California Part II: the Argentine Invasion

The sun was playing hide-and-seek with us the day we hiked from the beautiful, sunny Presidio to the Golden Gate Bridge. As we neared the bridge the wind was fierce, and the fog came swirling in. Mist hugs the Golden Gate like a kid with a teddy bear, always tossing it away and then anxious to have it back. 

The sun reappeared as we retraced our steps, walking past the old stables by the beach. You can see San Francisco in the distance. Here’s one of Crissy Field beach, with the Golden Gate sparkling in the background. 

Crissy Field Beach

The Presidio to Golden Gate Bridge trail is a mile each way.  All the views are spectacular. We took a few shots of Alcatraz before chillin’ in the Presidio Café. One latte and one cappuchino. My body temperature slowly worked its way back to normal.

Nice being on this side of the water from that place.  We kept a sharp lookout for pirates.  You never know, these days… foreign infidels or homegrown NRA-lovin’ terrorists?

H. Bouchard

Blackbeard

Was Santos was feeling like a stranger in a strange land?  So far from Argentina, so close to the evil superpower. Did he feel like he was in the belly of the beast?  [cf. José Martí: “Inside the Monster: Writings on the United States and American Imperialism,” 1890s.]  But Santos is not the first Argentine to make the journey, not by a long shot. That claim goes to Argentine pirate Hipólito Bouchard, who ransacked Monterey on Nov. 20, 1818.  In just a few years, Bouchard went from sailor to naval officer to buccaneer. 

StinsonBch

Stinson Beach

Could Bouchard have anchored off Stinson Beach in the gale force winds that nearly blew us off our feet? Hey, we were just looking for a few rays of sunshine. We hoped to find them in Bolinas, where the sixties meets the sea, but Highway 1 was closed on account of mudslides. I guess a visit to that sweet spot will have to wait till the next go-round.

Hipólito Bouchard was a naturalized Argentine naval officer who fought under the flag of the Provincias Unidas del Río de la Plata and Perú. He played an important role in Argentine independence from Spain. Amongst his most notable “activities,” Bouchard ransacked towns along the coasts of Perú, Ecuador, Central America, México and California, harassing Spanish pueblos and garrisons.

Acta de IndepBorn in Saint-Tropez, France, in 1780, Bouchard grew up around boats and sailing. As soon as he was old enough to earn wages (no child labor laws back then) he went to work on fishing boats and cargo transports. In 1798 he signed up to fight for the French navy against the English, thus beginning the hard life of the seafaring soldier. After campaigning in Egypt and Haiti, he arrived in Buenos Aires on a French ship just a few months before the beginning of the May Revolution, in 1809.  Most Latin America countries were trying to throw off the yoke of foreign domination in the early 1800s; most notably by the Spanish, Portuguese, French and British.

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Plaza de Mayo then,

and now.

Bouchard was liberal and anti-monarchy. He openly sided with the Revolution and quickly rose to second in command of the newly-created Argentine navy. His baptism of fire was in the battle of San Nicholás against the Spanish navy on March 2, 1811. This naval confrontation on the Paraná river was a tremendous defeat for the Argentines… but essential training for the young marine. “The art of winning battles is learned from defeat.” [Simón Bolívar]

Batalla de San Nicolás

In July and August of 1811 Bouchard fought against the Spanish Royal Navy’s blockade of Buenos Aires. In 1812 he enlisted in the Horse-Grenadier regiment under General José de San Martín. “Certain countries such as France and Argentina established units of Horse-Grenadiers for a time. The British did so as well. Like their infantry counterparts, these horseback soldiers were chosen for their size and strength to break through enemy lines and fortifications.” [Wiki] They were some bad-ass dudes… perhaps the original “bad hombres?”

They say Bouchard was a hard, brutal man who, if he wasn’t busy burning and pillaging, was picking fights with his own crew. He handed out harsh penalties for insubordination. Walk the plank, anyone? Keelhauling? Do you think he ever heard of Long John Silver, Blackbeard, or Captain Flint? I guess not. Robert Louis Stevenson didn’t write Treasure Island until 1883.

