Las Calles de mi Ciudad – Pasaje Bollini

Palermo Soho (1)

view from Plaza Serrano, Palermo Soho

My laptop became seriously ill a few months ago.  It had a couple of hot flashes (overheated may be the technical term), and every time I tried to resuscitate it the screen continued black as death and the poor thing kept emitting 3 pitiful beeps until its voice finally, thankfully, went silent.  For a few weeks it was in the capable hands of a local tekkie friend of a friend.  Prayers were spoken for the survival of its memory & fotos & contacts & music (especially the music!) & my favorite movies.

Recoleta's City of the Dead - how many cats can you find?

Recoleta’s City of the Dead                                                                   how many cats can you find?

My laptop descended from the original Apple.… the forbidden one … somewhere near the Gardens of Gethesmane West, just off road from the Great Number One: the Pacific Coast Highway.  South of Big Sur, north of Point Sur. Well before the first coming.  Way back before Anna Domini met some tribal proselytizers who knew great PR when they saw it: a naked couple in an organic garden, apples all over the place, a fig tree, a bird, a snake, an electronic mouse, a tiny sparkling flat stone.  Some say it was a pomegranate, not an apple.  A much more sensual fruit.  So messy they’re best eaten naked, out of doors. Speaking from experience, naturally.

some say it was a Pomegranate, not an Apple

so delicious, how can you resist?

Even my Atheist and Rainbow tribe friends were praying for my laptop, as their most recent ancestors are known to have worshipped the gods and goddesses of Silicon Valley.  As always, I am humbly respectful of the deities of Arts and Sciences, including physics, calculus, equations (all of which I am, regrettably, hopeless at), subspace woofers, nano chip technology and black hope collapsibles…those teeny tiny particles that appear to be nonexistent but are in fact trendy mega-scale outer space sinkholes in basic blackout… universally fashionable, dare I say?

universally stylish black holes

where does the time go?

I haven’t written in so long, it feels weird.  For a while I was staying in a cheap room at a friend’s in Palermo Soho, no fridge, no hot water.  I needed a place to stay cause the owner of my apartment came back to Buenos Aires for a few weeks.

Niceto Vega 1 (1)

Renovations in progress. There WAS hot water off and on… or was it just my imagination? My room was freshly painted and I had to put my head under the covers to mitigate the fumes. But it was right around the corner from La Viruta and La Milonguita, and only three blocks from Salón Canning. Nice location. Lots of shops with expensive shoes and clothing that I can’t afford, plus delicious boulangeries and restos. 

Cocu 1

la Cocu: to DIE for!!

la Cocu: to DIE for!!

Palermo Soho is a fabulous barrio, but you gotta watch your back after dark. Double doors to get in and out, locks top and bottom.  That’s just to get into the building.

double doors to get in and out, locks top and bottom.

After a couple of weeks I felt more at home in Palermo Soho, while the remodeling continued full speed ahead. The kitchen was scrubbed clean of accumulated grime: the flat had been vacant for 14 years. More rooms were painted, the bathroom was worked on, door latches repaired. I love the endless on-demand hot water. The graffitied street front was redone in pink and turquoise. A fridge was found, a relic from the 70s, filthy and nonfunctional. A whole day was spent cleaning, putting in new parts, getting it up and running. Elbow grease, ingenuity and a few pesos. The best helping hand is the one at the end of your arm. Wise words from my ex-Texan mother-in-law.


small but efficient

el patio central

el patio central

19th century vs. 20th

19th century vs. 20th… see the turntable?


A bit of a culture clash in the living room… estanciero vs. mid-century modern? The tv looks like a relic from the Star Trek holodeck storage lot. Spock probably watched I Love Lucy on it… trying to develop the emotional side of his psyche.

Now I’m back in my other apartment. It’s a warm, beautiful space, filled with color, art and books.  A quiet space where I can write. A huge sunny balcony on the 8th floor, high above the street. I finally have a working laptop, and I’m feeling independent and feisty. However, I’ve sorted out my finances and realize I can’t afford this apartment; my original budget was 300 pesos/day (not including rent).  jaja!  A latte and medialuna is 75 pesos. Sure, you can order the same items for 55 pesos at cafés like Bonafide, Café Martinez, McDonalds… every McDonalds has a real espresso machine, wow.  But the quality of the coffee sucks. You do get what you pay for, in some things. True love cannot be bought, of course, but it can turn out to be expensive just the same.


living room

sunset from the balcony

beautiful Buenos Aires sunset from the balcony tonight

So I upped my budget to 400 pesos/day… (at the current blue market rate, that’s $26/day)  jaja!  I get around town on foot and by bus or subte. Milongas are 80 – 90 pesos, a late night taxi ride home up to 100 pesos (the price of taxis goes up when the sun goes down), a bottle of water is 28 pesos at Canning… I already mentioned coffee.  So who needs to eat? I drink black tea at home. When I start to feel that financial anxiety panic, (we all get that one, right?) I pull out the scrap of paper I keep in the night table, where I scribbled a favorite O. Wilde quote: “Anyone who lives within their means suffers from a lack of imagination.” 


Man was given an imagination to compensate for what he is not; and a sense of humor to console him for what he is.

Speaking of means, I’ve gone into business for myself, teaching English to milongueros, students, travelers… and my latest venture, taking newbie tourists under my protection, showing them the best places to tango, to eat, how to navigate the city, where to take tango classes for 60 pesos, where to shop for shoes and other necessaries… where to get free emergency medical care day or night… in brief, Tango Tourist Boot Camp. An orientation for the hapless tourist to avoid being taken advantage of. You too can learn to NOT look like a tourist target! (Free Lesson 1: put away that damned camera!)


I don’t see any tourists, do you?

A week ago Sunday was the first warm day we’ve had so far this spring. It was marvelous for a few hours, until some big puffy clouds came along in the late afternoon, followed by a wind that swooped down low and did a reverse vacuum job on the red dirt paths in the Botanical Gardens. The following Sunday was warm, too; the mercury climbed to 80°F. The bloody full moon that was all over the press — “if it bleeds, it leads” — was sparkly white and shimmery; trinkets glittering in a milonguera’s ears. Yesterday it was sprinkling off and on all day. Like Paris in the rain.


Which brings me to today’s lead story: Paisaje Bollini.  A beautiful and historic two-block long cobblestone street a few blocks from my apartment.  On Pasaje Bollini you see houses built in the late 1800s and early 1900s, which replaced earlier structures built by Italian immigrant families who were brought in to work the fields and vineyards of la finca (farm) of the Bollini family. The finca’s boundaries were Avenida Santa Fé, Colonel Díaz, Chavango (now Las Heras), Sanchez de Bustamonte. The street name was made official in 1887… the same year my piano was built. How cool is that?

Paisaje Bollini 1

Pasaje Bollini 1

Back in those days, before the turn of the century, people played soccer in the street, hung out sharing matés in doorways, and celebrated Carnaval. Tango was still in its nascent form, down by the docks. Some sources say there was always a lot of street fighting here. They fought with facónes, gaucho knives.  Naturally, Italians are always fighting when they’re not drinking wine, cooking pasta, or making love. Or maybe on account of all of the above. Hot-blooded.  I know, I’m Italian too. They tell me it’s obvious.

Paisaje Bollini 9

Pasaje Bollini 2

La Dama de Bollini bar and café is an icon from the 1980s, when writer/poet Jorge Luis Borges and other counterculture types gathered for long afternoons and evenings of drinking, smoking, solidarity scheming, existentialist conversations and other random head-trips. It was an atmosphere of poetry readings, art exhibits, tango, jazz and boleros, no doubt kick-started by some serious consumption of illegal substances. La Dama de Bollini is said to have been a source of inspiration for artists, writers and musicians trying to survive the dictatorship, and whose art, songs and stories were distributed underground.  A hidden patio a few yards from French became “El Corralón,” a space where poets, fringe fanatics, underground activists and the usual gang of art groupies and hangers-on spun through the long nights; some of whom ended up in the commissario’s office, or worse, by morning. Cecilia Leoni, matriarch of the Bolllini family, still owns two lots on Pasaje Bollini, La Dama and a cultural space run by the Bollini Foundation. Another family member, Lionel Bollini, busy behind the bar, kindly let me come in and take a few photos before opening.

