Death on Pasaje Bollini

The other day I saw a dead man in the street.

El muerto 4

He had a book in his hand, and it wasn’t Alice in Wonderland. As I approached, I saw someone walking over to the body. Was he an innocent bystander?  A first responder?  An investigator?

El muerto 7

Maybe the man in the white trousers was a cold-blooded killer.  I sidestepped around the crime scene, hoping to pass for an innocent streetwalker. But I couldn’t avoid staring at the weird green light emanating from the cobblestones.

El muerto 6*

The green light moved. White trousers was holding the light.  What did it all mean?

El muerto 5

Nice looking corpse. Was he really dead, or just playing possum?

El muerto 2

A dark narrow hallway appeared; I slipped inside the café. A crowd had gathered at the crime scene; no one seemed to notice me. La Dama was empty. The bartender was gone, or maybe he was just in the back room. Dark cafés always have back rooms. The only thing moving inside was a curious feline who studied the scene from behind the shutters.

La Dama gato 2*

It looked like a scene out of that hard-boiled genre from the 1930s… they called them detective stories… like Farewell My Lovely, or Spanish Blood, by Raymond Chandler. 


Chandler’s short stories have never been equalled, but Dashiell Hammett (The Maltese Falcon) came pretty darn close.  San Francisco, Los Angeles in the 1920s and 30s… the days of police corruption, Prohibition, bootleggers, narcotics-smuggling, red light districts, big beautiful cars with running boards. Mean streets. Gangster heaven.


Raymond Chandler

A gorgeous blonde drifted in and sat down at my table. A young kid with a striped apron appeared out of nowhere to take our order. The girl ordered vino tinto; I asked for a coke. I wondered if she knew what was happening. If she did, she wasn’t talking.

Valerie1*Some more girls showed up and so did the band. Pretty soon the joint was rockin’ to a bluesy kinda sound and the owner – the infamous Dama de Bollini herself – bought us all another round and passed out party favors.

La Dama 3*

Meanwhile, out on the street, Mad Max pulled up in a rundown bucket of bolts that Sam Mendes might have used on the set.


Parking is verboten on Pasaje Bollini but… who’s gonna tell him?


He was thirsty and looking for a cold beer… turns out he wasn’t dead in the street after all; just taking a break till the film crew called it a wrap.

Tom Hardy

Mad Max snagged the blonde. After a couple of beers he was ready for tango lessons… that’s what they all say, right?

La Dama 1

Over and Out from Buenos Aires!

The Horse – Tango Connection


A lifetime’s experience riding horses has trained my body well. I know how to move in harmony with another being, glued body to body. Of course it’s my body that knows how to balance on top of a thousand pounds of unpredictable animal, not my conscious mind. Speed up, slow down, stop, spin 180° for no reason, launch like a rocket, no warning, no plan, just pure visceral animal awareness and response. The pure here and now of just being, responding to environmental cues…  did a teeny tiny leaf blow across the trail?  Did a deer just run out from behind that stand of trees? All of a sudden you’re traveling full speed ahead and sideways at the same time!  How can you move like that, friend? And where are we going in a blind panic? Who or what are we running from now? Off we go again! Whoa!


bye bye to one of my 9 lives!

I’ve been bucked off or otherwise sent via air mail a hundred times at least. Believe me, you learn to pick a convenient bush and bail…  just roll yourself into a ball. You learn to avoid obstacles. A branch suddenly appears in front of your face… did your horse just drift aimlessly under a tree? You were so relaxed, so OBLIVIOUS that you never saw it coming.  Human error, not animal attitude. Or maybe the whole kit and caboodle tripped on a log and you all went down and you have, if you’re lucky, 5 seconds to get your foot out of that stirrup hanging in the air above you before your horse gets back up… unless being dragged to death is your idea of an exciting final exit. The universe sometimes give us choices.

o vas al hospital o volves a subir!

o vas al hospital o vuelves a subir!

Okay, shake it off, relax, check yourself for cuts and scrapes. Not bleeding? Excellent. After all, you’re out on the trail somewhere and there’s nobody around to come to your rescue and there’s no cell phone connection out back of beyond. You may not be in the middle of nowhere, but you can see plenty of it once you top that next hill.

taking a break - tomando un descanso

taking a break – no cell phone needed

Count to 10… climb back on your horse, if it hasn’t run off. Hopefully your reins aren’t busted. (That’s why we have long saddle strings.) Back to the Here and Now. All beings present and accounted for? Are we in our happy place again? Good. Riding horses is a very Zen experience. Almost as good as dancing tango. Produces endorphins… and the occasional adrenalin rush.

that's me on Stormy... I bred, raised and trained her myself. 100% quarter horse.

that’s me on Stormy in 2013… I bred, raised and trained her myself. 100% quarter horse.

