Friday, January 25, 2008

Buenos Aires - Day 8 (El Fin)

Unplanned last lesson with maestro first thing after we woke up. I wore sneakers and sweatpants for the first time in the history of my tango lessons. While one was having a lesson, the other packed. To save that precious time that was already racing... Then ready to go out for a nice lunch and some last minute shopping at the street market in Palermo on Plazoleta Cortazar.

We had caught a glimpse of a charming restaurant with a beautiful chandelier on the way back from Bar Uriarte in Palermo a few days ago and meant to go back, so we figured now might be a good time. But on the way there changed our minds on a whim and decided on Olson, as we never made it for brunch there on the weekend before. Amazing! The place was so nice, modern Scandinavian theme and food. We were seated on a very low and comfy leather couch in front of a Scandinavian open fireplace (not working on such a nice summer day, thankfully), which was perfect, as we were really tired from last night and needed to relax. I then spotted the bartender preparing this very soft green smoothie-looking drink. Since Olsen is known for its over 50 vodka selections, it was not hard to guess what was in it. But we had to have our champagne first and get into our usual giggly mood. Sure enough, we hadn't so much had a few sips each, when it started. We couldn't stop laughing. Again. Our cute waiter (they were ALL cute) tried his best to help with the food selection, but his looks were far better than his English, so we were still in the dark when we ordered - I decided on something with eggs and shrimp, and Eva chose some kind of chicken dish. But when the food came (by which time we were getting progressively merrier and more relaxed and were almost lying on the couch) - it not only had great presentation, but was absolutely delicious! Crispy potatoes, eggs and shrimp bruschetta (who thought this could taste so good?!), chicken milanese, chicken salad with walnuts, and fresh bagels. After this feast, it was time to try the green drink. Some back and forth with the waiter later (I was trying to explain that we want to try the bebida verde!), it came and let's just say it was so strong that it got both Eva and I pretty tipsy in no time! We started on our laughing kick again, and this time there was no stopping us. We let ourselves be in this wondrous oblivion for a while, savoring our last Buenos Aires moments...

We left Olsen and tried to find the market. Not easy. Try to sort out where you are going on a tiny map after champagne and green vodka drink... We couldn't really focus on the task at hand and kept walking in what we thought was the right direction. All of a sudden Spanish was pouring out of Eva, it must be true that everything you learn does come through at some point! She was naming whatever we saw on the way, including a homeless dog - not without a significant sense of revelation she exclaimed "Pero!!". We couldn't really walk, we were laughing so hard. We almost lost one of her flip-flops, twice. Then all of a sudden, we found ourselves in front of the chandelier restaurant - Bardot! Snapped a picture of the cross streets, why bother remember… We will definitely come next time. Wandered about a bit, then finally saw the market. We did pretty well for the 20 minutes we had left before we absolutely had to head back to the apartment to meet Eugenia and leave the keys.

We did the last bit of packing left and Eugenia came. She said “You tried our ice-cream, no?” No. We hadn’t gotten to that, there is only so much time in the day, you know... So she suggested we go get some from Persicco across the street to eat on the way to the airport. We had to! The best ice-cream in town. I ran over there while Eva was taking care of the last details with Eugenia. Little did I know what I was in for. This has got to be the biggest ice-cream shop/cafe I have seen. With countless flavors and unknown to me rituals. Some of which I was just about to learn. The hard way. Somehow I managed to pay for a quarto of helado and was then pointed in the direction of the counter where they prepare yor order. You take a number and wait for it to flash on a screen. Who said that ordering ice-cream would be easy? I patiently waited browsing at all the flavors listed (most of which I was clueless about) but was confident enough as I knew we wanted dulce de leche. Simple enough, you would think. The second I pronounced dulce de leche (I must have said it the Italian way ) the guy who was serving me looked at me with disbelief, then burst out laughing uncontrollably. He had to then go and tell the rest of the guys working there what he had just heard, by which time I was beet red with embarrassment and lost every hope that I will actually walk out of there with what I came for. So they had a good laugh and still giggling he started to ask me a series of progressively harder questions - nuts or no nuts, brownies or no brownies, more flavors, strawberry with cream or strawberry with water, cover or no cover, should he pack it with dry ice if I was going far, spoon, how many spoons? I wanted to scream 'Just give me the damn ice-cream and let me go!', but I couldn't so much as shake my head for a yes or no in response. I must have had the most bewildered look in history. He must have taken pity on me - on my way out I noticed he had actually given me a much bigger box that I had ordered. Lesson learned - I have to learn that language, there is no way around it. If nothing else was a motivation strong enough, that did it. I have got to be able to order some ice cream without being utterly embarrassed! Granted it's a ritual over there, but still!

