Buenos Aires Children’s Street Art

Alladin+

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.

om.....

om…..

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.

pointillista

pointillista

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.

Impressionist

Impressionist

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: www.airbnb.com/rooms/4650379.

living room

living room

bedroom

bedroom

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!

When Tango Breaks Your Heart

Jlo & Marc Antony

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

Man Overboard!  Metaphorically, that is.

IMG_6956

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

Get it?  I thought so.

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

Bieber

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

pensive woman

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

imaheart torn apart

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

words+

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

++

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

man beast

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

images-5

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

know the feeling?

know the feeling?

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

el malevo

el malevo

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

Fabian Pérez

Tango gigolo

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

Othello

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

xCaliban

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

tough guy

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

Jane in blue

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

Persuasion

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

classic clipper

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

Captain Frederick Wentworth

Austen’s Captain Wentworth

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

da vinci

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

Alfonso X El Sabio

Alfonso X El Sabio

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

Elizabeth and Mr. Collins

Elizabeth Bennet disdains Mr. Collins

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

Calif Chrome

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

girl crying

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

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

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

Guess I gotta be my own Rescuer.

pirate wench

Free at Last!!  Lord have mercy!!

beauti ship & whale

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

woman ship 2

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

wise women

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

girl stcse dock

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

boat tropics 1

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

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

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

hollyhocks2

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

mex farmer

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

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

2 beauti ships in calm waters

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

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

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

See you soon on the dance floor!

See you soon on the dance floor!

sleep eat dance

and goodbye to a great friend.

Norm

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

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

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

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

[5] Ibid, 223.

P&P poster

Tango Dancers Open Café

Carlton Café & Bakery

Carlton Café & Bakery

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

Salinas River

Salinas River

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

6005 El Camino Real carltonbakery@gmail.com

6005 El Camino Real
carltonbakery@gmail.com

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

yeah baby

yeah baby!

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

The ARTery

The ARTery

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

City Hall

City Hall

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

Heck, even Oprah's been here!

Heck, even Oprah’s been here!

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

the current incarnation

the newly reborn Carlton Café

A room at the Carlton... just upstairs!

a room at the Carlton… up above the bakery!

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

Café Tortoni, Buenos Aires

Café Tortoni, Buenos Aires

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

hmmm... lost his head?

hmmm… did we take the wrong turn?

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

Confiteria Ideal

Confiteria Ideal

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

Salsa break at La Milonga del Carlton

Salsa break at La Milonga del Carlton

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

Courtney's Chocolate Bread

Courtney’s Chocolate Bread

still life with 5-grain loaf, cheese & olives

still life with 5-grain loaf, cheese & olives

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

Ben and Eduardo

boy can they talk!

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

kjgsd

2+2=22?

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

Ho ho ho

Ho ho ho

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

sadkhasd

when in doubt keep dancing

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

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

Pati & Willow at La Milonga del Carlton

Pati & Willow at La Milonga del Carlton

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

pastries

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

¡Felíz Navidad!

¡Felíz Navidad!

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

NorseHallneon

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

images

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

birthday dance at Norse Hall

birthday dance at Norse Hall

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

milonga at Berretín

Saturday night milonga at Berretín

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

DJ Joe Leonardo & girlfriend Hannah

DJ Joe Leonardo & girlfriend Hannah

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

Fort Knox North

Fort Knox North

the Treasury Milonga

in the old U.S. Treasury building downtown

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

PPAAneon

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

Bossanova Ballroom

Bossanova Ballroom

Wednesday nights are for all you Alternative fans…

milonga blah blah

they just call it Wednesday Tango!

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

Portland evening

beautiful Portland evening

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

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

Norse Hall

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

cortina at Norse Hall… who is that guy?

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

Oops!  that's not it!

Oops! that’s not it!

I wish we were in BAires at Café Vinilo!

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

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

Unknown

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

with guest artists in this case

with guest artists in this case

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

another industrial chic tango venue

urban chic tango venue

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

lkhsd

a good connection is essential…

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

having' fun!

having’ fun!

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

Cecilia & Willow making’ friends while the guys dance!

