Day 2: January 14
I deplane and head for customs. But I could wait for Topher and Liz at baggage claim or on the customs line. So I opt for customs. I get off the line and wait. And the line grows rapidly. No sign of Liz and Topher. The line now passes the gate. There is some confusion between the deplaning passengers staying in Buenos Aires and the ones heading for Montevideo (capital of Uruguay. Read a book!). But Topher and Liz show up and now we get to exchange plane stories. Here we go: Topher slept the whole time. Liz slept most of the time.
Once we get downstairs, the huge customs line moves along nicely. Argentinean residents zip through, probably because there are less than them. Or maybe it’s some government program to get people to move to Buenos Aires for the quick customs lines. Anyway, we see a sign, which lists the various things you cannot bring into the country. Biological things are forbidden, including semen. Semen? Is there a huge semen smuggling ring down here? I think that if a customs agent asks if you have anything illegal to bring in and you have the balls (pun intended, of course) to say “actually, I have some semen in my bag”, (no pun intended) then you should be allowed to bring it in on bravado alone.
Liz brings up an interesting question. When Angelina Jolie was married of Billy Bob Thornton, she used to wear a vial of his blood around her neck. Would she have been allowed into the country? Hmmm…
Customs ends up being very low key. No questions at all. Canada customs is an oppressive regime compared to this place.
You know how it is when you ride a ride at Disney World? After the ride, you have to pass through the gift shop before exiting onto the street. The airport is like that as well. We get through customs and are blinded by the fluorescent lights of a huge duty-free shop, complete with loud club music. I don’t have any Argentinean pesos yet. But I do have around 400 Uruguayan pesos courtesy of Poker Chick, a friend who was just down here. I exchange them and get around 42 Argentinean pesos.
The weather is great. A nice breeze. Very sunny and warm. Being south of the equator will do that for a climate. We meet up with Julietta, our chaperone/translator/aspiring film director.
Hotel Madero is nice in a post-modern kind of way. It lies in the relatively-revitalized Puerto Madero district of Buenos Aires. Very minimalist with earthy, new age music playing (the hotel, not the area of Buenos Aires). Lots of people dressed in black. The rooms aren’t ready when we arrive so we head out to this river walk-kind of area. It used to be an active port, which was abandoned about 30 years ago and was revitalized about 10 years ago. We cross over a river, which is a few shades of brown. Liz and Topher notice schools of dead fish floating on the surface. We will call this place Dead Fish River. Not as stinky as it could be, so we've got that going for us.
Veronica from the production company shakes around hands but tells us that the customary greeting is a kiss on the cheek. So I start kissing everyone I meet. I must be doing it wrong because I keep getting my ass kicked.
While we’ve seen 2 nose pickers so far today, we see significantly more couples making out. Necking. Pitching woo. Whatever the kids are calling it these days. They’re on benches, at tables or couches in restaurants, in cars, on street corners. It must be that customary cheek kissing which leads to this. Or that Latin blood. Except no one down here speaks Latin.
So we have lunch at a place where the menu is in Spanish but has English translations. Very handy.
Apparently people don’t eat dinner around here until 9. So we walk around some more. We’re driven to this area called Santelmo or San Telmo or Sant Elmo (or maybe none of those) where the street is closed every Sunday for a huge flea market/antique fair. Except when we get there, everyone’s packing up. We basically crashed at the hotel and slept through this fair. No worries, it’s just the usual collection of crap. There were some interesting, odd things, however, including a strangely large number of creepy dolls. Liz is totally freaked.
And then I get my first taste of the tango. There’s this large, outdoor area where tango music is being played and the courtyard is filled with people doing the tango. It’s definitely not what I expected. I always pictured the tango as everyone sees it in the movies. You need lots of space. You need a rose. And women need long legs and a skirt with a very high slit. But these are just your basic people dancing. It’s as precise as the tango I envisioned but it’s a lot more compact. I’m transfixed. There was something about it that I couldn’t stop watching. It seems to be this national dance that everyone has to know to live down here, like that weird dance Baron Von Trapp danced with Maria in “Sound of Music”. It would be cool to learn this but it’s not exactly a solo dance.
So we have dinner at Lele Troya or something. Julietta has this Spanish accent that everyone down here seems to have so I think this is what she said. Every room is done up in some primary color. We get the blue room. The blue includes everything: the walls, ceiling, chairs, tables, even the clothes our waitress is wearing. Unlike lunch, we get menus that are all in Spanish. Poor Julietta has to translate everything. This got more complicated when dessert came around. Liz asked about something with turned out to be cheesecake with, as Julietta translated it, ginger ale. A quick reality check determined that she was trying to explain ginger, the spice. We all agreed that it must have a gingerbread flavor. This sounded good enough to overlook the grape sauce topping, whatever that was. Liz gets it. You know that sensation you get when you eat something and you’re expecting a completely different flavor? Well it turns out that the ginger was actually the ginger that comes with sushi. Gross, right? Liz ate it anyway, deciding that once you get over the shock, it really isn’t that bad.
We’ve also discovered the wonders of Malbec. I’ve never had a red wine like it. I’ve been drinking a lot of it. I hope to bring some home if there’s any left by the time I’m done with it. Very smooth, unlike many other red wines I’ve had. It must be fate because there was a whole article about Argentinean Malbecs in the USA Today I read on the plane on the way down here.
We’ve been keeping track of the number of couples making out. They have to be making out. There are many couples who may have been making out before we saw them but that doesn’t count. Today’s count: between 11 and 15.