Buenos Aires Between the Lines

At a gathering of Polacos and Porteños I was informed by a Polish writer that if I’m not sufficiently self-disciplined to crank out a daily blog post, like a serious writer, perhaps I should write novels.  I could follow my own rhythms without having to consider the reader’s expectations… hmmm… I guess I always had it backwards.  Aren’t novelists the serious writers?  Bloggers are another breed, a different species, a lower life form… qué no?

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maybe I could upgrade to graffiti artist?

I seem to spend most of my waking hours as if dancing tango was my profession.  Maybe addiction is the better word.  Everything else revolves around prepping for or recovering from my addiction.  Luckily, unlike other addictions, my “job” doesn’t involve robbery, hacking or hijacking to support my habit.  Add a boyfriend into the mix and there goes the hours that I, a “serious” writer with a “serious” Ph.D. (in literature, what else?) should be dedicating to my craft.

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Honk if you’re a Hippie!

Hanging out in cafés is another one of my addictions.  I like to walk around the city, tune into the vibe, see who’s been scribbling on the walls.  On a good day I can get some writing in, when I’m not busy radiocarbon dating adorable street artifacts:

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“AUTO BEING REPAIRED”

jaja very funny! Being repaired by little elves who work after midnight? And unfortunately all the fixes are magically erased when the sun comes up? Doesn’t sound like the works of elves to me… I think they’re Trolls!

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’63 Fiat?

A friend and I saw a guy at a café in my old neighborhood, across from el Palacio de los Patos, which I still frequent like a well-trained pet.  We were all sitting together, us girls on the inside and the guy with a dog at a table outside, only a wall of glass between us.  We watched him let his pint-sized dog sit on his lap and put its paws on the table. The dog had a little sweater on. The guy let the miniscule and misbegotten opportunist have the first bite of his medialuna. I think my jaw dropped, and not from hunger!  After that I had to quit looking.

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Wow… I draw the line at spoiling pets.  I don’t get how people can care more about their pets than the little kids going hungry or worse every day in less privileged parts of the world… or their own neighborhood.  Sorry to be so brutally frank, but… whatever happened to humanity?  What about the Golden Rule?  Treat others as you would be treated.  Love Thy Neighbor.  Corollary No. 1: Treat animals like animals; with love, respect, kindness, and well-maintained boundaries.  Eg: Trust in God and tie your camel.  Corollary No. 2: Back when we still lived in the caves, you didn’t let animals dominate you, or pretty soon they’d be eating your liver for lunch.  Corollary No. 2 also applies to apocalyptic combovers.

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Back in the day great leaders UNITED people, not divided them

Segue to today’s geography Fact.  Please note: this is not a slippery political Fact. Nor is it a Wikipedia Fact, or even a Donald Trump Factette. (Or is that a Factoon?) This is a true Factazo… and you heard it here first: the one and only true Mecca of Tango exists in the city of Buenos Aires, that awesome and amazing metropolis 6,000 miles S.E. of San Luis Obispo, California.

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Buenos Aires’ quality of life is ranked 81st in the world, which ain’t bad. That makes it one of the best places to live in Latin America, with its per capita income among the three highest in the region. [Wikipedia, 2012]  Buenos Aires is the MOST visited city in South America (ahead of Rio de Janeiro) and the 3rd most visited city in Latin America, after Mexico City and Los Angeles.  (Yeah, you heard that right. LA has been a Latin American city since its inception.) About 13 million people live here in the greater metropolitan Buenos Aires.

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Buenos Aires defines itself as a multicultural city, being home to multiple ethnic and religious groups.  Several languages are spoken in the city in addition to Spanish.  This is because in the last 150 years the city, and the country in general, has been a major recipient of millions of immigrants from all over the world, making it a melting pot where multiple ethnic groups live together.  Buenos Aires is considered one of the most diverse cities in Latin America. [Wikipedia]

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Many Argentines are of Italian descent; the rest are Spanish, with a spattering of other nationalities, like the spots on an Appaloosa.  Many are criollos, persons of mixed Euro and indigenous blood, born in South America.  That’s why Argentines are so handsome, so beautiful.  It’s all about the mix!

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One of my favorite places to dance in Buenos Aires is Salón Canning… one of the most famous tango clubs in the world.  Not everybody loves it, some people think it’s stuck up and cliquey, and they’re right, too.  But the most fabulous dancers in the world go there to dance, to drink, to hang out with friends, to meet interesting foreigners and celebrate special occasions.  It’s THE place to see and be seen in Buenos Aires.

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Amen to that!

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Orquesta Típica el Pichuco at Salón Canning a couple of weeks ago

In case you’ve already forgotten your geography lesson, you’re not alone.  A survey of Canadian media consumption by Microsoft concluded that the average attention span has fallen to eight seconds, down from 12 in the year 2000. “We now have a shorter attention span than goldfish, the study found.” [The Eight-Second Attention Span, Timothy Egan, NYTimes, Jan. 22, 2016]  If they did a survey of presidential candidates that number would shrink by at least half. 

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Buenos Aires is about 6,000 miles southeast of San Luis Obispo, California.  But in energetic terms, like, cosmic vibrations, Buenos Aires, in fact all of Argentina, might as well be in an alternate reality.  Land of warm and friendly people, beautiful people, trees with big purple flowers (Jacarandá), trees with spiky trunks and pods of cotton popping out (Palo Borracho), plenty of rain all year round.  Land of vast prairies, unspoiled mountains, and abundant natural resources. Outdoor types come here for some of the most beautiful lakes and rivers and backcounty in the world… blue skies, good vibes, asados (BBQ) and Trout Fishing in America. 