Carlos Gardel was very fond of horses, especially racehorses. Of course, he had better luck with women than running the ponies. (“Por una cabeza…”) Here he is with his good friend, jockey Ireneo Leguisamo, el Mono (monkey). Like cowboys in the Wild West, Argentine gauchos rode their horses everywhere. To be seen on foot was a cruel disgrace.

Gardel y Leguisamo

Riding is really all about harmony and synchronicity, even when you’re negotiating with the darn animal to go the way YOU want to go. Dancing tango is a negotiation, too. A constant shifting and adapting to your partner. You’re always seeking consensus, looking for that sweet spot where you and your partner and the music coalesce into an energetic entity moving effortlessly across the dance floor. I guess this is why my favorite milongueros tell me they love my strong and confident embrace. Following the lead of a dancer moving fluidly on his axis is a piece of cake compared to riding a horse… no flight or fight response needed. Just make sure you’ve had your shots… antibiotics, anti-venom, anti-seduction meds. And a shot or two of your favorite snake bite medicine.

Willow's kitchen

my favorite condiments

Dancing tango shouldn’t be like trying to move a fridge on wheels. You should feel weightless, free-floating on your own axis. Our bodies naturally seek the merging, the symbiosis, the surrender. Not only that, but just touching another living being can be, should be, is, energizing and electrifying. That’s why we humans love our pets, be they large or small. Don’t we live for that energizing touch? That movement in harmony?  Isn’t that what dance is all about? Isn’t that what it means to be human? 


A milonguero friend and I had an interesting talk about tango and energy, the connection. I can’t reproduce his exact words – we weren’t speaking English – but we were on the same page. The feelings, the sensuality, the energetic impulses received and transmitted… sometimes even jealousy and wanting to “possess” the other. 


Another Porteño friend of mine says that the only way for a tango dancer to live with a jealous partner is that some evenings they go separately to different milongas, and other nights they go to milongas together, sit together, and dance with each other exclusively. It has also been suggested that, to avoid the problem entirely, a milonguera should not fall in love with another tango dancer, but with a non dancer who is okay with her going out dancing the nights he gets together with friends to watch soccer matches. They say tango always triumphs, in the end. It’s more powerful than us pathetic humans. My friend Marcela says you don’t call tango, it calls you… and you can’t disconnect, ’cause you’re already programmed, i.e., addicted.



Well, one might argue that relationships tend to evolve into codependencies as well, as we sort out shared responsibilities and obligations. Mutual trust and complicity have always been needed to carry on the daily logistics of survival, since the beginning of time. You might call it the matriarchal paradigm, built upon caretaking, trust and sharing of resources.

Unci = grandmother

Unci = grandmother

The other logistical option is the master/slave relationship, the patriarchal option: a paradigm built on fear, greed and domination.

I'm the head bitch, bitch!

I’m the head bitch, bitch!

Two very different survival strategies.  Obviously we have created both modalities, and neither is going away any time soon. But the Tango paradigm is yin-yang, it’s BOTH masculine and feminine. It’s a constant, dynamic negotiation between two people, always giving and receiving; it’s a fluid, creative, energetic interaction.


Tango begins with an emotional response to music, followed by an invitation to movement. You might call it a kinesthetic free play zone with an established vocabulary of movements which become instinctive over time. The mind lets go of conscious control, and the movements, embedded at the molecular level, become effortless. Here in the mecca of Tango people don’t talk while they dance… why would you?  The magical collaborative creativity and sensuality of the dance can only take shape when you allow your mind to be still, to take a break, to CHILL!


At milongas there are multiple LEVELS of CONNECTION going on. Don’t worry, this is not rocket science. First and foremost is your OWN BODY connection, YOU to YOU. I mean, you’ve got to be energetically connected muscle to bone to sinew to tendon to brain, heart and mind… from the top of your head down to your little toes. Think of a dancer warming up, or a good workout; you’re flexing and unflexing every muscle, then stretching it all out and releasing every bit of tension. Feel your blood circulating. Feel your breath going in and out. Feel yourself pulling up, extending, elongating, that string pulling up from the top of your head, you silly puppet!  Feel your spine loosening up as you breathe into your bones. Don’t ask me what that means!  Just do it!  Feel it!  Walk tall!  Get you some Attitude!


