Call it a rhythm…call it routine occurrences…but, so many things can be categorized within the cycles of life.   It seems that, of late, I am continually touching on a cycle in life that places information on ‘pilgrimages’ into my mind.  Pilgrimages of the type – Camino de Santiago (The Way of St. James); The Hajj (Islamic Pilgrimage to Mecca); or, even the Mount Kalaish Pilgrimage in Tibet (Buddhist and Hindu).  On the surface, the associated discussion is treats the pilgrimage as a component of a person’s faith…. a journey that symbolizes devotion.  And, while this may be offensive to some – no apologies in advance – herein resides a problem.

It should be much more than a simple act of devotion, it should really comprise an opportunity to identify, explore and realize what exactly resides within ourselves.  That is why I get a lot more out of discussions on pilgrimages that are fashioned after Paulo Coehlo’s El Alquimista (The Alchemist).  The journey…the pilgrimage within…is indeed…the most fascinating…how we respond to our walk…to our pilgrimages…is the clearest illustration for us…on what resides within…

When I read back through this blog, I become fascinated over and over again at the opportunities I have had to see the world….in many ways…all of those experiences represents my own pilgrimage.  Not a pilgrimage to just see one thing or to take one walk…but, the pilgrimage of many places, of many things…and of many walks.

Of course, this part of my pilgrimage includes a great deal regarding Tango.  It is amazing to read a book such as ‘The Quest for the Embrace: The History of Tango Dance 1800-19830’ by Benzery Saba…and then walk the streets of Buenos Aires.

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One part that screams volumes to me is the discussion with renowned milonguero – Carlos Gavito,

“when I learned, around the 60s, there weren’t so many names.  Tango was very individual, very personal.  Everyone had his own different style of dancing…that’s why for me, there are no tango styles…the style is the person. Milonguero style, for example, doesn’t exist; the milonguero exists, the one who’s dancing.  I spent the greater part of my life at the milongas and I dance Gavito.”

Ahhh….so beautifully said!!  Now, as I’ve said before…I don’t pretend to be a Tango master…I’m clearly a Tango baby…that is looking to find the way…but, I do see how so many camps exist and have always existed…and it really resonates with me…to not just focus on the style…but recognize it as an expression of that person….and that is alright with me.  And so, as I take my trips to Argentina, and walk the streets of Buenos Aires…I am looking to find my way…my way…my journey…my pilgrimage inside of myself manifested by what I see and feel in the environment.  And, having arrived…here I go… 🙂

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Oh how I do love the feel of the old city…without going into the implications of various types of city planning…the intimacy of the feel, the architecture, the variations in people walking down the street, how close everything appears.  I do love the opportunity to visit a place more than once so you actually get to know it…it becomes a part of you.  The familiarity helps to build the expectation of comfort even in a place where you are just learning the language and the culture.

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Such an absolutely beautiful day…to get out of the car…and to just walk amongst people…to observe life and its various expressions…

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To see the children play and learn proper soccer technique…to hear the sound of joy coming from them with the chatter.  Interesting how many places I’ve been are much better than the United States in soccer…with all the technological advances, these other countries always seem to come out on top…even without the riches.  That screams many things…for those on the inner pilgrimage.

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And, ohhhh, this building always speaks to me: Palacio del Congreso Nacional Argentino….always one of my first stops…just to sit and look.  It always makes a trip better for me to read about a place, then to go see it for myself.  In this case…the interplay between how social and political dynamics impacted Tango, and vice-versa 🙂  Amazing to travel and to become a part of it, to the extent that you can actually feel it!!

I must say, it is also beautiful and common to see Argentinians express their social and political views…right at the gate of the Congress building…it isn’t just a unique United States trait…every visit and practically every day you see someone expressing themselves in the local political process – protecting the animals from cruelty, and also protesting President Obama’s visit in this case:

Getting to know a place, its expressions and how you respond to it…one of the tasks of the pilgrim 🙂  So, as I walk…behold…all you Tangueros…

The National Academy of Tango…and a plaque for Carlos Gardel…for those in the know…he is the Humphrey Bogart, among others in South America…and in many ways…exposed the world to Tango.

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What a surprise of a gem.  Now of course everyone in Buenos Aires doesn’t revel in the history of Tango, but it is beautiful to see those who do celebrate such a rich contribution to world culture (more on him Carlos Gardel later).

Ahh…so wonderful to be back in Buenos Aires.  So after a long walk, it’s a walking city which is a much better way to get to know it, I come upon such beautiful places.  Many people visit these places.  But, I am visiting less for the tourist aspect and more to get a feel for the cultural expression to add to the quality of my internal journey.