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Lago Nahuel Huapi

The hypotheses of prominent scientific types submit that the cosmic Tango Zone is most commonly found in these latitudes, late at night, while staring into a big glass tube full of smoke and mirrors.  Some people in white jackets call it a telescope.  I call it a wine glass — or champagne if it holds lots of tiny bubbles — into which one can stumble … metaphysically if not literally … into dozens of milongas featuring live music every night of the week.  One of my favorites is El Tacuarí, a funky offbeat tango salón in a gritty, rundown, unpretentious barrio called San Telmo.

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Tacuarí 1557, San Telmo

Compared to Salón Canning, el Tacuarí inhabits a whole other universe.  It’s a down home kinda place, a real milonga del barrio.  Tacuarí is part of a collaborative organization of dancers, musicians, singers, artists, tango teachers, DJs, milonga organizers.  One of their newest events is a monthly Tango orchestra jam session, where musicians gather to play for friends, family, and fellow musicians and dancers.  I was there last Friday and it was phenomenal.  Four orchestras each played a 30 minute set: an exhilarating mix of traditional tango, vals and milonga, along with Piazzolla and other contemporary tango, all performed with the exuberance of youth and nuevo flavor. 

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The Tacuarí tango zoners appear to be mostly under 30; hip, cool youngsters, lots of scrubby looking guys and beautiful young women, a few middle-aged hipster intellectuals, the usual lefty mix.  

 

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El Tacuarí was so jammed it was almost a meleé.  A few dozen people spilled out onto the sidewalk in front; a happy, high-energy vibe filled the space.  Musicians and company started arriving before 10.  Beer, wine, sodas and empanadas were consumed at an alarming rate.  More tables and chairs kept appearing from behind the very tall curtains at the back of the dance floor.  The dance floor disappeared under the crowd.

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A group of leather-jacketed Fonzie types were standing around, beers in hand, by the doorway.  (Are they here for the music, I ask?  Of course not, says a friend, they’re here for the girls!)   There’s no scarcity of men who can dance in Buenos Aires.  The odds are good, and the goods are…. dark and handsome!

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The orchestras were electrifying.  Most of the musicians appeared to be under 30.  The music was awesome, the singers were really good, all of it as intense and passionate as the porteños who create it.  The evening just kept getting better.  Young unknowns = future giants.

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Tango is the heartbeat of Buenos Aires.  Tango was born here, and it still thrives.  UNESCO calls tango a national treasure.  Tango is rich, sultry, elegant, compelling.  What can I say about it?  My understanding is infantile compared to those who have grown up with it.  Let’s just say that the more you get into it, the more you see that it’s an enormous genre of music: complex, classical, orchestral, radiant and romantic, an entire world unto itself, with a long and fascinating history.

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What brings most people to that first tango class — is it the music? or the dance?  Everyone has their own story.  The more you get involved with tango, the more addicted you become.  Tango pulls you in, like a giant magnet; you just want more and more.  A beginning dancer — a principiante – learns a vocabulary of different steps and moves which the leader (usually a guy, but not always) puts together spontaneously as you dance.  There are no set choreographies in tango.  You have to practice long enough for the moves to become embedded in your muscle memory.  After the long and awkward early learning stage (aka Tango Hell…) you begin to put the moves together fluently and expressively.  Your inner response to the music is channeled through your outward expression. 

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If you’re a female principiante, let’s assume you can accept being led, perhaps in a way that is new and maybe out of your comfort zone.  As you and your partner begin to move together, you may need to channel some of your impulsive energy into the dance floor.  This will help you to connect and surrender to your partner’s interpretation of the music.  Your energies will blend, possibly approaching harmonic convergence.  OK, I’m having a little fun here, but it’s true.  You are approaching the celestial realm of tango.  It’s called Connection.

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Of course this happens.  It’s really so elementary, so fundamental to tango.  The follower acquiesces to the leader’s interpretation of the music.  You are dancing through his lens: his eyes, his body, his feeling.  He, in turn, responds to your interpretation of his lead… the energetic response creates a completely new blend which, being spontaneous and improvisational, is always moving, shapeshifting.  It’s a merging, an intimacy that is absolutely blissful.  Two become one.  Time and space collapse around you.  You and your partner exist in a timeless bubble, alone in the universe, but not  really alone.  You’re connected in so many ways: to each other, to the other dancers, to the music, the musicians, the sound waves pulsing through every molecule in your body; your feet are connected to the floor, caressing it;  the meaning and feeling of the lyrics deepens your understanding.  At some point in time you realize you’ve arrived.  You’re there.  You’re dancing Argentine tango.  The connection is everything.

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I apologize for not remembering the names of the orchestras.  I was tired, brain dead and happy but incoherent after 3 hours of classes with Ruth and Andreas and a glass of vino tinto.  Ruth’s women’s technique class is the best ever… picture a relentless 90-minute yoga / modern dance workout, in heels.  And you get to practice all those lovely adornments you’ve been wanting to learn.

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El Tacuarí is over 100 years old; it dates from 1910.  The original tile floors, brick bovedas, walls of hormigón; all a bit old and worn out.  Steel reinforcement cross beams were added at some point.  El Tacuarí has been renovated and updated many times… we’re talking past life experiences… previous incarnations… we all know how that goes.  Some of those lives were better than others. 

