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The Lost Tangos

For those who remember the 70s, just about the worst thing to come out of this era were the stark concrete  buildings, most of which have now thankfully been demolished. Which brings me to The Biblioteca Nacional, firstly I do not know when it was built, (1971) but they have brought stark concrete to a new level. There is non of the huge flat areas normally associated with this type of construction, instead it floats on pillars above a walkway littered with quotes from letters to and from Juan Peron. Honestly if architects in the UK had had this much vision, many of the buildings that came and went at such costs may still be around, and revered instead of hated.

Curtesy of BA gov

Curtesy of BA gov

The Biblioteca Nacional I am told houses over three hundred thousand scores of unpublished and un played tango, something they are working hard to remedy, by publishing as much as they can. This was not why we were here however, we came to listen to the Orquesta Escuela Del Tango Emilio Balcarce.

We arrived a good half hour early yet the queue was huge, and when we finally got into the auditorium there was not enough room for us to sit, so we sat on the floor. All the time we had a running commentary from Janis, who was a priceless font of knowledge. Unfortunately my brain ( tired from too many late nights) was unable to hold all she told us.

The orchestra was led by Nestor Marconi who also gave us renditions of several tangos. After he had given a short speech he introduced us to Leopoldo Federico  another famous bandonista who regaled us with some fantastic music. The sheer joy of listening and the enthusiasm of the audience was unbelivable. I felt so privilaged to be there at times the emotion was so great I was close to tears.

At the end, which had to come they were given a rousing ovation.

After wards we were brought back quickly to Buenos Aires reality, in the street we heard a huge bang, two buses had crashed. The one at the front was disgorging all its coolant, while the one at the rear sported an interesting truncated front and left it’s windscreen all over the road.

The bus at the rear would have been ours, a 92, so that all the passengers who were on it now waited with us at the next stop for the next bus. A young Japanese looking girl stood waiting and we recognised her as one of the violinistas. We found that she was from here but of japanese descent and it was here second year with the Orquesta, she complained that her neck had been jarred in the bus crash. Nobody here has yet heard of whiplash and where there is blame there is a claim. That day will come no doubt.

We returned to our place for a meal. Viv as usual managed to create something in next to no time, then while we changed Janis fell asleap on the couch, it looks like we are not the only ones for whome the hectic life here is too much.

We caught another 92, our third of the day, now to go to Mataderos, where we were to go to Glorias Argentinas. We have not been before, because although it is a local club of the type we love, it is an hour door to door. Believe me, even if you have a seat, you do not want to spend forty minutes on a colectivo.

We were greeted as if we were family, Janis had been invited to the birthday of Carlos Anzuate http://jantango.wordpress.com/2009/05/21/carlos-anzuate/  And were honored to be seated at the great mans table, Viv not used to celebrity, was embarrassed when some locals were asked to leave our table as it was reserved for his party. We enjoyed some good dancing here including another round of the campeonata, but the highlight of the evening was when Carlito (see freinds already, not Carlos any more) did a demonstration of jazz dancing with Janis. It was without doubt the most entertaining dancing we have seen (and I am not just saying this because I know Janis will read it) if you were not there you missed something great. I have to add, coming from a country where you are written off at fifty, and some miseries use their age as an excuse to do nothing but moan, the combined age of the two demonstrators was 140, they put on a show of so much fun and energy it would put many youngsters to shame.

Now Janis I know hates me saying she complained, but she did again (only pulling my leg, or was she?) this time that I had not danced with her, only with my love, she said. Well there were so many milogueros for her to dance with, surely she did not need a frustrated miloguero from Wales. Ah but we did do the chacarera, and it was gooood. Those mataderenos will be talking about the galesa chacerera for years.

