Sunday, October 30, 2011

Los banios at the Fall in Love Cafe, Plaza San Martin

Men's toilet sign

Women's toilet sign

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Private lessons

Our first private lesson with Maria Plazaola on Wednesday. Running late (as we often seem to be here), we took the longest taxi ride ever out into the suburbs, where the houses had gardens and there were lots of children and dogs on the street.
Maria is a divine dancer, whether leading or following. She danced with Carlos Gavito for several years; they were stars who travelled the world. Hard to imagine what she went through when he died. You can find any number of clips of them dancing show tango, but here, although rather inexpertly filmed, they are dancing classic milonga-style.
And she couldn't understand why we were both so nervous during our first dance with her!

Friday, October 28, 2011


Killing time in Santiago airport and listlessly cruising the shops, we paused to inspect a bag. "Leather?" we inquired, having searched in vain for a label saying so.
The brown-eyed young man searched himself, then, when he couldn't find what he was looking for, said, "Yes, is leather. "
I doubted it. Leather makes itself known. I smelled it, and shook my head. "I don't think so."
"Yes, is leather." Then, faced with our sceptical expressions, added, "Is fabricated leather".
At that point (blame the jetlag) I felt like snapping, "Did a cow die for this bag or didn't it? If it didn't, this isn't leather!"
To talk of "fabricated leather" is akin to believing that the scalpel can restore lost youth. That fabrication is as aesthetically pleasing as the real thing.
The other day we were chewing delicious steak on the mezzanine of a restaurant, facing the inevitable screen, when the camera zoomed deep into a perfect peachy decolletage. It was an commercial for cosmetic surgery.
There's an awful lot of it going on here - the fabrication of youth. And that's an estimate based only on the bad stuff that makes itself obvious on the street and at the milongas. Dismal attempts at stretching, filling, shrinking, smoothing and lifting that leave each woman with the same dreadful parody of a face.

"Beauty is a natural value that is admired, enjoyed... and like life, it comes to an end. As a result, we work to preserve it, retrieve it... and even if Beauty is present, we wish to enhance it; this is precisely the path of excellence in plastic surgery: it means the devotion to improve on what we can achieve" - from a BA costmetic surgeon's website.

A 1997 piece, wittily entitled "Don't Starve for Me, Argentina", claimed the country had an even higher rate of anorexia and bulimia than the US. Starvation and plastic surgery were rampant, it said. Nearly 15 years on, that situation surely has't improved.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Plaza Dorego etc redux

Sunday evening we went to San Telmo to dance at Plaza Dorego as we did last time we were in BA. But it was entirely different. Back then, the "dance floor" was a series of far-from-seamless rubber mats covering a good area of the plaza, unpredictably wavy but good enough. This time it was reduced to about three, which barely approximated the size of a decent table top. In May the crowd was friendly and enthusiastic, half photo-snapping and applauding tourists, the other half prospective dancers. This time tourists outnumbered dancers, and there were precious few of either.
You can't cabaceyo here - the lighting, such as it is, is too dim - so you make instant decisions and take your chances. Consequently, I had several nice tandas with a young man who sang in my ear, and an appalling one with a manhandling bully. In the end, even the younger man turned into a liability, becoming all too pressing about going on somewhere else.
All in all, a weird atmosphere. A said later that it might have been the result of election day, so we'll give it another try some time. I do love dancing outdoors, it's so picnic-y.

Yesterday was Ideal, for which I have a real soft spot. It was afternoon, so we expected just a sprinkling of tourists and a few lounge lizards, yet it was non-stop action and some really nice dances. One, admittedly, from an archtypal lizard ("Muy linda; elegante"), but a very musical one. 

We ate, then went on to Club Gricel, another milonga I enjoyed last time. But the move gave rise to a new rule: if things are going well at one milonga, don't leave it go to another - it's highly unlikely it will be as good, let alone better.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Due to public demand ...