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But… BIG NEWS!!  As you may know, Argentine Tango was recognized by UNESCO in 2009 as an Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.  Tango informs a huge part of the cultural identity of Argentina and Argentines.  This year the City of Buenos Aires added El Tacuarí to the list of Tango cultural heritage sites.  This level of recognition by the city means that El Tacuarí will receive funding for restoration and preservation, as well as for modernization, including a new acoustic ceiling, improved ventilation system, and restoration of the original tile floor.

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Juan Manuel, the bearded piano player, looks like a runaway from Portland

“The music, dance and poetry of tango both embodies and encourages diversity and cultural dialogue.  It is practised in the traditional dance halls of Buenos Aires and Montevideo, spreading the spirit of its community across the globe even as it adapts to new environments and changing times.  That community today includes musicians, professional and amateur dancers, choreographers, composers, songwriters, teachers of the art and the national living treasures who embody the culture of tango.”  (unesco.org/culture)

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“The tango is one of the most significant expressions of Rio Platense culture.  During its beginnings at the end of 19th century, the tango was associated with the working-class sectors of the city of Buenos Aires and was thus rejected by the rest of society.  Only when it succeeded in Paris did it become universally accepted by the rest of the social classes. Throughout its history, it often moved from the main cultural stage to more low-profile venues.  Even then it was widely accepted because it was a musical and poetic expression which reflected the social transformations of the city, which moved from its origins on the banks of the river to the brothels, before becoming the property of the Guardia Vieja (the old guard, the generation of tango composers who worked between 1900 and 1930).  It is both a dance form and a song, and changed with the formation of tango orchestras and the development and evolution of an instrumental form.”  (atlasdebuenosaires.gov.ar

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“Each of these expressions had a social, a political, an economical and a cultural frame that shaped and explained it.  In each of these periods these expressions gave rise to spaces where they could be held or performed.  A place, a physical or geographical space, is full of a social meaning which confirms the presence and the identity of its bearers.  It is a place full of memories and affection which regulates interaction, evokes hierarchies and reminds us of those who are absent.” (Ibid)

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“Each of these places expresses a different moment in the development of tango and explains a different tradition in its use, in the construction of identities and relationships through time.  These places are historical.  They differ from each other.  They show the complex structure of the territory and of meeting points.  They express the Rio Platense identity and let others see our singularities, and they allow us to work at constructing our identity.” (Ibid)

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Raúl Bravo with Guillermina Quiroga

At El Tacuarí you can take classes with one of the greatest living tango teachers of all time. Raúl Bravo, maestro de maestros, has been teaching tango for 63 years.  Some years ago the city of Buenos Aires formally designated him a “national living treasure,” and I, along with countless others, have called him Maestro for many years.  Saturday night was Raúl’s birthday, and many tango greats danced for the crowd.  Besides Raúl’s birthday, we also celebrated the 7th anniversary of la milonga del Tacuarí.  Photos, videos, calendar of classes, milongas and shows can be seen on Raúl’s facebook page, and at El Tacuarí Tango.

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Raúl performed with Guillermina Quiroga

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Feliz Cumple, Maestro!

Gloria & Eduardo Arquimbau, Angela Ruth Manonellas & Andreas Erbsen, Nora Robles & Pedro Calveyra, Toto Faraldo, and el Pibe Sarandi are some of the other world class teachers at Tacuarí.  Classes are only 100 pesos (less than $7) for 90 minutes of the best tango instruction in the world. 

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Ruth and Andreas, owners, teachers and organizers of el Tacuarí, go off every winter to workshops and performance tours in Italy, Germany, and France.  They just returned a few weeks ago from their 2016 European tour.  Lucky them, since it’s summer in Europe when it’s cold and rainy here in Buenos Aires.  Argentine Tango teachers seem to go back and forth to Europe like you or I would go to the supermarket. The above and below photos were not taken last Saturday, but you get the idea…  they were spinning around too fast for my camera…. a stunning performance.  

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[I repeat, the above photo is NOT from last Saturday night!  [If you have video or stills from the event, please send them to me and I will update the post.  Same goes for the names of the orchestras and musicians.  I appreciate your collaboration.][Estimados amigos, si vos tenés vídeo o fotos del evento, por favor enviarmelas a mí y voy a actualizar el post. Lo mismo va para los nombres de las orquestas y músicos. Agradezco su colaboración.]

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Before closing I have sad news to report:  the death of Horacio Salgán, Argentine tango composer and pianist.  Adam Bernstein of the Washington Post wrote the obit, which I quote in part:  

“Horacio Salgán, an Argentine tango composer and pianist who helped broaden the vocabulary of his musical form and became one of the genre’s most influential and revered maestros, died Aug. 19 in Buenos Aires. He was 100. … Like his near contemporary Astor Piazzolla, Mr. Salgán cast a mesmerizing avant-garde spell on the tango that did not always enchant musical purists in his homeland.  …  Mr. Salgán helped to forge the vanguard of the “new tango” sound in the 1950s and 1960s in a way that was less about rebellion than about synthesizing his varied, somewhat un­or­tho­dox musical influences.”

“Among others, Mr. Salgán drew inspiration from the U.S. jazz shadings of Tommy Dorsey and Duke Ellington, classical works by Béla Bartók and Gioachino Rossini, Brazilian choros and sambas, and African percussive rhythms. The result was deemed too uncommercial for radio airplay at the start of his bandleading career during tango’s “golden age” of the 1940s.  … his best-known compositions — including “A Fuego Lento,” “Don Agustin Bardi” and “Grillito” — remain exquisite, even swooning, melodically.  In addition to writing hundreds of his own compositions, he also arranged older tango standards to suit his protean tastes.”

