My last big night out in BA was far from orthodox. I should probably clarify. No night out in Buenos Aires is ever predictable or dull and this is a rule as opposed to an exception. It just doesn’t happen. But this particular night raised the bar a notch or two in terms of eventfulness. Amalia and I woke up the next day and like Dorothy following her adventures in Oz, wondered if we’d dreamt it all. But the indelible oil on my hands, under my fingernails and streaked down my legs which had stubbornly refused to shift when I showered on our return told a different story.
The evening started out innocuously however, mojitos, Jägermeister, banter and musica with friends on a roof top terraza. So far, so BA. We were on the list at Niceto for Zizek, a monthly club night showcasing the best of ZZK label’s roster, an eclectic mix of all things nu-cumbia and arguably one of the best nights out in BA. In the backroom Bully Bass was dishing up sick slabs of dubstep served as piping hot as the packed space he was playing out in. Amalia and I exchanged silly grins and dance moves for a while but the heat got the better of us and both we and the music segued effortlessly into the cool respite of the musical goings on of the main room.
I was pretty drunk by this stage and Amalia was tired, so we decided to cut our losses and head for home. Not before first having a last drink and bite to eat in the bar next door. 4am nachos, with guacamole and cheese were impossible to pass up. Suddenly, it started raining torrentially. We slowly drank our beers and finished up our food. In the 20 minutes we’d been sat down, Niceto Vega had transformed from main Palermo thoroughfare to a fast flowing river. The water level had now reached to headlight level of a car parked opposite, half its body submerged and swaying disconcertingly, as if any minute it was going to be consumed by the water and dragged away by the persuasive current. We saw people swimming by. It was if the apocalypse had come a year early.
Amalia was adamant about sitting it out but I had other ideas. I don’t know if it was the booze talking or a misguided intrepidity. The bar staff were frantically bailing out water at the entrance to avoid the place flooding completely, and we had to pick our way over them and some wooden barricading to make it to street level. We waded over to where the bikes were locked up on the opposite street corner, standing waist deep in fast flowing water. They had almost completely disappeared from view, bar one of the distinct brilliant blue handlebars from my bike which was partially sticking out and a few of the plastic flowers from my pannier struggling to lift their heads above the water.
Our best efforts at warding off thieves: various locks, all under water, interwoven and entangled, now seemed like an impossible task to undo – inebriated and with only our hands to guide us. But we managed, and pulled off quietly, our vintage velos’ idiosyncratic creaking and clanking silenced by their aquatic surroundings. We felt valiant and triumphant at not having abandoned our trusty steeds.
The journey back to las Cañitas proved to be an epic one. Amalia had already got a flat prior to the flooding so we knew getting home was going to be an onerous task. Yet what made matters worse was that my chain kept acting as a filter for foliage, leaves and debris and several times it slipped off. I had to perform emergency resuscitation, flipping it upside down and manipulating the oily chain links and teeth back into place.
The water receded as we neared the tracks, as we crossed over we saw that the streets were free of flood water, in fact, it seemed as if everyone here was oblivious to the chaos playing out only a few streets away. Girls dolled up without a hair out of place, boys looking impossibly dapper. By contrast, Amalia and I looked bedraggled with smeared eye make up, our hair dripping and our clothes sodden. But we didn’t care, bonding over this unique experience we were both living, sharing wry smiles every time we made eye contact.
We dodged fallen trees and loose paving stones, stopping to observe the surreality of seeing fish swimming by the curb, as two novice anglers stood tentatively with bucket and net waiting to pounce, their mouths watering at the prospect of an unexpected fish supper.
We arrived at Santa Fe avenue and felt buoyed by the fact that we’d made it onto the home straight. With the prospect of a hot shower and a warm bed almost within reach, our weariness turned to elation and a sense of pride, at not having ‘abandoned ship’ and stuck to our original, if somewhat irresponsible objective of getting our green ladies back in one piece. We parked them up on the balcony, a sorry looking pair, survivors of an extreme battle with the elements. Scalding hot showers caressed our tired weather beaten bodies and we crawled under the covers, the dawn ushering in a calm, bright sunny day, the storm had blown itself and been put to rest. We closed the blinds on the window and then not long after, the lids of our weary eyes.
image : we heart it
As I approach the date marking a year i’ve been living in Buenos Aires, I’ve begun to reflect on how my life has changed and the experiences i’ve lived over the last twelve months.
Here are some of the valuable lessons i’ve learnt:
BA puts NYC in the shade, this really is the city that never sleeps and i’ve been tired for 359 days.
For some unknown reason, porters of apartment blocks ‘water’ the pavements, making loose paving stones enemy number one, unless you’re a fan of fetid gritty water splashed up to your knees.
Argentine boys kiss like washing machines on a fast spin cycle and foreplay is something they need to google (unless you’re lucky).
