Walden World

The wacky and wonderful tales of Beth's and Catherine's global adventures. And all things Walden too.

Monday, February 07, 2011

Good Air

Buenos Aires. It means "good or beneficial air" or "good winds". When the Conquistadors came sailing in after months of foul water, food and ship borne disease, the coastal river coast seemed sublimely beneficial to the crew.

Back then of course our Enlightened European ancestors did not understand that illness was caused by filthy and rotted supplies and putrid water. They had this weird belief that all the sailors dropped dead as a result of some "miasmas" (or bad airs) that came onto the ship rather than the rat and worm infested glop that they were holding their nose about and forcing down their gullet.

When they reached shore by way of trade winds and had "good air", some fruits, fresh water and real food the sailors suddenly recovered their health. Why it took Europeans some 500 years to figure out this simple scientific fact is a mystery. We seemed to figure out genocide and conquest quite well. Our filthiness, however, to steal a line from Joni Mitchell, we "held onto like a crucifix".

The layout of the city of Buenos Aires is marked by a rich history of Cholera and Yellow Fever epidemics: San Telmo wealthy and home to the well heeled, but then the rich fled up to Retiro to avoid illness and so on and so forth.

Maybe because its pestilencial past, Buenos Aires is a city alive from sidewalk to balcony. People love to get out into the street here. Tango is a really serious matter and day and night restos, bars and cafes blare traditional Tango musica.

I wondered briefly why I found the city at times to be unsettling, until I remembered the entire score of the film "12 Monkeys" is all done in authentic Argentinian Tango music. Is disturbing and surreal time travel to follow a simple day walking the streets and mercados?

Tango when seen live is really a very hot dance and one can see why traditional "Milongas" or Tango Bars are popular for everyone from seniors to punks to the burgeoning "Queer Tango" scene where Gays and Lesbians Tango away los noches.

The dance has an intensity I can only describe as that first "French kiss" when you are completely gunning for someone, only this goes on as a body to body dance for some 5 minutes. And to add to it´s magic, it´s danced in really nice clothes.

The city´s many plazas are surrounded by neat old Bel Epoque and Tango bars from the early 1900s still going strong today.

In Plaza Dorrego in San Telmo, the old cobblestoned area unseated by disease, the square features live Tango shows interspersed with busking rock bands by night. By day you can drink waters, coffees and cervaza accompanied by peanuts in the shell which unfortunately, have a tendency to attract Hitchcockian pigeons who mob your table as soon as the waiter veers a few steps away.

On Sundays the entire street of Defensa in San Telmo closes to host an enormous flea market. The quality of the handmade goods is in direct proportion to the smelliness of the punk-hippy who crafted it. The more grotty the maker, the better the product.

Now again back to the air. The denizens of Buenos Aires are themselves of good "humours"; people who are as friendly as a gentle but enthusiastic puppy or as if you ran into Jesus on a hot summer afternoon and he said: "Hey man, let´s have a beer!"


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