starlady: (run)
Martínez, Tomás Eloy. The Tango Singer. Trans. Anne McLean. London: Bloomsbury, 2006. [2004]

Buenos Aires is one of the great literary cities of the world, both in terms of the literature written about and in terms of its denizens' penchant for reading books, and I couldn't leave without shelling out (quite a lot of money) for at least one volume somewhere. I found this book in Libros del Pasaje in Palermo, and I recognized it as one of the "recommended reads" in my Rough Guide. Reading a bit of it in the store confirmed that the prose was captivating, and the story, which follows a hapless American grad student who heads to Argentina ten days before the towers fell in New York and leaves a month after the cacerolazo protests and the collapse of the Argentine economy toppled five presidents in ten days.

People will say that none of this is important, and the truth is it isn't, but I'd rather not overlook the slightest detail. )
starlady: the cover from Shaun Tan's The Arrival, showing an aquanaut in suburbia (i'm a stranger here myself)
I didn't buy the shoes, because I decided if I was going to spend $200+ on shoes I should just put it to a pair of Fluevogs. I did buy the handbag. It's a really nice handbag.

I don't know how to reconcile the ignoble lines my hand was writing with the thoughts of the dazzling light I'd just seen. I had wanted to say to my friend that, since we didn't come from Buenos Aires, he and I were perhaps more sensitive than natives to its beauty. The city had been raised at the limits of an unvarying plain, among scrubland as useless for nourishment as it was for basket-making, on the edge of a river whose single redeeming feature was its enormous width. Although Borges tried to ascribe it a past, the one it now has is also smooth, without any heroic feats other than those improvised by its poets and painters, and each time one took any fragment of the past in hand, it was only to watch it dissolve, into a monotonous present. It's always been a city where the poor were plentiful and where one had to walk with occasional jumps to dodge the piles of dog shit. Its only beauty is what the human imagination attributes to it. It's not surrounded by sea and hills, like Hong Kong and Nagasaki, nor does it lie on a trade route along which civilization has navigated for centuries, like London, Paris, Florence, Geneva, Prague and Vienna. No traveler arrives in Buenos Aires en route to somewhere else. Beyond the city there is no somewhere else: the spaces of nothing that open up to the south were called, on sixteenth-century maps, Land of Unknown Sea, Land of the Circle and Land of Giants, the allegorical names of non-existence. Only a city that had denied so much beauty can have, even in adversity, such an affecting beauty.

     --Tomás Eloy Martínez, The Tango Singer, trans. Anne McLean (136-37)
starlady: David 8 holding the holographic Earth in wonderment. (when there is nothing in the desert)
Win: Coffee and apple strudel at Cafe Margot this afternoon. (Yes, this afternoon. We got up at 12:30. I could really learn to live with this whole "stay up late, sleep late" thing Portenos have going on.)

Further win: Flea market in San Telmo, excellent performance tango at the milonga, walking to Fundacion Proa in La Boca, back to the milonga at San Telmo for more tango and folklorica. 

Fail: C and I's attempt to order the sandwich we saw someone eating at Cafe Margot this afternoon for dinner there this evening, after the parilla we wanted to eat at for dinner originally was closed. We got very sad turkey sandwiches, devoured them, and then ordered a full portion of what v_o ordered for dinner, since we'd eaten about a third of her food too. But the steak was good, and so was the homemade beer. 

Yesterday we saw a lot of art museums (Fortabat and Belles Artes), and I bought an expensive excellent handbag, and I had the best coffee of the trip so far at La Biala, and we wound up hearing a tango singer in a bar while drinking fernet with coca cola after Peruvian food and a swing through the Abasto. We saw a kosher McDonald's in the Abasto! I was not terribly surprised because we walked through the Jewish quarter to get there, complete with Orthodox families strolling around and Hebrew on the buildings, but I have never seen or heard of a kosher McDonald's. This sort of explains the number of kosher sushi places I have seen around, actually. 

All of us Californians are continually sort of amazed at the sky-high displays of ancient bottles in bars and cafes here, as well as the (sometimes vaulted) brick ceilings. C: "I didn't even know you could have a brick ceiling!" I had forgotten. Also when v_o and I had tea at the Proa cafe we felt the building shaking a bit every so often. We looked at each other. I said, "It must be the bus" and we both sort of relaxed. Earthquakes! Tons of fun even when you're not in danger of them!

In sum: I love it here. 
starlady: David 8 holding the holographic Earth in wonderment. (when there is nothing in the desert)
Partly this entry is an excuse to use my new David 8 icon, I'm not gonna lie. 

So, I am in Buenos Aires until next Tuesday night. It is pretty great so far! Between the buses and the subte it is fairly easy to get around and despite the fact that at this point my Spanish knowledge is basically second-hand Latin and Italian I have not had any truly horrible communications failures thus far. Partly this is because I have shamelessly let [personal profile] via_ostiense take almost every opportunity to practice her castellano

Today C and I lazed around until 11 am (v_o had to head out early for her classes) and then we went down the street to a cafe and drank coffee and ate things (medialunas and empanadas, mostly) and then v_o and I went to MALBA, which is pretty awesome and which packs quite a punch with its very well curated permanent collection, though they are between special exhibits right now so the third floor was closed. Still worth the AR $12 student rate I paid, though, despite the "we don't have change" brinksmanship the ticket takers put me through. (Change is worth more than its actual value in some ways because the buses only take change.) We then had ice cream at the deservedly famous Persicco and wandered through Palermo, including to Chicco Ruiz to try on some gorgeous but slightly too quirky boots (the actual buttons are a mixture of circles and squares; v_o had to help me button them), before heading to the only Cameroonian restaurant in South America. It was delicious. 

I really want to get a pair of shoes here, actually. I may well go back to Chicco Ruiz before I leave and buy either those shoes or a different pair if I don't find a different pair somewhere else that I love. 
starlady: roy in the sunset at graveside (no rest for the wicked)
1. Argentina: I am here!

2. Buenos Aires: the Rome of the Americas!

3. Hanging out with [personal profile] hl, sole, [personal profile] via_ostiense and C: awesome! (Sample quote: Sole: "Tony Stark would totally speak Argentine Spanish!")

4. Work: frustrating! 

5. Those emails where you can't tell whether the person writing them hates you now or not: dispiriting! 

And that is more than enough exclamation points for two entries, let alone one. 

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