Eva was already waiting in a cab in front of the building (poor thing had to lug down my enormous suitcase too), wondering what happened to me... Hugged Eugenia good bye and got in the car, holding the precious box of ice cream, starting to feel sadder by the minute. We rode in silence, eating dulce de leche con nueces, strawberry and lemon ice-cream as we were watching neighborhoods change on the way to the airport. Sad. Really.

We got there on time, unfortunately. As we were waiting in the check-in line, I turned to Eva and said, "I wonder why there isn't a milonga at the airport - in some small corner, while waiting for your flight, you could go for a last tanda..." Everyone else would of course have marvelled at how one can come up with something like this, but Eva simply looked at me and whispered, "I was just thinking that."

Friday, January 18, 2008

Buenos Aires - Day 7

Cafe con leche and a bite for breakfast at our cafe across the street. A bite meaning dulce de leche tarta and a medialuna for me, two sandwiches for Eva. Off to CiF in Recoleta. Exciting. Not really expecting to buy yet more and more pairs of shoes, but we did, of course. Eight in total for the trip for me. This can't be normal. Eva was good, only four. Not counting the first four pairs she got on her previous trip only a few months ago. On the way out of the little alley where Cif is hidden, we decided to take pictures of Eva jumping in the air. Then twirling. We gathered a bit of a crowd from the surrounding shops, but hey, we don't go CiF shopping every day, plus we were in the mood. Happy happy pictures...

Next was Hotel Alvear for afternoon tea, but on the way there a lingerie shop caught our eye. An hour and a half and 6 lingerie sets between the two of us later, we strolled down Avenida Alvear. The hotel was delightfully elegant, with beautiful architecture and decoration. The classic tea service offered in L'Orangerie Restaurant consisted of kir royal (we needed our champagne, how else), followed by an exquisite selection of teas and endless courses of finger sandwiches, scones and miniature desserts. What a lovely afternoon... It was all about what we wanted out of life in that moment - tango shoes, lingerie, champagne and dulce de leche in various forms.

Lesson. We made a dinner reservations for 10pm at another brand new restaurant a block away from our apartment building, Francesca. It was their opening night. And, unfortunately, our last night in BsAs. It had a very modern and spacious look, at the same time the atmosphere was soft and airy. Sirloin and ribeye steaks. The maitre d' wanted to start us with one wine then bring a bottle of another kind, so when we explained we had to be at least somewhat sober to dance later, he introduced us to one of the waiters, who had allegedly been a tango performer in the past. He was known by Mel Gibson, although the resemblance wasn't striking. Cute though. We made tentative plans to see him later.

We had decided on two local milongas and La Viruta in the end. Damian took us to Las Mareados, a small, intimate milonga, thankfully not visited by tourists. The space was beautiful, with open windows letting the warm early summer air in, candles everywhere. A beautiful performance – a tango, then a dance with handkerchiefs called El Gato. Off to Villa Malcom for an hour. More of a practica environment, young people. La Viruta next. We were pretty tired at that point, but stayed for an hour or so, it was our last night after all. Serendipitously, Eva danced her last tanda with the old argentine guy with whom she danced her first tanda in BsAs here at La Viruta while Color Tango was playing 7 days ago. On the way out we bumped into Mel Gibson. Eva asked me if I wanted to stay for a little longer and dance with him, but at that point I was so tired that I had forgotten he was a performer and decided it was probably not going to be worth it, so we left. Ugh! I could have ended the night with a nice tanda. But, as every dedicated dancer is well aware of, if you feel you must call it a night after long hours of dancing, you are trully at the point of collapsing.

Last time to enjoy the early morning bird songs...

