03 Jun 2007
First, today - Sunday
Suddenly it is June in Buenos Aires. Taking account of the longitude, it should be towards winter here, but today is a brilliantly sunshine-lit, warm Sunday and all the Portenios are about strolling. I have walked from Palermo Soho through the various Barios of the city, watching the people going about everyday life. At one point I paused under a giant palm, at another caught the fragrance of a late flowering lapacho festooned with the pinkest of flowers. As I did so, an ancient Ford Falcon ground past. These are the oldest surviving American cars, huge, fantastic in their decrepit opulence, just like many of the buildings they pass. They always travel slowly. I can't determine whether this is because the drivers, their families and friends all crammed in enjoy being watched, or whether because at greater speeds the cars would disintegrate. Twine holds both the boot and the exhaust. And lush but faded green velvet covers the dash board. This family are beaming and the drivers face creases through his crooked teeth into a thousand smiles. Even the dog, which tries to escape from the open window has entered into the spirit of the Sunday jaunt. Of course their history is less attractive. These were the vehicles used by the secret police to bring in los desaparecedos of Buenos Aires.
Last night arriving home.
(This is an extract from a little message I sent to Karen Tweed, but I am sure that she will excuse me repeating a part of it here). Incidentally, Karen's new disc May Monday is a 'must')
My neighbourhood tramp is there every night. He has taken up residence in a doorway across from my apartment. He is one of many people who sleep on the streets of this city. The Portenios have a close relationship with the cartoneros as, in the crisis in 2002, everyone came close to joining them. So they will be given odd coins for a cup of Mate, the Argentine sweet tea-type drink. He is surrounded by his possessions: a few bags, a blanket, a heavy coat to keep out the chill, his transistor radio playing tango, and his little round mirror! I have wondered why he should carry such a thing? It is clearly not for shaving. Perhaps it is to look through into the past; or to the future? Does it allow him to escape the draughty doorway, the city fumes, the noise of passing buses and taxis, to a world of freedom from late night hunger and cold, somewhere light and loving? All I know is that the wistful sounds of tango accordion drift up towards my balcony as I join him on his nightly journey.