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

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

milonga at Aires Tangueros, Rivadavia 1392

milonga at Aires Tangueros, Rivadavia 1392

An Anonymous Tanguera speaks:

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

milongueras

milongueras de BAires

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

matinee milonga at La Ideal

matinee milonga at La Ideal

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

Milonga Viejo Correo

Milonga Viejo Correo

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

blog_tango_450

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

IMG_1021

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

good friends at Sunderland

good friends at Sunderland

An Anonymous Tanguero speaks:

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

Unknown

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

los Reyes del Tango en la Viruta

los Reyes del Tango en la Viruta

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

milongueras de la Viruta

milongueras de la Viruta

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

El Beso

El Beso – I love the walls!

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

kjhasdf

no misunderstandings here!

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

who, me?

who, me?

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

super cute!

super cute!

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

Orquesta El Afronte en la Maldita Milonga, Perú 571

Orquesta El Afronte en la Maldita Milonga, Perú 571

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

Teatro Colón

Teatro Colón

house band at Café Vinilo

house band at Café Vinilo, Gorriti 3780

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

el Obelisco en la Av. 9 de Julio

el Obelisco en la Av. 9 de Julio

Ciao from Portland!

Ciao from Portland!

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

hombres

¡Felíz Año Nuevo! 2012 in Review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

600 people reached the top of Mt. Everest in 2012. This blog got about 8,000 views in 2012. If every person who reached the top of Mt. Everest viewed this blog, it would have taken 13 years to get that many views.

Click here to see the complete report.

Last Days in Buenos Aires… sob!

Fall in Buenos Aires arrived with a vengeance! Before that we had lovely days, and delightfully warm nights. You’d leave a milonga at 3 am, and didn’t need a jacket or sweater. Then, all of a sudden, the temperature dropped into the 60s, dipping into the 40s at night, and that cold wind!!

San Telmo, photo by BuenosAires4U.com

Trees along the streets are turning yellow; leaves are falling, their colors blending with the assorted trash and grunge of the streets.  I took one last shot of the Palacio de los Patos, the view from our apartment.

a parting shot…snif!

People walk by bundled up, with the omnipresent neck scarf and winter coat or jacket. Women have traded in their summer flats and sandals for ankle boots, riding boots, sexy lace-up booties, not to mention faux fur animal print boots! Cold weather seems to bring out the female feline.

on the prowl…

Alas, it’s time to leave our favorite city, time to head north to check in with family and friends. I’m fixin’ to hold my precious first grandbaby! Tagging along with the anticipation and delight of a wee bundle of joy, we tango every night till 3 or 4. What’s to stop us? I almost missed my 11:30 yoga class… so hard to get up in the mornings. I feel like a spoiled girl!  Hmm… I guess I am a spoiled girl! Speaking of children, here’s my sweet baby Teo. See that reddish hair! Yes, there is some Irish blood in the family. Just have a look at our wee leprechaun!

my son Ode & baby Teo

I made a list of my New Year’s resolutions; I know I’m getting them in late; is that like bouncing a check? Or forgetting to file? Seriously, though, the New Year has brought us feelings of accomplishment, that is to say, progress in tango. Ben says he’s keeping his resolutions to himself… (should I be worried?) but I don’t mind sharing what I’m working on. After all, who doesn’t go through the same stages, more or less: the same fumbling bumbling beginner’s hell? (for a silly primer on the plight of the beginning dancer, go to <centralcoasttango.org> and click on Tango Hell.) Here’s a preview of my resolutions:

Posture, balance, embrace, walking… and you thought walking was just putting one foor in front of the other? Think again! My goal right now… ONE of my goals… is to keep it simple, focus on my foot to floor connection, and dance with my partner, not with myself!!  Sublimate your expression, dance HIS interpretation of the music… and when he pauses to let you play, you can renegotiate the contract for a few moments. This brings the yin and yang energies into balance… ¿qué sí? qué no? 

Along with my resolutions, here’s some photos of the last days. We accidentally met some traveling dogsledding skiing tangoing Alaskans!

new friends Jane & Peter in San Telmo

That same day in San Telmo Ben captured this shot of our friend El Indio dancing at his Sunday milonga in Plaza Dorrego:

El Indio & friend

And we also chanced to see Orquesta Típica el Afronte, playing on the sidewalk near the Plaza Dorrego Sunday Fair. These guys rock the house on Wednesday nights at Maldita Milonga, 571 Perú, in San Telmo. We’ve seen them many times and they are fab!

