Sunday, July 19, 2009


In the tango jungle, one finds many a strange and exotic species. There is one peculiar creature that migrates to the southern hemisphere from his native Italy at least once a year to partake in the elaborate mating ritual that is the tango. There are many subspecies of this particular bicho that many females at the milonga have enjoyed studying up-close-and-personal, such as the sweet-smelling and physically attractive Tanus Hottius, but the Tanus Odiferous is probably the rarest of this group. I have only discovered two very closely-related subjects in existence in the past four and a half years.

Although the slightly bloated physique of the Tanus Odiferous suggests a more distant relation to the Tanus Hottius, our subject, like most in this family of exotica, shares the former's impressive terpsichorean abilities. And, unfortunately, that's where the similarities end.

The tragedy of his aromaticness marks a shocking contrast to his dancing, which pleases Her Divinity. In his less pungent, yet still smellificent state, I have enjoyed forays on the dance floor with him. Of course, after these occasions, my consort ordered me to perform a ritual cleansing before joining him in bed, but it was worth the price of admission for a great tanda. However, a few nights ago in El Beso, the Tanus Odiferous was particularly pungent. And when I write, "pungent," I mean he raised the bar on stinky, elevated reeking to an art form, broke all olfactory boundaries. El Macho summed it up succinctly: El mal olor se pudrio (The stinkiness rotted.). It was a heady, complex bouquet of rotting meat, sweaty feet, rotten eggs, musty clothes, kitchen grease, and Roquefort dating back to the French Revolution. Dude. Was. Ripe.

As he made his way around the perimeter of the room with his most unfortunate partner, both men and women turned their heads away in disgust. In her beneficence, the TG was feeling mighty sorry for him watching people's reactions. She thought, “What gives, O, Putrid One? Dost thou not know that thy powerful odor rises to the heavens, and offends greatly both mortal and divine alike?” In the midst of her reverie, El Macho dared look at her straight in the eyes and warned her: "If you dance with him, I swear I will book you a room in a hotel because you'll just end up polluting the house with his smell. It'll take forever to clear out."

Dag. Harsh.

I'd like to say that my own Italiano was exaggerating, but, if anyone knows about olores, it's him. He reveled in his own barely tolerable odors when we first started knockin' boots. But love (and lots of pleading and nagging on my part) changes you, and now he's a normal daily showerer. The point is that with his Italian schnoz, he can pick up scents like a dog, embarrassing scents I don't dare mention here. So, as he walked toward me to dance, it took him a millisecond before he grabbed my hand and stepped a full 2 yards away from Tanus Odiferous, his eyes wide in wonder as he whispered, "Lo sentis?"

Yes, doll, TG did, and in her infinite wisdom, decided against sullying her outfit with Mr. Odiferous' mortal stench.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009


A few weeks ago, El Hombre was miffed when a friend of ours, who had just arrived at the milonga, walked by him without so much as a wave as Hector of Cachirulo was escorting him to his seat. To add insult to perceived injury, this friend stopped to greet another man seated beside him who called out his name to shake hands and give the perfunctory kiss before scurrying off to catch up with Hector.

Knowing our friend, he probably didn't want to keep Hector waiting for him as he made his social rounds. However, it bothered my Earthly Consort enough to cross the great man-woman milonga divide during a tanda to talk to me about it. My Mortal Partner said, “I think it’s because he’s shy, but you need to tell him that this could have negative consequences for him. People could get really angry off at him and refuse to talk to him ever again.”

Sheesh! Are people that sensitive? Apparently so. And the message is clear when you shun someone at the milonga: I don’t want to have anything to do with you. The consequence to you, the shunner-soon-to-be-shunee, will also be crystal clear: I don’t want to have anything to do with you, either.

I have been on the receiving and given end of the brush off. Take
Exhibit A: Señor A, an Argentine and tango milonguero aficionado, and I had a short-lived fling back in the day when I was still living Stateside, and, when I moved to Buenos Aires, we would see each other at milongas when he was in town. Though “broken-up,” we still mixed business and non-horizontal, tango pleasure. However, when our business relationship went awry (read: tipped to his advantage), I made certain that I got things quietly back on course (read: even). No words were exchanged. I did not create any drama, but he knew I had discretely righted a wrong by taking back what rightfully belonged to me. Still, I saw no need in avoiding each other. We were adults after all.

Shortly after I had retrieved my personal property, I saw Señor A at the milonga. He walked toward my table, and, like a dork, I smiled at him, thinking he would say, "Hello." If you’ve been to a milonga in BsAs, you’d know how people are packed at tables like sardines. Unless you were totally blind and/or clueless, you wouldn’t be able to miss the person sitting on either side of the person you were greeting. Though I smiled at him, he greeted only the person beside me, and walked toward his seat.

