Tag Archives: Janis

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The Biblioteca Nacional I am told houses over three hundred thousand scores of unpublished and un played tango, something they are working hard to remedy, by publishing as much as they can.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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The Argentine way

It’s a beautiful day, and there is no sign of Viv getting up, so I have some breakfast leave her my mobile and go for a walk.

This barrio is a maze of streets and even though we have walked for miles I doubt we have seen half of it. My first stop however is Jumbo where we have been often. There is a sign outside that says pagofacil and I want to pay the electric bill. At the kiosco there is a boy behind the counter with a guitar. He is staring at the strings, perhaps in some way he thinks if he looks at them long enough they will show him how to play, but I must interrupt his study,”Puedo pagar es aca” I said, he looked at me like I was some sort of lunatic “la maquina no funcionada” he said, then went back to staring at the guitar, which also seemed to have some problem functioning. Though I love this place I still have trouble dealing with the Argentine way, “no pasa nada”, things do matter especially when you are here only a short time.

After returning Viv was now up and about we decided to go for another walk.

Another of Buenos Aires beautiful plaza is Plaza Miserere right by El Once railway station and bus station. We watched the antics of a big moma as she touted for business,in broad daylight, the children pseudo splashing in the empty fountains,and the buskers hopefully watching every stranger expecting some change, it was all happening here.

The sun starts to fall early here, so around four we headed back via Sarimiento, Viv wanted some flowers, and I know they can be bought here. Janis complained she could not get fresh rosemary here, so when I saw a plant by the station I thought I must buy it, another case of it finding me. I like this attitude of Sally’s Carlos.

So as we walked home we bought fresh salad items, then a bunch of flowers, phoned Janis and bought a prepared meal from our local panaderia, total cost, less than £6, inflation may have hit hard here but if you stick with local produce, and the colectivos, you can still live very cheap.

Talking of colectivos, we used one again to go to Janis’s, we were going from her place to Lo de Celia. I have not been there since 2004, I don’t know why, it just never seemed to be in our circle.

Next door to Janis’s place is a new tango venue, we know little of it, so when the patron came out Janis probed him for some time. Most of what they said passed me by, as my spanish is still not quick enough, but we did work out that they have dancing there on a Thursday and early classes.

In Lo de Celia the old problems with change cropped up, Janis said when we arrive early we should have change, this I knew, but I had spent almost the whole day trying to get people to give me change. The situation here does not get any better.

The floor in Lo de Celia is ceramic, but I like the way there is a line about half a metre in from the edge, it makes lane discipline a little easier. In general the lane discipline is very good, although there was one clown who was all over the floor (he thought he was the best there). So even though it got quite crowded in general it was not difficult to dance.

As usual, when out with Janis we danced a lot less than usual, we discussed the music, who were the good dancers and generally enjoyed each others company. We were suposed to sit separately so Viv could dance with different men, but at he last moment chickened out. Viv is happy to dance with me, so long as she thinks I am the best not much else matters.

We met our tango singer again (Luis De Rosa) and had a short conversation with him. I am afraid my only contribution was “no entiendo nada” but thinking about it afterwards I think he said something like, I wander all over this land and I keep bumping into you. It was either that or, you dance like idiots, easy to mix up.

We met more people at the door when we left, every one is keen to meet Los Galeses, before Janis put us on the bus home. This time it passed right by our building, even though it was the same number as last time, it passes five block closer. Is it any wonder I have problems working them out?

One thing before I finish; Janis like others here complains my lead is not strong enough. This is the result of the English way “you must invite the woman”, forgive me if my quote is not perfect but she says; on the floor I like to be in a strong embrace, and led so that I do not have to think about it at all.  I add this for those at home who think my lead is too strong and I hold too close.

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El Arranque

We usually go to Porteno y Bailerin on a Tuesday only because we could find nothing better, but on Janis’s recommendation we thought we would try El Arranque at Nuevo Salon de Argentina.

It starts at three and although Janis recommended we went at six, we had nothing else planned, so we arrived almost the first. After the subte journey Viv was ready for a coffee, so we just sat and relaxed for half an hour drank our coffee and listened to the music.

There is a large floor here,a lot of seating, and a stage. We assumed that on other days there is a show on here, but today there are just us dancers. The floor is tiled and not very forgiving, so we danced every other tanda, unless of course there was a milonga playing.

There were of course very few people there when we arrived  but the crowd soon built up. Viv noticed that there were a number of ladies changing their shoes in the ladies room. What I find strange is that we have been here eight times and nobody metioned this before, we were even told at Fulgor last night to change in the toilets. I don’t for one minute think this is new, just maybe they are starting to realise that by pandering to the touristas they are in danger of destroying the things that they all come for. Something else I noticed though, there were a lot of ganchos going on on the floor and some quite fancy footwork, will the same realisation come to the social side of the dance?

We are new here and aroused some curiosity, one or two people asked where we were from and as usual there is always an expert ready to offer advice. I do stoop when I am not concentrating, but then so do a lot of the locals, and nobody goes over to their tables and tells them. Still it made me stand better for a while.

The nice thing about going early was that we could leave and go for a meal, not something that is possible at two or three in the morning, even here. We have a favourite artisanal restaurant called 1810, not only is the food excellent, but it is very cheap.

To get there we had to take the subte back, this time on the D line the one we used to use a lot. Rush hour comes much later in Buenos Aires, as we found to our cost.  When we tried to get on, it was packed, but the crowd behind us made sure we got through the door. There was literallyno room to move. You could not hang from the straps, as you could not lift your arms. At the next station about three people got of our carriage, but no room to move about a dozen got on. This was repeated at every station, five stops to where we got off, and we were ejaculated, like a burst blister, crying “permisso, permisso” oh the feeling of reliefas we stepped onto the platform.