Maybe it’s the other way around: Robert Louis Stevenson might have heard stories about Hipólito Bouchard. He might have known people who knew of him, because Stevenson spent the last two decades of his short life (he died at 44) in Vailima, Samoa, where he settled in 1880. He and his wife Fanny were always sailing around the South Seas when he wasn’t busy writing. Stevenson wrote Treasure Island for his stepson, Lloyd Osbourne, in 1883. Among other notable works, he published Kidnapped and the Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde in 1886.

I never turned to piracy when the law was onto me, but as to kidnapping … well, sometimes you have no other option. Driving around San Francisco we stopped to say hey to ‘ol Cristóbal Colón. He wasn’t a pirate, just another heartless real estate developer. We parked about 10 blocks away and then we walked another dozen or so in the wrong direction, away from Coit Tower. We would have reached for our ancient sextant, but the stars weren’t out yet. Amazing how I can get lost with or without my GPS. Finally we climbed another 6 blocks of stairs going straight up the hill. Tango dancers can keep going all night, that’s a known fact. Dancing, that is. 

Colón at Coit Tower

By the way, Cristóbal Colón never made it to California, so I have no idea what he’s doing in San Francisco. He merely sailed around the West Indies, so named because he thought he’d landed on the coast of India. Colón always insisted, in the face of mounting evidence to the contrary, that the lands that he visited during those 4 voyages were part of the Asian continent, as previously described by Marco Polo and other European travelers. [Wiki]. Colón’s refusal to accept that the lands he had visited and claimed for Spain were not part of Asia might explain, in part, why the American continent was named after the Florentine explorer Amerigo Vespucci, and not after Colón. On Colón’s last voyage to the Caribbean his crew escorted him back to Spain in cadenas… chains. They say he had gone completely mad. 

I got a nice shot of the Bay Bridge for my hour of climbing. You can see a bit of the Embarcadero on the lower left.

According to Bartolome Mitre, Bouchard was a big, tall, muscular man. He was dark-skinned with straight black hair and asiatic eyes, said to be black and penetrating. Too bad about that fiery temper. 

hmmm… dark-skinned?

Does he look like a dark-skinned man to you? On the cover of the above book, I mean. Ever heard the term “white-washing” history? Making someone look whiter than they are, i.e., rewriting history? Let me show you what I mean:

Bouchard had the decisiveness of a man of action, plus the understated confidence of a man of the world, e.g., one who has traveled far and wide, is proficient with modern weaponry, and can project cool in any situation. Let’s call him a James Bond prototype.

Tall, dark, handsome, smarter than you and not afraid to take control of a situation. A man who “owns” the room as soon as he walks into it. Attractive with a subtle edge of danger.

Mike Colter, aka Luke Cage

They say Bouchard had a passionate love for Argentina, his adopted country. I can relate. Of course, his love of country took a backseat to his avarice and rapaciousness. He craved plunder and riches.

Spanish pieces of eight

Bouchard was, you know, not much different than a multi-national corporation that changes banks like you and I change channels, island-hopping from the Caymans to Panama to Switzerland to Moscow, one step ahead of the IRS and one payment behind on its big yellow cheeto payoff.  I’d take some of that… wouldn’t you? Call it what you will, we’re still living with piracy and plunder.

In 1815 Bouchard left the Regiment of Mounted Grenadiers and returned to life on the open water. I guess the good green earth just didn’t do it for him. Not enough pillaging and booty? Who can say? No doubt he yearned for the vast, open seas, under the yoke of no master but that fickle, dangerous temptress of the bluegreen depths.

One of Bouchard’s most prestigious campaigns was realized under the orders of Admiral Guillermo Brown. Together and in the company of their men, they ravaged the Pacific coasts of the Americas, attacking Callao, Guayaquil, San Blas and Acapulco, burning and plundering. Yo ho ho and a bottle of rum!

Almirante Guillermo Brown (1777-1857), Irish born, was the first admiral of the Argentine navy. He devoted his life to the service of his adopted country, in honor of which he is considered the Father of the Argentine Navy.

The fleet of Brown’s campaign was composed of the Hércules, commanded by the Admiral himself; la Santísima Trinidad, under the command of Brown’s brother Miguel; the sloop Halcón, commanded by Bouchard, and the schooner Constitución, under the command of Oliver Russell. The boats Hércules and Santísima Trinidad left from Montevideo heading south the 24 of October, 1815; the other two boats would set sail five days later. Their orders were to reach Mocha Island, off the coast of Chile, south of Santiago, where they would establish a plan of operations.