La Dama Bollini 7

La Dama Bollini 3

La Dama Bollini 1

La Dama after dark

Recently, a committee of neighbors successfully acquired the aid of the city, who recognized the value of preserving Pasaje Bollini as an historic and cultural site. A local company donated paint and the services of 30 workers in restoring and repainting the facades of the historic houses, and as of this month, September 2015, parking on the cobblestone street is no longer permitted.


The behemoth CABA trash trucks are also now banned, not because of the noise, but because over time they pulverize the cobblestones. And they’re trying to figure out what to do about the 300+/- dogs per day who wander thru Pasaje Bollini, many unleashed and unatttended. The neighborhood association has installed several doggie poo trash bins. Next they will be restoring the old streetlamps and fixing the sidewalks which are delightfully narrow. Only wide enough for one person or two skinny dogs.

Paisaje Bollini 20

Pasaje Bollini 5

Nice contrasts: colors, textures, styles, architectural adornments.

Paisaje Bollini 4

Pasaje Bollini 6

I bet this was one of the bars or boliches (dance halls) that crowded Pasaje Bollini in the old days. Even the sidewalk looks beat up.

Paisaje Bollini 11

Pasaje Bollini 6

Doing my research for this article I found out, amongst other things of note, that there are many other “hidden gems” like Pasaje Bollini here in Buenos Aires. Some of these picturesque narrow streets and courtyards were created as a by-product of errors in calculation by the early surveyors who laid out the streets. How delightful! No wonder I feel so at home in Buenos Aires. These are my kind of people.  If I had only been a 19th century surveyor, I too could have created lots of little wrinkles in the map!


La Dama Bollini interior

Borges wrote “La Cortada Bollini,” a poem published in 1930, about a legendary knife fight between Italians and the native gauchos on Pasaje Bollini. He also wrote a story about the malevos (hoodlums) in the neighborhood, titled “Evaristo Carriego.” The real Carriego was a friend of Borges’ father. And if you dance, you know it’s a beautiful tango.

Paisaje Bollini 18

Pasaje Bollini 7

Flashback to an older era. Here’s a picture from some years back, before the urban renewal:

back in the day

before the restoration – not so long ago

One of my next projects will be exploring some of the hidden courtyards that time has passed over… and only a handful are in the tourist guides. 

Paisaje Bollini 22

Pasaje Bollini 8

The above barbecue place is elegant, warm and intimate: white tablecloths, excellent wines, impeccable service, and a huge open fire grill so you can watch your steak and sausage cooking. Speaking from many pleasant experiences…

Paisaje Bollini 13

Pasaje Bollini 9

The organic shop is adorable but expensive. The Taco Box I haven’t tried. I’ve gone out for Mexican food twice in the last few years, and believe me, it’s unrecognizable. I won’t even try it anymore… I just make it myself. All the necessaries are available: frijoles, chiles, lime, cilantro, tomatoes, onion, avocados, mangos, papaya, tortillas de harina… and the best beef in the world. Sorry, no corn tortillas.

Paisaje Bollini 10

Pasaje Bollini 10

Walking along Pasaje Bollini the other day, I saw people playing music. I approached; they stopped playing. For a minute I thought I had been beamed into a Fellini movie!  No… they are the Heroes of Swing!

Swing Heroes

Heroes of Swing

Check them out on Facebook. I’m going to one of their shows very soon.

La Dama Bollini 2

La Dama Bollini 4

la Dama Bollini 2.2

La Dama Bollini – the bar

Looking into the courtyard in the late afternoon… positively magical!

la Dama Bollini 2.0

La Dama Bollini

Thanks for reading my blog, friends, and thanks for your comments… always much appreciated!  And now my Espacio Publicitario:

Do you live in Buenos Aires? Need someone to help you get your English up to speed?  I’m looking for a few good students. Contact me! Not available mornings.  I’m on the Milonguera Schedule.

Promo Big Knife

Over & Out from Buenos Aires!

Over & Out from Buenos Aires!

Seduction Buenos Aires Style


Argentine men have the art of seduction down to a T.  Or would that be capital A for Amore?  L for Love?  Just because every man you meet calls you linda, hermosa, divina, preciosa, una diosa… even waiters bringing you coffee… do they really mean it?  jaja … Do they really think you’re the cat’s meow, baby?  Wake up, girl!  Reality check!  They’re just practicing their seduction skills…. anticipating a little hootchie-coochie or an even higher return on their verbal investment.

Porteños can sling piropos in their sleep… “Tengo frío, tengo calor…tengo todo, menos tu amor!


Can you blame me for not being very focused on writing?  Sure, sometimes I get an idea and go on a roll.  But it’s just not a priority anymore.  Is it possible to be too happy?  There’s always a cheerful vibe in this city… it’s the people.  The offspring of intense, handsome spaniards and laughing, creative Italians who mixed with whoever else was here when they arrived, and whoever showed up later.  Mix with plenty of vino tinto, pasta, salads, argentine beef and good bread.  Naturally, the government and infrastructure are fucked up, confused and disorganized, but the people are warm, friendly and hospitable.  Can I ever be this happy back in the states?

Marcelo Carpentier, tango singer

Marcelo Carpentier, tango singer

“Tus ojos me dicen sí; por qué tu corazón no?”

If a guy asks you (while dancing) if you can cook, (after using some of the afore-mentioned adjectives) maybe it’s a pre-interview screening for a lifelong unpaid domestic contract (which you’ll end up having to pay up the yin/yang to get out of), or maybe it means you’re just such hot stuff they’re already feeling the heat!  If they ask you out for coffee, beware!

coffee date

coffee after the milonga? uh-oh!

It doesn’t help that Argentine males are so Fine.  I mean Fine with a Capital F.  All that Spanish, Indian and Italian blood sizzling thru those Vesuvian veins… they can’t help it!  And trying to resist their charms is a full time occupation!  Do I need occupational therapy?  OSHA, where are you?  Oh, yeah, up north, where the weather is cool and so are the men…  with some exceptions, of course.  Is there an antidote?  An antibiotic?  An evening-before pill?  Why not pass them out at milongas?  For 70 pesos you get your entry ticket and your anti-swoon medication.  Live tango orchestra with singer?  Make that 100 pesos.

Marcelo Carpentier, tango singer


Hmmm… wait a sec.  Wouldn’t that take all the pleasure out of tango?  Who wants to dance close embrace with someone who doesn’t make your DNA strands start buzzing like bumblebees? Deactivate that thought, girl!

Leo Messi

Leo Messi

“…. Argentines [are] quite uninhibited in publicly expressing tenderness and affection among people of the same or different sex. Men of all ages will embrace and kiss each other when meeting, and there are also exchanges of kisses among men and women who are relatives or friends, and, of course, among women themselves.”  [from the Kinsey Institute on Argentina]

friends at a birthday party

friends at a birthday party

If these seductive Argentines are powerful wizards and magicians they may send their own personal spirit interventionist to bewitch and seduce you while you’re asleep.  Did you think your dreams were just random subconscious meanderings?  A kind of merging with some universal image transfer center, a cosmic Kinko’s?  Google Image holodeck?  Netflix unhinged? Where do you think all these words I’m writing come from, anyway?  Perhaps I subscribe to a giant interplanetary recycling center that implants bits of shredded text into my brain while I’m sleeping?  Who the heck knows?  Some days I need a double latte just to remember my name… don’t we all?