When you walk onto the dance floor, you OWN that floor. You are fully present. That’s YOU connected to your own body and energy field. And believe me, your positive flowing and glowing energy is about 90% of your attraction to potential dance partners. Second, you are connected to the floor. Your feet caress the floor. You seduce the floor as you walk, turn, glide, pivot, sweep. You slice the energy field around you with a precise lápiz, a quick tap, a slow and sensuous boleo on the floor. Your connection to the dance floor is a private love affair all in itself!


You come to know the dance floors in Buenos Aires through your feet. Your feet have memorized the feel of each floor, and it’s peculiarities… the little dips, sinkholes, cracks, missing pieces of wood or tile, the places that snag your heel (we don’t like those), the delight of a well-polished floor. Even with your eyes closed, you know where you are in the room, just from the floor. And if you and your partner are dancing well, they say you’re “sacándole viruta al piso.”  That is to say, dancing with passion, energy and skill, awakening the admiration of onlookers.


In Buenos Aires a good connection is called la entrega, the surrender. The man feels the woman surrender her energy to him through her chest, and he responds likewise, surrendering to her, pressing his chest to hers, both accommodating each other to the rhythm of the music. The exchange of endorphins and other pheromones in the blend takes place at a molecular level, through skin contact, sweat & etc. Scientists are still learning about all those chemical responses. But we know well how powerfully they act upon us. When you encounter someone who dances with a rhythm, a vibe, an energy that is similar to or blends well with your own, it’s like falling in love. You go crazy, your common sense goes out the window, you just want to continue to dancing for hours glued to that other body which pleasures your senses so deeply. A connection that powerful doesn’t happen every day. 


And it’s not just the chemical cocktail… it’s the energetic connection. The energy flowing, swirling in between and spiraling around two bodies in close embrace. When you feel the lead all the way down to the tips of your toes, that’s a really good energetic connection! Can it be tracked on one of those machines with the needle scratching in time to the beat of your heart? Like the ones that track earthquakes or a lie detector? Is that like your heartbeat? or your pulse? or does it detect some other energy flow? Like, are you tuning into the energy of the earth’s vibration… and isn’t the earth in tune with the other planets, the sun, the moon, the stars, our entire universe? I’ll leave that answer to the NASA crew circumnavigating out there somewhere in the starry darkness.

El Indio

El Indio

But it is true, when you’re really connected on all these levels, that you seem to be able to keep on dancing long after you should have collapsed on the dance floor. How does your body manage? Is it adrenaline that keeps you going? I don’t think so. I think it has to do with all the levels of connection that give your body an impulsion, like the vibration of a violin or guitar string, which resonates in time and space with an energy that builds upon itself and keeps on expanding, keeping you in resonance with your partner and the music. Just ask Einstein.  And who’s to say we’re not tuning into some even grander celestial vibration? (Let’s tweet Papa Francisco and see what HE thinks…) I think it’s the inexplicable power of music, especially live music.

zona tango

“Tango is passion; you have to feel it. It’s impossible to define with words.”

Orquesta Típica el Pichuco

Orquesta Típica el Pichuco at Canning last week

I think I’ve explained, in my own perfectly imperfect way, the connection to the music. But what about the DJ and the musicians? What part do they play? It’s the DJ and the musicians who keep their finger on the pulse of the milonga. They know when to speed things up or slow it down. They have an exquisitely developed perception of the energy of the dancers and the atmosphere of the room. If it seems like a lot of people are sitting down, he or she will play a tanda that brings everybody out onto the dance floor. A good DJ creates his or her own tandas, and knows the music so well that they can make changes on the fly to suit the mood of the dancers and the evening. Live tango orchestras respond to the dancers also, of course, and vice versa. Each feeds the other. It’s that yin – yang again. 

Los Herederos del Compás

Los Herederos del Compás at el Beso

Dancers are also connected to the other couples in the ronda… and believe me, it can get gnarly out there. There is a great and wonderful and sometimes annoying difference in levels of dance ability, levels of awareness, levels of solidarity and of musicality and of congeniality. I mean, some people are just oblivious to others… are they autistic? sociopathic? psychotic? or just plain hijos de puta?