Mocha Island, Chile

The Brown brothers arrived at the island on December 28,1815; the Halcón reached port a day later. Upon arrival, Bouchard expressed his belief that the Constitution had sunk in the huge storm which had battered Cape Horn for fourteen days. Russell’s ship had been heavily loaded with large caliber guns and other provisions. Neither the Constitution nor its crew were seen again.

On Mocha Island, Brown and Bouchard agreed to operate together for the first hundred days of 1816. They also agreed on the manner in which the loot was to be divided: “It were to be divided into 5 parts, 2 for Brown for being the commander in chief, 1-1/2 for the Santísima Trinidad, and the same for the Halcón. From there Bouchard and Miguel Brown set out for the Peruvian coasts, while the Hércules went to the Archipelago Juan Fernández to release some patriots who were imprisoned there.” [Wiki]

Describing Bouchard’s famous trip, our trusty Wikipedia historians applaud the sailor’s “two-year campaign, going around the world in the midst of continuous work and danger; a voyage of thousands of miles through the remotest seas of the earth, in which a revolt is mastered, a fire on board is extinguished, the slave trade in Madagascar is stopped, Malaysian pirates are defeated in the Strait of Macassar, and the Philippines are blocked by Admiral Brown’s fleet, [which] controlled the South Pacific, imposing the law on its greatest kings, by diplomacy or by force.” [Wiki]  Not your average John Doe, these guys.

Almirante Guillermo Brown

Brown’s fleet arrived at the island of Puná, in the neighborhood of Guayaquil, Ecuador on Feb. 7, 1817. Upon arrival, the Admiral ordered Bouchard and his crew to remain at anchor, keeping watch over several dams they had already taken. Supplies of fresh drinking water were essential to the Argentine fleet. Brown took command of la Santísima Trinidad, with which he was preparing to attack Guayaquil. The next day, he demolished the fort of Punta de Piedras located five leagues from Guayaquil. But Bouchard’s luck did not hold. The ninth of February was a total disaster for Bouchard, who was captured while attempting to take the castle of San Carlos. After a difficult negotiation, the other Argentine corsairs managed to exchange Brown for the frigate Candelaria, three brigantines and five boxes of official correspondence found onboard the Consecuencia. They finally made their getaway aboard the frigates Hercules and Consecuencia, the sloop Halcón, and the schooner Carmen. They had to abandon la Santísima Trinidad, which was no longer seaworthy.

After three days, Bouchard had had enough. He was done… for a time. He informed Admiral Brown that his ship was leaking and that his officers wanted to return to Buenos Aires. He asked for his share of the loot. The dice were thrown; Bouchard had to part with the Halcón, in exchange for the frigate Consecuencia, the schooner Carmen, and about 3,475 pesos.

Bouchard decided to return to Buenos Aires by Cape Horn. Again there were differences with his crew; these were mostly resolved by violence. He fought a duel with a sergeant major, which would later result in serious legal problems. Additionally, when an officer of the Carmen informed Bouchard that the schooner was leaking, the corsair demanded that the officer attempt to sail around Cape Horn with a full crew, because he didn’t want to lose the boat. At that moment the officers of the schooner, induced by the crew, disobeyed Bouchard and changed course for the Galapagos. The Consequence stayed her course, arriving in Buenos Aires on the 18th of June, 1816.

On the 27th of June, 1817, at the age of 37, Bouchard received his official pirate’s license (patente de corso nº 116), beginning what may be the most colorful and picturesque chapter of his life. On the first anniversary of Argentine Independence, July 9, 1817, he embarked from Barragán, a port in La Plata, at the helm of the frigate “La Argentina” for a two year cruise. In charting the direction of the ship, Bouchard planned to sail in search of the great equatorial southward current, which runs across the Atlantic to the African coasts. With a bit of luck, it would allow him to skirt the Cape of Good Hope, in order to pursue and harass the ships of the Company of the Philippines that sailed along the coast of India.