Leo Messi

Leo Messi, looking a little uncomfortable all dressed up

On the downside of Latino men, there do still exist those possessive and jealous males who go completely beserk if their wife or girlfriend dances with others.  On this subject, I’ve said plenty in the past.  Love and fear can’t exist side by side.  Fear begets jealousy and insecurity.  If a man likes to dance with lots of pretty women, he’s enviable and seen as completely normal, right?  But if a woman likes to dance with lots of men… start piling the stones!  Whatever happened to the women’s liberation movement?  I guess I’m starting my own South American front.  “I think God, in creating man, somewhat overestimated his ability.” (Oscar Wilde)


Lest the reader think I’m a completely insensitive female swine, let me just say that I like to have fun with words and I like to play on the dance floor.  But, seriously, Tango is all about the heart connection. The creativity of shared expression. The pure sensuality of one’s feet caressing the floor. The complexity of the music, mutually interpreted. The buena onda (good vibe) shared by everyone on the dance floor.  The tangible pleasure of human connection unhindered by social convention… simply guided by the códigos (codes) of Tango.

how's your musicality/sensuality quotient today?

how’s your musicality/sensuality quotient today?

Maria Inés Bogado, winner of the mundial in 2010 (with partner Sebastian Jiménez), sums up in a few words the pleasure of a great connection: “… I have to feel that he receives me, surrounds me, is with me in the dance.”  She expresses her displeasure with men who dance …. as if their partner were a mannequin: “I don’t like when the man does not think about the woman in the dance, but concentrates on the figure…. I love when the couple is moving like one person, when the dancers are concentrating on each other.  When I saw tango for the first time, I loved that it is more about the connection and therefore I don’t like when the man is harsh and wants to show something to the outer world, to the people around, not keeping the feeling inside the couple, inside the embrace. Even in tango nuevo there are ways and styles of dancing that allow the man to show [off] the lady he is dancing with, to show he is there with her.” (from an interview in El Tanguata)

Maria Inés Bogado & Sebastian Jiménez

Maria Inés Bogado & Sebastian Jiménez

For those of you who are still on the fence about your next trip to Buenos Aires, here’s a quick heads-up.  Why do tango dancers from all over the world flock to the Mecca of Tango?

La Glorieta

La Glorieta del Belgrano

1) The dancing: classes, milongas, cultural events, clubs, shows, dancing in the streets.  For the sheer number and quality of milongas here in Buenos Aires, there is NO place like it in the world.  Are we having fun yet?

La Catedral

La Catedral

2) The atmosphere: the wabi-sabi beauty of this city, like Paris but grittier, less polished, perfectly imperfect: trees, parks, fountains, sculptures, sidewalk cafés and bistros, museums, architecture from classic to avant garde, arte deco and nouveau, even the dubious 50s Fellini/Stalinesque.


the prettier side of Congreso

3) The milongas: every type of milonga you can imagine, gay, straight or confused; hipster, dragster, elegant or tacky, luxe or wabi-sabi… classic or nuevo…  you can find it here.  Afternoon milongas, early evening milongas, late night… the 20-something crowd (La Marshall, de los Zucca, la Pepa), the old geezers’  cruise-ship crowd (El Arranque, Lo de Celia), the students (Zona Tango, Maldita Milonga, la Viruta), the international scene (Canning, Gricel, la Milonguita), the tourist milongas (La Ideal), the milongas del barrio (el Tacuarí, La Milonga de Morán, Fulgor de Villa Crespo, La Floresta), the young hipster crowd (La Catedral, La Marshall, Oliverio Gironda).  The choices are endless!  My favorites?  El Beso, Porteño y Bailarín, Maldita Milonga.

la Gricel

la Gricel

4) The shopping: cool, artisanal clothing in boutiques and street fairs, stuff you won’t find anywhere else… lots of lacy summer things right now…  Tango Moda (Balcarce 961, San Telmo) is a hip and colorful boutique offering Porteño style trousers, shirts and jackets for all you seductive milongueros, locally tailored in gorgeous fabrics; they also have a diverse assortment of elegant ladies’ tango clothing, from casual to the nines.  Tango shoes: the list is quite long. On Suipacha in the 500 block there are 5 or 6 tango shoe shops.  Flabella is my favorite, one of the original tango shoe shops, not pricey and they last forever.  Darcos is next door.  I also love Neotango, on Sarmiento… considered by many, including yours truly, to be the BEST tango shoes in terms of both price and style. (No, I’m not gettin’ paid to say it … I wish!)  The other shop to make us swoon is Comme il Faut, in Recoleta.  Very pretty shoes; many swear by them.


Pepe Lopez

Pepe Lopez

5) also shopping for books and tango CD’s, from the old guy who sells vintage CDs and vinyl in San Telmo, to Zivals and El Ateneo.  Plan to spend some time going through the horizontal stacks.  El Ateneo is also the place for books, cards, journals, agendas… not to mention coffee, special events, readings, art exhibits, etc.  Antiques like maté accessories, gaucho horse gear, china and crystal, etc. can be found at the Feria San Telmo and also in little shops tucked away all over the city.  Leather goods, of which the best are of excellent quality, are beautiful and NOT cheap.

feria San Telmo

la Feria San Telmo

5) Want to stay for at least a week up to a few months, but don’t want to spend a few months’ salary on hotels?  Rent an apartment.  Check out, or  An awesome writer and tango dancer friend of mine has a lovely apartment in Barrio Norte that you can rent when she’s out of the country.  (  I also know of some inexpensive options for you penny counters…  you can contact me via comments.

living room

living room

6) Need medical care? Surgery? Teeth fixed?  Emergency care is free here, and surgical procedures will cost you less than your co-pay in the states, including inpatient.  The hospitals are beautiful and up to date.  Think state-of-the-art German, French, Italian, Argentine hospitals.

Hospital Italiano

Hospital Italiano

7) Vacation in Patagonia.  Rock-climbing in El Chaltén, skiing in Ushuaia.  Visit the Perito Moreno glacier, los Torres del Paine.  Hiking and fly-fishing in the Lake District: the land of 7 lakes and 7 rivers, home to the most stunning Andean lake in the world: Nahuel Huapi.  Absolutely gorgeous!  Get your hydrotherapy fix at Iguazu Falls, on the Brazilian border.  Beach it in Mar de Plata, cruise the Galapagos and see la Tierra del Fuego.  My favorite?  Horseback riding in the Andes.

Lago Nahuel Huapi

Lago Nahuel Huapi

8) Trying to lose weight?  Follow my regimen for at least 2 weeks and you will lose weight, unless you have some sort of metabolic/hormonal/emotional issue.  You will walk everywhere, eat 2 meals/day (small portions), snack on fresh fruit, veggies and yogurt.  Ice cream and café cortados at midnight, before or after the milongas.  You will dance 3+ hours/day. You will drink unsweetened teas and lattes.  Get plenty of sleep.  You WILL lose weight!  And your feet may be a little sore…

Salon Canning

Salon Canning – crowded as usual

10) Do you need a dance partner? a taxi dancer?  You are perhaps a beginner and no one wants to dance with you?  Dance classes with the best tango teachers in BAires will run you about $7.00 for a 90 minute group class. Privates are a different story.  Some of the best local teachers offer privates for around $500 pesos/hour (about $40/hr.)  My friend Marcela Hourquebie is one of the best. Check her out on Facebook.


Marcela Hourquebie

Teachers who also teach in the U.S. will charge foreigners the same astronomical sums as in the states.  You can accelerate your learning curve by taking privates but remember, you can’t make the grass grow by pulling on it!  Focus and determination are required. Tango is not for the easily discouraged!

tango taxi dancers

La Nueva Escuela Argentina de Tango boasts classes by tango superstars Aurora Lubíz, Raúl Bravo, Jorge Firpo, Gabriela Elias, Claude Murga and others (located in the Centro Cultural Borges, las Gallerias, Viamonte and Córdoba).  El Tacuarí, in San Telmo (Tacuarí 1557) has some great classes and prácticas, including the absolute best women’s technique class I’ve ever had, taught by the fabulous Ruth Manonellas… a class I continue to take, and if I was into beating myself up, I’d take it every day!  DNI Tango School in Almagro (Bulnes 1011) has 90 minute classes for US $6, and offer a free first class.  Their teachers are all young pro dancers, but not superstars… not yet, anyway. I have not taken classes at DNI, but many good friends have. If you’re into nuevo, it’s the tango school for you.

11) Where else can you hear the best live tango orchestras?