Monday, January 14, 2008

Tagging along

We were tagged by Tango Pilgrim and Dazarin.

I am supposed to share 7 random and/or weird things about myself, tag 7 people at the end of my post (include links to their blogs.) then let each person know they have been tagged by leaving a comment on their blog. Well, considering we are joining so late in this blogger-tag-game and most of the bloggers have already been tagged 2 or 3 times, I'm going to skip this part.

1) I can moonwalk. (yep... really.)

2) I hate scallops because they remind me of the little round white pencil erasers I had in kindergarden.

3) I can sing and act on the stage but never felt comfortable making an impromptu speech.

4) When I moved a few years ago, I decided not to get cable TV and I still don't miss it.

5) I used to flip my eyelids to scare my sister when we were kids.

(I'll spare you that photo.)

6) After I sang for my college commencement ceremony at Radio City Music Hall, I received a letter from the president of my college, telling me I should consider a career in music instead of fashion. (Till this day, I still wonder if I'd made the right choice.)

7) When I was a teenager, I used to carry a bright red condom in my wallet because it made me feel grown up. That same condom stayed in my wallet for several years until one morning. While I was waiting on line at the subway station during rush hour (this is before they invented metrocard machine), the bright red condom fell out of my wallet and onto the freshly washed floor. I thought of picking it up but didn't want to confirm ownership of the damn thing. I was also running too late to get on another line, so I decided to stay and endured 10 minutes of bright red embarrassment while I listened to the people laughing behind me.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

From Tango to Fencing

We've been trying to cope with our post BsAs tango withdrawal. We figured maybe we just needed a little temporary distraction from tango. So Malena decided she would give fencing a try, while I would take up ballroom dancing again. I thought fencing was a great idea for Malena, because I could totally picture her as Catherine Zeta Zones in that fencing scene in the movie The Mask of Zorro. So this was the week she was going to start this new craze. Malena sent me the link for the fencing school. I told her it looked like fun. "Class starts tonight. Do you have plans tonight? Would you like to come with?" she asked. "Hmm, Moi? Fencing? " I thought. "I suppose I could go since I didn't have any plans, plus I'd do anything to work off the few extra pounds from the holidays." So off we went, from tango to fencing.

We walked into the class. Almost everyone was in full gear, white fencing jackets, knee length fencing pants, long black socks and dark sneakers. I was fascinated by the clothing. One guy actually had his pants custom-made to look exactly like the ones worn in the 16th century. He was an obvious fencing addict with very intense eyebrows. He must have thought I was a nutjob because 65% of my questions were about clothing and not fencing.

The fencing academy operates out of a great little studio near Chinatown. I was told by the maestro that no street shoes were allowed because the space is a dance studio during the daytime. "Should I wear my tango shoes then?" I asked with a straight face. He didn’t answer me but gave me one of those looks, "Did she really just ask me that? was she being funny or is she just plain stupid?" It was fine because Malena got it and immediately laughed out loud.

Maestro went over the proper attire for students in a fencing class. There are strict color rules. Rule #1. The maestro, and ONLY the maestro, is allowed to wear all black. The would-be-masters-in-training wear white jackets and black pants. All other fencers can wear any combination of white, black and grey. Newbies can wear any gym clothes (provided it's not all black). I luckily wore a grayish t-shirt and black gym pants, while Malena?... she wore head to toe all black. "I am sorry. I didn't know." she said to the maestro with a little smile.

There were so many styles. This academy specializes in Italian, French and Spanish. We were shown the following weapons, the Foil (technically not a weapon but a practice tool), the Epee and the Sabre. They all looked the same to me, except for the different blade lengths and size of the handle guard thingy. There are names for every part of the sword, even the sections along the length of the blade had a different names. It was overwhelming and intimidating; we were beginners all over again. I felt like a sponge trying to soak up everything thrown at me. Some students were very helpful, while others ignored us. I guess they figured we probably wouldn't come back. Everyone from different levels worked together in the same space. We started with a few different en garde positions. There were lots of turnouts and pliés, very much like ballet, except you don't lead with your toes. It definitely brought back memories of the couple of years I spent in ballet school back when I was in high school.