Plaza San Martín, Córdoba

On July 19, a deadly fire broke out on board the ship. The crew worked for several hours to contain the flames. Scuttling the boat was not an option. To reach the Indian Ocean, the ship headed northeast towards the island of Madagascar. After sailing for two months, the Argentina anchored in Tamatave, on the east side of the island. In Tamatave, a British officer introduced himself to Bouchard, and asked for his help in preventing four slave ships from leaving Madagascar. Bouchard offered all his forces available to prevent the slave traffic on those ships, of which three were English and one French. The British commander ordered his crew to aim their guns at the slave ships, while Bouchard, seconded by several armed men, exercised the right of visitation which had been used in Africa, Great Britain and the United States since 1812.

Bouchard verified that the suspicions of the British officer were real, so he kept the slave ships in port.  Before the Argentina left Madagascar, her crew seized the slave ships’ provisions and recruited five sailors from the French vessel. The Argentina resumed a northeast course, intending to attack any unlucky Spanish ships sailing nearby.

During this journey the crew came down with scurvy, which is a vitamin C deficiency. So many crew members fell ill that the few remaining healthy sailors had to make a tremendous effort to keep the ship on course. On 18 October they spotted an American frigate whose captain informed them that the Philippine Company’s ships had not trafficked in the ports of India for 3 years, because most commercial cargo was passing through Manila. The Argentina continued her course toward the Philippines, resisting several storms that accompanied her until she reached the Strait of La Sonda, which separates the islands of Java and Sumatra. On November 7 Bouchard decided to drop anchor at the island of Java so that the sick could be attended to.

I’d play sick, too, for the chance to spend a few months recovering on Java.

After leaving Java, the Argentina continued its course for the Phillippines. The area was dangerous, due to the presence of Malaysian pirates. The ships used by these pirates were shallow, with cannons on both prows, a single sail and many oars. An encounter with some of those pirates occurred on the morning of December 7, when the lookout spotted five small ships. The combat began at noon, when the Argentina was boarded by pirates. Bouchard decided to save his powder, choosing hand-to-hand combat instead. After whooping their asses, he ordered his crew to take the pirate boat, while the other pirate boats fled. The commander summoned a court-martial to try those who had been taken prisoner, and he sentenced all but the youngest to the death penalty. The prisoners were returned to their ship, whose masts had been knocked down, and Bouchard’s men proceeded to use their boat and its crew for musket practice until it sank. After leaving the Strait of Macassar, the Argentina crossed the Sea of Celebes and anchored at the island of Joló, centrally located among the Philippine Islands.

typical Filipino “proa”

Bouchard arrived in the archipelago on January 2, 1818 and remained there for five days. Numerous rocky shoals and strong currents made navigation difficult in those seas. The inhabitants of Joló Island considered themselves invincible. They were excellent sailors, as well as fearsome pirates. Bouchard, foreseeing some kind of nocturnal raid, issued a stern warning to local authorities that if a boat approached after sundown, he would open fire upon it with all the munitions at his disposal. He’d make the enemy boats light up like the 4th of July!

While the frigate’s crew was negotiating with the natives to secure adequate supplies, sentries were stationed, with loaded muskets, to repel any possible attack. That night a sentry saw movement and alerted Bouchard’s men. The Joloans, in their boats, approached la Argentina and were preparing to board the vessel. Bouchard gave the order to open fire.  The Joloans were surprised and quickly fled.

A few days later, after a series of annoying incidents, the monarch of Joló appeared with a peace offering: the gift of a richly adorned proa, filled with fruits and vegetables, plus four water buffalo, to the delight of the hungry sailors. From that moment they were able to fill their water barrels without being disturbed, and the islanders were invited to trade freely with the crew of the ship. How about a bottle of rum for a night with that lovely island girl? A few pieces of eight? Shiver me timbers, the pirate life.

la peña

After refueling, the ship headed for Manila, the city that Bouchard intended to blockade. En route they spotted an English frigate heading for the same port. Bouchard decided to board her to check for illegal cargo. He attempted to conceal his identity, but the captain of the frigate was no dummy. As soon as he made port in Manila, the captain gave notice of Bouchard’s presence to the Spanish authorities.