Club Gricel

Club Gricel

What about levels of experience and familiarity with the other people in the room? Like, don’t you dance a bit differently when you know everybody as opposed to when you’re surrounded by strangers? You’re probably more relaxed and less self-conscious, which affects your dance tremendously. There are some nights when the dance floor feels like a battle zone, especially when newbie dancers are taking backward steps, slamming blindly into other couples who are moving forward. It’s famously hard to learn to dance in the states or elsewhere and then transpose your skills onto an immensely crowded Buenos Aires dance floor.  You simply cannot do the same kind of big moves you may have learned in a tango class somewhere – even if you learned it here. The “8-count basic?”  Forget it. That was a North American invention. Nobody dances in a box here. Think CIRCULAR. The dance floor may be a square or a rectangle, but the ronda is a moving circle, and within it each man and woman is circling each other. Here you learn to restrict yourselves to a teeny tiny circle, so even if the ronda isn’t moving at all, you and your partner are still dancing to the music. And the grand choreography of the milonga is a huge moving spiral of energy drifting upward into the realm of the divine.

La Nacional

La Nacional

My old friend Mark Twain spoke of the meltingly beautiful feeling of live music:  “Intellectual ‘work’ is misnamed; it is a pleasure, a dissipation, and is its own highest reward. The poorest paid architect, engineer, general, author, sculptor, painter, lecturer, advocate, legislator, actor, preacher, singer is constructively in heaven when he is at work; and as for the musician with the fiddle-bow in his hand who sits in the midst of divine sound washing over him—why, certainly, he is at work, if you wish to call it that, but lord, it’s a sarcasm just the same.” — from A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, 1889.

Los Reyes del Tango

Los Reyes del Tango

So let’s say your connection to everybody at the milonga is yet another level of connection, and then there’s your connection to the space itself. Meaning, your connection to the atmosphere, the vibe, la onda… your connection to the greater whole, your awareness of the transcendent level. You’re not trying to dominate the place, the people or the vibe; you’re not going to glare at anybody, no… you’re sending out good vibes, you’re smiling, you’re connected with YOUR people, YOUR family. This IS your family!  FEEL the MAGIC!

mil Lanus6*

una milonga del barrio: Lanús

Like feeling the atmospheric tension of a storm before it breaks, when you are in the midst of a milonga your entire mind, body and spirit is bombarded by the energy of the room, the atmosphere, the presence of all the dancers, the musicians, the DJ…your friends and family!  The people you know and the ones you don’t know yet. And if you have a glass of vino tinto or champagne, you’ve tuned down your personal tension level just a notch which allows the energy to flow through you instead of bouncing off you (which is what happens if you’re stressed). And, to circle back to an earlier thought, when you’re feeling connected to your tanguero family all around you, you will soon be dancing.

Carlos Gardel

A friend of mind from the states wrote to ask me a “Question:  Have you ever heard of a proper way of getting a dance at a milonga other than the cabeceo?”  This was my rambling reply:  Let’s say I’m sitting happily at a good table at Canning (location is everything). When you’re at a milonga there’s not much time for socializing with the girls — go ahead, during the cortina if you like, but if you’re still jabbering away after the tanda starts you won’t notice the cabaceos and after a few minutes they’ll quit looking in your direction. Also, you’re busy scanning the room for people you know who always dance with you, then checking out people you’ve seen dancing but haven’t danced with yet: potential targets. You’re also noticing the really good dancers and checking to see if they’re possible targets; perhaps sitting with people you usually dance with. That’s a high potential target. I get a few of those on a good night. Be friendly to people at tables near you, make small talk when appropriate but don’t overdo it. When you are seen dancing over and over with some of the best dancers… that’s a target-rich environment. Organizers smile at you, kiss you, chat with you, and give you great tables. Some of them will dance with you.



You already know that the cabeceo works well in smaller milongas like El Beso, Cheek to Cheek, Tacuarí, Fulgor, because everybody can see everybody, more or less. At Canning or Yira Yira or Gricel or any large dance floor it’s often impossible to see across the room, especially if it’s crowded. Opportunistic type males will walk around, pretending to be going somewhere, greeting friends, going up to the bar, the restroom, taking a photograph, or just walking back to their seat after a tanda. During their stroll they will try to walk close enough to a desirable prospect to smile, reach over for a little kiss on the cheek, “hola, cómo estás?” kind of thing, a sure signal to the woman that you would like a dance with her, and then you move a little ways away, maybe back to your seat if it’s not too far away, so that when the music starts you can catch her eye again up close. However if you do not know the woman at all, have never been introduced or made small talk with her or danced with her, this would not be acceptable.


