Saturday, March 17, 2007

Asado y Portenos

I don't have pictures for you. Of the architecture, of the tango dancers on the boardwalk, and of the incredible steak. I wish I could blog the smell of the asado (bbq) and the sound of the wind blowing through the old hotel in the dunes with the stray dogs howling across town at each other under the moon.

Here, strangers you talk to are kinder and warmer than any stranger you've met. Argentines are Portenos and their language is Castellano (with ll's pronounced "sh" - "Castayshano"). It's easy to love Argentina.

I got here a week ago. Mindy went with me to the airport and took my coat, hat, earmuffs, scarf, gloves, and boots with her on the train back to Brooklyn. I got on a plane to Sao Paulo, Brazil - luckily it was late like me. I think time treats me better in Latin countries. The flight was fine though confusing in Portuguese. I was happy to board the Buenos Aires flight and stumble through the accent.

I'd arrived at the end of Argentina's summer and removed my NY layers. It was a humid, overcast day and I couldn't believe I'd made it. I was met at the airport by a cabbie holding "Eve Hyman La Menesunda Hostel" and Carlos became the first of a string of taxi driver friends who'd insist we go for a drink sometime.

I got to the hostel and it was really cute - bright colors, clean, and run by Hernan during the day (he's adorable, 22, and tried to get me to do E with him last night at a disco). At the hostel I went to sleep right away. I slept for most of two days - only going out to eat the most amazing steak I'd ever had. I went to an old restaurant with a menu of two pages of beef options and enjoyed the 14% alchohol red wine. On my way home I noticed a group of people hanging out in front of a storefront with people in the windows upstairs. I walked in, went upstairs, and paid $5 pesos to join an audience for a community theater show. There was a Brazilian singer, a guitarist and a clarinet player. The music was great and was followed by a cool sock puppet show, then by two clowns doing a cross between stand up and physical comedy. I found out these community spaces exist all over the city with shows by local actors, musicians and artists.

The next day it poured and I slept all day. That evening I met an Italian staying in the hostel. Andrea had just come back from traveling for two months in Bolivia, Peru, and northern Argentina. He's from the border of Italy and Austria and works in his family's business. He's a former soccer player turned butcher (fyi eating steak with an Italian butcher is serious business). Like many people I've met this past week, Andrea thoroughly dislikes the US.

We spoke a strange Italian/Spanish that was easy for both of us and found a local kind of bar/ late night food spot full of locals drinking beer and eating (asado) barbecue out on the sidewalk tables. I ate empenadas and we drank red wine while he explained why the desert in Bolivia is the coolest place he's ever seen. We talked a lot of politics. I didn't tell him how much I'd disliked Italian guys when I lived in Florence. I did let him know that I found it funny to listen to him explaining why he's anti-American while he's dressed in O'Neil long shorts and flip flops and with his Rasta tattoos.

The next day we went downtown. We went to the Japanese garden at BsAs' (Buenos Aires) version of Central Park. Dude bought a fake Samurai sword. Every cabbie and waiter asked us where we were from. He proudly proclaimed his Italian nationality and was well-received by people who are mostly of Italian heritage here. The cab driver or waiter would eventually refer to my being Italian as well and Andrea would scoff - "Her, she's not Italian. She's from "Los Estados Unidos" - in Italo/Spanish and with disgust. I eventually let him know he was being an ass. It's true that Italy gets much respect here and there are posters and graffiti on the street proclaiming Bush to be guilty of genocide and demanding "Bush Fuera." I thought it meant out of Latin America, because his stankness followed me here. Apparently, it means out of office. People here want him impeached, which really takes global village to the next level - other nationals are calling for an American president's impeachment.

That night was Friday and Italy and I went dancing in a neighborhood called Palermo Hollywood. Ha! Italy and I in Palermo Hollywood, I didn't realize how perfect that was, right? Palermo is BsAs' village and is divided into sections - Palermo Hollywood and Palermo Soho. We followed Hernan's advice and went to a club called Niceto. It was hipster night. Andrea had never seen hipsters. He wanted reggae and no one was dancing to the pinche New Wave so we wandered around the barrio for a second. We found an around-the-way spot with kids dancing to cumbia, reggaeton, and rock. They had big beers for a dollar. The night here gets going at about 2am and goes until 6am. There were plenty of people out and blocks of bars and clubs.

Saturday I moved into a house and then I hopped a bus out of town to the north coast. Italy went back to Italy.

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