On the 31st of January, 1818, la Argentina approached the port to have a look at her defensive capabilities, which were impressive. Manila Bay had solid defensive walls and a fort, la fuerte de Santiago, well stocked with powerful artillery. Bouchard began to take boats in the zone, quietly, always keeping his distance from the Spanish artillery. During the next two months he took 16 ships in his signature style that began with an intimidating cannonade progressing to a rapid assault. To further tighten his grip on Manila, Bouchard sent an armed boat with 23 crew members to block the Strait of San Bernardino under the command of 2nd Captain Sommers. In that action they captured  a number of small boats.

la Fuerte de Santiago, Manila

The inhabitants of Manila began to despair. Because of the blockade, the prices of food and basic goods had doubled and even tripled. The governor ordered that two ships and a war schooner be prepared to go in search of Bouchard. This expedition was deliberately delayed, and when it finally departed, the Argentina was already gone. On March 30, 1818, after making off with the best loot, Bouchard set sail for Hawai’i.

I’m outta here!

On August 17, 1818, Bouchard arrived at Kaleakelua Bay, a small port on the west coast of the island of Hawaii. At the anchorage a canoe, manned by native islanders, approached la Argentina and informed them in rudimentary English that a sloop moored in the harbor, belonging to King Kamehameha I, had previously been a Spanish ship. They were also told that the night before their arrival a frigate had left port, destination unknown.

Bouchard decided to pursue the unknown frigate, which they soon had in view because the lack of wind had nailed it to the sea. He ordered Sheppard, one of his officers, to take a boat and ask the commander of the frigate about the sloop that was in the Hawaiian port. After the inquiries, Sheppard reported that it was the Santa Rosa or Chacabuco, a sloop that had sailed from Buenos Aires about the same time as La Argentina. The crew of the Santa Rosa had mutinied on the shores of Chile, and changed course for Hawaii.

will dance for daiquiris

After learning of the fate of the Santa Rosa, Bouchard ordered the frigate to return to port, suspecting that some of the mutineers were among the Santa Rosa’s crew. Upon reviewing the sailors, he recognized nine men he had seen in Buenos Aires.  He had iron bars put on their hands and feet in punishment. During the interrogation, he learned that the leaders of the revolt were on the island of Kauai.

Taking a break from the revolt on Kauai

When Bouchard arrived at the port he found the Santa Rosa practically unarmed, so he decided to meet with King Kamehameha I. The corsair went dressed to the nines in his uniform as Lieutenant Colonel of the United Provinces of the Rio de la Plata. During the meeting, Bouchard demanded the return of the sloop. The king argued that he had paid for it and deserved compensation. Several authors affirm that during this meeting Kamehameha I recognized the sovereignty of the United Provinces; however, other scholars dismiss this, arguing that Bouchard, in his log, never mentioned the signing of such an important transaction, and furthermore, that the corsair did not have the authority to do so.

King Kamehameha I

After the negotiation, Bouchard returned to the Bay of Kaleakelua and waited for the king to send him the agreed upon provisions. The provisions failed to arrive, so Bouchard took his fleet of two warships to meet Kamehameha again in his residence at Kailua. Kamehameha, facing the risk of two warships in his capital, agreed to let him stock up on provisions in Maui. On the 26 of August Bouchard took charge of the Santa Rosa. Obtaining supplies in Maui, he rearmed and reconditioned the ship. He then sailed to Honolulu, on the island of Oahu, where he met Francisco de Paula Martí, a local expat and native of Jérez, Spain. Bouchard appointed Martí representative of the United Provinces of South America and Captain of the Armies. He also recruited Peter Corney, and made him Captain of the Santa Rosa. Maybe they toasted the new Captain with a few copas of Jérez?

On October 1st la Argentina anchored on the island of Kauai. Bouchard captured the sailors who had mutinied on the Santa Rosa, shooting the leaders and punishing the rest with twelve lashes each. After replenishing food, water and munitions, and hiring eighty new crewmen, Bouchard’s fleet drew anchor for California.

The real Bouchard? This handsome Argentine fits the description!

Bouchard set sail for the coast of California, where he hoped to take advantage of Spanish commerce. However, the Spanish authorities had already been informed that two corsairs were in the vicinity. Territorial governor Pablo Vicente Solá, who resided in Monterey, ordered that all valuables be removed from the city, and that two-thirds of the supply of gunpowder be transported a considerable distance from town. A discerning and resourceful man. He reminds me of California’s longtime gov, Jerry Brown. He recently declared California a Sanctuary State. I love this portrait  of him. Maybe Califas should secede from the union… it’s trending right now, worldwide. Just kidding… not.