A woman will also get up during a cortina to move around, to catch someone’s eye; she will walk over to a table of girlfriends, talking and laughing with them, to be noticed. if a woman likes to dance with you she will usually greet you with a kiss on the cheek when she comes in, if you’re within range while she is escorted to her seat. Another really good way to get to meet new dancers — another target rich opportunity — is to sit at a mixed table, of both sexes.  This is how Julia Pugliese organizes her milonga Sueño Porteño, the one that used to be above the supermarket parking garage on San Juan. Only now it’s at La Leonesa (which used to be Niño Bien) on Wednesdays and Gricel on Sundays. She mixes all the tables up, men and women. So you men can make small talk with the girls at your table and then ask them to dance.

Fulgor de Villa Crespo

Fulgor de Villa Crespo

I’ve learned that there are social milongas, where people mostly go to hang out with their friends and dance a little. The level of dancing is usually not too good. Then there are milongas where the good dancers go, and they tend to be the younger crowd or a mix of younger and older. At those milongas, like Oliverio, Cheek to Cheek, Maldita Milonga, Zona Tango, Cochabamba, Catedral, and La Viruta, there isn’t as much use of the cabaceo. The guys just walk around and come right up to your table or wherever you happen to be standing and ask you. It’s kind of refreshing to not have to bother with the cabeceo. (Don’t tell anyone I said that.) One thing I really don’t like is when a guy keeps staring at you but you never get the nod or some kind of indication that he’s asking you to dance. I tend to assume they like looking at me but they can’t dance or they’re afraid to ask, afraid to be turned down. And there is a cultural code here, too, in that people look down on you if they think you’ll dance with anybody who asks. It’s an Argentine thing, I think; after all there’s so many men who dance tango one has to be selective. If I don’t like a guy’s embrace, if he’s holding me too tight and/or pulling me off my axis, I will say thank you and leave him standing there right after the first song. And then as I walk back to my table I see people nodding at me, “good girl!”  

who, me?

who, me?

Here are some additional tips for making friends at a milonga from, taken from the U.S. best-seller, The 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman. The tango version references the “meta-language of culture” at milongas, i.e., ways to let someone know you like dancing with them: 1) physical touch (example: being warm and friendly, the embrace); 2) quality time (having a conversation); 3) receiving gifts (a man buys you a drink, usually a high-status drink, such as a glass of champagne)(don’t offer her a beer, dummy!); 4) acts of service (gentlemanly behavior, sharing food); 5) affirming words (Porteños praise abundantly, even excessively; women praise the man’s looks or dancing ability if they want to get another tanda).

El Catedral

El Catedral

The Buenos Aires Tango scene is really WONDERFUL. There is a strong sense of community here.  Argentines are blessed with spirit and intelligence, warmth and affection. They are well-spoken. Their tv shows and commercials do not glorify guns, violence, and negative sexual stereotyping. Teenagers can actually be seen communicating with parents and grandparents. Social activist types organize milongas to raise money for kids, for libraries, for medical clinics in the villas, and the like. A few weeks ago there was flooding in some areas due to the heavy spring rains, and there was a milonga to raise money for people who lost their homes and animals.  Argentines laugh, they cry, they hug a lot, they kiss a lot. Men kiss and hug other men constantly. Women kiss and hug other women constantly. People standing in line for something will start talking to each other, help each other out. If you’re not dancing, just sit in a milonga and watch people interact. There is a strong feeling of friendship and camaraderie. This is the City of Good Vibes.


Since election campaigning in the States is already front and center, I’m going to throw in my two cents, for what it’s worth… and two cents ain’t worth much these days! Feel free to apply this to your electoral process, whatever country you may live in. Molly Ivins, the late journalist from Texas who never minced words, must have been thinking about George W and Donald Trump when she wrote: “Good thing we’ve still got politics in Texas – finest form of free entertainment ever invented.”

the late, great, Texas journalist Molly Ivins: here's lookin' at you, kid, wherever you are.

the late, great, Texas journalist Molly Ivins: here’s lookin’ at you, kid, wherever you are.

“As they say around the Texas Legislature, if you can’t drink their whiskey, screw their women, take their money, and vote against ’em anyway, you don’t belong in office.” To come up against her in writing would be like showing up at a gun fight with a knife! 

And now for my Espacio Publicitario:


Over and Out from Buenos Aires!

Over and Out from Buenos Aires!

Las Calles de mi Ciudad – Pasaje Bollini

Palermo Soho (1)

view from Plaza Serrano, Palermo Soho

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

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

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

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

some say it was a Pomegranate, not an Apple

so delicious, how can you resist?

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

universally stylish black holes

where does the time go?

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

Niceto Vega 1 (1)

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

Cocu 1

la Cocu: to DIE for!!

la Cocu: to DIE for!!

