Why Argentina Will Tango Its Way to Winning The World Cup


An amazing feat of footwork. But, the best part is – the tanguero is un Brasilero! (except for the stunts with the ball) Yes, it’s true los Argentinos y los Brasileros can tango well together and if they can create that kind of magic on the playing field it will be an amazing showdown!

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God Has Two Hands

Today, while driving in Calgary, I was passed by a car that was sporting two Argentine flags flying in the breeze—an indication of the team that the driver is cheering for to win the World Cup. I honked excitedly in agreement. I don’t know what came over me—I never do that during North American games.

I have never cared about sports. I don’t play and I don’t watch. I don’t even go out with men who watch sports. But, Argentina is playing in the World Cup. If Canada was playing I wouldn’t care. But, there is something about being somewhat of an honorary ‘Argentine ex-pat’ living in Canada that makes me long for ‘home’ during this most exciting soccer match. I imagine it will get crazy in Buenos Aires over the next several days.

Word is that with a little help from the other hand of God, Diego Maradona’s ‘successor’ Lionel Messi could very well achieve sainthood in the minds of the Argentines and possibly the world. I can’t help but cheer for that. I love the passion that exudes from the Argentines—love or hate—for the tango and for their soccer. Argentina may be at the bottom of the world from me but they are currently on top of the soccer world and I hope they stay there. If it makes Argentines happy it makes me happy.

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Chasing A New Sunrise

The sun seems to set too soon over Buenos Aires as Summer comes to a close and I make my way toward the Northern Hemisphere in anticipation of Spring. I have said goodbye to my best friend and watched him turn the corner onto Defensa as the San Telmo Street Fair noisily winds down for another week. I may never see him again.

It’s hard to notice how exhausting Buenos Aires is when you’re caught up in the middle of it. But between flannel sheets in the dark and almost cloying silence of the suburbs of Calgary I notice the drain. I feel weary, but in other ways—full. There are surprisingly few tears (so far) and I believe that I’ve made the right decision—to come home. I feel anxious but it is not the anxiety of loss, regret, fear and despair as has accompanied me so often on this journey but the excitement over the opportunity to nurture and share the many seeds I have sown, germinated and grown in the belly of Argentina.

My first practica upon return is disappointing—as I knew it would be. I look forward to May when I will attend a Tango Festival in Vancouver and meanwhile plan to infuse new energy into my own small community. I hope there is enough here for me in return. It crosses my mind that I may be better off to go off tango (cold turkey) and reBsAs 2009 236turn to Ballroom—or take up skydiving instead—rather than suffer further disappointment. Nothing can compete with Buenos Aires.

My new Comme Il Faut shoes are small consolation for the tango tragedy of leaving one love behind for another—Buenos Aires for Calgary—but like I’ve often said—if the dance isn’t going well, at least I have these great shoes hugging my feet while I weep. . . .

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I have spent the past seven days in Tango Teacher Training. All in Spanish – there was too much talking and not enough dancing – which happens a lot in this world. After all these years, my Spanish is still not fluent so I missed many details. There were no other native English speakers in our class of 22. Usually I wouldn’t complain about too many tall, dark and handsome Italian, French and Latin men, but, I wanted to take the lead and so did they. I HAD to follow these fabulous dancers – such a tragedy . . .

The only real tragedy was the earthquake in Chile during our workshop and the couple from Concepción that could not communicate with their family. But, by the second day they were smiling and participating again. Family of friends back home in Calgary were not as fortunate.

I was blessed to be able to be included in this workshop – the perfect culmination to eight years of dancing tango and two years in Buenos Aires. I hope to share what I’ve learned with others when I return to Canada.

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¡Qué Quilombo!

I like the word. Even though it’s Lunfardo, you’re supposed to further distort it in polite company – bolomqui – or something like that – because although it pretends to translate to ‘warehouse’, the actual translation is ‘whorehouse’, but it’s used to indicate a ‘shitstorm’ – or plainly – What a mess! Yes, most Lunfardo is that complicated . . . and you thought you were having trouble learning Spanish. I like the way it looks and sounds – a perfect word for today’s sequence of events. And come on – there are so few words that begin with ‘q’ that we should use them more often.

For the third time in a week I have woken up in the morning to no hot water. After two different gasistas have been here (accompanied by my dueña) I now know how to contort myself and search around in the dark with a special candle to light the pilot and hopefully not have ash drop on my eyelid again. I do this, turn up the temperature dial and wait for the water to heat. After a few minutes the whole things just stops. I repeat the whole procedure.

I call my dueña. She is preparing for a flight to the USA this evening. She instructs me to go across the street to the ferreteria and ask for the gasista and the telephone number. I return, call her with the number so she can make arrangements. He is out of town. He will send his sons and they agree to work around my tight schedule.