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On November 20, 1818, the lookout at Punta de Pinos, at the south end of Monterey Bay, near Lover’s Point, sighted the two Argentine vessels. After notifying the governor, cannons were loaded, the garrison was armed, and the women, children, elderly and those unable to fight were sent to Mission Soledad. 

Punta de Pinos today

Bouchard met with his officers to plan the attack. Officer Corney was already familiar with Monterey, and aware of the great depth of the bay: 2.2 miles [3,600 meters] deep.  They decided to use the schooner Santa Rosa for the attack, because the frigate Argentina, with her enormous draft, might run aground so close to the harbor, and because the troop landing was concentrated there. The frigate lowered several smaller boats to the water, to tow her away from the reach of the Spanish artillery. Once towed out of range, Bouchard sent Captain Sheppard to the Santa Rosa with 200 men armed with rifles and spears.

Monterey, California circa 1842

The schooner Santa Rosa, under the command of Officer Sheppard, anchored at midnight near the fort. The men were tired from rowing out to the schooner and towing the frigate, so Sheppard decided not to attack that night. By the first light of day he discovered that he had anchored too close to the coast. The Spanish artillery was only a few yards away and ready to attack. The captain decided to open fire, and after fifteen minutes of combat the Santa Rosa surrendered. Bouchard observed the defeat from the frigate, but also noted that the Spaniards, since they had no boats, did not attempt to seize the Santa Rosa. Bouchard ordered anchors carried toward the port. However, because of the frigate’s draft, they could not get close enough to open fire. At nine o’clock in the evening they began moving the survivors of the Santa Rosa to the Argentina.

At dawn on November 24, Bouchard ordered his men to make a charge with the boats. They were 200 men in all, 130 armed with guns and 70 with lances. They disembarked a league from the fort, in a cove concealed by rocky cliffs. The fort put up little resistance, and after an hour of combat the Argentine flag was raised.

bouchard's flag

The Argentines ransacked the city for sixteen days (or six, depending on the source).  They appropriated cattle, burned the cuartel, the gunners’ barracks, the governor’s residence and the adobes of the Californios next to their gardens and orchards. 

Old Monterey: the Customs House

Mission Carmel

Having done considerable damage in Monterey, Bouchard’s fleet sailed south on November 29, heading for Rancho El Refugio, on the Santa Barbara coast. This ranch belonged to a Californio family whose members had “collaborated” with the Spanish, whatever that means. On December 5, Bouchard and his men disembarked near the ranch and, meeting no resistance, seized provisions and slaughtered cattle. A few soldiers from the nearby presidio were in the vicinity, waiting to take some of Bouchard’s men prisoners. They captured an officer and two sailors who had gone ahead of the others. Bouchard waited for them all day, believing they had gone astray. When his men didn’t return, Bouchard decided to leave for Santa Barbara, but first he set fire to the ranch. Arriving in Santa Barbara, Bouchard sent an emissary to the governor for an exchange of prisoners. After the negotiations, the three captives were returned to the Santa Rosa. Bouchard also handed over a prisoner, “el borracho Molina.” Poor Molina had to endure Governor Solá’s anger, and was sentenced to 100 lashes and six years’ imprisonment.

Santa Barbara coast

On December 16 the flotilla raised anchors and continued south to Mission San Juan Capistrano. There Bouchard requested food from a Spanish royalist officer, who replied that he had “plenty of gunpowder and bullets” for him instead. Bouchard, no surprise, decided to send 100 men to take the town. After a brief fight, the corsairs took some valuables and burned down the houses of the Californios. On December 20 Bouchard sailed for Vizcaino Bay, on the coast of Baja California, where he repaired the ships and gave his men some well-earned rest. Among the Spanish settlements in California, Bouchard was referred to as “California’s Only Pirate,” and “el Pirata Buchar.” 