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

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

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


small but efficient

el patio central

el patio central

19th century vs. 20th

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


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

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


living room

sunset from the balcony

beautiful Buenos Aires sunset from the balcony tonight

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


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

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


I don’t see any tourists, do you?

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


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

Paisaje Bollini 1

Pasaje Bollini 1

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

Paisaje Bollini 9

Pasaje Bollini 2

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

La Dama Bollini 7

La Dama Bollini 3

La Dama Bollini 1

La Dama after dark

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


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

Paisaje Bollini 20

Pasaje Bollini 5

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

Paisaje Bollini 4

Pasaje Bollini 6

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

Paisaje Bollini 11

Pasaje Bollini 6

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


La Dama Bollini interior

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

Paisaje Bollini 18

Pasaje Bollini 7

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

back in the day

before the restoration – not so long ago

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

Paisaje Bollini 22

Pasaje Bollini 8

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

Paisaje Bollini 13

Pasaje Bollini 9

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

Paisaje Bollini 10

Pasaje Bollini 10

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

Swing Heroes

Heroes of Swing

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

La Dama Bollini 2

La Dama Bollini 4

la Dama Bollini 2.2

La Dama Bollini – the bar

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

la Dama Bollini 2.0

La Dama Bollini

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

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

Promo Big Knife

Over & Out from Buenos Aires!

Over & Out from Buenos Aires!

Seduction Buenos Aires Style


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

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


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

Marcelo Carpentier, tango singer

Marcelo Carpentier, tango singer

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

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

coffee date

coffee after the milonga? uh-oh!

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

Marcelo Carpentier, tango singer


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

Leo Messi

Leo Messi

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

friends at a birthday party

friends at a birthday party

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

Leo Messi

Leo Messi, looking a little uncomfortable all dressed up

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


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

how's your musicality/sensuality quotient today?

how’s your musicality/sensuality quotient today?

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

Maria Inés Bogado & Sebastian Jiménez

Maria Inés Bogado & Sebastian Jiménez

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

La Glorieta

La Glorieta del Belgrano

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

La Catedral

La Catedral

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


the prettier side of Congreso

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

la Gricel

la Gricel

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


Pepe Lopez

Pepe Lopez

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

feria San Telmo

la Feria San Telmo

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

living room

living room

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

Hospital Italiano

Hospital Italiano

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

Lago Nahuel Huapi

Lago Nahuel Huapi

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

Salon Canning

Salon Canning – crowded as usual

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


Marcela Hourquebie

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

tango taxi dancers

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

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

Orq Juan D'Arienzo

Orq. Juan D’Arienzo

Orq Los Herederos del Compás

Orq. Los Herederos del Compás

Orq. Sans Souci

Orq. Sans Souci, singer Chino Laborde

Orq. Sans Souci

Orq. Sans Souci

Orq. El Afronte

Orq. El Afronte

Orq El Afronte

Orq El Afronte

12) the fact that God is Argentine:

Díos es Argentino*

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


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

Mar de Plata

Mar de Plata

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

Horacio Ferrer, poeta-cantaor

Horacio Ferrer, poeta-cantaor

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

Cacho & Gloria Dinzel

Cacho & Gloria Dinzel

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

Esquema Dinzel

una Esquema Dinzel

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

Marta Antón con su pareja Manolo "el Gallego"

Marta y Manolo

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

Leopoldo Federico

Leopoldo Federico

Aníbal Troilo

Aníbal Troilo

Julio Cortázar

Julio Cortázar

W@ la Nacional

Amen Buenos Aires!

Buenos Aires Children’s Street Art


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

la doctora felíz

la doctora felíz

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

soñar en colores

sueña con colores

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



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

happy flower families+

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

reading stimulates the imagination

reading stimulates the imagination

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



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

are we having fun yet?

are we having fun yet?

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

Rudyard Kipling's Jungle Book

Rudyard Kipling’s Jungle Book

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

the Beach

the ocean with big sun and little messages

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



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

Mary Poppins

Mary Poppins… wow

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

an artistic mishmosh

an artistic mishmosh with tree

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

Doña Primavera ... a poem to Spring

Doña Primavera … a poem to our lady of Spring

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

La Pachamama

La Pachamama

From the Earth who nurtures and heals us…

the day one discovers a favorite author

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

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

girl with horse

girl with donkey

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

another curious mural in my Palermo Botánico neighborhood

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

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

living room

living room



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

Over and out from Buenos Aires!

Over and out from Buenos Aires!