On our way out, we chatted with a ballet dancer who's been fencing for 14 months. She gave us the low down on what to expect as a beginner and told us about how much fencing has reshaped her body. Aside from the workouts she received with her already strong dancer legs, she couldn't believe how ripped her arms and upper body got. She even saw results after just one month. Those were the key words I needed to hear. I hate the gym and have been looking for an interesting sport to help tone up abit. Each class is three hours long and doing that twice a week? My body better show some changes. She also advised us to take the advil before the soreness starts. I must admit I'm really looking forward to the pain. Bring it on baby!

We promised to give ourselves one month to explore this further. It's only been one lesson and I am already loving it. I like the fact that fencing is just as much a mental game as it is a physical challenge. The art of it involves learning how to strategize your attacks, as well as learning how to read and understand your opponents. It's the perfect combination of chess, geometry and dance?... all wrapped up in one very sexy cool outfit!

* Buenos Aires to be continued...

Buenos Aires - Day 6

We got up late today. We were hungry and wanted something good, so we went to Novecento in our hood. It was nice to have good Italian for a change. Unfortunately, we were running late for our tango lesson and had to inhale our food. Malena wanted to hit a mall to do some shopping before we leave BsAs, so we decided to go to the Alto Palermo mall. We were tired and cranky and didn’t find anything worth buying. How do the portenos afford these prices??? We left and went straight to our local patisserie for some café con leche and sandwiches. We also picked up a good selection of cakes and alfahores to go with our champagne. We rushed back to the apt for our massages. Sebastian was an hour late today because.... he forgot. I was annoyed but was glad he did show up…hoping he would iron out our crankiness. He started to tell us in Spanish … something about his job with a priest and an architect. Trying to sound like I actually understood what he was saying, "Ahhh... you massaged a minister and an architect? You must be mucho cansado!" He gave me a puzzled look then started waving his hands, "No, no, no masaje el ministro." We all broke out in laughter; it was the release we needed. We later figured out that he has several jobs. He is a Nurse Assistant at a hospital, also freelances for a minister, helping with local contractors for the construction of a new church and he is an aspiring painter.

Dear "Massage Therapists",

Please refrain from telling your clients the following, especially right before their massages.

a) You are late because you simply forgot.
b) You have multiple dayjobs and giving massages is what you do to earn a few extra bucks.
c) You are exhausted because you just came from your multiple dayjobs.

(Pop!) We needed to open a bottle of champagne before heading out. We're still tired but a little less cranky now. Can’t believe we'll be leaving this beautiful city in just two days. We decided to check out the "New" milonga Eduardo(the taxi dancer) mentioned, as he promised to meet us there so he could give me my video. I was under the impression we were going to the grand opening of a new milonga. We soon realized "new" meant "alternative" because the first thing we noticed when we walked in was two men dancing together. As we surveyed the room, we saw many more same sex couples. It was hard to tell at first because everyone looked so androgynous. Yes, it was different but people seemed very relaxed and were having a good time. It was beautiful to watch, especially two men dancing to a slow tango.

Eduardo spotted us right away when we arrived. He came by and we made some small talk. I didn't want to appear rude so I waited a little while before bringing up the subject of the video. When I finally asked him, he casual said to me... "Ohh, I forgot to bring it but I am sure I'll see you both again before you leave." It was so blatantly obvious to me right then that this slime was using the video as bait, just so he could see Malena again. Mind you he runs his taxi dancing business with his girlfriend and just a few nights ago, he told me they were still happily together. Maybe it was obvious how annoyed I was because he didn’t ask me to dance once. Eduardo danced several tandas with Malena and tried to work his "I'm a teacher, let me show you a few things" magic on her, but it didn't quite work this time, as she was fully aware of his unwelcomed advances.

We stayed a little while and danced to nuevo tango with a few tangueros we met from the previous nights. We left there a little upset that we were misled but on the other hand we were glad we had the chance to experience this milonga. We watched a father dancing with his little baby girl. It was adorable to see but babies should really be sleeping at 3am, not dancing to loud music at a milonga. We learned from our maestro that many tangueros there use their babies to impress the tourists.

Ugh! The hell with you Eduardo and your dumb video!