Well, all right - an email from N ("Shoes! Lets hear some news on the dancing, moments, life and love!"), this blog will stray temporarily (but enthusiastically) from its style brief.
Last Tuesday evening, El Aranque - our first milonga, and still our best so far. The usual early crowd of older people, and a relaxed, good-natured atmosphere. The women variously turned out in everything from office pants to glitter, but the men, as usual, sleek in their suits and ties, and smelling delicious. If only older New Zealand men understood that they could be well-groomed without sacrificing their manhood.
Some nice dances, and even one of N's "moments" with someone whose name and face I will never remember when we go back tomorrow. Charlie, or Oscar or Hugo. It was a vals, I do remember that, and if I'm ever to have a moment, it will be during a vals. We were distinctly nervous beforehand, but left after a couple of hours well-satisfied.
Wednesday night, late - El Beso. We came here on a Tuesday on our first visit here at Easter and were entirely underwhelmed. Sadly, this time was no better. We were given a good front row table because we were early, but alas caught the eye of no-one. The better male dancers survey the floor from either end and (so we felt) from down their noses. There were quite a few couples who never broke rank, and an excess of women. We danced one tanda each with a short, slightly mad Italian, who stood in front of us with an extended hand rather than cabaceyo-ing, then proceeded to fling us about the floor in open embrace. We could only imagine how much good this did our credibility with the alpha males. The attmosphere was "show and judge". Exit left, grumpy.
Thursday night we skipped, can't remember why. Still jet-lagged, I think.
Friday night - Canning, to be greeted by Alejandro and his friend Horacio. A asked if we'd like to sit at a separate table, but we declined - I think we both liked the idea of conversation between tandas. A poor decision, as it turned out, since tandas were rare, H spoke no English and we no Spanish beyond "cafe leche, por favor". The men were kind and frequently left us alone us at the table to find dances. Sometimes it worked, but we think we were pretty much marked down as "being with" the men. The crowd was much more varied in age than at the afternoon milongas, and there were large groups of friends and much meeting and greeting. By 1am, the dance floor was too tight to move. We might try Canning again at an earlier time.
Saturday we subte-ed all the way out to La Glorieta in Belgrano. It was a cold evening, with a nasty wind blowing through the band rotunda. Mid-dance with Robert from Montreal (a nice dancer), the wind caught my ponytail and slapped it in his face! Lots of action here, some good, some not so. But the atmosphere is fun, and we'll definitely go back. Locals and tourists, young and old. A showy young Romeo with a ponytail whizzed Suzanne around with giant strides. A small, perfectly formed woman in red heels, black tights and short denim shorts swivelled in front me and revealed a much-worked on 60-year-old face.
Robert, with characteristic North American frankness, said I leaned rather hard for his liking - he wanted to open up so we could "do more", adding that "Nevertheless, you are very pleasant"!
We wrapped up a cold evening with hot chocolate at a nearby cafe, but my submarino - two small blocks of chocolate melted into hot milk - kept me awake most of the night.

Talk about stylish

Horror stories abound - Buenos Aires vistors ushered into apartments looking nothing like the vacation rental they studied online: delapidation, dirt, noise, unforeseen "fees", cockroaches and mice. And that's just getting in. Getting out can mean your agent being "unable" to make it in time before you fly out to return your massive deposit, or fobbing you off with knock-off notes.
Since it's more than a month til we leave, I can't yet say we're free and clear, but the prospects look good.
ByT Argentina have been efficient, communicative and reliable. Darryl and Isi, the agents who let us in, were charming and helpful. And the apartment itself is a winner.
It's been art-deco-ed front to back, down to the framed prints, the tea trolley coffee table, the lamps and the handsome walnut furniture. The lift is a antique delight, and the door onto the street so elaborately wrought, it's practically a two-woman job to push it open.
But the place isn't just a show piece. There are comfortable chairs and a couch to slouch on. In short, we are muy confortable and stylish.

Friday, October 21, 2011


Talk about giving antipodean style a bad name. A row of these abominations was lined up in Auckland Airport's international lounge, in clear view of every departing tourist.
It's an unfair contrast, but look at my smashing new suede and patent tango shoes, purchased from Scarpe Mahara on Suipacha, just today. With any luck I'll christen them tonight at Salon Canning.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Packing. Again.

Suzanne's packing prepations

One of the advantages of flying to Buenos Aires is the generous luggage allowance - two 23kg cases each. Especially useful for those staying nearly six weeks, and expecting to dance most nights.
I've found myself paying most attention to the tango component of my luggage, which includes four pairs of high-heel shoes. And that's not especially useful, since, with the best will in the world, we shall spend more time not dancing than dancing. So hanging-about-the apartment-and-on-the-street clothes and shoes should predominate.
Picking and choosing these isn't helped by the wavering weather forecast - 26c today, 17c predicted for Tuesday, and colder at night.
I've said it before and I'll say it again - I always pack too much. When travelling, this has often entailed posting home a parcel of stuff with a great sigh of relief from Hong Kong, Montpellier or San Francisco. Since we're staying put this time, I doubt I'll need to do that. But I'm sure, sooner or later, to be annoyed at how much stuff I carted across the world and then didn't wear. I've read of women who travel with only one carry-on bag containing a pair of black pants and two white tee-shirts. Do these paragons of reason really exist? 

And mine

Monday, October 10, 2011

Last tango before Buenos Aires

And to complete this trio of images (which, whatever their intrinsic value might be, are also a substitute for "proper" written blogging due to lack of time), here's one of (ahem) me.
Posting me pictures is something I usually avoid. The exceptions so far have been either a) because I'm in fancy dress and with friends, or b) visible only from the neck down. Here's exception c) - the back view.
I always cringe when blog authors - and fashion bloggers are especially prone to this - liberally post fetching pics of themselves in outfits de jour (no, I'm not naming them, I don't want to start a war). It's so narcissistic.
But you're getting this one because it was taken by Des on Sunday then skilfully photoshopped and the caption added. Because it's tango. Because it's so untrue-to-Plain-Jane-real-life ethereal. And because, although highly unsuitable for dancing, it's the dress Suzanne made me.

Second-hand rose

Student, Kelburn, Wellington

Pacaso said ...

Victoria Street, Wellington
But not, unfortunately, the fact that we can't spell our hero's name.

Monday, October 3, 2011

More advanced style

Here, courtesy of  Ari Seth Cohen's wonderful site, is a beautiful woman on the eve of her 100th birthday, and, so she told him, about to go off on a Bermudan cruise with her boyfriend. Allelujah!