1810 has, in my opinion, the best empanadas in Buenos Aires. Not something we usually eat (too much fatty pastry) but these were short and light so we had two each, followed by a sort of local stew, called carbonada, and Viv had lentils (lentajes)again. After this a nice walk home and early night.

Anyone seeking 1810 it is on Julien Alverez y Guatamala.

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Callao

For gringos pronounced Cash ow.

What I love about this city is that despite having come here eight times now, it still has the capacity to make me stand back and say wow! and surprise me.

Early risers today we were out the flat by eleven, Viv had even been out to  5aSec for the laundry.

We walked down to Scalabrini y Santa Fe where there was a shop she wanted to look in, unfortunately there was nothing there she wanted, and so as always at times like this we went for a coffee. Viv remembered she was supposed to be going shopping with Janis, so we phoned to cancel. The weather was improving and I think winter coats were the last thing on her mind.

We caught the subte at Scalabrini and got off at Callao. We were looking for El Ateneo, but were on the wrong street, there is a beautiful building just two blocks from the subte on Cordoba , someone asked us what it was, we just said  “no se”. Anyone know what it is?, it looked like some sort of university or technical school.

We walked down Callao and turned into Santa Fe just up from the corner was the entrance to El Ateneo. What we saw is hard to describe, it is an old theatre which is now a book shop. They have not destroyed the interior, only removed some walls, so that as you walk in you are confronted with the auditorium and as you pass into it you are surrounded by all the balconies and boxes. The stage area is set out as a cafe with the stage lighting still in place. In the centre of the stalls is an escalator down to the pits where the children’s section is. We stood in the middle and just said “wow” No photos could do this justice, it is simply the one place any visitor should see. The Guardian did a survey of all the worlds book shops and this was voted second best in the world, the best I have GOT to see.

Unlike so many old buildings the whole character has been maintained. It has a whole new life, but all it’s former glory is maintained.

We walked back along  Callao as we wanted to look in some other record shops before we decide what music to bring home.

Isee they have a new way of employing people here; there is a whole army of people putting posters on lampposts. So what is so different? well they also have another army following with buckets and scrapers cleaning them off again.

Along the way it is worth looking up to see the beautiful sky line, and the many copulas that still survive.

Gloria Garcia again welcomed us to Plaza Bohemia, sadly the numbers were very down. This was a shame because we were treated to a wonderful session from the Tango singer Luis DeRosa, I think Gloria kept him singing to liven up the evening, but we enjoyed it no end.

Luis DeRosa

Luis DeRosa

We had a short chat with him afterwards and like many he was surprised to meet tango dancers from Wales. I tried to explain as best I could how hard it is to find tango in Wales and how much we have to travel. (that is why I am a Frustrated milonguero)

I had a bus route worked out for the way home, but when we saw the bus we needed disappear, well there were so many taxis.

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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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New friends

 

Looks like in Buenos Aires they have found a new way to stop people spending my money: As we walked back from Plaza Almagro, where we had sat eating lunch, we passed another furniture shop where they make thier own stuff. There was no way however we were going to get in, the owner (I assume) had placed all his tools in the shop doorway and was busy staining a table. There was no access for anyone, god forbid somebody wanting to go in and purchase one of his master pieces.

As the day was now getting short we decided to spend some time looking for a new lamp for our mesas de luzes, tables of light as bedside tables are known here.Walking down Corrientes I saw some lamps in one shop, now to me a lamp is a stick with a lamp holder on top, you decorate it with the shade. I guess I am wrong again, I do not know what is required but it ain’t here. Eventually we end up in The Abasto Centre, now I am comatose, just too many clothes shops.

As is the way with these things, you never find what you want, but when you are not looking something turns up. So we did not get a lamp but at least we now have a door mat.

Unusually tonight we are returning to Plaza Bohemia, we do not go to the same place twice. It is worth noting that because it is the same building the venue is different, the host is different as is th DJ even the staff tend to follow a particular host.

We come here at the invite of Jantango, never having been here on a Tuesday and having no idea about Janis apart from her blog, Viv was non too keen. The thing was Tuesday is often a bit flat, we usually end up at Porteno y Bailarin, but even there it is quiet.

When we walked in we were suprised, there was a good crowd, not crowded as is often the case here, but enough to make a good night. We are not known here so we were given a table right at the back out of the way.

As we sat waiting for some service I scanned the room hoping to see Janis. I am pretty hopeless at remembering faces I have met, so to identify one I have only seen in a photo was a lost cause. I need not have worried she found us.

I have to say that my worries about meeting a lone American woman were unfounded, she was sweet and very friendly and got on well with Viv.

We did not get much dancing done, two women together never stop talking, but we enjoyed the company.

I did dance a couple of times with Janis, I felt akward and clumsy but she was so comlimentary. This is something the women at home need to understand, we men have very fragile egos, tell us we are doing something wrong and you are a lousy dancer, tell us we are great and you are the best dancer in the world.

While we danced she helped me out with a few things (not that I was doing anything wrong oh no not me) and we joked about teaching on the dance floor, but as I have said, there is a world of difference between correcting the embrace or stance and standing still while you explain a step you are unable to lead.

We left the club together Viv and Janis arm in arm, and when we got to Tucuman Janis bundled us into a taxi. I am afraid ungentlemanly I should have seen her safely off first, but she has lived in this city for ten years and is without doubt more capable of looking after herself here than we are.

I think we have made yet another friend here, and for those who think I am anti American, she is from Chicargo.

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