“Mr. Salgán, who found appreciative audiences in world capitals such as New York, Tokyo and Paris, survived the fickleness of musical tastes in his home country. By his 80s, he had outlived most of his peers and was revered in Buenos Aires as tango’s elder statesman.”

“As he shifted into composing, he called upon his grounding in the classics as well as his mulatto heritage — Catalan on his father’s side, mixed race on his mother’s. …  At 20, he played with Roberto Firpo, later with Miguel Caló.  “Ella Fitzgerald was reportedly so hypnotized that she recommended the duo to jazz impresario Norman Granz, who then produced their 1961 album ‘Buenos Aires at 3 a.m.’”

Here Bernstein quotes Salgán from Yale art historian Robert Farris Thompson’s book Tango: The Art History of Love:  

“Training in Western symphonic music opened up a whole world of harmony, orchestration and pianistic execution….  But there’s also a black dimension to my music. It’s not casual, nor flagrant, but part of my origin . . . my style and my truth.”… “There are many people who come to tango or to other music genres with the idea of innovation.  I came to tango neither to save it, nor for anything of the kind,” Mr. Salgán once told the Club de Tango magazine. “I, among other things, play all the genres — classical, jazz, etc. — but … have a respect almost religious towards music itself, because music is a bridge towards God. . . . What turned out came because I spontaneously so felt it.”

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Adios, Maestro!

 That’s all for now, folks.  Thanks for tuning in.  I always appreciate your thoughts and comments. 

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That’s me with Santos and Raúl.   Ciao 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) (www.newmusicbox.org/articles/pablo-ziegler-making-the-music-dance/)

ASTOR PIAZZOLLA Y SU QUINTETO TANGO NUEVO - MONTREAL JAZZ FESTIVAL 1984

ASTOR PIAZZOLLA Y SU QUINTETO TANGO NUEVO – MONTREAL JAZZ FESTIVAL 1984

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!

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

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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.)

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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?

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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.

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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!  

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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.

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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!

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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.

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

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Jacqueline

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

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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.

IMG_6956

>?!#*>&^?!!@<%^*$#*&+)&?=!!${@!

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?

Bieber

“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.”

words+

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?

images-5

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?

Othello

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

xCaliban

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.

Persuasion

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?

hollyhocks2

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.

Norm

[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 carltonbakery@gmail.com

6005 El Camino Real
carltonbakery@gmail.com

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!

kjgsd

2+2=22?

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…

sadkhasd

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.

pastries

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

NorseHallneon

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?

images

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. (tangosilentfilms.com).

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?

PPAAneon

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 tangovoice.wordpress.com. 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.)

Unknown

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].

lkhsd

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

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!

blog_tango_450

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.

IMG_1021

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.

Unknown

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.

kjhasdf

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:

hombres

Here’s Looking at Portland

Portlandevening2*

PORTLAND IS ALL ABOUT THE RIVER… broad and busy by day, stunningly elegant by night.

view of the the South Waterfront from further south

view of the the South Waterfront, taken from the Sellwood Bridge

Portland is a sprawling city of 600,000 bisected by the Willamette River, divided into quadrants, spanned by a dozen bridges, and bounded on its northern shore by the Columbia River and the state of Washington.

yacht harbor on a gorgeous day, taken from the waterfront bike trail

downtown yacht harbor, at the end of Montgomery St.

The Port of Portland, located about 80 miles upriver from the Pacific Ocean, is the largest freshwater port in the U.S.A. Portland ships out more wheat than any other U.S. port, and is the second largest port for wheat in the world.

The northernmost bridge of Portland is so Gotham City:

St. John's Bridge, photo by Ben

St. John’s Bridge, photo by Ben

Each bridge has its own flavor and story… all impressively heavy metal, functional, and even inspiring.

Hawthorne Bridge and boats

Hawthorne Bridge and yacht harbor on a gorgeous May day

the cute version

the cute version

Under construction is yet another bridge which will facilitate multiple forms of public transport across the Willamette: Max Light Rail, Tri-Met buses, the Portland streetcar, pedestrians and bicycles: NO CARS ALLOWED! Popular Science magazine awarded Portland the title Greenest City in America in 2008.

TriMet bridge

TriMet bridge: completion expected in 2015

Portland is famous for its outdoorsy, tree-hugging, bicycle-riding, homemade beer brewing and coffee slurping liberals. There are more than 60 breweries here. In 2010, CNBC named Portland the Best City for Happy Hour in the U.S.

for those of you who go for the brew

for those of you who go for the brew

Ever seen the TV show Portlandia? It satirizes the city as “a hub of liberal politics, organic food, alternative lifestyles and anti-establishment attitudes.” [Wikipedia] What other city can happily negotiate such a dysfunctional but workable dynamic between guns, gays and greens? Perhaps that explains the weltanschauung behind the Keep Portland Weird movement.

images

Ben sums up Portland in 2 words: pedestrians vs. cyclists. He thinks walkers and hikers don’t like bicyclists ’cause they damage the environment… I mean, seeing a bike tire track in the mud of your favorite hiking trail would make anybody flip and run for their gun… wouldn’t you? …ja ja… and naturally bicyclists wish pedestrians would just get the hell outta the way!! But the real issue has, perhaps, more to do with primal fear: fear, that is, of being turned to toast under 2000 lbs. of steel and rubber. I found an intriguing apropos discussion on the City of Portland website, just for a reality check:

4 types of cyclists orange2

The intrepid few “Strong & Fearless” identify primarily as bicyclists, and ride everywhere without fear (or almost everywhere), under any and all road and weather conditions. Truly courageous or merely suicidal?

he's multi-tasking

a multi-tasking cyclist

The “Enthused & Confident” — like Ben — ride daily to work or school, for the pure joyful adrenalin rush of riding. (Also to save bucks and shrink their carbon pawprint). Who wouldn’t want to ride Portland’s beautiful bike lanes and bike boulevards?  There’s even bike lane stoplights and, lucky for me, no bike path traffic cameras! Not yet, anyway. Is it a crime to cross on the red when there’s no traffic in any direction?