I return home after my class and wait. They are late. It begins to rain – hard. They have a good excuse for being late. After several text messages and emails and phone calls I have a good excuse to cancel my evening plans so that I can wait for them until whatever time they decide to show up and complete the job that should have been fixed already – twice.

Apparently they have rung my bell and I have not answered. More phone calls exchanged and one chico appears – soaking wet just from walking across the street. He goes about his business in the other room – conferring with his father over the phone.

In addition to whatever is not working with the heater he soon tells me that it is not the tank that is leaking water but the roof above (I live on the top floor) – especially during this current nasty tormenta. I call my dueña and her remis driver is on the other line – there to pick her up early to take her to the airport even though her flight has just been delayed due to the weather.

I tell her that the hot water tank is being taken care of but the roof is leaking and she tells me that is out of her control and is the responsibility of the building owner. I know that. I just don’t know what to do about it. She leaves for the airport – not to return until well after the time that I leave for Canada. I’m on my own with this mess in my kitchen.

The gasista informs me that he is calling in a plumber – okay whatever – what do I know? They spend about an hour together working out the problem that only seems to be getting worse and thankfully, in the meantime the worst of the rain stops and I think maybe I will be able to leave Buenos Aires before we have another major rainstorm (what are they – every week now?) and the roof falls in on me . . . At least I’ll be able to have a hot shower before I go . . . maybe. The plumber leaves and the gasista keeps going back and forth across the street for parts or advice or a smoke – who knows . . .

After three hours the gasista tells me that he will have to return in the morning with another part. Meanwhile I have no hot water.


Next day:

A friend comes over to view the apartment and immediately plugs the toilet. Too bad the plumber was a day early. Meanwhile, the senior gasista, father of yesterday’s chico arrives, departs, and arrives again with necessary hardware in hand. After an hour he is finished and everything is back to normal. I even take care of the plumbing problem myself.

The nice thing about quilombos is that they are usually short-lived and keep life interesting. And it’s starting to rain again . . .


Ever see the movie Groundhog Day? This morning I had to light the pilot again and out it went again after a few minutes. Repeat. So, after more than 4 hours attention, the hot water heater is exactly where it was before – not working.

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The Black Roots Of Buenos Aires & Tango

You’ve seen her at a milonga: brassy bottle-blonde hair, between too much sun, too many cigarettes and too much plastic surgery, it’s difficult to determine her age—maybe 50 leaning toward 70 trying to look 30. She’s wearing, shall we say … something ‘memorable’ and it reveals her tucks and lifts and undergarments. She is Buenos Aires. She has black roots and her parents were purchased from another country. She was a slave, a whore. She wants to move to a wild African rhythm but the years have taught her, pressured her, to maintain composure. The proper dance halls of Paris, and Europe, taught her some manners—refinement, finesse, taught her how to hide, how to lie, how to sell.

Argentina’s first ever president may have been mulatto. Graduates of Argentine education don’t seem to know for sure. It’s possible that references to him as having been mulatto may have been more metaphorical than literal.

During the Spanish domination of Argentina, boatloads of African slaves were introduced to the country. In some provinces, they comprised about 50 percent of the population. They had a major impact on the national culture. But many of them died during the War of Independence and due to other factors. Currently, Afro-Americans comprise less than one percent of the total population of Argentina.

You can hear black roots in the candombe, canyengue and milonga rhythms. More recently, with the newer tango, you can hear a bit of the black roots revival. This is the music that inspires me to move.

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Forced To Lie

It’s true – we all lie. I don’t like it much. I try not to do it. But, the situation with the monedas here forces me to lie regularly and I try not to feel guilty about it.

It took me several months to get used to riding the bus on a regular basis. Now I save money on cab fare but am constantly trying to obtain coins for the bus. One day they will devise some (apparently) amazingly difficult alternative to paying exact (or close to exact) fare for each journey. Some of the independently owned lineas are already doing this.

So, I buy groceries, not because I need them but because I need to break a 100 peso note and get a few coins in change.

Tenés monedas?” they ask me at the check out.

Even if I could say it in Spanish I’m not about to explain “yes, I have a few monedas but I’m not giving them to you because I need them and more – an endless supply in order to take the bus”. So, I simply say “no” and avoid eye contact.

Once in a while I go to the bank and get a handful but most of the time I’m enjoying the fact that I’m not so much worried about spending money as I am constantly planning trips to the grocery store, the kiosko, the produce market etc. and hope to hell that they’re not going to round up to the nearest, most convenient peso.

