A blurry live-action tango scene.

Buenos Aires is beginning to make sense. Maybe because today was the first time I got properly lost on my own, which is a fabulous way to get one’s bearings in an unfamiliar place. For the past 13 days (!) I’ve been relying on my travel partner for navigation. In a sense, he’s the orchestrator of this trip, and I’m the guest, so I follow. Besides, this is a working holiday for me; many potential brain-map-making hours have been spent drinking cortados in coffee shops while pounding away at my laptop about goings-on back home. This is no complaint, but it was an adventure to begin forging my own sense of geography earlier tonight.

Stationed on the southern-ish edge of B.A.’s “old money” Recoleta neighbourhood (note: the apartment sublet here was, miraculously, comparable in price to others in less quiet/chi-chi locations), I ventured for a 10k run to and from the border of Palermo, a gigantic expanse of parks and nightlife broken up into four real-estate subsections for easy marketing appeal. From my monthlong dwelling at the intersection of Ayacucho and Peña, I headed northeast along increasingly swanky territory along Ayacucho and onto Avenida del Libertador–Avenue of the Liberator–to make my way westward.

As a headphones runner, I had the latest record by Argentine electro group Poncho to keep me from bursting into an anti-exercise tantrum. According to the current Argentine edition of Rolling Stone (which I picked up at a nearby kiosko a few days ago)  iTunes is relatively new to the country and, within moments of its inception, Poncho’s sole English-language single “Please Me” became its most-downloaded track, even surpassing Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep”–quite a feat, if you’ll ask anyone in the Western Hemisphere.  In true tech-gen fashion, I discovered the tune by Shazaaming it at a Palermo bar earlier in the week, but it’s been apparently inescapable for months. ( In case you’re wondering, the entire album is brilliant.)

After I figured out how to return home, we ate what could almost be called a homecooked meal and drank Fernet and Cola, which I’ve discovered is the cocktail of choice for Porteños (the name given to people from Buenos Aires, a port city, which literally translates to “Port dwellers”). I learned about the concoction during a fabulous walking tour last Monday, which I’d recommend to anyone considering a visit to the city. Upon mention of the drink, a German tourist in the group made a horrible face and said that his experience with Fernet y Cola was unpleasant and headache-inducing, which naturally led me to try it a few hours later. Some loser on Vimeo described its taste as “mouthwash,” but my refined palate reads notes of Ricola cough drops and Sicilian mafiosos. It’s simultaneously classy and dirty, which is really the best any of us can aspire to. For my Toronto friends: Fernet Branca is apparently available at the LCBO, but at about 6x the Buenos Aires price. In other words: hit me up, for I shall be importing.

Fernet y cola was something that got consumed last night, as well, when we ventured to a hip milonga called La Catedral at the recommendation of a local friend-of-a-friend named Elena. Milongas are where tango happens, and el tango is just short of religion here. The dance originated at the end of the 19th century but waned in popularity during the mid-20th century, when newfangled rock-n-roll business decided to take over the public consciousness. The folkloric dance was further suppressed during Argentina’s most recent, and most violent, military dictarorship, which lasted from 1976-1983. But, after a long period of decline, tango is making a major comeback, thanks to a number of Bohemian and youth-centric milongas and–of course–a bounty of international tourists drawn to  its undeniable sexiness. As my new friend Elena explained, “Es una obsesion.”  Having experienced my own first tango lesson and show last night, I can understand why: it’s a dance that relies on intuition and reflex, a communication between dance partners, more than any other.  Basically, the dance is foreplay on heels. I hope to get a second lesson tomorrow.

Beyond tango and exploration, today involved a visit to the MALBA–the museum of Latin American Art in Buenos Aires–where we experienced some amazingly trippy “physiocromic” (my own attempt at an English translation for it) work by the artist Carlos Cruz-Diez. Google the guy, as your mind will surely be blown. The following photo is from one of his less-impressive (but more interactively fun) pieces. Apologies for dorkiness (I is what I is).

[Final note: for more intelligent/comprehensive Buenos Aires recaps, follow this blog here.]

Advertisements