Mataderos at night feels dark and frobidding, the two ladies felt nervous, not that I am some sort of hero, but I never feel threatened here, not as I have done in some other cities, even though we are in a very poor area. There were however some homeless people behind the bus shelters, so we jumped on the first bus. This one went to Janis’s place ( was there a plan I wonder?) anyway we had to jump off some distance from our place and walk a few blocks untill we could get a taxi. Janis very thoughtfully phone to make sure we got home ok, but we were fine, though it was after four and I wanted to get up at eight for the Monaco Grand Prix, more of that later.

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Filed under Argentina, Dance Venues and Schools, milonga, Uncategorized

Lunch at Balvanera

I’ve finally done it, caught one of the local buses across town. I did a lot of research first but even so when I saw my first 168 it was going the wrong way. I am getting savvy enough to realise now that often there is more than one route operated by the same bus number, so all we had to do was make sure the bus we caught was heading down Corrientes. This meant we had to walk an extra couple of blocks, but this was a first foray, a bit of a mini adventure.

We were off to Balvanera to the home of Jantango, and we had plenty of time. I expected the bus to go straight down Jujuy but it turned off, so I counted the blocks and when I thought we were as near as possible we alighted. As it turned out we were about eight blocks away, not a bad score for the first time.

At casa del Jan we were welcomed in and treated to a long talk about tango, we got some useful info on what to buy (tango music) and some insight into milongueros some of whom are still around, but many sadly who have passed on.  

Janis treated us to a delicious lentil stew, Viv’s favourite, which she had unfortunately laced with garlic. I think it was an attempt to keep me to herself that night. Fortunately the garlic did not seem to smell, whether it is some new type or the way she cooked it I do not know, but nobody fell over from my breath later.

Janis does not drink coffee, but made a brave attempt at making us a cup. Not wishing to be a bad guest I will say no more, other than when I mixed Viv’s cup and mine we got an excellent cup each. We also enjoyed some tasty Argentine treats, and now Janis is offering to take Viv on  shopping trip, so much for my budget this trip.

We walked to Centro Region Leonesa, often mistakenly called Nino Buen,tonight’s milonga is actually Los Consegrados. On the way Janis described the various bus route we could use, which would save us some taxi fare. It would not be possible to walk here from our place.

At the top of the large stone stairway that leads to the dance hall, people sat smoking and talking. This is the only place that they can smoke here. Janis’s arrival was greeted warmly and she introduced us to various old milongueros. I am afraid my recall is poor and I will probably forget all of them, though I suspect,knowing the warmth of these people, they will all remember me. 

We were also introduced to the guy who runs BA Tango a monthly glossy, we were honoured to be photographed for the magazine, fame at last.

Janis left us inside so that she could sit at the back, she would get her dances by doing the cabeceo, we joined the table of  Tangocherie. A couple of Americans sat at the next table to Janis and the lady immediately stared changing. To see her views on this read http://jantango.wordpress.com/2009/05/15/once-upon-a-time/  anyway she requested that this lady used the ladies room, and she was met with a tirade of abuse, calling her old and ugly. It is bad enough when people ignore the etiquette worse still when they leave their manners at home.

We joined Tangocherie where we were introduced to those present, including our new freind Sally. Unfortunately the table consisted almost exclusively of women. I was not about to leave Viv sitting on her own all night while I entertained all these women (tempting though it was) so I arranged to do every other tanda with Viv. The night passed all too quickly and I am afraid I did not get round many, I missed Cherie, but I am glad to say Viv did get some other dances.

We won the raffle, a bottle of cider. Viv likes a bit of cider now and then, but as the place closed we were left with half a bottle of beer and half a bottle of cider. Sign of a good night I think, when you did not have time to drink.

We went back to sit with Janis and pour some cider down her neck while she told us more stories. we thought the tango was all over as they were clearing up but then the DJ decided on a bit of karaoki he sang along to DiSarli, we can now say we have heard Carlitos Laffito singing Carlos DiSarli, and I have to say he was very good.

Afterwards Janis escorted us to the bus, and left us with instructions when to get off. Now I will have to collect all the change I can, so that we can continue using the collectivos.

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Filed under Argentina, Dance Venues and Schools, milonga