Friday, 26 September 2008

Language (2)

Last night an ‘asado’ (barbeque) with Nezih, Harvey Keitel and others. A beautiful run down old porteno house with a totally crazy, affectionate dog leaping about on wheeled desk chairs and catching our airborn leftovers. Observing the gradual decline in my comprehension of anything spoken which ran, unsuprisingly, in parallel decline to my ability to communicate anything. Observing too the (negative) impact it has on others, interrupting the flow, their concern, their not wanting to be over concerned. I am all frustration, interiority - but trying not to show it. Kind of angrey to be back again in this position. To be thinking for 180th time that I have to learn this language properly.

Ate the most amazing food. The argentinian meat is as good as its reputation. Jammed on a Bazooki in studio with Nezih and Gabrielle on percussion and double bass respectively. Lovely people present, amazing musicians, well out of my depth. Got a contact from Harvey K about Spanish teacher. Nezih’s last night. Sad to see him go but also grateful for the coincidence of having seen him at all.

The Most Beautiful Man (2)

Plaza Serrano. I invite these guys looking for a seat to join us. One of them, mid twenties, tall, blond, impeccably dressed (subtle fifties stylings – a great cardy) is quite possibly the most beautiful man I have ever encountered. He is also an accountant and, though I run the risk of being clich├ęd as well as judgemental and envious, he was in possession of what can only be described as the David Beckham effect. He’s beautiful,  but just a bit dull. (Though in being so I can thank him in no small regard for preserving the sovereignty of my heterosexuality). Throughout our short exchange I truly had to fight the temptation to say; ‘please don’t speak. I just want to look at you’. Nezih breaks the ice asking them if they are from Sweden. I don’t look at him for fear of laughing. They are quite simply too Swedish for the question. As Nezih said later, the guy would be a Nazi’s wet dream….

His poor brother, largely as absent from this anecdote as he was from my attention at the time, is sat beside him. A good enough looking chap in all other contexts. He’s as tall and as blond as his sibling but comparatively (and it is impossible not to compare) a bit lanky with wonky teeth and acned skin. (Eyes upward. I'm sorry) Franky he looked as hypnotised by his brother as I imagine we probably did. I couldn’t help noting that he (the brother) was pursuing a career in law and thinking, by extension, that he must have needed to get at least one thing up on his brother in life.

Language (1)

Getting by in another language, barely, but to grow in confidence a little. An acceptance that humiliation of sorts is requisite…I prepare to be embarrassed every time I open my mouth. To speak less perhaps, as a man in his thirties, than most native six year olds is an excercise in forced humility. I try to conquer it, the language and the fear. To embrace a mistake, to receive instruction, help, correction. I’m young in this, necessarily. 

I am grateful for the little spanish I have though. The benefits of speaking something have enhanced my first week a good deal. Occasionally, a moment of grace, I forget myself in public (spanish conversation, speech) and then remember again. (Internal dialogue: I'm speaking spanish! I'm spealking spanigish, Shit..What?) Partial flow, occasional grace. Note: Accents – wanting to find out more about the Italian connection here.


Argentinian Chet Baker (Subte, 08/10/08)

Perhaps it is a product of a kind  loneliness, or else a kind of inherent expectation of familiarity, but today was a day of duplicates, doppelgangers. I found so many equivelants for those I know or have known - faces from the past or present; celebreties also. The klezmer player touring with Nezih, for example, is a perfect minature replica of Harvey Keitel. Talking to him is a bit like watching Mean Streets in a Bugsy Malone style. Later, after the gig, I meet the dutch Christopher Walken. A tuba player/conductor who has dispensed with Mr Walken's hair in favour of an early 90's Bon Jovi -  Christopher Walken in the Bon Jovi biopic perhaps. Friends: an Irish Sam, a Turkish Jeremy (for those that know them). It's gone on since…types, body language, seeking or recognising familiar traits/connections - It makes me want to itemise them Perec style - does that sound a bit fascistic(?)

The Most Beautiful Man (1)

Nezih turns up at the hostel on Thursday morning after my failed attempt to get into his gig the night previous. We amble through Palermo Soho with his percussionist friend – Ulas, the Turkish Jeremy Arndell. Its my first look at Boutique BA. Swanky bars, girls with fringes, colourful clothes, coffee bar book stores, New York style. It’s good to see a friendly face, more so one whom, despite years with minimum contact, I re-connect with so easily. He tells me about his plane out of Philadelphia breaking down and the American Airlines information staff who, it transpires, haven’t got a clue where Buenos Aires is…‘have yourself a good journey to BuenawhatEVER’. I don’t like to generalise about Americans but….

Later we catch up properly over a few beers long into the night (Buenos Aires is a night city, no doubt). I’m moved by Nezih’s own astonishment at the impact marriage has had on him, in terms of the relationship itself and its cohesive effect within his own family (and between the respective sides of the families). A lovely man, no doubt about it.

What I Never Did In London

Maybe I’m exaggerating a little, I guess I've oriented myself pretty well so far, though I’ve seen just a fraction of the city. Buenos Aires is huge, London huge, huge that’s hard to convey. Travelling alone is good for my geography. In London I’ve always been the sheep, deferring to the better knowledge of friends that live there. Here I am forced into being attentive, present. I have acquired that obsessive curiousity towards bus routes that I recognise in friends living in London. 

I think Borges would have enjoyed the modern Buenos Aires bus system and its accompanying 400 page guide which, nevertheless, fails to tell you exactly where a single bus stop actually is. perhaps conversely I see a little of his inspiration - that, buses or not, it was always such.

Streets in blocks disorientate by their very consistency and regularity of form. My familiarity with the street name Av. Cordoba is displaced by its very length which stretches right a across the city – am I east or west edge of Av. Cordoba? Or is it north to south? (Where is my compass? Is North 'North' south of the equator or is the magnetism reversed?) The street numbers run into fives, tens of thousands, junctions seem to replicate each other; the kiosk close to the hostel has its twin two blocks north on a street with the ostensibly the same architectural features…..

And the architecture is crazy - haphazard. Old, new, two floor porteno, derelict, modern, classical – blue, white, sepia, seina, red, grey – faded, worn, new, shiny, fucked up - the same block…. Some kind of faded grandeur or half of it perhaps, a nearly grandeur – slum grandeur. The air is not clean; I swear can feel the pollution hitting the back of my throat, a sense of being short of air, sneezing a lot. Traffic, noise, life - lots of life.


One peso takes me anywhere in the city on a bus. Twenty pence a ride, anywhere, anytime of the day or night. I avoid the taxis, especially alone, but mainly as a 'when in Rome...' thing. Its real and cheap – I can stumble through my Spanish some, to get there, to get by – in these first days this seems a not insubstantial victory.

I retain my fractious relationship with maps (whose aesthetic I nonetheless embrace), we argue a little; ultimately it wins. I don’t think the fact that I was bought a compass before I left is insignificant.