Orq Juan D'Arienzo

Orq. Juan D’Arienzo

Orq Los Herederos del Compás

Orq. Los Herederos del Compás

Orq. Sans Souci

Orq. Sans Souci, singer Chino Laborde

Orq. Sans Souci

Orq. Sans Souci

Orq. El Afronte

Orq. El Afronte

Orq El Afronte

Orq El Afronte

12) the fact that God is Argentine:

Díos es Argentino*

13) Where else can you make a living walking dogs? New York, Paris, and Buenos Aires.


14) Summertime is a beautiful season to be in Buenos Aires.  Most days are somewhat hot and humid, with temps in the 25°- 34°C range.  But not to worry, most of the milongas have working A/C, and they’re not so crowded, ’cause everybody’s at the beach!  I’m not kidding, either:

Mar de Plata

Mar de Plata

I must end this post on a sad note, because in recent days and weeks the tango community has lost some of its most beloved dancers and musicians.

Horacio Ferrer, poeta-cantaor

Horacio Ferrer, poeta-cantaor

“Qué días grises vive el tango. A las recientes desapariciones del poeta Horacio Ferrer y de Leopoldo Federico se acaba de sumar la repentina muerte de Carlos Rodolfo Dinzelbacher, más conocido en el ambiente como Cacho Dinzel, maestro de bailarines, un decano en la enseñanza del tango danza. Por su famosa escuela del barrio de Boedo pasaron casi todos los grandes bailarines de los últimos 30 años, porque su tarea docente empezó incluso antes de que volviera la democracia a la Argentina y el baile porteño recuperara la importancia social que tuvo en el pasado.” La Nación, 4 enero, 2015.

Cacho & Gloria Dinzel

Cacho & Gloria Dinzel

“These are grey days for tango. To the recent passing away of the poet Horacio Ferrer and of bandoneonista Leopoldo Federico has been added the sudden death of Carlos Rodolfo Dinzelbacher, better known in the tango community as Cacho Dinzel, tango teacher, dean of the tango academy. Through his famous school in Boedo passed almost all the great dancers of the past 30 years; he began teaching before democracy returned to Argentina, and was instrumental in restoring the social importance of tango in Buenos Aires.”

Esquema Dinzel

una Esquema Dinzel

Adiós to Marta Antón, a lovely and talented dancer who, alongside her companion of many years Manolo (el Gallego), taught me, and many others, to dance Canyengue.

Marta Antón con su pareja Manolo "el Gallego"

Marta y Manolo

“Aníbal Troilo has long been considered the supreme bandeonista of all time, but there is no doubt that Leopoldo Federico was the foremost bandoneon player of all those born after 1975, the year Troilo passed on, and also the best of those born some years earlier.” (Mauro Apicella, La Nación, 28 diciembre, 2014.) His loss to the tango community is deeply felt.

Leopoldo Federico

Leopoldo Federico

Aníbal Troilo

Aníbal Troilo

Julio Cortázar

Julio Cortázar

W@ la Nacional

Amen Buenos Aires!

Buenos Aires Children’s Street Art


I was on a bus one day going downtown and I noticed about 6 or 7 blocks of wonderful murals, all on Sanchez de Bustamonte, in the neighorhood of the children’s hospital. So I made some time to walk that neighborhood, which is not far from my barrio, and I took lots of photos. I didn’t have much success with my investigation of the murals’ history, but it is obvious from the artists’ signatures and notations, along with the content and style of the works, that credit for the art goes to the children, and friends and families of the children, who received services in the hospital and its clinics.

la doctora felíz

la doctora felíz

I ‘ve always loved doing art with kids, and one of my dreams is to open a children’s art gallery and working studio where kids can learn to make art. Of course all children, given the simplest of resources and a good dose of encouragement, will do just that, with little prompting.

soñar en colores

sueña con colores

I want to dedicate this blogpost to all the primary school teachers out there, who wake early every day and dedicate years of service helping children the world over to master the tools they need to build useful, productive lives.



As a former kinder teacher myself, I have always been happily startled by the creativity of little ones… always drawing, painting (outside, please!), inventing with whatever materials come into their little hands, making their own imaginative toys and a great lovely mess in the process!

happy flower families+

When children begin to put pencil to paper, they start off with scribbles which eventually become letters and words and illustrations.

reading stimulates the imagination

reading stimulates the imagination

Kids begin to read and write at an early age, and the learning curve spikes upward dramatically after they master the basics.  Pretty soon they’re writing notes and cards and lists, being inventive and showing a great deal of focus, intention and follow-thru. I won’t go into a speech about it, but suffice to say it isn’t an accident that the lucky ones who have no access to tv or video games or computers at home become the earliest and most fluent readers and writers. Their creativity is not held captive, nor is their brain development put on hold, unlike millions of small children who sit, passive and expressionless, watching pixels on a screen instead of engaging their environment with all 5 senses.



Apparently there’s no harm allowing children to watch an occasional kid flick. Isolationism runs counter-productive to healthy parenting. I heard there’s a new trend called paleo-parenting which I think was the norm a hundred years ago. “Outside, all of you! Don’t come back till supper time!”  That was the mantra I grew up with. Freedom to roam the streets, the woods, the creek… to develop one’s powers of observation: bugs, rocks, leaves, bird nests, tree trunks, coyotes, squirrels… whatever moves. And hey, what about the beach? What a breathtaking world that is!

are we having fun yet?

are we having fun yet?

Some delightful parents of my acquaintance let their kids check out a movie per week from the local library. Their amazing kids can be found engaging in creative play at all hours, building, measuring, hoisting buckets of water into the air using branches and a rope for a winch, reinventing the wheel a hundred times; painting, sculpting in dirt, mud and sand mixed with water… snaring small toys or live birds with a string, a stick and a cardboard box (as we did as children) … reenacting favorite stories using stuffed animals and dolls… how much fun can you have when your brain is not programmed by television?

Rudyard Kipling's Jungle Book

Rudyard Kipling’s Jungle Book

I almost forgot to mention that the aforementioned parents of my acquaintance each speak several languages, which as you know is a kind of connect-the-dots-game for the developing brain.

the Beach

the ocean with big sun and little messages

It’s getting late. My brain sometimes runs out of words at 4 am. But there is still a herd of pictures waiting to be run into the corral.



The above doesn’t look like children’s art to me, but I like it… urban impressionist?

Mary Poppins

Mary Poppins… wow

Mary Poppins, a children’s book by P.L. Travers, was about a magical English nanny. Originally published in 1934, Disney made it into a movie in 1964 – fifty years ago.

an artistic mishmosh

an artistic mishmosh with tree

I love this mural, though as a work of art it could be critiqued; and my best guess is that it was conceived and executed by a brilliant teenager.  Apparently the monster lurking above was reworked to death.

Doña Primavera ... a poem to Spring

Doña Primavera … a poem to our lady of Spring

At the upper left of the above mural a verse from “Doña Primavera,” a poem by Chilean poet Gabriela Mistral, is just barely visible.

La Pachamama

La Pachamama

From the Earth who nurtures and heals us…

the day one discovers a favorite author

Importante dates that pass without realizing… the day you discover your future favorite author.

 to the texts which lend us perspective on the world and our lives.

girl with horse

girl with donkey

This last mural reminds me of a Marc Chagall painting. Delicate, colorful, yet the violent sky, the sad girl clinging to a burro… the flowers don’t look too healthy, either. What does it all mean?

another curious mural in my Palermo Botánico neighborhood

I am master of my fate, captain of my soul.

LAST MINUTE NOTE: Looking for a comfortable apartment for your visit to Buenos Aires? A good friend of mine from the states rents hers out when she’s not here. It’s in one of my favorite neighborhoods and has a big sunny balcony. You can check it out at:

living room

living room



Let’s close with a photo from a curious and delightful day in La Boca.

Over and out from Buenos Aires!

Over and out from Buenos Aires!

Portland Tango Festival

Steel Bridge, Portland

Steel Bridge, Portland

In early October I dropped in on the City of Bridges to hear some great live tango orchestras. This year’s Portland Tango Festival showcased some fabulous live music: el Quarteto Alejandro Ziegler, and the Alex Krebs Orchestra. Alejandro Ziegler, on piano, evokes the sound of Pablo Ziegler, renowned Argentine pianist and composer who laid down lots of amazing tracks with Astor Piazzolla. Apologies up front: another reader informs me that Alejandro is NOT Pablo’s son. It appears that my milonguero friends here in Buenos Aires are misinformed. My apologies to all.