OK, but... what if I can't find  the speedometer on my bike?

OK, but… what if my bike doesn’t have a speedometer?

As Portland has been particularly supportive of urban bicycling, it now ranks amongst the most bicycle-friendly cities in the world. Approximately 8% of commuters bike to work, the highest proportion of any major U.S. city and about 10 times the national average. [Wikipedia]

Main Map-v3

“The Interested but Concerned” group covers the vast majority of Portland cyclists. “They like riding a bicycle… they would like to ride more. But, they are AFRAID to ride. They don’t like cars speeding down their streets. They get nervous when a driver runs a red light, or guns their car around them, passing by too closely and too fast.” (City of Portland Bicycle Plan 2030) Sounds like me. I KNOW I’m taking my life into my hands every time I get on my bike. Duh!

weird cyclist

“No Way No How!” is the anthem of group four. Besides primal fear and equally primordial  laziness (aversion to exertion), not to mention the over-abundance of Pacific Northwest Stormy Mondays, they may be unknowing victims of an acute case of nostalgia for the gas-guzzling, chrome-dazzling Twentieth Century; back in the day when petroleum was plentiful, and joy riding in a true-blue Made in the U.S.A. cruiser was a sign of status and All-American Attitude. On a lucky day you may still catch sight of one around town:

'63 Lincoln

’63 Lincoln… yea, baby!

Pontiac Bonneville - 1965?

’64 Pontiac Bonneville

el Jefe chillin' in the back seat

el Jefe chillin’ in the back seat

You don’t have to be a cute mutt in a cool car to be in my blog, either:

Charlie & me

Charlie & me

But wait… we’re not done with the bridges yet! A block from our apartment in the Pearl District is the Broadway Bridge:

Broadway Bridge

riverfront walk near the Broadway Bridge

Portland’s urban growth boundary, adopted in 1979, separates urban areas (where high-density development is encouraged and focused) from traditional farm land (where restrictions on non-agricultural development are very strict). This was quite atypical in an era when automobile use led many areas to neglect their core cities in favor of development along interstates, in suburbs, and bedroom communities. Former industrial areas reeking of urban decay were “redeveloped” into prosperous new neighborhoods… like the Pearl District. The city has grown inward and upward, as opposed to sprawling outward. Impresionante, Portland! California, are you listening? 

Burlington RR Bridge

the Burlington Bridge: a railroad bridge with a vertical lift

the Steel Bridge

the Steel Bridge: bike & pedestrian path AND train tracks on the bottom, cars on top

Almost 200 years of industry (shipping, logging, manufacturing) went into making Portland the city it is today. This heritage is breathtakingly visible in the older parts of the city and all along the riverfront, especially around the industrial waterfront and deepwater port. Heat-forged iron and steel trusses and beams hold up bridges and docks. Old brick buildings and warehouses were reborn as shops, bistros, cafés, apartments and lofts, galleries and urban “outfitters.”

below the bridge

the poetry of steel, under the bridge

Portland is so modern and yet its history continues to underwrite its modernity. I really like this contrast, in which each flip side of the coin does not disavow its alter-ego. Past and present are connected in a wabi-sabi “…beauty that treasures the passage of time, and with it the lonely sense of impermanence it evokes.” [Diane Durston: Wabi Sabi, The Art of Everyday Life, 2006]

Morrison Bridge on a grey afternoon

Morrison Bridge on a still, grey afternoon

big train comin' thru the Steel Bridge, photo by Ben

big train comin’ thru the Steel Bridge, photo by Ben

lkjhasdf

random tango dancer in Biker Babe jacket checking out the income-producing side of the river

Portland has an impressive and beautiful downtown, lined by scores of trees, parks and greenspace, and the ultra-beautiful Japanese gardens:

Japanese Gardens

Portland Japanese Gardens

The International Rose Garden has a stunning amphitheater. We walked up there yesterday, in a light rain:

amphiteatro2*

We haven’t seen the Chinese gardens yet, but I’ve heard they’re stunning!

Portland Chinese Gardens

Portland Classical Chinese Garden

Portland is a fabulous and colorful city, well known for being cool, hip, fashionably eco-sustainable-everything, and ultra walkable (a walkscore of 98 in the Pearl District), with a kid-friendly, tech-friendly urban vibe.

Streetcars rock Portland!

Streetcars rock Portland!

Portlanders are friendly, multicultural, awake and aware of what’s goin’ on in their world and their town. Artists, hipsters, locavores, LGBTs, tree-huggers, tango dancers, Power-to-the-People progressives, retired hippies, fanatics of every stripe, wealthy young entrepreneurs and tekkie types…. and cool habitats for humanity from A – Z. The growth of high-tech startups and related businesses have earned Portland the nickname Silicon Forest. Powell’s Books, whose three stories above ground take up an entire city block, claims to be the largest independent new and used bookstore in the world. Portland is also the karaoke capital of the U.S.!

