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Bitten by Buenos Aires November 24, 2009

Posted by normanmonkey in Travel.
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I hate declarations of love. It’s all so cheap and redundant these days. In the way that people ‘love the M&S ads’ or ‘love the X-Factor’. That’s not love, that’s being a passive, soulless pile of accumulated drivel.

Someone ghastly in PR once stated to me she ‘loved David Bowie’ prompting the withering question from me ‘Really? Name an album?’ to which, obviously, she couldn’t.

She who could not write a press release retorted that ‘it wasn’t just the music, but the person’. Oh right, of course, I forgot she and The Dame have spent many an evening of beer and skittles down the Skinner’s Arms talking about handbags. Some people.

No, love, true love in it’s purest sense is seldom felt. And like the old Chet Baker renditioned ballad about falling in love too easily, falling in love too fast, one falls in love so incredibly hard for love to ever last, that’s how I feel about Buenos Aires right now. I’m smitten. I’m ready to give myself over with open arms and say ‘I do’.

Like anything you fall in love with but know you shouldn’t, this is a city with a double edge, that you probably couldn’t and shouldn’t trust. It’s marked by elegance and wealth, but sweeps away its poverty with contempt, yet there are times the latter comes straight at you. Lots of people want to be you friend, but not everyone has the same motive. Watch your back and your bag wherever you are. And yes, the steak tastes great, but that diet is going to literally break the heart of anyone who lives (or dies) on it for too long. One can’t help but think those portions are some kind of conspiracy. Yesterday was a salad and seafood day and I feel twice the man for it.

I’m out of here tomorrow and it’s probably the best for both parties that we split on good terms. Yet I’m conscious that it’s only 48 hours before I return to the sedentary existence of wintering in West Byfleet.

There was no sticking to plan yesterday, despite a promising start and best intentions. After a bloody mary at the hotel bar I readied myself to explore and headed for the upmarket Recoleta district, the much of it like the Mayfair of Buenos Aires with high-end boutiques, galleries and antique emporiums all with heavy security.

Beyond there I decamped by the famous cemetery where Eva Peron and many of Argentina’s great and good or simply plain bad but extremely wealthy are buried in opulent, ostentatious mausoleoms, crammed together, jockeying for status and prestige, some climbing into the skies to be noticed. The dead playing at peacocks in the park.

I ‘read’ P.G Wodehouse basking beneath a hot sun in a cafe for an hour, though spent most of the time merely skimming pages as there was far too much else to take in as people came and went. The guy next to me was sketching on a pad and genteel old ladies smoked and drank coffee, possibly talking wistfully about their own loves lost as a young couple between us, he in a Led Zeppellin t-shirt, canoodled. This also seems to be a city where people still wear Crocs. If I have to mark the place down for anything, it’s that.

Dinner was taken at a restaurant called Cluny in the vibrant, hip district of Palermo Soho. The concierge informed me it was the best of the bunch so a taxi was ordered and the concierge proved to be correct. Always a reassuring sign to see a crowd of affluent French dining there and airily gesticulating with their Gitanes. They know where the good stuff is and don’t take second best when it comes to forfeiting their precious time to dine and deigning to make an appearance.

There was a brassy New Jersey fashion type braying in the corner talking about McQueen; obligatory suits; a very beautiful woman in her twenties also dining alone puffing away with contempt. This was definitely something of a hangout.

A tip for the single traveller: when dining alone in a good restaurant you will be the object of some curiousity and glances. Dress down. Don’t look like you’ve made an effort. In my case a sequined Sex Pistols t-shirt and jeans. More importantly, jot notes on any available piece of paper. For me this was a couple of bits of composition and idle musings intended for this blog, but to the management this immediately rings alarm bells.

Anyone dining alone and scribbling notes as they do so could well be making notes on their establishment. The result is you get the best service in town and nothing is too much trouble. I’d run out of cigarettes, not a problem, a packet of Lucky Strikes was presented on a plate. On the house. The same for the liquers.

As it is, none of the non-sequiturs I jotted made it onto this blog, but a few garbled sentences did get me the a-list treatment whilst all around me diners were waving for soup.

From there into a bar…

I had decided not to start this dispatch on a negative. I didn’t want to give people the satisfaction following yesterday’s comments. So I’ll end it on this. My face has been bitten to shreds overnight by insects.

I have one on the centre of my forehead that makes me look like a Hindu bride. Another beside my eye that has swollen up as to have given the impression that I’d said something offensive about Mrs Robinson, while her husband Sugar Ray was stood beside her. Plus three on the left hand. As I’ve come learn in Buenos Aires, you have to watch out for things that bite because there’s one on my shoulder that almost certainly isn’t mosquito. Joe Bull was right, they really do go for ‘Los Ingles’.



1. Ed the Friend - November 24, 2009

Superb – flowing work. Close to outstanding in places.

2. ruthie - October 8, 2010

Command of the english language, captured via astute and compelling observations such as yours is, oft lacking in modern men. There is a call for your style in the marketplace. Penn the novel and don’t self-sabotage it with red wine consumption too close to the computer.
Assuming your revisit of this blog means you’re returning to the promised land, would love to catch up with you about this and other great writers, namely – me! Ha, shameless self-promotion is the only way to do it right? 😉

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