I love how they light the city at night…colors and contrast combined with the context and structure…is really a powerfully beautiful yet subtle statement…almost sounds like a wine tasters description of a good vintage 🙂  The Pink House, the parks, those old structures…many a night…I just sat in solitude…with my thoughts…revisiting history, but also developing an awareness of my own feelings…no distractions…just me and my BA 🙂

After a long walk, heading back to Alejandro’s….I stop at my favorite Parilla (which he always teases me about) 🙂  To get some of the famous Argentinian grilled meat…they remember me from last time so it’s my personal version of the show ‘Cheers’ in Buenos Aires…and look, my old buddy sits with me while I enjoy one of my favorite dishes….cats are something else; mi amigo el gato 🙂

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Finishing up this day, long flight…long walk…good emotions from seeing my friends Alejandro Gee and Erzsebet Tamas….one last thing…

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Helado!!!!!!  Ahhhhhh!!!!!! 🙂  This in and of itself is worth it…absolutely delicious…texture…taste…context…I have to admit…walking into an ice cream shop to order so that you can practice your Spanish…that is pretty close to priceless…a nice slow walk to enjoy my Helado, then to sleep…Tango practice starts tomorrow….Buenos Noches Mi Amigos!!

It is obvious from my previous posts that while I am here attempting to immerse myself into modes that allow me to absorb Argentine (BA), I am also studying Tango…as far as I am concerned – the dance of dances.  Not just by traveling and being a tourist, but by studying the history, keeping up to date on politics, attempting to understand the context of federal and local government, attempting to become versed in local language and customs…and obviously the language – which is not the easiest thing to do at this age.  But, it isn’t always easy to reprogram your mind…and if you are going to do it…then language is a sure way of doing just that!!  Staying away from the simplicity of the big hotels and areas that seem to be nothing more than a projection of American or Western Culture – Yes, they have McDonald’s…but, not for the kid…

My return was wonderful for many reasons, but again…it’s not just about the place…it’s about the people.  So, I was so glad to see my new friends again…Alejandro Gee and Erzsebet Tamas…my Buenos Aires Hosts with the Mosts!!!!  🙂  Now, I so enjoyed a hug and kiss with Osvaldo (it’s an Argentine thing, you may not understand), but to see these two again brought a feeling of peace that comes when you recognize that you have found a good place to help you continue your journey in life:

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Just like Santiago in the book by Paulo Coehlo, “The Alchemist”, sometimes you don’t know where you will find your treasure.  I had made a decision that I was going to go the Buenos Aires, so I simply started doing research on the internet…came across several opportunities on Trip Advisor…and started emailing various people.  Several conversations were started before I first came to BA, and based on those conversations I went with Alejandro and Erzsebet.  To be sure, I took lesson from a few people when I first got there…but Alejandra and Erzsebet they had the stuff I was looking for…now this wasn’t a suit, a hat, some shoes, fancy moves and a rose in the mouth…This was and is more like Tango boot camp… 🙂  Not for the show..but for the SELF…to borrow a line from Christine Denniston, “The Meaning of TANGO: the story of the Argentinian Dance”,…and I am paraphrasing,

one old milonguero walked up to another asked him, “how is your tango coming”…the other milonguero said to him, “after 40 years, I think I am finally getting my walk together.”  Oh, how I love that sequence of conversation….as in many ways, that is the dance…it isn’t something that comes together after a few lessons…it’s more of a life time.  They teach out of Alejandro’s Tango House:

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An absolutely amazing place, excellent accommodations and location…full of culture, great proximity, and place of which you can personally attach.  And, Alejandro laughs when I say it is right across the street from my favorite Parilla!! 🙂  These two have been absolutely amazing…telling me where to go, how to get my business done, making my stay comfortable, talking with me about Argentine (BA) culture..and many other wonderful things..not to mention introducing me to El Beso, Salon Canning, Gricel, La Confiteria Ideal…and many wonderful people at the milonga’s and other places around the city….not to mention kicking my culo good every day to make sure I remembered my lessons 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂  whew…between that and all the walking to feel the barrio…I was a sore old man 🙂

But, let me be clear.  I don’t pretend to be an expert on Buenos Aires or Tango.  As my friend April Parker and Angel Montero (Atlanta Tango)  so appropriately calls it…I know I am a Tango baby…and proud of it!!  To be clear…

This is not a Tango blog…I am simply writing about my own journey in life…there are plenty of blogs in the internet universe that cover the Tango Journey and experiences….some of them are excellent…and some are written by individuals who are complete ‘BOLUDOs’….check out my Lunfardo 🙂  This isn’t a commentary on styles…old or new…or those from different parts of the world or even the Rio de la Plata Region (Argentina and Uruguay)…often times the evolution of the different expressions are clearly evident.  Either way, I am simply referring to my own journey…seeking my own voice and expression culminating from making peace with my own emotions and spiritual journey.  Thus, while I am walking along on my own journey, I’ll only talk about bits and piece’s for now…sometimes if you want to know what something smells, tastes or feels like…you have to do it yourself 🙂  So, on this walk in my current experience and through time…I’ll talk about a few things…but, the best part of it… in me…is yet to come…in the mean time…I’m so grateful to my friends in Argentina…those I have now…those I am getting to know…and those yet to come – so glad we found each other!!  By the way, I absolutely love the Malbec!!!!  🙂 🙂

