A very Argentine afternoon, and closing Parakultural at 4am

Alessandra hasn’t quite grasped that mornings and I have an uneasy relationship at the best of times, and when operating on BsAs milonga time, I view them in much the same light as Guardia Vieja tandas.

Instead, she decided that pre-9am was a good time to suggest going out for coffee, and about an hour later was the perfect time for a Spanish lesson …

She’d come up with the potentially genius idea of buying a children’s game as a vocabulary trainer. She bought a 12+ game despite my protests that a 3+ one would be more my speed. Each card in the game gave you a series of ten clues, and you had to work out the person, place, or object being described.

While very little of the vocabulary was familiar, I knew the odd word here and there, and by the time Alessandra had drilled me, I knew at least one new word …

A very Argentine afternoon

First, we went to a tour of Congress, which they cancelled in the 30 minutes between booking it and the start time. But they told us there would be another, unscheduled, tour an hour later.

Next, we had lunch in a cafe with service so slow we missed not only the next tour, but all of those for the coming weeks.

Finally, there was this year’s version of La Gran Aventura SIM …

I’d carefully kept my local SIM so I could, I hoped, recharge it on arrival. I did have some doubts, as it’s common for SIMs to be deactivated after six months of no use, which would have seen mine zapped in October of last year. The good news is that this didn’t happen. The bad news is they still deactivated it, just on a random date – which happened to be a month before our arrival.

So, off the the Claro store. There, they reactivated my SIM. Or, as it turned out, didn’t.

Next they gave me a shiny new SIM and asked if I wanted to have my old number back. I said yes, and they programmed the new SIM with my old number – which immediately deactivated the new SIM.

They successfully resolved that, then sold me a special tourist package because tourists are no longer allowed to buy the local ones. Except they couldn’t load that onto my SIM as programming my old number into it had transformed it from a tourist SIM to a local one.

They puzzled over this for a while, before deciding to let me be a local. We then began the process of me asking them to load it with credit and them telling me they couldn’t, for reasons I couldn’t translate.

At that point, I decided it was time to switch from Spanglish and call in the professionals. I called Alessandra over, who then translated the rest of the process.

Because I was now a local, they sent me to a kiosk to load credit. Armed with this, I could go online and choose my package. Around 45 minutes later, I had the local version of the package they’d tried to sell me, but at a significantly lower price.

I love Argentina.

Oh, and we managed to find the worst coffee in the city! The place looked cute, but the coffee managed to be both weak and bitter. However, their eclairs were absolutely divine! So, win some, lose some.

Parakultural at its new home, Marabú

With Salon Canning no more, Parakultural has found a new home at Marabú. I was afraid some of the magic might have gone, but happily this was very much not the case. Also happily, it was a short walk from our apartment.

Table theft

Booking a table proved impossible! They could only suggest we turn up and see. As I later discovered, this was because there were some very notable performances scheduled, as well as a live orchestra which wasn’t shown in the Hoy Milonga app.

The milonga started at 10.30pm, and we were at the ticket desk at 10.29pm. They sold us a ticket, but couldn’t offer us a table as they were all reserved. We could, they said, wait at the bar and hope that a table would become free later. Even the bar-stools were taken – at minute one of the milonga!

We did the waiting-at-the-bar thing for three or four minutes, before I decided to steal a table. That is, sit at one of the reserved ones until the rightful owners appeared and we got told that the likes of us should scurry back to the bar. This act of piracy proved a smart move, as the owners never arrived, and after a couple of hours the host came and removed the Reserved sign from the table, with no comment on our blatant robo de mesa.

The magic survives!

Salon Canning or Marabú, it was the same milonga. The music was amazing; the standard of dancing perfect for me; the floorcraft mostly great; the dancers friendly; the food good and inexpensive; and the service fantastic.

