Since the first ever hookah rolled, the first happy experiments with fire and the random substances at hand in times of repose, once the day´s doings had been taken care of, no doubt the discussion would turn to which is the best of the many smokes that punctuate of the day. Sure some would argue for the casual smoke, the waiting smoke, even the ritual smoke – though in the end aren´t they all somewhat ritualistic? Gradually these piffle-spouting lightweights would fall by the wayside and finally the two attitudes of any class, weight and merit would take form; and ever since have they stood like the Gates of Hercules: two apparently irreconcilable arguments like whether or not Micheal McDowell should be stoned or hung. The two valid arguments, of course, are whether the best smoke is the post-meal or the post-coital. (Spanish, incidentally, is a rather astute language in this respect for it recognises the matter by differentiating the two words for ´fuck´ and ´eat´ (coger & comer) by but one phoneme.)
Having spent a good few months now in the fine city of Buenos Aires and endeavoured to immerse myself in the ways of the porteños, it strikes me that I must still be quite the gringo for preferring the post-eating smoke (the post-coital one seems slightly too clichéd..). For clearly true Argentines spend a great deal of time in the sack, so blessed are they with being one of the fittest races on the planet, thus making almost every smoke, every delightful little camel set alight in a quasi pagan celebration of the power of fire and nature, a post-coital one.
By now I have grown thoroughly accustomed and ensconced in my surroundings. When I turn up for more booze no longer am I looked at in the askance manner tinged with disdain usually reserved for the ultimate gringo: all three-quarter lengths, wife beater and sandals – in winter… Of course i´ll be passing through eventually but for now I revel in smug, patronising comments directed at tourists confounded by everything except how much something costs.
A swarthy, thick and fat-voiced yank and his squealy yankette pass the window of a well-stocked bodega:
Yank: Lot of wine.
Yank: Lot of wine.
Yank: Lot of wine.
Indict my chronicling skills if you wish but I had to flee before learning how this astonishing fete á tetes turned out.
On the other hand, the Argentines possess rather good communication skills. I have coined a phrase to describe a phenomenon I call ´boludoism´. The term comes from a 100% BA word boludo, which literally means ´big balled´. Depending on the context, however, it can mean ´mate´, ´buddie´ or ´you cunt!´ Boludoism essentially involves a great deal of loafing about and a proportionate amount of conversations that the northern European rat (or ratus insurancis) would deem wholly unnecessary and a waste of time. Surprisingly enough for a country with such high levels of unemployment (the backbone of the economy seems to be based on car-parks), every shop has at least three utterly superfluous members of staff and at least one or two more who occupy themselves solely with the art of delivery. For here everything,beer or even just a cup of coffee, can be delivered free of charge.
Other features of boludoism include the fact in every tiny kiosco there´s a few lads sitting back sipping maté from their gourds and perhaps looking at the tv; orange-bibbed cops stand idly about playing on their phones or yapping to passers-by at bus stops (they get it for free); the purchase of a pair of speakers or a glorious beard-trimming experience at the barber´s requires a detailed run-down of the reasons for one´s presence in the country, impressions on it, marital status, opinion on the Malvinas, the form of Juan Roman, and, the ultimate, Boca or River?
The general hustle n bustle is definitely a key part of boludoism and one of my favourite things about this city. There are no sidestreets. Some streets are bigger than others of course, such as the 26million lane 9 de Julio with its giant cock-like obelisk in the middle, but the demonic, diesel, smog-spewing buses and ubiquitous taxis pile down every narrow alley there is with their refreshingly un-uniformed drivers tooting their horns venomously if anyone but thinks of trying to jay-walk in their way. As I mentioned before, I feel there are yet large amounts of gringoism residing in my blood due to fact that I reckon the day of full immersion in this culture will only truely have come when I wake up some Sunday shivering with symptoms of withdrawal, bewildered by the unnatural silence reigning in the room. For Argentinians seem to be rigged with special genes for the promotion and tolerance of extremely high decibel counts. Noisiness is next to saintliness, as old Eva Peron would no doubt cry out back in the day to the tub-thumping masses on the Plaza de Mayo.