Orquesta Típica El Afronte

We had a relaxing day in San Telmo, spending time with good friends and gorgeous Buenos Aires fall weather.

Ben & me

If you’re young, dance tango, plan to visit Buenos Aires, and like to mix it up with all colors and flavors of other young travelers, then we may have found the best cheap hotel for you:

Hostel San Telmo

Our last days in Buenos Aires we tango’d all over town with our best friends. We had our best-ever privates with our dear friend Marcela Hourquebie. Marcela took us light-years beyond the usual private classes, losing ourselves and then finding ourselves again, transforming our way of being, of dancing, of thinking, of processing, of leading and following. I even learned to be on my own axis 100% of the time (unless he takes me off my axis, of course). Yes, I know I’m the poster child; finally, after almost 10 years of dancing tango, I manage to stay on my axis? About time, girl!

best friends!

Towards the end of our stay we experienced the deepest work. Our brains were de-fragged, our internal processors upgraded, and of course it all carries over into your relationship. When your dance partner is your life partner, you reach some deep practice. Your relationship is stripped to the core and then rebuilt, remodeled, like having your piano brought up to A440, or trying out a new bit on your horse, your hands softer now and your horse more responsive. Always working towards a deeper harmony. Your embrace is fine-tuned, adjusted. It’s fluid, mobile, re-negotiated daily. Taking a step will never again be just another step! If you were the house-mouse living on a touchscreen floor, what would the trail of your steps look like… points of pressure with only faint traces in between? Even better, visualize a blazing light-trail, revealing a minimum of pressure changes as the free foot moves across the floor? This is really too complex for me to explain! Pooh Bear may need to call on Christopher Robin to assist. Have patience with me, cause trying to explain helps me integrate the new structures into every cell, every molecule. Change means work!

Everything you thought you learned in those first few years of tango classes, workshops, milongas – all the money you spent on lessons, shoes, clothes – you find yourself rediscovering the basics, because you’re standing in a new place now, and everything looks different, feels different. You go back to the basics to relearn it all again. You refine your walk, your posture, your attitude. I still love voleos, sacadas, ganchos… but my focus has moved towards elegance, simplicity, refinement. I’ve quit trying to embellish every other step. I’m making more of an effort to really listen to my partner, to be really connected to him. It’s not easy! But I’m also letting go of judgement. There is no such thing as good tango or bad tango; Tango just IS.  

at La Coqueta de Recoleta

More pearls of wisdom from Marcela: Quit chasing the music; let the music come to you, let it come from within, let it fill you, enter you wholly and completely. (No corres detrás de la música; deja que la música te llega a ti, que entra en ti.) This is such an important piece of the puzzle! From the male point of view it has often been said, and nicely I think, “for the man, there is only the music, and the woman.”  Female point of view, anybody? For the woman, there is only the music, and the man. Absolutely fundamental, absolutely imprescindible!

be connected in blue

And who could live the true milonguero lifestyle without great friends to drag you all over town to all the best places to eat, drink, and dance?

best friends!

In yet another angle on the HOW TO WALK WITH YOUR FEET ON THE FLOOR theme, let’s focus on the arrastre, which in English means drag and can refer to steps or to the sound of the bandoneon: you slightly drag your toes on the floor… tracing invisible lines, invisible pictures, invisible perfume crossing and recrossing the dance floor, resisting, then giving into the floor, giving in to the music. Your feet should never stop, but move fluidly with equal pressure in mid-step. Your change of weight should be almost imperceptible. Let your feet talk to the floor, caress the floor…. my goal?…  to dance like her!

Gracias, Marcela!

Taking Mario Orlando‘s DJ class hasn’t hurt my appreciation for tango, either. Au contraire, mon cher! I think I can honestly say that I carry around in my head the BUENOS AIRES TANGO TOP 400  24/7!! My personal background muzak.

gracias, Mario!

