Saturday, March 17, 2012

Mi Buenos Aires Querido

We were back in Argentina for some days, hence my absence around here (obviously the internet exists in Argentina, but my mind was elsewhere-- South American bureaucracy will do that to you. Don't ask, I promise you don't want to know.)

As soon as I stepped off the plane, I was surprised by the rush of memories that hit me, and was almost immediately swept into the familiar peculiarities of porteño (Buenos Aires) life. The tall, strikingly beautiful men and women, the incredibly rude service (I should clarify that non-Spanish-speaking tourists are normally treated quite well), the abundant wine and complete lack of variety at the supermarket. I'm certainly not ambivalent about Buenos Aires-- it's just that I love it and hate it simultaneously. We met up with old friends and colleagues, ate at old haunts, and generally tried to ignore the people openly picking their noses on the subway and the fact that prices have literally doubled since the last time we were there a little over a year ago. 

This is my Buenos Aires, with all the love and squalor and dog shit-filled streets fully accounted for. It's eating dulce de leche-filled facturas for breakfast and then being thwarted by a subway strike that brings traffic to a halt in the 9 de Julio, the huge, 16-lane central boulevard. 

It's devouring countless choripanes, empanadas and pizza, and then realizing that the only vegetables you've had all week were a handful of lettuce and two slices of tomato that came as the "salad" alongside the milanesa you had for lunch when you were stuck downtown after an errand you thought would take an hour ended up taking seven.  

This time we stayed with our friends Chako and Carmen, who graciously allowed us to stay with them for almost three weeks (!), two weeks longer than we had initially planned (that's Chako with the gas mask above. He was preparing himself to take out the garbage.) They have a gorgeous light and plant-filled apartment which served as an enormous relief from the stresses of the not-to-named bureaucratic nightmare. We cooked a lot, drank Fernet, talked a lot of mierda, and he and Felipe giddily played a lot of soccer video games. Because it was Purim while we were there, I took it upon myself to introduce them to the wonders of hamantaschen gorging, which they took to quite naturally. They're part of my Buenos Aires, too, and we had a fabulous time with them, extenuating, extremely stressful circumstances be damned.

The last night before we left, Carmen and I went to the supermarket to buy ingredients for dinner and so that I could buy a couple of things to take with us. I bought yerba (leaves for mate), Fernet, a package of 9 de Oro galletas agridulces, sweet and salty crackers that Felipe is addicted to and that go great with mate, and Carmen helped me pick out a couple of bottles of wine (while telling me simultaneously telling me, "I don't know very much about wine" and "oh, this estate is really good too." Uh huh.) Though wine has gone up along with everything else, it continues to be crazily cheap in relation to quality (and just in general compared to the rest of the world), and it always makes a great present for friends back at home, especially those who have been lending a mano with stuff that is by no means their responsibility back in Brazil while we've been away. I should have bought alfajores too, but I somehow forgot. Next time, when my head is on straight and I still have a clean change of clothes left in my suitcase. Until then, mi Buenos Aires querido. See you on the flipside.

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