Pablo Ziegler’s New Tango Quartet in 1989: Horacio Lopez (percussion), Ziegler (piano), Quique Sinesi (guitar), and Oscar Giunta (bass). Photo courtesy Pablo Ziegler.

Pablo Ziegler’s New Tango Quartet in 1989: Horacio Lopez (percussion), Ziegler (piano), Quique Sinesi (guitar), and Oscar Giunta (bass). Photo courtesy Pablo Ziegler.

Pablo Ziegler worked intensively as Astor Piazzolla’s pianist from 1978 until the maestro’s retirement for health reasons in 1989. Ziegler’s playing style, both sharply percussive and metallically lyrical, is instantly recognizable to fans of tango nuevo.  In 2003 Ziegler won a Latin Grammy for his amazing album Bajo Cero.  Ziegler plays in the Jazz tradition, always improvising, arranging and rearranging his compositions on the fly, in the moment.  He encourages musicians to find their own voice.  His music is melancholy, evocative, far-reaching.  It speaks directly to our hearts and souls: nos afecta profundamente, como una puñalada en el corazón.  Opera has that effect on me too… the tears just come down, you can’t help it.  Dancing a slow tango to Ziegler’s version of Oblivion or Soledad in the wee hours, well, it just doesn’t get any better than that, does it?

“I always tell musicians: You’re free to change whatever you like. I can give you some examples of the way to phrase, but if you feel something different, just play. Probably it’s fantastic.  That’s one of the ways that I’m learning also from the musicians, too. Sometimes they’re playing and I like it that way.  It’s a very open way to play music.  If I bring some Beethoven piano concerto, everybody knows the way to play that kind of music, which is very strict.  But with this music, we have to feel it and do something different.  I’m giving them that chance.”  (Pablo Ziegler, from an interview by Frank J. Oteri, Brooklyn, NY. June 13, 2014) (



Ziegler’s most notable recordings with Piazzolla include:

Tango: Zero Hour

Tristezas de un Doble A

La Camorra

The New Tango with Gary Burton, recorded live at the 1986 Montreux Festival

The Central Park Concert recorded in 1987

The influence of Astor Piazzolla and Pablo Ziegler is unmistakeable in the sound of Quarteto Alejandro Ziegler.  They absolutely knocked the walls down Sunday evening with their fabulous Buenos Aires sound!


Photos by Jerry Berggen, courtesy of “Tango Steps,” the newsletter of the Lincoln Tango Club, Lincoln, NE.  (And he can dance, too!)


I can testify that there really IS tango in Nebraska, because one wintry night a couple of years ago, driving across country, I had a few nice tandas at a milonga in a really cool urban space in Lincoln. (Note to Self: don’t EVER do that again. The drive, I mean.)


The Alejandro Ziegler Quartet headed to Lincoln to play the following weekend. I’ve got relatives just across the border in Indian Country, so I’ve been there many times. Have you ever seen Carhenge?



You, me and a few spaceship-loads of aliens on invisible tours of Planet Earth! Uh-oh, am I getting wonky again? Back to the subject at hand: the phenomenal Quarteto Alejandro Ziegler.


These guys were coherent, fine-tuned, on a roll, in other words, maravillosos!  I’m really kicking myself that I didn’t buy one of their CDs.  Uff!  I couldn’t find them on itunes either.  Idiota!  


The Alex Krebs Orchestra rocked Norse Hall to a huge and appreciative crowd on Saturday night. Love the singers, especially the guy with the Dalí moustache. They sound better than ever.  The Portland tango community is lucky to have such a great house band.

Alex Krebs Orchestra

Alex Krebs Orchestra

Alex has his own milonga called Tango Berretín.

It's a lovely space, inside and out.

It’s a lovely space, inside and out.

Alex's Orchestra playing at Berretin Tango Club.

Alex’s Orchestra playing Berretin Tango Club.

Guille & Mayumi, teachers

Guille & Mayumi taught at the Tangofest

Liselot is a capable teacher, especially for newbies.

Liselot is a capable teacher, especially for newbies.

Here’s what I liked about the Portland Tango Fest:

•fabulous space: Norse Hall

•great live music

•excellent DJs, especially Dan from Anchorage (Sat nite)

•excellent DJs, especially Dan Boccia from Anchorage








simultaneous traditional and alternative milongas

•simultaneous traditional and alternative milongas

•evening milongas started at 9 or 10 and went to 6 am… yeah night owls!

•classes started at 11:00 am, for obvious reasons. I mean, who really gets up for a 9:00 am class or workshop?!? pas moi!

•there were some very cool tango clothes and shoes for sale in the lounge

•there were some very cool tango clothes and shoes for sale in the lounge










•there were 2 or 3 classes going simultaneously. Beginners had their own workshops tailored to their learning styles. This is a good thing.

•a team of Viking chefs cranked out scrumptious snacks & suppers all evening

•a team of Viking chefs cranked out scrumptious suppers all evening

•2 of my favorite milonga teachers were there: Jorge & Milena Nel

•a couple of unrivaled milonga teachers were there: Jorge & Milena Nel

•Did I forget to mention, LOTS of FABULOUS Tango dancers! Thanks to all of you for the great tandas, you KNOW who YOU are!!!

The downside:

•The gala evening demos were less than impressive. Comedy, acrobatics and tango selfies are no substitute for style and elegance.  I think our traveling tangueros need to head home every now and then to remember how it’s done in Buenos Aires.

La Nacional

La Nacional

FEEL the connection… to your partner, to the floor, to the other dancers, to the music, to the musicians, to your own heart.  FEEL the floor.  FEEL the music. FEEL the emotion… disconnect your thoughts and let sound be your oxygen…  just Breathe.

And what’s not to like about Portland in the early Fall?  The sun sparkled on the river radiating perfect warmth throughout the city — not too hot, not too cold. You didn’t need a jacket, except maybe leaving the milongas in the early morning cool.  The adorable streetcars and Powell’s City of Books were every bit as wonderful as ever.



Mt Hood glowing behind a sparkly Portland night

Mt Hood glowing above a sparkly Portland night

Bye bye, Portland, till next time!

parrot guy

parrot guy

A few days later I found myself on the east coast suffering the throes of tango withdrawals. Needless to say, I wasn’t in Miami, that throbbing hotspot of tango cool. No, I was just a senseless misplaced pawn on a giant Monopoly board. I’m still in recovery from visiting the Sunshine State. One is bombarded with hyper-signage everywhere, and I mean everywhere. PR on steroids. The land of Madmen from Planet Dollar $ign. No cool cafés, no quaint cobblestoned villages, just shopping, greasy fast food, gated beachfront properties, Big Box churches and Big Box stores.  The beach is beautiful, to be sure, but driving is the only way to get around… unless you’ve got a beak and a pair of wings. And the tango scene in northern Florida can only be described as, well… pitiful? nonexistent? Sorry, Sunshine!


Please excuse the nonsense bubbling up from the uber-consciousness waystation I like to call my mind….  The only thing I wanted to take with me from Florida was Mai Tiki Bar on the Cocoa Beach Pier.


How cute is that! And, a couple of adorable kids!

20141104_162625 2


This gatorade fest I did NOT want to take with me.


Are they on Shrooms? Zoloft? Marie Callendar?

 I touched down at Ezeiza two weeks ago, shifting into high gear once more, back to the Mecca of Tango: Buenos Aires.  Highlights from my next post:

view from my balcony, la jacaranda en flor

view from my balcony, la jacaranda en flor

milonga del barrio Floresta

la milonga del barrio Floresta

Orquesta Unitango

Orquesta Unitango

street art near the children's hospital

street art near the children’s hospital

Buenas noches from Buenos Aires!

When Tango Breaks Your Heart

Jlo & Marc Antony

This could happen to YOU!  It happened to me!
blk:wt half sunk on rocks

Man Overboard!  Metaphorically, that is.



Get it?  I thought so.