Oh, no, he didn’t.

Girl, oh, yes, he did. Hm-mm. (Insert here image of angry black woman with pursed lips, elaborately decorated long nails with hand on hip, and head moving in circle.)

I was aghast. We had shared spit, after all, and the romance didn’t end badly. Plus, I wasn’t going rip him a new one on the dance floor for trying to bilk me out of my personal property. Well, maybe just yank his chain a little, but, since I absolutely hate confrontation, I would have guised it as jest. After thinking about it, I decided that it wasn’t worth trying to salvage a friendship that didn’t really exist to begin with, so I went along with it. We don't acknowledge each other's presence anymore, though I noticed that he stares at me sometimes when I dance.

Exhibit B: Señora B is a porteña in her late 50’s who used to share a table with me, used to run into me and my partner at gym classes in the park, and even once offered to give me a lift close to home after a milonga. I thought we were pseudo-tango friends. Then we were not. I would continue greeting her, but she stopped reciprocating.

It got me thinking...This brush off coincided with making my relationship with my partner official, meaning everyone in the milongas knew I was here to stay. It made me wonder: So, it's OK for a foreign gal to have a brief fling with regular in the milonga, but if she decides to stay and have a committed, happy relationship with a regular, well, then, that’s just not acceptable. I would have called myself paranoid if I hadn't experienced the change in ‘tude around the same time with other milongueras with whom we broke bread on numerous occasions. W. T. F.?!

But I digress.

So, whereas I still greet Señora B's friend who sits beside her every Saturday night, I don’t make an effort to greet Señora B anymore. Good goddess, the woman won't even look at me in the eyes anymore. But, as I asked myself after Señor A publically dissed me, I asked myself how much energy I was willing to invest in someone who, in the end, did not really think highly of me to begin with?

My partner, on the other hand, won't be havin' that 'tude. If someone snubs him, he will look them in the eye, grab their arm or hand, and greet them. They can either: a) look like a jackass in front of everyone when they diss my partner, or b) play nice and give it up for The Man. It's not that he wants to reconcile and be all BFF with them; he just refuses to let an insult go unvenganzad. I, on the other hand, just couldn't be bothered with all that Michael Corleone venganza. I can live with the mutual dissing. It's unfortunate, but, in the end, not unpleasant. We cease to exist for each other, and, I'm fine with that.

However, dissing another person can affect your standing in the milonga, especially if you are new and trying to establish yourself as a dancer. Do as the politicians do. Smile, wave, say, “hello”, hold babies for foto opps. It gets you votes, my fellow jungle people (this goes for the guys, too). At the very least, even if they don't dance with you, they’ll register your presence.

Sunday, June 07, 2009


Hong Kong Style
Montañeses 2149 (Belgrano, Capital Federal)
Tel: 4786-3456

There are Asian restaurants around. Some are even OK. However, I've noticed that the one crucial element conspicuously missing from many an Asian restaurant is Asian customers. I mean, where are all the people from the "yellow countries," a term Argentines learn to denote the yellow-colored countries populated by "yellow" people? (Ooooooh! The Yellow People. Be afraid.)

I am, according to the white Argentines of European descent, a person of yellow hue, and, therefore, obviously from one of the only 3 countries that make up the exotic East in their minds: China, Korea, or Japan. However, being of Southeast Asian descent, thankyouvermuch, I am browner than my yellow brothers and sisters. Still, this brown can get down with mellow yellow, and geez, it's nice to walk into a Chinese restaurant where half the tables are filled with noisy, slurpy, eating-with-your-mouth-open Chinese, Taiwanese, or Hong Kongense people. It makes me all warm and fuzzy, and I feel instantly en casa. Call it an Asian thing. Call it a good Asian restaurant.

I noted recently in an Argentina mag that mentioned good Asian places in Buenos Aires. They couldn't have been more wrong. Palitos in Barrio Chino? Palitos sucks, and so does the service. What makes this place stand out? First, as aforementioned, lots of Asians. This is a good sign. Most restos in Barrio Chino or sushi joints in the area are filled with Argentines. Where do all the yellow people go eat? I see them in the Asian Market in Barrio Chino (the best one is on Mendoza, just 2 blocks up from Libertador) busily picking out the freshest fish and veggies, so, it seems, they all must eat at home...or come here.

The resto also has great service. The owner is a gracious, energetic woman in her fifties who checks in once in a while with the customers when she's not working the register. The 2 waiters are friendly and efficient.