And who wouldn’t gain an infinite amount of floorcraft (and I don’t mean steerage!) after months of classes with Raúl Bravo? Gracias, Raúl!!  I hope you’re enjoying your visit to Russia!

Gracias, Maestro!

Can you believe he’s in his 80s? He dances with the skill and energy of a 30 year old, and that’s NOT an exaggeration! Raúl teaches the fancy stuff, the moves, the choreographies, along with the technique that you need to stay on top of your game. Last July, his classes were so advanced, we honestly couldn’t believe he let us stay in the class! Almost everybody there was already a really good dancer or a pro; others dropped in for a refresher from the maestro de maestros, in preparation for the Tango World Cup (alias el Mundial). By the time we left, we were finally feeling worthy enough to take his class — how can I say it differently? Finally worthy… that’s BIG!

Okay, one more Thank you!!! to our Maestro of Milonga (and Milonguero style, and Vals) JORGE FIRPO!

Papito rocks!!

Jorge Firpo and his beautiful sweet wife and tango partner Diana Mestre, have been SO good to us, so patient, so comprensivos, so positive and upbeat 100% of the time!!  How do they do it? Who the heck knows? They’ve got a good thing goin’!  And as dancers they are soooooo fabulous!! He runs his classes like a drill sergeant with a smile, and she quietly and patiently passes on imprescindible tango technique, embellishments and other secrets to us ladies. They have a huge and loyal following, even on other planets! (cause their star shines that bright!!) not to mention their very own Fan Club, Los Fans de Papito! Ben made Jorge a Deputy Sheriff and even gave him his own badge!

I almost forgot to mention the night Guillermo & Dolores took us to Las Cañitas, a part of Palermo that has a few very cool blocks of pubs and restaurants. The night we went I was cameraless, so I swiped these cool pix off the web:

La Lupita, shrine to Tequila & la Virgencita

’round midnight the best time to go

the bar at La Lupita

she reigns over the bar and all of Mexico too

Get the feeling I like the place?

So the day finally arrived, we had to leave our beloved Buenos Aires. I mean, just for a moment, let  yourself feel the angst, the pathos (what is pathos, anyway?). Ben kept reminding me I didn’t need to cry all the way to the airport, as I’ve done the other times. No, I had to be a big girl and stay focused on the future: see my kids, my grandbaby, visit friends and family, then on to Paris.

New Years Resolution No. 1: Let yourself go, be who you are, give your infinite Self up to the moment. Let your interpretation of the music, your passion for the music, flow thru you. Relax, ground, dance WHO you are! Feel more colors, more sensation, more attitude…. accept nothing less than total transformation! 

New Years Resolution No. 2: Feel the lead! Listen to his body, listen to your body…  Don’t just step… flow! let your feet have a conversation with the floor.

New Years Resolution No. 3: Connectivity! Connect with yourself first. Feel that invisible string pulling you skyward, and then feel the roots that connect your feet to the floor. Through them you ground into the earth. When you feel connected internally and externally, your mind able to focus and not running off in a million different directions, connect to your partner. You should feel the exact moment when you complete the embrace, that live circuit engaged. When the circuit is complete your electro-magnetic field becomes supercharged. Then you connect to the floor, to the room, to the circle of dancers, to the music, the musicians, the DJ. I learned in high school physics that the electrical connection can only flow when all the wires are connected and you are grounded thru the floor. Trying to anticipate the lead breaks the circuit. Crossing your fingers behind your back is cheating!

Flying out of Ezeiza, we had quite a rockin’ and rollin’ ride over the Andes – brown with white patches of snow – and we bounced over more potholes in the sky flying from Lima to San Salvador. I sang quietly to myself calling on the wakinyan, the Thunder Spirits, to bring this frolicking pony back to the barn safe and sound! I sang to the wanbli, the eagles, to fly with us and bring us safe and sound to our journey’s end. My flight mantra: “May the wind under your wings guide you where the moon walks and the sun sails…” (from The Hobbit)

The wanbli brought us back to San Francisco safe and sound. We spent a delightful few days visiting family and the new baby! He’s so adorable! Here I am with Teo and my comadre, Teo’s maternal grandmother.

el nene y las comadres!