Several factors led me to begin thinking about writing this piece on Hipólito Bouchard: 1) vacationing in California this summer enabled me to see some of the places I’ve known all my life from a new perspective; 2) my love of boats, sailing, and exploring new places; and 3) stumbling by chance upon a street named after Bouchard while walking in Lanús, a town just across the river from Buenos Aires, at Puente Alsina. HB

 

Marina SF 2

Marina on the Embarcadero, San Francisco

There’s a lot more to this tale: Bouchard went on to plunder and pillage Mexico and El Salvador; he hooked up with Simon Bolívar and General José de San Martin in the struggle for independence throughout South America. Another turn of the winch found Bouchard in Valparaiso, Chile, in July of 1819, where he was found guilty on the charge of attacking a boat with an expired privateer document [patente de corso]. Bouchard replied to the Chilean government that they had no authority to judge him and that he would only respond for his actions before the proper Argentine authorities. Note the signature: “Yo, el Rey.” [I, the King]

Patente de corso

So, you may ask, just what is a Pirate Permit?  This refers to the charter or document which permits the holder (aka licensed pirate) to attack and loot vessels on the high seas or on the coasts. Nice job if you can get it! No medical care, no pension, lousy food, dubious company… and no burial expenses when you go to Davy Jones. Whatever riches you manage to pillage or steal are yours to keep forever, providing you hide them in a very, very secret place that only you know about (or an off-shore bank) and you live long enough to go back and find them. If they’re still there, of course. [If you like this kind of story, you’ll love Conan Doyle’s, The Sign of Four]

t-shirt

I want a pirate t-shirt!

On December 9, 1819, Bouchard was acquitted of piracy charges in Chile. The court agreed to return the ships, newspapers and other papers to Bouchard. But, while awaiting the verdict, all the money, weapons and ship’s provisions had quietly disappeared. Somebody must have put the Black Spot on Bouchard!

Pg_003_-_Engraving_(bw)

A pirate pawning his loot.

with Santos at the Baywood Café and Marina in Los Osos

 

+W y S*:Roxy Johnny

with Roxy & Johnny at the Sandpiper in Monterey, Pier 1

+Pati y yo Los Osos*

with Pati at our friend Anne’s house on the water in Los Osos

Bouchard’s last years and death

When he retired, Bouchard decided to take care of the haciendas that had been awarded to him by the Peruvian government, in San Javier and San José de Nazca. He bought a sugar plantation and mill in partnership with his old comrade Echeverria. Bouchard had not been in contact with his family for some time. He had lived with his wife for only ten months after the expedition with Almirante Brown, and did not get to know his youngest daughter who was born after he began his expedition around the world. He finally brought his Argentine wife and children to the sugar plantation in 1836.

During his life at sea, Bouchard has been characterized as a cruel, unforgiving man. He instigated serious incidents with his crew, and took fierce reprisals against those who were insubordinate. They say that on his estates he treated his slaves with the same cruelty with which he had treated his seamen. Sick of his abuses, one or more of his slaves killed him on the night of January 4, 1837. “By his own slaves, suddenly” according to his death certificate.

The remains of Bouchard were lost until 1962, when they were found in a crypt located in the Church of San Javier de Nazca in the city of Nazca, Perú. On July 6 of that year they were exhumed and repatriated to Buenos Aires by a commission formed by the Argentine Navy and the Peruvian Navy. Today they rest in the old pantheon of the Argentine army in the Cementerio de Chacarita, in Buenos Aires. 

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Cornelis_Vroom_Spanish_Men_of_War_Engaging_Barbary_Corsairs

Spanish Men-of-War Engaging Barbary Corsairs, painting by Cornelis Hendricksz Vroom, 1615 

Some historians have pointed out that the flag of the United Provinces of Central America (from which the flags of Nicaragua, El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala and Costa Rica are derived) were inspired by the flag of the United Provinces of the Rio de la Plata (the earliest flag of the Argentine Republic), which flew from the frigate La Argentina in the service of las Provincias Unidas del Río de la Plata in 1818 and 1819, under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Hipólito Bouchard, of the Argentine navy.

The End

Abstract: Terror struck the coast of Alta California as Bouchard sailed north. Blood was spilled, towns looted, pirate joy was everywhere. Monterey, the capital of Alta California, was taken by force. Bouchard and his men seized more than 20 pieces of artillery, rescued an Argentine warship, and imprisoned Spanish sailors and soldiers from the Cuartel of Monterey. More than 25 enemy ships were set afire, administering the kiss of death to Spanish commerce in its colonial possessions. The newly-created Argentine flag was flown triumphantly. It was certainly a memorable cruise.

 

 

 

 

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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 having 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

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.

images

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