Lastly, the food. Sigh. If the Asian people think it's finger lickin' good, then it really must be good. Today, we ordered our usual arrolladitos (the ubiquitous and familiar, meat-filled eggrolls) for starters, with a little bowl for my vinegar 'cause we Filipinos like it like that. Then came our whole, deep-fried, sweet and sour fish, complete with tail and mouth agape. You'll have to ask for the bowl of white rice on the side to get the full-on experience. Delish! According to the owner, fish and other mariscos are, in fact, Hong Kong Style's specialty. I'm going to have to free my mind and try something else from the ample-sized menu.

But that didn´t stop me from looking around to check out what the other non-Argentines were eating. Surprise! There's dimsum, except, instead of the little carts that pass each table, one can pick it out of the pink menu that is handwritten in Chinese. Of course, it's all in Chinese, because who else but Asian people eats this stuff? Hell to the yeah, I DO, I say! If I can't read it, I'll just point to the next table, or ask for it in Spanish. Chicken feet! Sea food and pork-filled steamed dumplings! Fried tofu slabs! Siumai! Get in my belly.

After trying out the various Chinese eateries in Barrio Chino and beyond, Hong Kong Style is, by far, our favorite Chinese trough.

Ambiance: For some reason, most of the Chines/Taiwanese/Hong Kongenses/and one random Filipina-American with her Italian partner congretated to the left of the room, part of which is separated by a screen. No idea why, although the waiter pointed out to us that the heaters were on the left. Very clean place for your usual Chinese restaurant. Chairs could be a little more comfortable.

Service: Excellent. If you decide to try the whole, fried, sweet and sour fish, you can order it before you come to the restaurant so you won't have to wait as long for your order. They're cool like dat.

Price: 1 order of arrolladitos, 1 whole fried fish, 1 bowl of white rice, and 2 hot green teas came up to 74 pesos. Decent price for a very good meal.

Overall: Super duper! I'm coming back for more.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Last Tango in Cachirulo: In Memoriam

I'd see him off and on at the milonga in El Beso, a pasty-looking, low-profile kind o' guy in his 70's with snow-white hair parted severely off to one side. We danced once a long time ago, when I had just moved here--or was it when I was still visiting? There were never any tango fireworks, so I marked him off as "just a guy I had a tanda with once upon a time". I don't know if he was a good man or a bad man. A milonguero or a regular guy who liked to dance. During our tanda, he was...nice. In other words: non-descript. At best, he was a fixture that I knew would probably be in the same place at the same time.

Fast forward a few years later. I discovered a weeks ago that he had died. Ricardo, one of my usual partners pointed to the spot where he died at Cachirulo, saying, "He was dancing with that woman there, and then he had a heart attack and died." The paramedics tried to revive him, but didn't have any luck. He died on the floor that night.

I looked at the woman who was to be his last spin around the floor. She was in her late 40's, maybe early 50's, and cute. He must have been thrilled to danced with her because he never really danced a lot, was never in-demand as a dance partner. Then again, maybe she was one of his usual clients. I just didn't pay attention to him enough. Usually, it seemed he kept to himself, watching the other couples dance, sometimes with a little smile on his face.

Ricardo explained that this guy--I never caught his name--had a history of cardiac problems, which explains why he might not have danced so much. Tango is not the most aerobic dance, but the right partner can get your heart pumping, your juices flowing. What was going through his mind when he decided to ask her to dance? How did he react when she accepted? Did he know it would be his last tanda? Did he know he was going to die when he felt that first sharp pain? And did he try to ignore it? What was it like gasping for your last breath in the arms of an attractive woman, after having danced the dance you loved the most, being embraced to the music you grew up listening to?

Cachirulo remains the same. Same music. Same people. Same cattiness and petty competition for the best seats. But knowing that this man--this gentleman whose name I've forgotten or never bothered getting the first time--died doing what he may have loved the best, but never could do as much as he wanted, makes me appreciate what I am lucky enough to do, albeit rather clumsily at times.

Sometimes I wonder how I'll be spending my last moments. I hope my last days on la tierra won't involve a lot of blood, because I can't deal with the mess. Not that I'd have to clean it up after I kick the bucket. You know, I'm just sayin'. I hope I'll just go to sleep and never wake up, just slipping peacefully into the Great Beyond. Then again, that seems so anti-climactic, especially given that I've had a pretty eventful life thus far. Perhaps choosing to say, "Screw my cardiac problems! I'm going to dance with this hottie even if it kills me," is the best affirmation of life, even in the face of death.