The one downside of the venue change is the layout. With a long and thin dance floor, and tables extending from the edge of the floor way out into the darkness of neighbouring barrios, cabeceo opportunities while seated are limited to the surrounding tables – and even then, you have to crane your neck for the long group tables.

This wasn’t a problem for me – as with most leaders, I did roaming cabeceos from the edge of the room, as well as collecting on my ‘advance cabeceos.

By this, I mean those seated followers who watch my dancing as I pass them, make eye-contact, and give a clear smile as I do. Essentially a cabeceo for a future tanda.

What I noticed about the followers is that quite a few also did the roaming cabeceo, but in a more subtle fashion. While the men were very overt in their hunting, the women tended to give more of an ‘I just happened to catch your eye as I was on my way back from the bar or bathroom’ vibe. This worked equally well, and I recommended it to Alessandra. She was feeling too shy to do so (I gave her a coaching session the next day), but was very happy dancing some tandas with me, watching the other dancers, and enjoying listening to the music.

The music

The early music was heavy on the rhythmical, so I didn’t dance much before midnight, but it was still nice music to listen to. By midnight, the tide was rapidly turning toward the lyrical – and shortly after that we got a surprise appearance by La Roxa Milonguera, a small orchestra with Roxana Fontán as the singer. (The chap on the right seems less of a fan than I was.)

I think the band comprised musicians from Color Tango, which is essentially a Pugliese tribute band. Certainly they played a great deal of Pugliese, and I was a very, very, very happy man! The band played for around 90 minutes, and I danced literally every song of the live set, bar a single milonga song which was just weird.

During the live set, the floor was super-packed. For much of it, there was scarcely room to pivot on the spot. Fortunately almost everyone was dancing small. The photo at the top was during the weird milonga song, where there were perhaps half as many people dancing!

Afterwards, the DJ – Ornella Simonetta – returned with a beautiful cascade of lyrical music, so I remained exactly where I was: on the dance floor, and in heaven. Again, I danced almost every tanda.

Best compliment of the evening, if the least convincing, was a local follower who embraced me at the end of the tanda with a flurry of Spanish. When I explained I spoke little Spanish, she looked surprised and claimed she thought I was Argentine. Like I say, the flattery is utterly shameless.


Regular readers will know I’m not a fan of watching other people dance when I’d far rather be doing it myself. But I do have to admit that the performances were spectacular.

Pablo Rodriguez and Carolina Couto; Christian Márquez and Virginia Gómez; Diego Calarco and Luciana Mayumi. For me, Carolina Couto was the star of the show – her total disregard for the laws of physics was astonishing! I shot a few video clips, which I’ll add at some point.

I find I tend not to feel hungry in warmer climates, but it’s a different matter when you actually place food in front of me! Alessandra ordered a portion of cheesy chips, and when it arrived my first thought was to grab a mike and announce that chips for the whole milonga were available at our table. They were delicious, and I helped Ale tackle the chip mountain with far greater enthusiasm than expected, but we still didn’t manage to finish them.

There was a general exodus around 2.30am, with perhaps 50 or so dancers remaining of the original seven or eight million. That actually made cabeceo trivial, as all of the die-hards were actively looking to dance. It also meant that there was finally plenty of room on the floor. In one tanda toward the end, with an amazing follower from the West Indies, we managed to walk the entire length of the floor!

They virtually had to call in bouncers to remove us from the place after the last tanda.

Ornella Simonetta was super-sweet: I went to thank her at the end of the night– er, morning– and she said she was so happy that I’d loved the music, and gave me a big hug. Argentines are a joy.

A ten-minute walk home, and then the usual challenge following an amazing milonga: how to sleep. I was simultaneously exhausted and buzzing. I got to sleep around 5.30am, and had a refreshing five hours’ sleep before venturing out to the coffee shop on the corner for a large dose of antidote.

Tomorrow’s Today’s plan is much tea, an afternoon nap, and then two milongas, the second of which also finishes at 4am. Send thoughts and prayers.

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