“Your bank must be the only place in the whole town where the original passport is needed to buy pesos, everywhere else a Rank Xerox copy is enough. You should write it at the door very clearly. Are you aware that because of you I lost time?”

Yes, I said that *after* the clerk had given me back my passport (and my pesos).  And no, I did not lose that much time to come back with my  passport as the bank is a two-minute walk from my room.

Of course, when the clerk starts by asking you “Is it your first visit in this bank?” you know that neither efficiency nor quickness is their motto. With the hundreds of places to change money and the millions of tourists, what could be the chances of my coming here for a second time?

And now after this first “visit”, the chances of a second one are nil.


I have some friends who look like argentines, they pay only two pesos to enter a milonga and are even sometimes hired as taxi dancers. This can never happen to me, I’m too pale and fat. But even with UV sessions and a diet I would not make it, because Pichi de Buenos-Aires, the female Sherlock Holmes, is here to spot me in no time.

Here is how she recognizes people like me.

They arrive wearing a backpack. The coatcheck is a good place to leave it.
In my bag I have my 3 or 4 shirts and my towel and the people at the coatcheck would not like seeing me after each tanda, asking for my towel and a clean shirt.

They change their shoes at the table instead of stopping in the ladies’ room.
The ladies would not be too welcoming if I ventured into the ladies’s room.

They wear black t-shirts, cargo pants and sneakers.
True. So are the argentines under 70.

They arrive after a class wearing the same clothes and no deodorant.
This is what happens when classes take place in (and just before) a milonga. Argentines, build dance studios.

They don’t make eye contact in order to dance and can’t figure out why they spent so much time at the table.
We’d be happy if we even could make eye contact with a waiter to get our drinks.

They cross the floor to meet their partner instead of waiting for him to arrive.
Hmmm if I’m waiting and she’s waiting too then the sunrise will come before we ever meet.

They cross the floor during the cortina to talk to a friend on the other side of the room. It’s a shortcut and that way they can draw attention.
How clever we are.

They accept verbal invitations at their table because that’s the way it’s done at home.
If not at our table, where is the right place to accept verbal invitations? The toilets?

They ask men to dance because they haven’t learned that men do the asking in BsAs.
What if the men haven’t learned that either?

They don’t observe the dancing before they dance.
Yeah, for some reason there is this proviso that the argentines are good at tango, no need to check.

They begin dancing as soon as the music starts. They are in a hurry to dance every second of a tanda.
With huge, heavy chandeliers falling from the ceiling without notice, each second could be our last.

They expect or try to dance every tanda.
Yeah, for some some reason there is this proviso that BsAs DJs are good.

They dance consecutive tandas with the same man.
Actually it’s the argentine guy who won’t let them go.

They add embellishments to excess.
Jennifer Bratt was there.

They prefer quantity over quality of partners.

They will suffer through a tanda just to be dancing. Yes, there are horrible dancers in BsAs.
Now you tell me?

They dance with their eyes closed. Tango isn’t like foxtrot or swing where you keep your eyes open.
Hmmm there might be a typo here.

They don’t observe the line of dance.
Because it’s not easy to see it. Some white line should be painted on the floor.

They don’t carry a handkerchief to use between dances when they sweat.
In modern countries we have these things named anti-perspirant.

They share the table with their partner and wonder why locals won’t look at them.
Lies. It’s a well known game among argentine leaders to keep the lady dancing with them while the husband can just sit and watch. Providing the wife is attractive of course.

They attract the worst dancers in the place because they are new faces.
And old faces should be thankful for that.
They hire a taxi dancer without knowing if he can dance.
Yeah, for some reason there is this proviso…

They know they are beginners and believe the milonga is for practicing what they learned in class.
Oh, you mean they’ve actually been taught hip-hop in their class? Refund! Refund!

They are hustled for classes by men who can’t dance.
Maybe they can’t dance but they can speak english.

They arrive early and leave within a short time if they haven’t danced.
This is named milonga-hopping, try it you will like it.

They are the only ones doing the 8-step basic.
Someone should teach this step to the locals. But maybe there are trademark issues.