Hoyt Street townhouses

Hoyt Street townhouses

What do I like most about Portland? My liveable downtown neighborhood, the Pearl.

pedestrian path

pedestrian path in the Pearl

Jamison Square reminds me of ___ Gardens in Paris

Jamison Square reminds me of the Luxembourg Gardens

kid-friendly waterfall/pond at Jamison Square

kid-friendly Jamison Square fountain

our friendly neighborhood Lovejoy Bakery

our friendly neighborhood Lovejoy Bakery

looking down on the bakery from our apartment on a sunny day

looking down on the bakery from our apartment on a sunny day

I also love the ubiquitious cafés with outdoor seating, reminding me of Buenos Aires and European cities. Here’s our favorite, authentic (all the staff imported from Italy), delicious trattoria, Piazza Italia, right around the corner from Jamison Square.

Piazza Italia

Piazza Italia

Downtown Portland’s numerous cafés remind me of Buenos Aires, Rome, Barcelona, Paris… they make you feel like the streets in your hood are an extension of your living room! Sustainable living abounds, complete with rooftop gardens, terraces, wind turbines, solar power, etc. What do I mean by sustainable etc? I know, I had to look it up too. See my notes at end.*

another lovely pedestrian path in the Pearl

another pretty pedestrian path in the Pearl

Portland has many different faces: cool steel under grey skies…

;jhasdf

reflecting pool

convention center

convention center

parks, pedestrian and bicycle trails all along the river…

waterfrontpark**

springtime waterfront

waterfront in spring

juxtaposition of old and new in the Pearl District

juxtaposition of old and new

colorful streetcars

green & yellow streetcar

blue streetcar

blue streetcar

old and new cottages on the south waterfront

old and new cottages on the south waterfront, a stone’s throw from the river

A perfect example of wabi-sabi: isn’t the one on the left so timelessly beautiful? (Maybe needs a little work on the interior…)

houseboats & sailboat on the Willamette

houseboats & sailboat on the Willamette

Ben says he likes the culture of Portland. Portlanders are quite courteous, both on and off the dance floor. They respect walkers and cyclists… they stop for you even when they don’t have to. Portlanders find value in music, dance, food, the arts… and in people connecting with each other. The pace of life is slower. Huge ships in port are constantly loading and unloading, while at the same time fishermen troll the river in small boats. Portlanders work to continually improve their quality of life; they don’t just care about the environment; they make it HAPPEN.

Sauvie Island - my favorite idyllic getaway only 10 miles upriver

Sauvie Island – my favorite idyllic getaway only 10 miles upriver

Sauvie Island rules & regs: but no one's watching

Sauvie Island rules & regs: overzealous verbiage to be sure

Portlanders also care about what goes into their food, i.e., Portland is NOT a fast-food paradise. Human beings are essentially the same everywhere (our DNA is identical, right?) but the culture here has developed favorably for a healthy, sustainable environment, and people-friendly transportation systems.

The climate is, well… I’ve written pages making fun of the climate. Seriously, I like it hot, humid and tropical! Sadly, today is yet another drizzly grey day here in Portlandia. Seems like there’s only one season here. The trees change but not the weather. But if it keeps the unwashed hordes from discovering and moving to this idyllic Pacific Northwest homeland… it’s okay.

wabi-sabi doorknobs

wabi-sabi doorknobs in a recycled building materials shop

That’s all for now, friends… stay tuned for my next post: the Portland Tango scene. You’re gonna like it!

*What do I mean by environmentally sustainable design? It’s the philosophy of designing physical objects, the built environment, and services to comply with the principles of social, economic, and ecological sustainability. McLennan, J. F. (2004), The Philosophy of Sustainable Design. More references: (1) Anastas, P. L. and Zimmerman, J. B. (2003). Through the 12 principles of green engineering. Environmental Science and Technology. March 1. 95-101A. (2) Fan Shu-Yang, Bill Freedman, and Raymond Cote (2004). Principles and practice of ecological design. Environmental Reviews. 12: 97–112. (3) Holm, Ivar (2006). Ideas and Beliefs in Architecture and Industrial design: How attitudes, orientations, and underlying assumptions shape the built environment. Oslo School of Architecture and Design. You gotta appreciate research and researchers! They help dummies like you and me make sense of the world we live in!

Ciao from Portland!

Ciao from Portland!

Costa Brava to East Coast

Preview: Atlantic sunrise

Preview: Atlantic sunrise

Opening this post with no dazzling first line was not really what I had in mind. Somebody please just toss a poetic blast of bombast at my beleaguered brain! Say what? Can you repeat that? No matter, let’s just get down to the biz of catching up on our whereabouts since we left Barcelona last August. People keep asking me, where are you guys? Well, right now we’re in Portland, Oregon. And, sad to say, many long miles from the beautiful Costa Brava, España. Here’s where we were in August 2012: along the coast north of Barcelona, known as the Costa Brava. We rented a car and went exploring.
Big Sur's got nothin' on the Costa Brava!

Big Sur’s got nothin’ on the Costa Brava!

Many years ago I asked one of my uncles, in Italy, how they manage to keep Italy so clean, green and well-tended. “We toss all our trash into the Mediterranean!” he replied with head-tossing laughter!
a noisy little cove... check out the boats!

no trash in sight… just lots of gorgeous scenery!

