Saturday, April 09, 2005

Buenos Aires Tango & Theater

There are some really dark blinds in this country. We were awoken at 8 am by the sounds of men yelling at each other in the alleyway. The shower curtain made me claustrophobic because it is hung 6 inches closer than it should be, due to a window being in the wrong place. The result is that the curtain tries to envelope me as I bathe and all I can think of are those newspapers in that scene from the movie Brazil:

Breakfast was on the 7th floor, in the hotel lounge. It’s sort of an odd location, but I guess the homeless folks we keep passing might try to scam them. Tonight’s tango show and dinner cost $300 in cash (or $100 USD), so we had to hit the ATM again. We were out the door by 9am, and headed to the Plaza Congresso. We’d intended to see the Teatro de Colon first, but got ourselves turned around.

We arrived at the Teatro at 10:30 am and barely made it on the English guided tour. In the group, there was a kid who looked like the Lacrosse-playing, Abercrombie-wearing, boarding-school “too cool for this” kind of guy. His attempts at humor were rather lame. Our tour was occurring during a stage lighting rehearsal, so when we were actually in the theater it was dark except for the stage where four actors stood motionless as their lighting subtly changed. We sat in the President’s booth, as it was the only one big enough to hold the tour group. We were also treated to a private performance by a flutist dressed in a costume for a royal court: golden vest over a white ruffled shirt, gold pants, and a ponytail. While I’m thinking of it, Argentine hairstyles are somewhat funny. The guys seem to be going for the long-haired, romance novel cover boy look, but are closer in execution to having a bad mullet or roadie hairstyle.

As we descended to the backstage and practice rooms, we became aware of a little girl in our group. She was having some trouble with the several flights of stairs leading down into the labyrinth beneath the theater where the dancers were rehearsing. They weren’t dancing just yet, but some of their super tight outfits had already stopped being flattering. I guess they could have been going for “ballet cool,” if that’s a thing. We also saw where they make and keep all of the costumes and shoes for all of the performers. Lightweight materials like ping pong balls and Styrofoam painted with metallic paint are also used to as alternatives to actual metal. But either way, this place is a serious fire hazard. Some of the costumes are so old they can’t be worn again. We also visited the backdrop studio, the metal working studio, and saw two of the dance studios where the little girl stood awestruck watching the ballerinas practice their routine.  After we finished the tour, we bought tickets for the symphony next week for $18 ARG for both tickets, which is like $3 USD.

From the Theatre de Colon, we walked over to a cemetery by way of Av. Alvear. Before we got there, we browsed an artist fair  with typical handicrafts. By this time we were getting hungry, so it was more empanadas, this time on the very pretty Posadas road. Our waiter informed us that they had Pepsi, no Coke.
 /link/pepsinocokegif?

When we finally arrived at the cemetery, we ended up walking around the wrong way, nearly two-thirds of the perimeter. The walls are towering two stories above the street as the road begins to climb up the hill. There was an /link/ Eva Peron imitator with the soundtrack playing from her radio. We visited the grave of Eva Peron along with all the other tourists, after which we walked around wondering why some of these multi-story crypts were open to the outside. Kind of creepy in that “worst place to be on the /link/ Dawn of the Dead” kind of way.

We kept on walking to the zoo and botanical gardens. I got some chorizo in a bun, then noticed that the cook’s left hand that he had been hiding under a towel was deformed by a birth defect that left only the joint with fingernails protruding from a stub, no wrist or palm. Not his fault he was born that way, but it’s really not an appetizing view either, which is why I think he covered it with a towel. The botanical garden had lots of trees (obviously) that created some much enjoyed shade. There were also dozens of cats as the park was closed to dogs.

Buenos Aires (BA) is like an SAT question.
VISA: Mastercard;
Cats: dogs;
Pepsi: Coke;
BA: other places on our trip.
One cat hopped into Kacey’s lap when we sat down on a bench. It was gray and fairly clean, but promptly went to sleep in her lap and was reluctant to let us go. We moved on to the metro, or subte, but found this entrance, the one by the entrance to the zoo and garden, closed on Saturdays. Hmmm. We had to walk around the garden again to find the open entrance. We rode to the Cathedral stop at around 4:15pm. There is a tour at 4:30 of the Jesuit catacombs, or so our book says. Kacey’s impatience and annoyance for the book’s lack of detail is brimming over since there is no specific location mentioned to start the tour. We spent 15 minutes canvassing four blocks looking for something like a tour group, but saw nothing except a Jesuit in a brown robe who said “We open at 5pm, there is no tour.” Which, after walking around frustrated and riding on the hot, stuffy, poorly ventilated subte is not what we wanted to hear, so we stopped into a coffee shop  near the Plaza de Mayo to unwind and reorganize. We got milkshakes and cooled down.
Casa Rosada pic.
The dominant feature of the Plaza de Mayo is the Casa Rosada, where Evita addressed the people. It also happens to be one of the few places with monuments we’ve seen that isn’t defaced with spray paint or paint bombs. The other buildings, including the church, have communist/anarchist graffiti and the occasional “Maldives are Argentina’s” sentiments. They’re very determined on this last bit.
We walked a few blocks back to the hotel where we refreshed ourselves before getting in a van to a go see the tango show at El Viejo AlmacĂ©n, the city’s most famous tango salon. Dinner was included, we had wine and steak. And more wine. Then at the show, they put us up in the messanine and gave us champagne. Fortunately, there was a wrought iron railing to keep us from falling over onto the dances below. There were four pairs of dances, six musicians (2 violins, 2 accordians, a bass, and a piano). The dancers had crazy fast footwork and the ladies mostly had that stage-red dyed hair to complement their blue or purple dresses. There were also four musicians on traditional pan flutes and strings. They had native ponchos and played cover versions of /link/“The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly,” /link/“Rawhide,” and that Simon and Garfunkel song that goes /link/“I’d rather be a hammer than a nail…” We were also treated to a performance by an old woman with big hair who sang to us. I have no idea who she is. The emcee had a tux with a red shirt on and the place had a matching Cabaret vibe.
We took the bus back to the hotel, where we discovered that our air conditioning wasn’t working. I think they turn off the circuits. It’s warm, humid, and generally verging on slightly uncomfortable. Because of all the alcohol, I pretty much fell right asleep. We probably walked 5-6 miles today. And we have a /blog/ busy day tomorrow, too. There isn’t even a switch on the A/C. You just have to plug it in.

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