They can’t find the beat.
Here the blame is on A.T orchestras, which thought they could do without a drum.

They believe they have the right to videotape and photograph dancers in the milongas.
This is included with the extra fee that all tourists pay to enter milongas.

They think that every man in the milongas is a milonguero.
Well if it looks like a duck…

They don’t learn the codes of the milonga because Americans don’t need them.
Obviously we don’t, when you see how eager the argentines are to dance with us.

They attend CITA and go to the milongas to show off their new moves which can’t be done on a crowded floor.
And this way the locals can learn the new moves for free. This is not fair, Fabian should not allow locals in.

I may be not good…

2008, February 2

…but I’m honest.

It was delivered today. Custom-made.

I’ll bring it to Buenos-Aires next week. This is my way to let the ladies know that they can decline my invites, the assistants that they’ll need to be extra patient and the taxi dancers that they can charge an extra fee.

And by the way I’m not-so-good as a photographer either.


2008, January 17

The process took less than one second. I mentioned the impending trip to Bs-As to my thursday partner and before I finished my sentence I could see sparkles in her eyes. Also she had grabbed my hands .

“Hey! You know what? I’ll give you the money and you’ll buy shoes for me. I’ll look at all the models on the internet and I’ll let you know next week.”

Damn, trapped. Was too slow. With the next partner I was more alert. mentioned Bs-As, saw the sparkles in her eyes…

No, no, no I won’t buy you shoes if that was your idea.


2008, January 8

Our teachers are finalizing the 2008 trip to Buenos-Aires. 15 days, 12 (group) classes, 11 nights in various milongas, one day with the gauchos, one mini-trip to Uruguay. I won’t go, non bis in idem as they say.

But last year only one of the two teachers had come with us, the other one remaining here to give the classes. This year both of them will go, there won’t be classes for two weeks. I’m already feeling abandoned.


2007, October 19

With the group having a free afternoon before our scheduled trip to Colonia (Uruguay), the Confiteria La Ideal was the default option, being (first) open and (second) near to our hotel. We all sat around three tables near the edge of the dance floor and after a while all the guys were having their fun at me because they had all cabeceoed successfully and not me. The truth is they all had cheated, inviting the one and same argentine, a lady who was mainly interested (as my fellows reported) by honing her mastery of foreign languages and therefore was accepting any invite by any tourist.
After two hours or so we had exhausted all the possibilities we had within our group, almost each woman dancing with almost each leader, and all the cabeceo-able portenas being cabeceoed.

What now, we thought, nothing more will happen here, the afternoon is ending, maybe we go back and prepare for the evening. We more or less began to search our street shoes in our bags. This is when the mate at the other side of the table, who was facing the milonga entrance, froze. His hand, head and all body stopped moving except the lips. And still, no actual sound even came out of his mouth but I was able to read.


What he had seen was a most uncommon species in Milongas. A lone woman, more elegantly dressed than any other lady here (ok, not too difficult for a tourist in Bs-As), and younger too (ok, not too difficult at La Ideal). A pretty, thin creature with a job good enough to buy nice clothes and with a body good enough to wear them. Red hair, green dress.

My fellow’s city shoes went immediately back in their bag of course and he started to arrange his shirt and hair and tie and everything.

I had a quick glance and knew that my revenge for the cabeceo episode was there. The creature approached our group, came in my back, put her hands on my eyes. “Guess who?“. I gently took her wrists, we kissed and she promised she would come back to dance with me once she’ll have her tanda with a local teacher she had recognized while coming to us. This gave me the time to explain to the baffled group that she was one of my regular partners, from another class given by another teacher, not the one who was in charge of our group. I have a regular partner for this teacher too but she wasn’t with us in Buenos-Aires. This one is not rich. But young yes, and thin too, and definitely playful too. “You sure know to choose’em“, a lady added, as if reading my thoughts.

When the group finally left I went to my partner for a goodbye. She was staying a little more at La Ideal as she had been invited by each and every porteno and had hardly completed half of the task.

“- By the way“, I asked her, “why did you come at this Milonga?

“- It’s a place for older people, I knew I would find you here!