Portland Tango Festival

Steel Bridge, Portland

Steel Bridge, Portland

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

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

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

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

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



Ziegler’s most notable recordings with Piazzolla include:

Tango: Zero Hour

Tristezas de un Doble A

La Camorra

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

The Central Park Concert recorded in 1987

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


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


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


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



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


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


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

Alex Krebs Orchestra

Alex Krebs Orchestra

Alex has his own milonga called Tango Berretín.

It's a lovely space, inside and out.

It’s a lovely space, inside and out.

Alex's Orchestra playing at Berretin Tango Club.

Alex’s Orchestra playing Berretin Tango Club.

Guille & Mayumi, teachers

Guille & Mayumi taught at the Tangofest

Liselot is a capable teacher, especially for newbies.

Liselot is a capable teacher, especially for newbies.

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

•fabulous space: Norse Hall

•great live music

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

•excellent DJs, especially Dan Boccia from Anchorage








simultaneous traditional and alternative milongas

•simultaneous traditional and alternative milongas

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

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

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

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










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

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

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

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

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

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

The downside:

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

La Nacional

La Nacional

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

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



Mt Hood glowing behind a sparkly Portland night

Mt Hood glowing above a sparkly Portland night

Bye bye, Portland, till next time!

parrot guy

parrot guy

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


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


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

20141104_162625 2


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


Are they on Shrooms? Zoloft? Marie Callendar?

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

view from my balcony, la jacaranda en flor

view from my balcony, la jacaranda en flor

milonga del barrio Floresta

la milonga del barrio Floresta

Orquesta Unitango

Orquesta Unitango

street art near the children's hospital

street art near the children’s hospital

Buenas noches from Buenos Aires!

When Tango Breaks Your Heart

Jlo & Marc Antony

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

Man Overboard!  Metaphorically, that is.



Get it?  I thought so.

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


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

pensive woman

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

imaheart torn apart

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


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


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

man beast

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


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

know the feeling?

know the feeling?

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

el malevo

el malevo

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

Fabian Pérez

Tango gigolo

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


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


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

tough guy

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

Jane in blue

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


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

classic clipper

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

Captain Frederick Wentworth

Austen’s Captain Wentworth

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

da vinci

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

Alfonso X El Sabio

Alfonso X El Sabio

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

Elizabeth and Mr. Collins

Elizabeth Bennet disdains Mr. Collins

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

Calif Chrome

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

girl crying

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

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

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

Guess I gotta be my own Rescuer.

pirate wench

Free at Last!!  Lord have mercy!!

beauti ship & whale

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

woman ship 2

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

wise women

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

girl stcse dock

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

boat tropics 1

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

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

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


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

mex farmer

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

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

2 beauti ships in calm waters

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

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

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

See you soon on the dance floor!

See you soon on the dance floor!

sleep eat dance

and goodbye to a great friend.


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

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

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

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

[5] Ibid, 223.

P&P poster

Tango Dancers Open Café

Carlton Café & Bakery

Carlton Café & Bakery

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

Salinas River

Salinas River

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

6005 El Camino Real

6005 El Camino Real

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

yeah baby

yeah baby!

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

The ARTery

The ARTery

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

City Hall

City Hall

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

Heck, even Oprah's been here!

Heck, even Oprah’s been here!

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

the current incarnation

the newly reborn Carlton Café

A room at the Carlton... just upstairs!

a room at the Carlton… up above the bakery!

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

Café Tortoni, Buenos Aires

Café Tortoni, Buenos Aires

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

hmmm... lost his head?

hmmm… did we take the wrong turn?

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

Confiteria Ideal

Confiteria Ideal

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

Salsa break at La Milonga del Carlton

Salsa break at La Milonga del Carlton

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

Courtney's Chocolate Bread

Courtney’s Chocolate Bread

still life with 5-grain loaf, cheese & olives

still life with 5-grain loaf, cheese & olives

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

Ben and Eduardo

boy can they talk!

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



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

Ho ho ho

Ho ho ho

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


when in doubt keep dancing

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

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

Pati & Willow at La Milonga del Carlton

Pati & Willow at La Milonga del Carlton

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


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

¡Felíz Navidad!

¡Felíz Navidad!

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


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


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

birthday dance at Norse Hall

birthday dance at Norse Hall

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

milonga at Berretín

Saturday night milonga at Berretín

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

DJ Joe Leonardo & girlfriend Hannah

DJ Joe Leonardo & girlfriend Hannah

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

Fort Knox North

Fort Knox North

the Treasury Milonga

in the old U.S. Treasury building downtown

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


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

Bossanova Ballroom

Bossanova Ballroom

Wednesday nights are for all you Alternative fans…

milonga blah blah

they just call it Wednesday Tango!