What happens if you LIVE for TANGO, but your dance partner’s secret desire is for YOU to want to dance with him ALONE?


“Baby, I want you to love me like no one has ever loved me.”

pensive woman

I guess that means I never loved you enough?  Has anyone?  Is it humanly possible?

imaheart torn apart

“If I was the LOVE OF YOUR LIFE, you wouldn’t WANT to dance with anyone else.”


How many times have you been dancing… let’s say, in a class in Miami, New York, Buenos Aires… and your boyfriend suddenly walks over and rips you away from the guy you just rotated to?


Yes, he’s an animal!  Sorry!  Talk about embarassing!

man beast

How about when two of your favorite teachers comment that you are a saint to put up with him?


Yeah, the relationship was disintegrating over the last year or so.  The vibe was toxic.  I had to get out.

know the feeling?

know the feeling?

He’s a extraordinary guy in so many ways: smart, sexy, generous…  a real heartbreaker.  “Qué pinta de malevo!” they said in Buenos Aires.  Definitely old school.

el malevo

el malevo

He played the possessive, jealous Latin Lover to a T.  He expects a woman to devote herself to him 100%… you know, like our parents’ generation.  He was raised that way.  All the women’s lib and progressive politics never really made a dent in his consciousness.  He couldn’t hear what I had to say or understand what I was feeling.  Blah blah blah!!  You get the drift.

Fabian Pérez

Tango gigolo

Yeah, he should’ve been a King.  Maybe he was in a past life.  Carlos V? Shakespeare’s Othello?


Ah, yes, my Caliban, the “passionate child-curious part of us all…” (from The Tempest).


He would have been happy burning and pillaging, plundering women by the score.  Taking “art groupie” to a new level! [1]  ¡Cómo no, Comandante de mi vida, por supuesto que te quiero!  Be Merciful, O Love of my Life!

tough guy

I just had to get lost in Jane Austen for a while.  Like, take a time out from the 21st century?

Jane in blue

I reread Persuasion.  Dashing sea-captain wins girl’s heart.  Girl’s family doesn’t approve: he’s not sufficiently rich or well-connected.  She breaks the engagement.  He goes off to sea, endures raging tempests and howling gales, pillages French merchant ships aplenty, survives enough courageous exploits for a whole season of telenovelas.  He returns 7 years later, fabulously rich.  Everyone adores him now.  Quite the huffy Salty Dog about town.  What happens next?  Read it yourself, you lousy knave!  Or at least see the movie version.


Have you noticed “the versatility of shipwreck imagery in conveying various forms of misfortune?” [2]  Speaking of his ship, the Asp, our hero was rashly confident:  “I knew that we should either go to the bottom together, or that she would be the making of me.” (Persuasion, 71)

classic clipper

The guy’s got attitude.  My guy had plenty of attitude, too.  Definitely a tough customer.

Captain Frederick Wentworth

Austen’s Captain Wentworth

But whom would you prefer to live with?  A feudal warlord or a happy village idiot?  As those really our only choices?  Of course not, silly.  But my point remains: we have indeed strayed far off course in this 21st century.  Are there no crossover models available?  Like, a compact SUV?  A mini-Hummer? What ever happened to the ideal Renaissance Man?  You mean the DNA still hasn’t evolved?

da vinci

Wherefore art thou, Leonardo?  Veni, Vedi, Vinci:  I came, I saw, I conquered.  Not sure who said that; a Roman Emperor perhaps?  Maybe THE Holy Roman Emperor… Carlos V?  Alexander the Great?

Alfonso X El Sabio

Alfonso X El Sabio

Recognize this guy?  Old Alfonso the Wise is the tío that kick-started the Renaissance.  I’m not kidding!  Check him out.  He wrote the first book about the game of chess around 1283.  The original lives at the Escorial, in Madrid. Yeah, he was a heartbreaker too, you can be sure.  Renaissance Man cultivated “…a harmonious mind, whose splendid passions and imaginations are controlled and directed by [his] enlightened reason…” [Wiki]  Where can I find one of HIM?  Does HE exist?

Elizabeth and Mr. Collins

Elizabeth Bennet disdains Mr. Collins

No, I don’t think he’s got it.  His motto is Vini, Vedi, Vegi.  ja ja!  I came, I saw, I ate salad, I bored my cousins to death reading from Fordyce’s Sermons, then I got drunk and made a complete fool of myself.  Too bad, so sad.  Not my knight in shining armor.  Not even California Chrome.

Calif Chrome

I’m tired of being the subjugated woman!  Internalized oppression, get thee hence!  Somebody please let me OUTTA HERE!  Hmmm… no answer.

girl crying

Am I dreaming?  Do I have unreasonable expectations?  Am I thinking too reductively?  Is it too tempting to boil it all down to the struggle between dark and light?  Am I done playing out my postcolonial subjugation fantasies?

Cristóbal Colón just back from the East Indies with a few captive Indians

Cristóbal Colón just back from the East Indies with a few captive Indians para Los Reyes Católicos

Guess I gotta be my own Rescuer.

pirate wench

Free at Last!!  Lord have mercy!!

beauti ship & whale

The Captain’s delightful sister, Mrs. Croft, comments on the voyages she has enjoyed with her husband, Admiral Croft.  She advocates that women should go to sea with their husbands, and not be left behind to wait and wonder, despite the discomforts of life on board… not to mention being the only female amongst the crew… yikes!

woman ship 2

Must have been tough to be a drama queen with no other women to bitch to.  Oops, I meant to say, to pour upon each other the sisterly balm of wise and considered counsel?

wise women

“We none of us expect to be in smooth water all our days,”  Mrs. Croft advises Anne, Austen’s heroine in Persuasion. (75)  A critic notes, “Mrs. Croft is arguing, obviously, for the place of adventure and geographical mobility in women’s lives.”  You go, girl! [3]

girl stcse dock

Maybe I’ll go live on a boat…  a little morning yoga on deck, anyone?  Plenty of sushi and piña coladas?  Warm, tropical waters?

boat tropics 1

Giancarlo Giannini and Mariangela Mela? in Lina Wertmuller's Swept Away

Did I mention subjugation fantasies?Giancarlo Giannini and Mariangela Melato in Swept Away (1974)

It’s my turn to forge ahead with a little borrowed relentless self-confidence!  I know you’re all anxious to see if I’m brave indeed or just foolishly reckless. Back on land, summertime is just around the corner… throwing out those delicious green tendrils, the tiny budding sweet peas, the gorgeous bursting hollyhocks… yeah, could be salad, could be scenery…  is there still time to plant my garden?


Jane Austen describes a farmer in Persuasion, the scene at Winthrop.  I feel like him.  He “does not simply think that the season will change; it is as if his exertions will somehow help to bring the change about.  His labor is a sign of his hope.” [4]

mex farmer

The farmer’s hard work can be seen not as an attempt to control the natural world, or to force a particular outcome in the narrative of our lives, but as a collaboration or stewardship with nature which guides our efforts, and which may grant us a deeper understanding of nature, including human nature, and give us hope for bounteous harvests to come.

peasant women“When characters in this novel exert themselves in such a spirit, they gain, by degrees and despite inescapable human limitations, the liberty of soul that makes possible authentic happiness.” [5]

2 beauti ships in calm waters

Yeah, I have been reading and rereading the last issue of Persuasions, the journal of the Jane Austen Society (JASNA).  Does random literary analysis float your boat?  I find it particularly convenient when trying to escape reality.  Yet another rereading of Persuasion is next, as soon as I unpack my books.  Yes, moving again.  How many times now in the last three years?  I’ve lost count.  For now, it’s the ranch for the summer.  Just me and that ornery palomino mare, let’s hope she doesn’t slam me into any more phone poles!  Full speed ahead!  Let loose the topsail!  Damn the torpedoes!

Yes, Virginia, even married couples danced with others a century ago: a quadrille.

Yes, Virginia, even married couples danced with others a century ago: a quadrille.

See you soon on the dance floor!

See you soon on the dance floor!

sleep eat dance

and goodbye to a great friend.


[1] Stole that line from Woody Allen’s movie, Midnight in Paris.  A must-see for all Francophiles.