Not trashy here on the Costa Brava, and only 116 km south of the South of France. Check it out! This beach borders the historic town of Sant Feliu de Guixols. I have no idea who that happy saint was, it’s Catalan to me.
ljhasd

Sunday afternoon at the beach – Renoir could have painted this

Sant Feliu has an awesome museum, the Espai Carmen Thyssen, founded by the late Baron Hans Henrik von Thyssen-Bornemisza (1921-2002), a wealthy Swiss-German industrialist art collector with an ancestral Hungarian title and a villa in Montecarlo. The museum is named for von Thyssen’s fifth wife, Carmen “Tita” Cervera, a former Miss Spain, whose art-loving instincts played a key role in bringing her husband’s valuable collection of nineteenth century Andalusian and Catalan art to Spain.

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The museum entrance is on the right. Behind the arch is the 10th century Roman monastery, built over the ruins of an old castle which saw plenty of action back in the day. Apparently the monks were occasionally  called upon to drop their rosaries and defend their turf from marauding turks, moors and other riffraff, with arrows shot from narrow openings in the high walls.

Carmen Thyssen Museum

Carmen Thyssen Museum on right

former monastery

Benedictine monastery, rebuilt in 1723

Ben at the Arc de Sant Benet (1747)

Ben at the Arc de Sant Benet (1747)

Quite the jetsetting playboy, Baron Thyssen once famously explained his surname: «Bornemisza significa que no bebe vino, y yo más bien debería decir que no bebo agua». (“Bornemisza means “doesn’t drink wine,” but in my case “doesn’t drink water” would be more apt.”) The Baron also has  museums in Málaga and Madrid. In the 1980s he created a foundation to prevent his fabulous collection being dismantled and sold off to private collectors. My mom, a retired art critic, reminded me that she interviewed Baron von Thyssen when  he visited the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, accompanying an exhibition of his personal collection.

CarmenThyssenMuseum

PR for the fabulous inaugural exhibit at the Espai Carmen Thyssen. What a gorgeous day, and filled with spectacular art. The above painting made me nostalgic for our time in Paris: it rained so much last spring.

The Baroness Carmen Thyssen said of Sant Feliu: “…her dazzling beauty and  joyful people I found captivating from the first.”

Sant Feliu aerial shot

Sant Feliu aerial shot

Adios, España! In late August we flew from Barcelona back to Paris and on to San Francisco. After visiting family and friends in California we took a month-long break in beautiful South Carolina.

Charleston SC

Charleston SC

From Charleston — where I could stay forever — we drove south to Murrell’s Inlet for a vacation from the vacation! A restorative, off-schedule downtime of surf, sun, sleep & fresh seafood prepared by Chef Ben.
cloudy day at Murrell's Inlet

late afternoon on the inter-coastal waterway

Avendaw Creek

Avendaw Creek

Ben caught a big fish.

Ben caught a big fish.

we kayaked

we kayaked

we found a dockside watering hole.

we spotted a dockside watering hole.

a working fishing boat

a working fishing boat

Art on the docks

Art on the docks

tidal marsh

tidal marsh

even a pirate ship!

even a pirate ship!

ciao! from South Carolina

ciao! from South Carolina

Atlantic sunset

we head off into the sunset

South Carolina was wonderful last september, with its sizzling beachfront and dripping wet hot humid weather… I loved it! But eventually it was time to move on…
spent a few days in the Smoky Mountains

we spent a few days in the Great Smoky Mountains

Tango near the Capitol Dome

we tango’d near the Capitol Dome

We milonga’d in DC one night before heading to New York state. It was a warm and beautiful night in DC, and really cool to be dancing in Freedom Plaza, with the words of Martin Luther King Jr. engraved on the stones beneath our feet. The next day we drove through northeastern Pennsylvania over into New York, and then more or less followed the Hudson River Valley north, bypassing New York City, Connecticut, and Massachusetts.

Freedom Plaza - Capital Tangueros

Freedom Plaza – Capital Tangueros

the old homestead in PA

the old homestead in PA

Wayne Hotel, Honesdale, PA

Wayne Hotel, Honesdale, PA

upstate New York

upstate New York

Albany

Albany

Albany

Albany

Appaloosa in the Green Mountains

grazing appaloosa in the Green Mountains, Vermont

falls near Rochester VT

falls near Rochester VT

Red Barn

Red Barn

Sandy's Bookstore and Coffeehouse

Sandy’s Books and Bakery in Rochester VT– where old hippies munch good munchies

The frenetic grease-dripping fast food twilight zone of a cross-country road trip finally came to a standstill when we took up lodgings in Montpelier, Northeast Kingdom, Vermont. Time slowed to a crawl. We woke up to shorter days, longer nights, cafés and restaurants shutting down so early — and this is the state capital! (pop. 8,000) People actually watch TV and play board games in the evenings. Not to be left out of all the fun, we picked a free tv (the formerly glorious, heavyweight color tv, so impressive back in 1965!) and signed up for cable… like hooking up a one-way IV sucking down your bank account. That lasted a couple of months till we went back to watching news and soccer matches online.