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

Portland evening

beautiful Portland evening

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

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

Norse Hall

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

cortina at Norse Hall… who is that guy?

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

Oops!  that's not it!

Oops! that’s not it!

I wish we were in BAires at Café Vinilo!

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

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


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

with guest artists in this case

with guest artists in this case

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

another industrial chic tango venue

urban chic tango venue

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


a good connection is essential…

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

having' fun!

having’ fun!

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

Cecilia & Willow making’ friends while the guys dance!

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

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

milonga at Aires Tangueros, Rivadavia 1392

milonga at Aires Tangueros, Rivadavia 1392

An Anonymous Tanguera speaks:

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


milongueras de BAires

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

matinee milonga at La Ideal

matinee milonga at La Ideal

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

Milonga Viejo Correo

Milonga Viejo Correo

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


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


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

good friends at Sunderland

good friends at Sunderland

An Anonymous Tanguero speaks:

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


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

los Reyes del Tango en la Viruta

los Reyes del Tango en la Viruta

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

milongueras de la Viruta

milongueras de la Viruta

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

El Beso

El Beso – I love the walls!

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


no misunderstandings here!

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

who, me?

who, me?

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

super cute!

super cute!

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

Orquesta El Afronte en la Maldita Milonga, Perú 571

Orquesta El Afronte en la Maldita Milonga, Perú 571

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

Teatro Colón

Teatro Colón

house band at Café Vinilo

house band at Café Vinilo, Gorriti 3780

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

el Obelisco en la Av. 9 de Julio

el Obelisco en la Av. 9 de Julio

Ciao from Portland!

Ciao from Portland!

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


Here’s Looking at Portland


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

view of the the South Waterfront from further south

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

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

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

downtown yacht harbor, at the end of Montgomery St.

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

The northernmost bridge of Portland is so Gotham City:

St. John's Bridge, photo by Ben

St. John’s Bridge, photo by Ben

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

Hawthorne Bridge and boats

Hawthorne Bridge and yacht harbor on a gorgeous May day

the cute version

the cute version

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

TriMet bridge

TriMet bridge: completion expected in 2015

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

for those of you who go for the brew

for those of you who go for the brew

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


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

4 types of cyclists orange2

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

he's multi-tasking

a multi-tasking cyclist

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

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

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

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

Main Map-v3

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

weird cyclist

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

'63 Lincoln

’63 Lincoln… yea, baby!

Pontiac Bonneville - 1965?

’64 Pontiac Bonneville

el Jefe chillin' in the back seat

el Jefe chillin’ in the back seat

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

Charlie & me

Charlie & me

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

Broadway Bridge

riverfront walk near the Broadway Bridge

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

Burlington RR Bridge

the Burlington Bridge: a railroad bridge with a vertical lift

the Steel Bridge

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

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

below the bridge

the poetry of steel, under the bridge

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

Morrison Bridge on a grey afternoon

Morrison Bridge on a still, grey afternoon

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

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


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

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

Japanese Gardens

Portland Japanese Gardens

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


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

Portland Chinese Gardens

Portland Classical Chinese Garden

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

Streetcars rock Portland!

Streetcars rock Portland!

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

Hoyt Street townhouses

Hoyt Street townhouses

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

pedestrian path

pedestrian path in the Pearl

Jamison Square reminds me of ___ Gardens in Paris

Jamison Square reminds me of the Luxembourg Gardens

kid-friendly waterfall/pond at Jamison Square

kid-friendly Jamison Square fountain

our friendly neighborhood Lovejoy Bakery

our friendly neighborhood Lovejoy Bakery

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

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

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

Piazza Italia

Piazza Italia

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

another lovely pedestrian path in the Pearl

another pretty pedestrian path in the Pearl

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


reflecting pool

convention center

convention center

parks, pedestrian and bicycle trails all along the river…


springtime waterfront

waterfront in spring

juxtaposition of old and new in the Pearl District

juxtaposition of old and new

colorful streetcars

green & yellow streetcar

blue streetcar

blue streetcar

old and new cottages on the south waterfront

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

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

houseboats & sailboat on the Willamette

houseboats & sailboat on the Willamette

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

Sauvie Island - my favorite idyllic getaway only 10 miles upriver

Sauvie Island – my favorite idyllic getaway only 10 miles upriver

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

Sauvie Island rules & regs: overzealous verbiage to be sure

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

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

wabi-sabi doorknobs

wabi-sabi doorknobs in a recycled building materials shop

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

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

Ciao from Portland!

Ciao from Portland!