Buenos Aires – First Impressions
Let me start off by getting one thing straight: the food in Buenos Aires is almost all good.
It took me six days and approximately fifteen meals before I got a bad one. And that was in a Chinese restaurant, so think I was just begging for it at that point.
I find that arriving in any city I plan to live in for a period of time arouses a complicated mixture of emotions; a state of extreme selfishness and extreme humility. I don’t know a single soul so I’m driven back into the most basic need for companionship and acceptance, yet I’m looking around and thinking, this is great, this sucks, what the fuck is that supposed to be, this is amazing, I’m going to eat here all the time, etc. It’s also a time for dispelling myths and fantasies.
I find that arriving in a city I plan on living in for any prolonged period of time elicits the most childish responses from me, for better or for worse. Naturally, I’m wide-eyed and open mouthed, drinking it all in, the sights, the smells, the shapes the sidewalks take, how the people look. But I’m also less inhibited and find myself talking at length to strangers, telling them I’m looking for a room, what’s the best place to have a coffee in the area, how can I rent a cell phone for a few months, both as a query for information and also as an icebreaker, and people have been exceedingly helpful. For instance, Sonya, the girl who works at the Palermo Soho branch of Notorious, a CD shop, helped me look on her computer online for rooms and called her friend to help me with a mobile phone, not to mention recommend music to me. The woman at Café Orsana on Jorge Luis Borges already knows me and what I like to drink (a café con crema), and all the guys who work at the hostel are always giving me names of musicians to listen to and gigs to check out. A willingness to laugh, share your story, and make a possible fool of yourself go a long way here. I also people remember a Spanish-speaking American of Chinese descent.
I was lucky enough to meet not one, but two great groups of people in the hostel, American university students studying in Santiago, Chile who were kind enough to welcome me into their circles to eat great food, take a bike tour, attend a milonga (tango dancing salon) drink at fancy bars, and get our ears blown out at nightclubs. It almost made me forget I needed to actually find a permanent place to stay. Luckily, craigslist has made it to Bs As and I think I’ve secured a room in a flat in Palermo Hollywood, near the Botanical Gardens and a short walk to the hip cafes, restaurants, and boutiques of Palermo Soho. Details are to be worked out tonight.
A few of the more superficial observations I’ve made:
* Yes, it’s true. You can have an amazing, grass-fed steak for $4.50. Put that in your pipe and smoke it!
* The mullet is alive and well – nay – thriving in Buenos Aires.
* People can actually get a signal on their cell phones in the Subte (metro), yet are thankfully discreet about telling their personal lives to the entire train.
* When you thank someone, they will usually say, “No, please,” or “No, it’s nothing,” but usually something that begins with the word “No.”
* Buenos Aires is in a constant war for small change and bills. It’s like a game. If you have a $100 peso note, you’re screwed. If you have monedas (coins), you’re good. Don’t ask.