Friday, 14 September 2007

Never say last

02 Sep 2007

Last blog? Due to international lament when I said that my last blog was my last blog, I have agreed never to say 'last'. Never!! Maybe, whilst your interest lasts, this series will be the first? And whilst talking of last, this is my penultimate day.

Late afternoon. The usual early spring sunshine just starting to fade. I walk familiar routes to soak up a 'final' pool of city atmosphere. My mission is to buy a flight bag to contain dance shoes, CDs and other absolute essentials which I will preserve from baggage handlers. This leads me to Ave Santa Fe´at its meeting with Rodriguez Pena, the kingdom of bags. Of all of my visits here, this is the first time I have come on a Saturday afternoon. The shopkeepers on Santa Fe´ are looking hopeful or bored as I pass, the Portenios are flooding home in preparation for their late nights of revelry. But what is this? Set back at Av Santa Fe´ 1060 is a busy staircase. It appears to lead into a labyrinth of corridors. Two trails of people enter and leave, like lines of black ants, ritually stopping as ants do to check and greet each other, then passing on. Wearing my black jacket, I pull closed my collar to conceal my cream shirt and follow the line. A sign says casually "Galleria Bond Street". My companions on the stairs match each other perfectly. The youth is tall and thin, his frock coat touching the ground and his piercing prominent on his forehead. She wears a short tartan skirt over fishnet tights and long, buckled boots. Her hair is black as ink, and her lips red as blood.

At the top of the stairs the gallery splits onto three levels, each now visible from the entrance way. Ahead lie dozens of kiosks and shops. They stretch a full block through to Rodriguez Pena. Each one is Gothic. I am now surrounded by a thousand Goths. This is Whitby but on a massive and exotic scale. Here tartan, there black check, everywhere black with flashes of colour from green and red tinted hair. Chains clink. The coffee bars are full of Goths and at least a dozen tattoo studios process queues awaiting piercing. This is done in open kiosks where three or four customers lie on couches or crouch forward as their backs are decorated. The air hums with the sound of needles. Pipi is a Master Tattoo . His long, jet black, South American Indian ringlets spill down his back as he raises his ink gun to a girls shoulder. Los Tattoo Compadres is full, catalogues of designs being passed between the waiting customers. As I enter one customer passes his design to me just out of interest. In Dr Ivo McPyo , two semi naked women lie face down on couches as their backs are decorated. A bald head in American Classic receives a condor and piercings.

After 30 minutes of fascination, I pass across the third level and down the stairs, this time to Rodrigues Pena. Here again there are trails of people seemingly draining to the street. Bags rustle, as do the black net skirts of young girls. Metal heels and chains clack on the steps. Rodriguez Pena, normally a busy working street in the week is now transformed as far as the eye can see, past Palacio Pizzurno and the plaza. Here are hundreds of Goths in groups, resting on the grass outside the palacio or standing chatting together. Drums beat from the palace gardens and I push my way through one group of Mahicans wearing black gathered kilts, and another whose faces are white as moonshine but for heavy black mascara and the glint of piercings, their look both androgynous and sexual.

What is so thrilling about this scene? It is the youth, energy and total disregard for convention. I resist the moment and do not retrace my steps to Pipi. As I cross Av Paraguay the Goths recede and the usual weekenders return. An old woman walks by with her dog as if this is the most usual scene in the world. Taxis drift past plying for hire. And this describes Buenos Aires. A city which busily accommodates all; young, old, rich, poor, able, disabled, tango barrister and Goth.

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