Vermont was picture-postcard pretty! Ben started artisan bread-making classes at the New England Culinary Institute. We found a 3rd floor apartment in a 100+ year old house downtown. Pretty comfy, though we only had a bed, a kitchen table, 2 chairs and some cardboard boxes. When we arrived in October the leaves were turning and the days were still pretty nice, not really too cold yet, the nights just barely dipping into the 40s.
view of the Montpelier Capital Dome and clock tower from our apartment

view of the Montpelier Capital Dome and clock tower from our apartment

Ben enjoyed his breadmaking classes at NECI, though the expectation level was decidedly a few rungs below his experience at the French Culinary in Manhattan a few years back, where highly paid world class egomaniacs belittled & berated their students’ efforts…  turning out some highly trained professionals nonetheless. A little constructive criticism can be a useful part of the learning process… ouch! Every day was a blast for Ben; he even enjoyed trudging through the snow to be at the bakery at 6:00 am. He was lightyears beyond most of the students… mostly mouth-breathers, you know, adolescents with perpetually hanging lower lips. When he had extra time (he’s fast) the chefs let him do his own thing, and he made the most of it: croissants, pan au chocolat, marzipan pastries, escargot, stollen, panettone… you name it. Lots of yummy stuff… not to mention a million varieties of artisan breads, made the traditional way. Like, the way they make it in Paris. Voilá!
La Brioche, the NECI bakery

La Brioche, the NECI bakery

Ben cooking at home

Ben cooking at home

Yeah, he loves to cook and the kitchen always looks like a tornado’s touched down, but it’s worth it. Delicious! Notice the way cool 1950s electric stove? The oven window looks like a porthole on a spaceship. My spaceship!

what a classic!

a vintage classic

The door on the left is a warming oven, and the rear left burner is a deep well with a built-in soup pot. Crazy! Some nut will pay big bucks for it on eBay someday!

Speaking of tornados, we were in Vermont when Hurricane Sandy tore up New York and New Jersey.

Hurricane Sandy NYC

Hurricane Sandy NYC

She was just a breath of whispering wind by the time she reached northern Vermont — lucky us.

St. Anne's was RIGHT next door!

beautiful St. Anne’s was right next door

Fall colors in Montpelier… flaming red, orange and gold. There were still a few warm days but not for long… the days got shorter and colder, and there wasn’t a heck of a lot to do after dark. Burlington had a small tango community, but their milongas were not what we were used to — sorry, friends! Although we did have a fabulous evening at the Palais de Glace Holiday Milonga, in Stowe, and a New Year’s Eve Milonga with live music (and a hysterically funny skit!) in Hartford, Connecticut.

too many women in his life!

he’s gotta quit flirting with the waitress… or there’ll be hell to pay!

Happy New Years' Eve!

Happy New Years’ Eve!

Three months in a deep freeze was a little much for me… I’m a California girl! Snow is exquisitely lovely, of course. Making cut-paper snowflakes is my idea of a good time in the snow. Furnishing our apartment was kind of fun, though. We found this really awesome blue ultrasuede chair at an estate sale:

with lime green piping... and a matching couch!

with lime green piping… and a matching couch

Getting it up to the apartment was a challenge

Getting it up to the apartment was a challenge

nothing like a few bored neighbors to lend a hand!

nothing like friendly neighbors to lend a hand

Needless to say, the winding steep and narrow stairs up to our spacious atelier in Montpelier would not admit the couch, nor the bed. Lucky for us when we moved out three months later the new tenant took it all. I kept picturing how much fun it would be, rappeling all that furniture back down in the snow.

fast forward to snowy night on our street

fast forward to snowy night on our street

Montpelier West Branch

Montpelier West Branch

Beautiful Montpelier Round House

Beautiful Montpelier Round Porch and Tower

Before long our world became an exercise in whiteout conditions, arctic blasts, ice showers and icicles, frozen cars, frozen streets, sidewalks and noses; woolen mittens and lost kittens, gloves, scarves, wool caps, snow boots, layers upon layers of the warmest stuff you got… fleecy jammies and bathrobes (or my version: just drag the blanket around the house with you), down jackets… and don’t forget sheepskin booties for indoors. Snowy winter holidays prevailed. But before all that white stuff covered everything, we took a weekend trip in Maine, including a stop at L.L.Beanville.

battling moose at LL Bean world headquarters

battling moose at LL Bean world headquarters

Maine coast

Maine coast

New England Saltbox

New England Saltbox

boats in dry dock

boats in dry dock: Wicked Good is no secret; La Galatea, Cervantes’ first novel (1585)

having dinner in Bath, Maine

having dinner in Bath, Maine

Home of the Lobster Roll

Home of the Lobster Roll

Maine Weekend Harbor

Maine harbor

Colf Mountain

cold mountain, New Hampshire

MaineWknd13

Brrr! Those were cold days.

icicles in Montpelier

icicles in Montpelier

downtown Montpelier

downtown Montpelier

my son and grandson hiking!

my son and grandson hiking

the old stone tower

the old stone tower

the sled run

the sled run

view from the tower

view from the tower

tall snowy trees

tall snowy trees

our building on a snowy evening in Montpelier

a snowy evening in Montpelier: our apartment top floor

pretty Montpelier at Christmas

Christmas in Montpelier

We left Vermont in mid-January, driving across the frigid Midwest. Mile upon mile of frozen highway: bleak, cold, heartless. Miraculously, we only met one snow storm, near Buffalo, NY. It lasted less than two hours. I parked us in the draft of a big semi and hung onto his coattails till the storm eased up. We kept to the northern route: Buffalo, Chicago, Omaha, Cheyenne, Boise… all the way to Portland. One evening we found a great little milonga in Lincoln, Nebraska… what a pleasant surprise! The Milonguero Spirit appearing in a place previously disguised as Nowheresville! No wonder… the home of the Univ. of Nebraska Press. Publishers of books and journals specializing in American history, the American West, and Native American studies. (Lewis & Clark fans, take note!) Our next destination: Portland, Oregon. Stay tuned!

Next stop: Portland

Next stop: Portland