[2] Toby R. Benis, “Shipwrecked on land in Persuasion,Persuasions, No. 35, 2013, 203.

[3] Ibid, 202. Persuasions is the annual compilation of critical essays on Jane Austen’s life and works, published by JASNA, the Jane Austen Society of North America.

[4] Kathryn Davis, “Austen’s Providence in Persuasion”; Persuasions, No. 35, 216.

[5] Ibid, 223.

P&P poster

Tango Dancers Open Café

Carlton Café & Bakery

Carlton Café & Bakery

We’ve opened a café of our own right here in the backcountry of California’s Central Coast. This little backwater halfway between Frisco and LA is its own kind of gorgeous, straight out of Steinbeck: rolling hills covered with vineyards and statuesque oaks; cottonwoods and sycamores along the creeks flowing into the Pacific Ocean and the mighty Salinas.

Salinas River

Salinas River

Atascadero, once so sleepy it rolled over and played dead every night at 6, now practically teems with amorphous protomorphium swimming blindly upstream through the marine layer into they know not what or wherefore (picture 3 pm when junior get-highers get out of jail free). But no worries, we are all about helping our fellow pleistozoic critteralium evolve and merge into the more convoluted streams of higher consciousness, otherwise known as twenty-first century artsy wine-guzzling nouveau-cui$ine Culture with a Capital C.

6005 El Camino Real

6005 El Camino Real

There was at last count one really good restaurant in our three-block downtown: Fig; another one in nearby Santa Margarita: The Range (as in, “Home, home on the Range”)(*if you don’t love classic western writer Will James I’m not talking to you anymore!); one great burger joint: Sylvester’s Big, Hot n’ Juicy; an awesome homestyle Mexican place (El Compadre) next to a fine bakery (Hush Harbor); and a classic dive: the newly reborn Whisky n’ June. (Never trust a man who doesn’t like whisky and women!)

yeah baby

yeah baby!

Hmmm… where was I going with all this? Floating facedown in those muddy waters of swirling upwardly mobile sometimes divinely-inspired (as in a chocolate croissant) sense and sensibility, was I? Oh, yeah, downtown Atascadero also has…

The ARTery

The ARTery

a hangout frequented by cool artistic types that boasts a scandalous history of NIMBY activist-inflaming murals painted by folks from that evil southern city of the Fallen Angels. And the shining star of A-Town, the Rotunda…

City Hall

City Hall

… a wannabe colonial domed and pillared squarish brick city hall structure (reminiscent of an abandoned feminine implant from 20,000 feet up) casting its authoritative gaze on the strangely-named “Sunken Gardens”: our courthouse square minus the courthouse. “Sunken” perhaps refers to the meaning of atascadero in Spanish: a place where one gets stuck in the mud, a kind of hell hole. A close friend’s husband, born and raised in Puerto Rico, told me that when he was a kid, his mom would yell at him to clean his room ‘cause it was an “ATASCADERO!”

Heck, even Oprah's been here!

Heck, even Oprah’s been here!

Atascadero has too strip malls, too many Starbucks, too many stoplights, and nine too many exits off the 101. Just another California town basking in the warm fall sunshine. Lord, please bring us some rain sometime soon! Which is why we couldn’t come back to God’s Country without bearing special gifts gleaned from our 2-1/2 year tango-crawl through the wilderness of the civilized world.

the current incarnation

the newly reborn Carlton Café

A room at the Carlton... just upstairs!

a room at the Carlton… up above the bakery!

How much time could YOU fritter away lounging in a great café in a great city like New York, Paris, Buenos Aires, Barcelona?

Café Tortoni, Buenos Aires

Café Tortoni, Buenos Aires

So how ‘bout we don’t call it frittering. Call it a waste of time if you will, but a QUALITY waste of time (oink oink KPIG). How many hours could YOU spend sitting around drinking a velvety latte or a structurally perfect macchiato? I sure can… and I don’t know where the time goes but it does keep going…have you noticed time passes on the left? ‘Cause it’s always going faster than we are. And left is the evil side: “a sinistra” (to the left). When Dante descends into hell, his path winds down to the left. Counterclockwise. Got it?

hmmm... lost his head?

hmmm… did we take the wrong turn?

Picture yourself sitting in a nice comfy chair in a cool, beautiful wabisabi space… quality time, chill time. Time to think, to dream, to get inspired; to power thru your daily in-box, google this’n’that, check your FAQs, consult your horrorscope… fire off a few nasty grams to the big cheese… wait a sec… don’t toss your luck to the winds and ruin your forecast! Breathe, do some yogalates, take time to visit with a good friend, take your mom out to lunch, celebrate your cumpleaños in a great café… dancing tango, of course.

Confiteria Ideal

Confiteria Ideal

So, you may be wondering, where IS she running off to now with this late night verbal soirée? Just explaining to y’all why we HAD to bring a little taste of café-culture home with us, in the form of delicious artisan breads and pastries, high-octane coffee, and a beautiful wabisabi space for dancing tango!

Salsa break at La Milonga del Carlton

Salsa break at La Milonga del Carlton

The tall relentless guy in my world just HAD to open his own bakery, so he could bake the bread and bring home the bacon. A place to wine and dine friends ‘cause he loves to feed hungry hordes. 

Courtney's Chocolate Bread

Courtney’s Chocolate Bread

still life with 5-grain loaf, cheese & olives

still life with 5-grain loaf, cheese & olives

And a place where he and his buddies could stand around and spin lies, surrounded by lots of dough, solving the world’s problems over and over again, day after day. Luckily those problems never get solved (you’ve noticed that, too?)… so they rework possible outcomes, endlessly reposition themselves… when people consume caffeine they can talk all day long!

Ben and Eduardo

boy can they talk!

Besides, we were drinking so much coffee out, one day he did the math and decided it would be cheaper to open our own café! Now he’s wondering about that math… duh!



Must be the faulty DNA we all share. Didn’t those wiser-than-us extraterrestrials toss all the rejects on our planet? Where did YOU think politicians came from?

Ho ho ho

Ho ho ho

If you think too much and too frequently, like yours truly, you really NEED to dance, and you particularly NEED to dance tango. Tango dancers DANCE through our ups and downs, our romances, our breakups, our broken hearts, broke-down cars, our fallen soufflés, disinflated egos…


when in doubt keep dancing

Just in case you’re already thinking about those New Year’s Resolutions, let’s review the guiding principles of Tango:

1)  you keep doing it
2)  every time you do it you feel happy
3)  it turns your life upside down but you don’t care!

Pati & Willow at La Milonga del Carlton

Pati & Willow at La Milonga del Carlton

Stop by the café, get comfy, relax, have a lovely mocha or macchiato, bite into a flaky crunchy croissant, a berry twist, toasted 5-grain bread with butter and jam.


Watch yourself go from pathetically morose and incommunicative to chatty and sociable! Instantly reenergized and ready to take on the world! What are you waiting for?

¡Felíz Navidad!

¡Felíz Navidad!

Portland Tango Scene plus… Milonga Tips, Codes, and Advice for Newbie Dancers in BAires


If you dance tango in the U.S., sooner or later you’re going to gravitate to Portland, like a small planet unexplicably attracted to Saturn or Jupiter… a pull that can cause a small planet like Earth to… flip its axis! A Tango mecca like Portland exerts an influence on everything in its gravitational field. Where else besides Buenos Aires or Paris can you hear a musician playing Piazzolla on the street corner?


So what’s there to do in Portland? Like, Tango every night!

birthday dance at Norse Hall

birthday dance at Norse Hall

The Portland Tango scene is really awesome. Partly because the music is traditional (but I miss those Buenos Aires salsa breaks) and also because it’s accessible: no more than 15 minutes to any of the milongas.

milonga at Berretín

Saturday night milonga at Berretín

Did I mention the outstanding DJs spinning classic tango every night of the week? …like tango DJ Joe Leonardo. He also creates retro black and white tango films. (

DJ Joe Leonardo & girlfriend Hannah

DJ Joe Leonardo & girlfriend Hannah

Monday night you can dance in the dough… next to the vault!