I used to say that the French march at the drop of a hat; but here I reckon but a fingerless glove would suffice. This morning, for instance, way up on the fifth floor with the balcony doors closed and the shutters down, we were nevertheless woken by a few hundred the restive souls protesting outside the adjacent office of ´public justice´. Their clamour no doubt pulled on the blue & white heartstrings of the singing builders encamped either side of our building, who responded by taking out even bigger hammers and letting the drills solo wildly, while the police looked up occasionally from marshalling the traffic in order to conduct the spontaneous outburst of música urbana, underscored by the chugging bass of the window-rattling buses.
Anyway, more boludicity? Okay, how about kids who should be in nappies preforming the greatest juggling and/or keepy-uppy feats in the world before at least twelve lanes of roaring traffic? Or the crazy lads sitting on barbed wire above a 70ft drop in the Bombonera during the Boca-River superclásico, defying the fact that it would probably be better to die from the fall than to let the Boca fans get their dirty mits on him? Or odd sights such as a man bearing a remarkable resemblance to Marcello Lippi standing on his head for a good five minutes in the park? Or the fourty-thousand strong army of scavenging cartoneros who methodically sift through the day´s rubbish for bottles and good cardboard. Though the odd little shanty squat can be seen on vacant lots in the city, the vast majority live outside the city and there are trains specially gutted out so they fit their wagons and crap inside. Everyone leaves their rubbish outside in the sure knowledge it will be ripped open again by the bee-like cartoneros, the nectar extracted and replaced on the corner for the bin-men. Scoff if you will at the sight of piles of thrash being siftted through by raggedy urchins – and oft´times whole families – but it seems a far more practical and cost-effective solution than the lame-assed trip to the dreaded ´green bin´ those war-mongering Europeans foisted on us. Besides, I suspect the cartoneros are also due a thanks for the lack of any noticeable pigeon problem.
Another creature facing almost certain death is the spider on the wall beside my bed. It is my custom to note his position each morning as the only reason he is being tolerated in this dangerous bedside spot is the possibility that he will obey the laws of nature and capture some of the abundant insects. However, for the last few days he has refused to budge at all. I suspect he is expressing solidarity with his fellow kind; a very Argentinian spider. If he doesn´t get to work soon he´s a gonner and we will have to import some of the less brotherly spiders from Chile. Hence, his life is hanging by the very thread he is refusing to weave!
Anyway, perhaps that will give you a taste of how mundane much of our existence is. It´s not all feeding penguins coke while whitewater rafting through a halting site on a dead horse. It´s just a generally more satisfying daily buzz than wondering if you can water down the fam´s already surprisingly tasteless spirit´s store any further – and there is an incredibly hot bird, or group of which, ON EVERY CORNER. And the steaks really are as massive and cheap as the legends said. And people don´t even go out til one or two, wear funny shades in clubs to hide their drugged up eyes and don´t act too thuggishly. And they speak Spanish, which, as I always suspected, is the greatest language of all time.
Heard yesterday that the penalties against the corrupter than Barney wop clubs (why this sudden outburst of racist american jargon?) were made decidedly more ´average´. Bad babies! (Phrase comes from one morning when coke and pilled off his hairy head and on a post stealing croissants and then having to pay for them and so sitting down and ordering a cup of coffee buzz, ‘X’ was leaving the Álamo, saw a particularly adorable young child and exclaimed “Great Baby!” – the best thing to happen since the Sun´s headline “Fool Poll Sent Home in World Cup Shame”).
What else? Oh yeah, this fool Hezbollite threatened to shoot me if I didn´t give him my wallet the other night. Naylito floored him in a most impressive manner with an Elaine-like shove to the chest. Tho she´s quite small he flew like he´d just been hit by an IDF rocket. I thought he was just asking for a smoke in a rather intense manner, as he was muttering incomprehensibly. Laughs all round, t´was, as I don´t have a wallet.
El Gringo Ilegal.