 

 

 

In my travels, I find it interesting how different cultures manifest similar philosophies but through different mediums…and often times the eventual expression tends to reflect the unique characteristics of their immediate environment and social interactions. Even to the point where the same religion or cultural expression can be significantly different although the values may be the same. Experiencing this variation allows for deeper insight into the object of your focus. Being a Pinterest fan, I always like the quotes that I come across:

“I believe that every book you read changes you; changes how you think, what you say, how you act, or how you look at the world. If a book doesn’t change something about you then it has failed at being a book…”

Obviously spoken by a book Nazi purest 🙂

“It’s called reading, it’s how people install new software into their brains”

Well, if that can be said about reading, then there is much more we can say in regards to creating the actual experience. As mentioned, this trip is less about sight-seeing and being a tourist, and more about developing mindfulness through being exposed to and absorbing the cultural drivers of Tango – this amazing point of confluence where if mentally and soulfully penetrated, we can not only get a better understanding of Argentinian culture, but also connect to what Tango actually is….

It is a difficult dance, and I am no dance expert but what I’ve seen of many other dances, this just isn’t a 1-2-3-4 scenario where you just step on time. It is much more complex than that! Since it ultimately developed from the impetus of a city going through significant change…in many ways the dance and the music reflect the desire of a society to meet its needs while also adapting to intense social change. More so, however, it reflects the human story. Consequently, Tango is not just a dance. It is not just the music. For some, it is everything!! For those who are quite unfamiliar with Tango, then this is a video that allows you to see an example (click the link).

Roberto Zuccarino and Magdalena Alvarez – Salon Canning

Chizuko Kuwamoto and Alejandro Gee

However, keep in mind that Roberto Zuccarino example is for a ‘salon show’ – with all the dramatics. The example of Alejandro Gee is styled more towards actual social dancing (earthy).  What you will find in the actual environment is something significantly earthier – if you know what I mean….I will only post so much here…but, if you are so inclined to want to learn more, then this is some serious recommended reading ‘the meaning of Tango:’

 

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In short, when you think about the evolution of Tango, imagine a time in the late 1800s and early 1900s where the area that became known as Argentina was mostly populated by natives to this area, Africans – resultant from the slave trade, and Spaniards as a result of being part of the Spanish Empire. The government developed a policy to promote mass migration to Argentina in order to develop the workforce needed to economically develop its vast resources. Thus, massive immigration brought in many young Spaniards and Italians and others from Europe. Many of these immigrants were young men leaving family, loved ones, friends and a familiar environment to come seek their fortune. This influx of people, formed a conglomeration of people that despite their various countries of origin, had similar mental, emotional, and socio-economic characteristics. So, the Tango Dance and Music reflected the common social characteristics, needs, and lifestyles of people who were mostly transplanted but also seeking ways to adapt to their environment.

While those times are long gone, we can still use our imagination to be able to feel, sense, and increase our awareness of this unique human story. So, my first steps are to put some Tango music on in my headset and go for a stroll.  My first focus is mostly on architecture, but I will have other pictures posted later.  We could take this into a very deep discussion when we touch on the implications of architecture, both reflecting the psychology of the builders and its impact on those in its surroundings (e.g. consider the effect of color, ceiling height, style, etc.)

But, let’s take a walk through one of the older parts of Buenos Aires – the Congreso District…the sights are wonderful, but what we are looking for are those things that allow us to use our senses to bring forward the past….with a bit of Osvaldo Pugliese playing in the background 🙂

This is the area adjacent to the Congreso National Building – an older structure under renovation:

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This is a common architectural style featured in the area – it speaks volumes – can you imagine how it stood out back when it was first constructed:

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Off of the main strip down in one of the neighborhoods:

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Observed this fine gentleman working. He has the back of his bicycle propped up and attached to a grinder.  As he peddles his bike, the grinder turns and he is sharpening his knives for a day on the job:

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This the back of the Congreso National building, amazing view and structure/design.  Sitting here at night with music in the background allows you to really use your imagination to bring forward early times….

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Similar to Cuba, one fascinating aspect is the number of vintage cars that are in use and in excellent condition.  I have no idea what year this car is, but it is a Falcon.  You car enthusiasts know that this is about as extinct in the United States as the Sabre-Toothed Cat:

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And in the midst of the hustle and bustle, have to respect a person willing to do what they need to do to make a living:

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There are plenty of photos to be taken, but as mentioned earlier, I am looking for those that through an initiated feeling can provide the context of awareness that I am looking to heighten – get my drift?  Architecture/Buildings, just like trees, have seen many generations go by during its time.  As it is said, if the walls could talk!!  And, with imagination and creativity – they do talk indeed!!

Within the first few days, my cup became full and runneth over…next stop – to experience an actual ‘old school’ Milonga (the place of dance)!!!!!