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Don’t Get Upset – Get Smart

Okay, so here’s a plan. When you get your bills from the bank machine check them all for the authentic watermark. Then, make a personal mark on all of them. Next time you’re ready to pay the taxista make sure that you know exactly how many 100s you have with you and give him one making certain that he understands that you know that you’re giving him 100. Now, at this point, if he still tries to screw you – breathe, chill out, relax – don’t get upset. You can rest in the confident knowledge that he’s an idiot. If he comes back at you saying that you gave him a fake bill, you know you didn’t. Let him know that you know that he’s exchanged the one you gave him for a false one and stashed your bill. If he owes you money, relax and refuse to get out of his taxi. He can’t pick up another fare with you sitting there. What’s he going to do? Call the cops? Excellent!

If he exchanges the 100 you gave him for a 10 and he tells you that you made a mistake expecting you to cough up another 100 – you know you didn’t – don’t get flustered. If he doesn’t owe you money – just get out of the cab – not feeling obligated to pay for his next oil change.

Don’t worry if you can’t speak Spanish very well. I’m sure that he’ll understand dirty rotten bastard by your intonation even if he doesn’t quite understand your words.

If you have suitcases in the trunk – you may have a problem. Keep your suitcases inside the car with you. They usually want you to do this anyway so they don’t have to get out to open the trunk.

In reality, the majority of taxistas are very nice honest people. It only takes one to ruin your whole holiday and impression of them. Be smart, be careful and just relax – enjoy the ride they’re taking you on . . .

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One Afternoon At Confiteria Ideal

BsAs 2009 Confiteria Ideal 3The nature of tango forces us to protect ourselves in subtle ways from the vulnerability it involves. We press ourselves against a stranger and move as one with their body. We can feel under the skin of the other; we can smell them; our perspiration mingles – on our hands, our brows, our backs. In any other situation this might be too close for comfort. How does it become ‘comfortable’ on the dance floor? We adopt an internal protective attitude. We close our eyes. We try to surrender.
But, for her, with him, it was different. They had agreed to be unprotected in their humanness with each other. Virtual strangers, they had chosen to be lovers. To dance a delicious forbidden tango.

They agree to meet in the afternoon. Enough words had been exchanged; it was time to feel. Nowhere but Bueno Aires can you dance tango in the middle of the day. That it is why it is called Ideal: the ideal confitería for a lovers’ tryst. A venerable restaurant and dance hall built in 1912, it has dark wood paneling, large columns, a stained glass domed skylight, huge mirrors and a formally attired nonchalant waiter.

She arrives first wearing a vintage linen dress in a style of the 1940s. A pale golden color with ivory trim on the fitted v-neck empire-waist bodice and an A-line cut skirt – it allow her legs freedom for dancing. Had she accessorized with an an appropriate hat and gloves it would have completed the fantasy. She chooses a table, changes her shoes, and orders a drink. Against the dark wooden panels of the confitería she is glowing.

A few minutes later, she watches him stride in and over to a table on the other side of the room. He doesn’t want to sit with her. He wants to play. She pretends to not be interested; to not want to look; to not want to dance. She can’t. He is too beautiful and he wants her. She is drawn to his eyes like a magnet and they coquettishly go through the motions of eye contact, nod, rise, meet on the floor.

He invites her into his embrace. For a moment they stand together, close, motionless, breathing in each other’s scent. She feels him move and she goes. He goes with her. She only wants to go where he wants her to go. His hold assures her he will not let go – at least not for this song, not in this moment – and this moment is all they have, all that matters to them. He turns her and his hand edges close to where her flesh leaves her ribs and rises. Her breath catches, becomes shallow and quickens. Her breasts are pressed against his chest. She hopes that the thumping of her heart doesn’t distract him from the beat of the music. Her temple against his – she hopes that her thoughts don’t distract him from the lyrics of the song. He is so close now. So close she can feel his past, present and future. She can smell his desire. Her thigh brushes against the front of his trousers. His breath is on her neck, in her ear, surrounding her disconnected thoughts.

Between songs they separate, maintaining a publicly approved intimate distance and gaze into each others eyes. Searching for understanding.

“You look stunning”, he says, and she knows her recent purchase has been worth that one compliment – even if it is chamuyo.

During the cortinas they sit together, no longer willing to waste precious little time playing games across the floor. Still, they speak very little. They dance a couple more tandas and it is time for him to slip away.

She bends down to change her shoes and you cannot see the tears welling up in her eyes. This is the last she will see of him and so much is left undone.

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Sunday Afternoon At The Cemetery

The cemetery never ceases to be a source of inspiration ad contemplation for me. Any time of year, through all of the seasons, in different types of weather and throughout different times of the day – I am never bored.

Amanda's 049 BsAs 2009 206

There is always a new avenue to walk, a new tomb to discover, a different angle or texture on a familiar surface, a new reflection, a deeper shadow, and always the antics of the feline population to watch.

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