It’s a mystery as to why there is such a coin/small bill shortage in this city, with many urban legends/speculative theories in circulation as to the reason. Most kioskeros would prefer to part with their left kidney than their shrapnel, most merchants would prefer to part with their right kidney than give you change for 100 peso bill on a purchase of anything under 20.
Queueing is a national pastime: the express lane is anything but and death by red tape is not uncommon.
There’s no such thing as a free lunch. I’d rather go dutch.
Sex hotels (telos) are as cheesy as they sound, an LED display counting down your minutes of ‘intimacy’, wall to ceiling mirrors, kitsch furnishings, jacuzzis, themed rooms, sex toys on sale, some even offer loyalty cards (no joke). You can’t help feeling like you’re in some dodgy 70s porno.
Thursday night is apparently ‘cheat night’, when people frequent after office happy hours and play away from home. Not the smartest thinking if you’re trying to keep it on the down low.
Public displays of affection are perfectly acceptable, on the underground seat next to you, on a park bench, in a restaurant, often noisy and within earshot.
Most Porteños can’t handle their spice. Just the mention of black pepper and they run for the hills.
Here acelga (swiss chard) is King, but it gets a raw deal and is sadly anything but ‘raw’ in its final incarnation, an overcooked green mulch parading as veg.
There is no logical explanation for how much things cost here: for the price of a litre of milk you can travel the equivalent of London to Brighton, twice.
It’s all about the old biddies as far as fashion is concerned in this city, i get my style pointers from octogenarians these days.
August has nearly been and gone and I’ve remained virtually silent, at least via my blog. I started interning at Time Out BA and it’s been a steeper learning curve than I ever anticipated. It’s also been the fruits of my labours, the end result of a 6 month process of taking risks, facing fears, embracing incertitude and things outside of my ‘comfort zone’. It’s been exhilarating and it’s bolstered my confidence, given me that much hankered after fire in my belly. Writing, knowing my efforts will make it into print tastes so sweet. I recognise that the challenge of accomplishing anything in life is being able to steady the nerves, commit unwaveringly to a cause and above all else, persevere with constancy and dogged determination. At the same time maintaining and nurturing self belief and conviction, even when the chips are down. I’m often my own worst enemy, the temptation to sabotage or jeopardise a good thing is always there lurking, but my hunger for success appears to be greater…
On the eve of my 30th, I’m turning to the wise words of Mr. Nash.
Unwillingly Miranda wakes,
Feels the sun with terror,
One unwilling step she takes,
Shuddering to the mirror.
Miranda in Miranda’s sight
Is old and gray and dirty;
Twenty-nine she was last night;
This morning she is thirty.
Shining like the morning star,
Like the twilight shining,
Haunted by a calendar,
Miranda is a-pining.
Silly girl, silver girl,
Draw the mirror toward you;
Time who makes the years to whirl
Adorned as he adored you.
Time is timelessness for you;
Calendars for the human;
What’s a year, or thirty, to
Loveliness made woman?
Oh, Night will not see thirty again,
Yet soft her wing, Miranda;
Pick up your glass and tell me, then–
How old is Spring, Miranda?
Oui Oui…even the name is darling. This cutie patootie coffee shop rustles up a tempting proposition for those missing a slice of home. i’ve been reliably informed that it’s reminiscent of NYC coffee shops but having never been, I can only compare it to personal experience of those in London and Paris. In spite of its location, nestled in the heart of ‘cool’ Palermo, with a plethora of potential competition, Oui Oui stands out. I went there for the first time, in my usual sorry Sunday state. Looking for a worthy fatty breakfast that isn’t medialunas in this city can be challenging, and factura just doesn’t cut the mustard on a hangover. Bacon is scarcer than small change and decent scrambled eggs a fictitious concept.
But deliver they did. They offer 4 breakfast options ranging from 22-25 pesos, of which french toast and scrambled eggs with panceta are highlights, all of which include coffee and toast as standard. Hefty pitchers of rustic homemade lemonade punctuated with fresh mint are absurdly cheap at 15 pesos.
The decor is the right side of kitsch; obligatory trechikoffesque paintings, twee samplers, blackboard chalked menus and flea market fare adorn the walls. The counter boasts an array of baked treats just begging to induce a sugar coma, with twinkle-eyed staff eager to facilitate the process.
The outside seating allows for some gentle people watching, the clientele is predictably polylingual and cosmopolitan, but thankfully the atmosphere is more laid back than trendy.
There are two branches within a block of each other which would suggest a need to cater for the rush hour crowd overspill, indeed, we had to put our name down for a table on arrival, a strong indicator of the quality of the place.
It’s hard to say no…
Oui Oui – Nicaragua 6068, Palermo, Buenos Aires