We made a quick trip to Portland to look at artisan bakeries (part of the groundwork for Ben’s projected café-bakery-dance hall), visit old friends, and tango. We stopped in San Luis Obispo for a few days to reconnect with close friends: tango base camp. They put on a big throw-down for us! There was great dancing, and the music, food & drink, starry skies & view of the ocean from Val & Mary’s stunning hillside retreat was absolutely awesome!! Many thanks to all!! California milongueros really know how to party!!

Milonga chez Val & Mary

We celebrated Mary’s birthday, and had a sorteo just like the milongas in Buenos Aires, complete with prizes: CDs and other fun items.

Vive la France!

the lucky number is…

and the winner is…

Willow’s Short Version New Year Resolutions 2012:

There is no such thing as good tango or bad tango. TANGO just IS.

Don’t run after the music….  let the music run thru YOU.

RELAX 

CONNECT

GROUND

DANCE WHO YOU ARE!

FOLLOW HIM, BUT DON’T CODDLE HIM

STAND  UP  TALL  ON YOUR AXIS

BREATHE

Your GIRO is your signature….  make it your OWN

Don’t just step….  FLOW

FEEL THE LEAD

COLLECT

YOU are a DIAMOND

YOU are an ANGEL, an EAGLE…. DANCE with your WINGS!

Ciao from Buenos Aires!

Next stop: PARIS!

La Puta Qué?

Did you ever read The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne?  We skipped over to Uruguay for the day and saw a tagged paint mare: you can see PUTA in capital letters on her neck.  I think you all know what that means!  We didn’t notice any apparent misbehaving tendencies at first glance but then horses can really fool you!

la muy puta yegua

Along came a casual tropical cowboy who proceeded to mount up and move the group of foragers a few yards down the road.  It was a pretty day and I was happy to see some horses just hanging out along a back road.  We were cruising on a junky old moto that we rented for $18 for the day, electrical issues, bald tires, no speedometer, no deposit, no problem!

local cowboy

The day trip across the river is known as the expat shuffle: you take a ferry across the river, go thru customs in Uruguay (what a joke that is!) and, depending on your inclinations, stroll the quaint colonial era pueblo, shop till you drop, do the waterfront pub crawl, climb to the top of the faro (lighthouse), head for the beach, or (most popular option) get on a bus to Montevideo.

After the hour trip across the Río de la Plata, we disembarked and walked into town.  We passed an ultramodernist new tourist center, not quite finished yet.  We set off the alarm when we walked up and onto the deck…  howdy folks!  the gringos are here!

tourist trap

Colonia is a pretty tourist town.  Some folks joke about it being a “dead” town and I see their point but, heck, Uruguay needs all the help ($$) it can get!   The only thing they have going for them are some cool beaches and hot soccer players.  There’s a sweet harbor on the river, a lighthouse (we made it all the way to the top!) shops, cafés, restaurants, boutique hotels, tour guides.  We skipped the tour.  I’m the official tour guide, naturally.  Who else would have noticed the horses?

Lucky us, it was a beautiful balmy day at the lighthouse.  We climbed it.

el faro

We circled it.

the bullring

Ben was happy as a clam to be riding a scooter, he didn’t care where we went!  (He says it’s not quite like his F4, though.)  Here he is at the top of the lighthouse, with helmet:

At the beach…

did we miss the tsunami warning?

strolling around town…

checking out the microcar

We saw picturesque old adobes that reminded me of San Juan Bautista, back home in California.

we take VISA!!

bisected house

Café El Santo

pretty stone facade with jasmine

Okay, is it bothering you that this post is turning into Better Homes & Gardens?  Sunset South?  Well, too bad, cause I just love old historic buildings!  especially when they’re kept up nicely…  here’s some more:

Posada Plaza Mayor

Adobe colorado

old Mission

No lack of cool old cars to cruise those cobblestone Colonia streets:

what make is it? somebody help me out!

10 oct. Flash:  a Studebaker by all accounts!  Thanks to April in New Mexico, Jack in San Luis Obispo, and Arlene in Santa Barbara!  You guys rock!

awesome truck from the... 40s?

