt boutique, wine shop, cafe, or restaurant we have stepped into (at least in San Telmo), the frontdoor is locked, and requires a buzz-in. Elsewhere, there are security guards or doormen man the portal. I am not put at ease.

I am generally ambivalent exploring other cities. My time in NYC has been instructive. When visiting an area of a new city, I like to ask myself, “Am I about to go to this city’s Times Square.”. If so, fuck that. Because Times square is the Gotham equivalent of Come See the World’s Largest Rubber Band Ball. There, no value or insight or indications as to the culture and daily life of actual residents of that travelled-to land, which I consider the point of this all, can be found. City landmarks, lest they be cloaked in deep folds of the extraordinary, generally bore me. The Empire State building is, for new yorkers, at most, a north star, but more likely, backdrop. Allow me a moment to address the Meat Packing District. I used to abhor this fucking sinkhole of urban character (it’s like a street transplant from Las Vegas’ New York New York), but now appreciate it properly as a lightning rod for the elements of douchbaggery that flood the city nightly. Feel free to point out in the comments how I am a jaded snob.

Dinner at Bar Uriarte. We considered returning to La Cabrera (it’s that reliably good), but prudence asks that we eat in at least two different restaurants in this city. We have the grilled ribs; this city has got to be the most delicious in South America.

Some patrons chat us up. We say we are from New York and their response is “New York state? Or city?”. Snobbery towards upstate, even at 2000 miles away, gotta love it.

We make plans to meet up with some glacier trek compatriots, but they are a no show. Not sure if they called an audible, I have no way to reach them outside email. Dear Santa, I would love a cheap light triband GSM phone for my future travels. Thanks.

We find ourselves at Ideal, an old time tango hall.. People linger outside; a show just ended; it’s winding down. Inside, upstairs, it’s an open dance floor and the dregs are all there. Mel and I sit in a corner and soak in live, personal tango on every level. It seems incredibly intimate, we are watching middle aged couples slow dance. Everyones got their own style. Some have a high grip hold, some go cheek to cheek, others press foreheads. I can’t even match the music to their movements. Nonetheless, enthralling. We end the night at 2am which, in buenos aires terms, is like sleeping-in the entire night. Next time, Argentina. Next time.

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