Fort Knox North

Fort Knox North

the Treasury Milonga

in the old U.S. Treasury building downtown

The Treasury Milonga replaces the PPPA milonga, which was at a really cool location on the east side of the river. Kinda wabi-sabi, ¿qué no?


Tuesday nights there’s a brand new, fabulosíssima milonga at the Bossanova Ballroom.

Bossanova Ballroom

Bossanova Ballroom

Wednesday nights are for all you Alternative fans…

milonga blah blah

they just call it Wednesday Tango!

What I just don’t get about alternative tango is, how can you call it Tango if it’s not TANGO music? Is Tango a dance, or is it a genre of music? Can you separate the two? We went to check out the Wednesday milonga, and when I asked if the music was alternative, aka Nuevo, the doorman told me  “it’s so far alternative it’s not even tango.” Wow! For an interesting discussion on traditional vs. nuevo, see The Rise and Fall of Tango Milonguero Style at But we are so far from Buenos Aires, and so close to……. the Dark Kingdom.

Portland evening

beautiful Portland evening

Thursday nights at Norse Hall are unforgettable… what a great milonga!

cortina at Norse Hall... who is that guy?

Norse Hall

cortina at Norse Hall... who is that guy?

cortina at Norse Hall… who is that guy?

Let’s see, where was I… Friday nights is La Milonga Felíz Alternative.

Oops!  that's not it!

Oops! that’s not it!

I wish we were in BAires at Café Vinilo!

I wish we were in BAires at La Milonga de Vinilo!

Saturday nights is Milonga “aime comme moi” at Tango Berretín. Alex Krebs’ place, ¡buena música, buenos bailarines, buena onda! (Spanish lessons on the house.)


De vez en cuando toca el quinteto de Alex: (sometimes Alex’s quintet plays):

with guest artists in this case

with guest artists in this case

Sunday evenings you can tango at Lenora’s Ballroom: beautiful space, friendly atmosphere, and all the traditional tango you need to get your endorphin fix for the night and all your mental faculties gratuitously upgraded and ready to face the work week.

another industrial chic tango venue

urban chic tango venue

“Tango invites you to become the protagonist of an ongoing story, which is danced with another through a mutual improvisation that depends on a deep, body-to-body communication, an entwinement of the spirit and the limbs. When you dance it, if you want to dance it well, you immediately understand that it is perhaps the only dance that requires the equal participation of both dancers in order to be fluid. Thus its difficulty, complexity and sensuality…. Tango anyone?” [Velleda C. Ceccioli, Psychology Tomorrow, May 2013].


a good connection is essential…

A foto-cortina from a visit to the Peninsula (SF Bay Area). I know most of my readers will recognize Ben, el Rey de la Milonga, and tango teacher Igor Polk:

having' fun!

having’ fun!

girls making' friends while the guys dance! go figure!

Cecilia & Willow making’ friends while the guys dance!

OK, and finally, coming straight to you from my spies in Buenos Aires:

Advice for newbie dancers heading to BAires: milonga tips, codes, and what you need to know to get dances!

milonga at Aires Tangueros, Rivadavia 1392

milonga at Aires Tangueros, Rivadavia 1392

An Anonymous Tanguera speaks:

The reason guidebooks and friends contradict each other is that there is no way to answer your questions. Where would men be more likely to ask a stranger to dance? What kind of stranger? There are so many factors that affect whether you will get asked: your appearance, your height, your level of dance, the confidence you project, the warmth you project, your style of dress… and so on. I go to two or three milongas a week, and at any one of them I might dance nonstop or I might never leave my seat. I’m the same person each time, but there may be fewer men I know one week… or maybe I’m projecting a different energy.


milongueras de BAires

Where do men who dance well go to dance? Maybe the men you consider good dancers are not the ones I would consider good. My friends don’t necessarily like the same leaders I do… we all have a different connection. In any case, it is not true that the afternoon milongas attract better dancers. I can’t think of an afternoon milonga that has a level of dance that matches some of the better night milongas. That said, I dance with some great leaders at afternoon milongas. It is sooo variable.

matinee milonga at La Ideal

matinee milonga at La Ideal

Anyway, as a 35-year-old woman, especially if you are attractive and look younger than your age, you will get asked to dance often. Unless the day you go there happens to be dozens of other young, beautiful women… many of whom are already known by the men. That happens. The best thing to do if things look hopeless is to go to another milonga.

Milonga Viejo Correo

Milonga Viejo Correo

My best advice would be to not stress about it. You will get to dance. You will have a good time. You will be here for long enough to find your own favorites. Some little milongas del barrio are much more fun than the famous ones that all the tourists go to. I mean, I wouldn’t go to Niño Bien with a gun to my head!


I need to understand what style of dance you’re looking for. You mention “milonguero salon style,” which is really confusing. Milongas here are increasingly breaking down by age/style — unfortunate, but a reality. The young milongas are almost exclusively salon style… a more open embrace with more elaborate movements and adornments. Milonguero style is quite the opposite… very close embrace, with teeny movements (back crosses instead of ochos with pivot, for example) and almost no decorations. Since you said you liked Canning, I suspect you are looking for close embrace, but not true milonguero style.


A friend of mine likes a couple of young, salon style places… Villa Malcolm and Milonga 10. If you don’t usually dance salon, you may find them a bit intimidating (not knowing anyone and facing a lot of stunning 20-year-olds). As he says, La Viruta is good only very late… and yes, the good dancers all dance with each other.

good friends at Sunderland

good friends at Sunderland

An Anonymous Tanguero speaks:

I think that the key is to understand and respect the codes. If I see a woman who stands up after a cabeceo and looks for the man, I just don’t invite her: beginner and super banned.


If, when the tanda finishes, she stays talking with somebody on the dance floor, banned, too easy and I don’t want milongueras to think that I am fishing.

los Reyes del Tango en la Viruta

los Reyes del Tango en la Viruta

I also suggest you study the dance floor. It’s easy to see who is who. If nobody knows you, nobody wants to take the risk. If the milongueros see you dancing with somebody they respect, they are going to invite you.

milongueras de la Viruta

milongueras de la Viruta

If you don’t want a coffee invitation, go home early. At El Beso, after 1:30 nobody dances if there is nothing after, because then is when they invite, they expect to be invited.

El Beso

El Beso – I love the walls!

Basic but important, don’t dance more than 2 tandas in one night with anybody. Since I have a family I prefer to dance only one tanda per night so there are no misunderstandings.


no misunderstandings here!

You sit with women, and if a man invites himself to sit down next to you, look at him as if he’s raping his own mother. In other words, give him a dirty look and DON’T DANCE WITH THE PENDEJO!

who, me?

who, me?

We have two reasons for inviting a new girl to dance: she is an outstanding dancer or she is super cute.

super cute!

super cute!

La Viruta is more a place to hang out with friends, to continue dancing with people you know after other milongas close, or to look for a hook-up.  If you are only interested in tango, it is best to enter when the entrance is waived between 2h30 and 3h30, since before you also have tandas of rock and salsa. At La Viruta, men typically do not cabeceo, but walk around and ask women to dance. The guys that ask women to dance are typically not the ones hanging out with friends, so you have to judge if they are the kind that looks for a hook-up, and if you want to dance with them. It is normal to say “no, gracias” if you are not interested. Don’t go to La Viruta on Thursdays, there are no tandas. And never dance after 5:30. The lights are off for a couple of seconds just before la Cumparsita.

Orquesta El Afronte en la Maldita Milonga, Perú 571

Orquesta El Afronte en la Maldita Milonga, Perú 571

Tango is the same all over the world but dancing in Buenos Aires is different from anywhere else you have ever been.

Teatro Colón

Teatro Colón

house band at Café Vinilo

house band at Café Vinilo, Gorriti 3780

Be friendly, smile, try not to dance with the vultures, be open to new experiences, have fun and leave plenty of room in your suitcase for shoes! You are going to have a great time!

el Obelisco en la Av. 9 de Julio

el Obelisco en la Av. 9 de Julio

Ciao from Portland!

Ciao from Portland!

And for my political commentary of the week, please take note: