The story of one shoe

2008, May 25

The plane landed at Ezeiza on the morning, and on the afternoon I went for shoes. Tango8, Lavalle 3101 was the first shop on my list, being the nearest from my place. I was after the elusive *pair of shoes* , both comfortable and good-looking. Up to then I had two pairs of comfortable shoes -but ugly – and maybe four pairs of elegant shoes – but painful to wear – and even a few ones that were ugly *and* uncomfortable, namely the CIF and the Sansha ones.

They had none of the cool pairs shown on their website but I still found something I liked, and I even wore them a few hours later at Viejo Correo. Yes, the nearest milonga from my place. There I did not dance but still I noticed that the right-foot shoe had a strange behaviour. I could either tighten the shoelaces like the left shoe, a bit loose, but then my heel was given to escaping from the shoe, or tighten more but then my foot was squeezed. Nothing much, but unpleasant.

Back home I had a closer look and discovered that there was a slight difference in the building of the shoes. There was a place (See arrow on the picture) where I could only place the little finger for the left shoe but where I had room for the thumb for the right shoe. And because of that, the same lacing wasn’t resulting into the same containment of the foot into the shoe.

Two days later I returned at Lavalle 3101.

I bought this two days ago here, the two shoes are not the same, the left one is ok, I’d like a new right one.
This was a very sensible request, I thought, and I had even brought some money, because the shoe had been worn, even if for only a few hours. And also I had not kept the bill. Yet the concept proved too difficult for the salesman. First he thought I was complaining about the sizes. Then when I showed him where the difference was he failed to see anything wrong.

And anyway you tried them when you bought them

Yes and I actually felt a difference but I thought it was coming from a different lacing. Checking that the right shoe is the exact mirror image of the left shoe is not something you have to worry about in any shop of the world. Outside Argentina.

While he was looking for my bill from two days ago in his comp, a girl came out from the store room and they had a little conversation in spanish.

“- What does he want?

– See the shoes on the desk? The fool, he says they are not the same and he wants to exchange one of them. I proved him wrong, they’re the same.

– They’re different, she said after scanning my shoes for one minute. They’re made of the same parts but the sewing is different.

She returned into to the store room and came back to me after a while.

” – Sorry, this pair that you brought is the only one that we have in this size, she told me (in english). There is no possibility for an exchange.

– I see. Well the left one is ok, I’m keeping it. You can have the other one.

– What you say? I don’t understand.

– Just keep the shoe. I have no use for it.

And I left. Who knows, maybe next year when I’ll be back they’ll have the shoe that will match mine.


Telling me something

2008, April 23

Just received that from dancepartner #1
… and for tomorrow Tuesday 22th sorry but again I won’t attend I have an “otro compriso”…kisses.

This can happen. Same goes for her ankle injury after X-mas, and her mother visiting her, and her trip in Italy, and other things she did that happened to take place on Tuesdays, the day when we have our weekly class. Or is she trying to tell me something?

Also, Dancepartner substitute #1, the former ballet dancer, cancelled our partnership after a mere two months because of a change in her work schedule. Fine with that, except last week I saw her at the class, with another leader. Did her schedule change again, or was she trying to tell me something?

And sooner this month I got that message from dancepartner #2 after I asked her for a workshop given by a touring Maestro from BsAs:
Sorry I’m leaving on 17th to give a lecture, back on 20th. Available tonight though, in case your Tuesday partner is off. ~M
Surely it was coincidental if she was gone precisely from 17th to 20th, when the 17th was our regular Thursday class and 20th was the workshop.
Yet when I replied that my Tuesday partner was actually off, I got this second mail:
“I can’t. See you Thursday 24th”
Trying to tell me something?

Now for dancepartner #3, the Wednesday one.
Howya? Fine, hopefully. Here? Just crazy work-aholic, left the office at 21:30, home at 22:00, I fear it will be just the same today, can’t stand it. Would you mind skipping our class?. I pray it will better next week, I’ll let you know.

Well there can be overloads when you work in a bank. And sure, when she took all these Italian language classes in January-February/March, the only available day was Wednesday, I remember how sorry she was about that. Certainly not trying to tell me something. Or was she?

Possibly I got a clue last Saturday. Entering a milonga I saw a group of classmates and took a seat at their table. They all stood up when the tanda started and I remained with a blond pupil. For one minute we watched them dancing.
“They’re getting good”, I said.
“You know”, she answered, “We’re all becoming better and better. You’re really the only one whose tango remains unchanged throughout the years. Exactly the same. Classes just don’t have any effect on you.”

They will all scream

2008, April 14

The teacher in BsAs had warned me.

I am a professional, not everybody can do that, careful when you lead this, and to whom. You can do damage.

Of course I remembered this piece of advice last week when at the practise. But hey, practises are made to… practise after all. And the girl in my arms was not one of my regular partners, and her partner was not there and I’m bigger than him anyway.

Let’s go for the lifted back piernazo, I thought. I grabbed the thigh, lifted…

She screamed.

I dropped everything. Now they were all looking at us. The girl turned to me. Did I break some muscle or tendon or ligament? Did I make it to her blacklist? She was searching her words.

“It was… most pleasing.”
Are you ok, I asked.
“Sure. Feel free to lead that anytime you like.”
Hmm, maybe not to anybody.
“Well, they will all scream, of course.”

Not sure what to do with this step.

a postcard from BsAs

2008, March 28

Just found it in my mailbox this morning.

Hi Pablo, what’s up, I hope that during this few weeks you duly practised all the nice sequences that I learned here.

I like to receive messages from Pablo of the past, too bad I can’t reply.

Here it goes:
Tourists should never go to Pompeya. This barrio is cursed, all the area is infested by Peruvians. If you meet them in the day they will rob you, if you meet them in the night they will kill you, suck your blood, make tango shoes with your skin and turn you into a brainless zombie.

Tourists walking in Pompeya aren’t really tourists. They are zombified baits trying to lure the taxis. If one unsuspecting driver stops then he’ll be surrounded by Peruvians and eaten alive.

Pagan beliefs. But the side effect is, when in Pompeya abandon any hope of catching a cab, walk and walk until you reach Boedo, Parque Patricios or any non-cursed barrio.

a yes is a yes is a no

2008, March 1

And here I was at Club Villa Malcolm, seated near the wall and behind a column. Then came the first notes of El Adios and my reptilian brain made me walk in the direction of the dance floor. I approached a lady who was standing there, raised my eyebrows with a interrogative look. She nodded with a smile, I walked two more steps to enter the dance floor…

… and she stayed where she was.

Maybe this is the new way to decline an invitation. If you say “no” the guy can ask again later, but if you decline with a “yes” then the guy is in a dead end.

Only two things at a time

2008, February 20

I used to think I could focus on three items while dancing:

Where is my partner?

Where to move now?

Am I on the beat/music/melody?

The Recursos del Tango Contemporáneo by Pablo Inza and Co helped me to realize that I lose either the partner or the beat or the sequence, switching from one to the other after a few seconds.

It looks more or less ok because:

When I’m on the beat and I know what I’m leading then the follower will feel that the instructions are very clear and it will seem that we’re connected.

When I’m on the music and connected then my feet will lead some outside walk or side step without any need of the brain and it will seem that I am aware of what I am leading.

When I´m connected and remember my steps then we’ll lose the beat but it will seem that I’m doing it purposefully and that I deliberately chose to leave the beat and listen to some particular instrument.

Typically, for four beats I would lead a complicated thing which would fit with the music without taking too much care of my partner then I would recover the partner on the next four beats while just letting my body lead some basical resolucion.

But… when during the Recursos del Tango Contemporáneo we were asked, while looping on a determined sequence, to add a fourth thing to focus on (a style attribute, which could be either switching from legato to stacato or switching from normal speed to double times to extra slow) then I realized that I was losing either…

…the partner and the beat, doing the sequence and the style switches on my own and off-beat.

…the sequence and the beat, leading style switches to my partner that were totally irrelevant.

…the partner and the sequence, repeating very musical side-steps with stacato/legato changes while the partner, left on her own, was wondering why I was doing this additional warm-up.

Fortunately the seminario ends today, tomorrow I’ll be back to my usual, three-dimensional tango.

“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.