And a café-bar by the old stone lighthouse.  How cool is that?  The hungry thirsty hordes had not yet gathered when I took this picture:  Or they got stuck listening to the droning nazi tour guide.

ye old lighthouse watering hole

When I finally stepped off the back of the moto my knees were weak, my feet were numb, and it felt like my hipbones needed resetting.  Kinda like getting thrown off a rank horse and trying to get back on your feet so you can go catch the sonofabitch!   We walked a few steps past that amazing stone tower onto the wharf, past the yacht club office, and onto the terrace of the Yacht Club restaurant.  What a view!

Are we having fun yet?

Oops, forgot to put a view in.  Here we go.

the view from the top

We ate seafood pasta, salad, a bottle of wine, dessert… the works!  A sweet getaway. Towards the end of the afternoon the herd instinct kicked in, we answered a few mournful cow calls, and allowed ourselves to be herded back to the mother ship.  The ferry, that is, the S.S. Colonia Express.  As we closed in on the big beautiful city, I took a picture of this old slow-sinking rustbucket still moored in La Boca harbor.

the wabi-sabi mother ship

Being away from town for a day was no big deal, but I can well imagine the desperation one might feel being gone too long from the glorious night-life of this throbbing music lover’s paradise.  Seriously, we find music everywhere we go!  Friday evening we walked into a local restaurant, and found ourselves listening to a young woman singing arias from Carmen and La Bohéme, with live piano and violin accompaniment.  Opera never fails to bring tears to my eyes!  Live music is a total body experience, you feel it with all your senses, not just your ears.  Every molecule you own vibrates with sound, sinking deeply into body and spirit.  Positively transcendent!

Yesterday, having coffee after our tango class at a café we frequent by Plaza San Martín, we opened our eyes and saw that they have Friday night Jazz, and live Tango on Saturdays. The cultural richness of Buenos Aires is really inspiring.  So many young musicians, you see them walking around with instrument cases, getting on the subte or collectivo. We saw these guys on the subway today on our way home from a solidarity festival at Parque Avellaneda.

subte músicos

Ben’s spanish teacher plays percussion and trombone in a band we saw today at the park, Orkesta Popular San Bomba.  Way to go!  They have a great singer and a great Latin sound, but their sound system was a complete disaster.  We will check them out again when they get their act together!

Orkesta San Bomba at Parque Avellaneda

Somehow the future isn’t quite as scary anymore, seeing the next generation so present and engaged in the creation of a world culture that knows no borders, and whose currency is music!   Speaking of young musicians, we’ve been to some great live music at various places…  this is CAFF (Club Atlético Fernández Fierro), a former auto repair shop.  It has the funkiest club entrance ever, like out of a Batman movie:

Yes, that’s me in my spring Batgirl outfit.  Here are a couple of shots from the show at CAFF:

Dema y su Orquesta Petitera

at CAFF

Dema is hysterically funny and was wildly applauded.  He’s kind of a cross between Tom Waits and Giancarlo Giannini in Swept Away (a film by Lina Wertmüller).  Jaded but innocent, desperate yet full of macho bravura.   Check him out on uTube!

One of our favorites: Orquesta Victoria at Café Vinilo:

Orquesta Típica La Victoria

Orchestra La Victoria has a piano, clarinet, cello, contrabajo, 2 bandoneons, 3 violins, and two singers (Fuertes and Varnerín) who do amazing tango duets, just like the singers of  the old days!  (Listen to Pregonera, Pastora, Remolino… sung by the duo of Carlos Dante and Julio Martel, Orquesta Alfredo de Angelis.)  This youthful tango orquesta plays mostly classic tango but also some nuevo, in the genre of Piazzolla.  They are way cool and we love them!

Well, friends, despite lots of late night dancing, serious lack of sleep, tango classes, yoga class, Italian class, running in the park, and walking, walking, walking all over town… not to mention spending hours writing and posting my blog…  I seem to be thriving!  must be Ben’s good cooking!  Oh, and my favorite gelato flavors of the month? … dolcatta, tramontana, and dulce de leche granizado… and zabayón!  and the delightful spring weather!

Please don’t forget to send your Tango Addiction stories to me at <runninghawk.willow@gmail.com>.  I now have my very own web address: <willowtango.me>.   Click the “follow” button!   Ciao from Buenos Aires!

Willow at El Santo