Monday, January 12, 2009


As my most recent post no doubt made abundantly, perfectly, crystal clear, porteños are a tactile, touchy-feely lot. This keep-your-hands-to-yourself U.S. citizen isn't even going to pretend to understand the whole Argentine kiss-on-the-cheek greeting. A handshake will do just fine, thank you. If you ask me, the kiss-kiss thing is just for show, less a genuine act of affection than an example of the Argentine obsession with custom and procedure. Perhaps it's the Catholic influence or maybe the British and French aspirations of porteños, but here in Argentina, the code of conduct is everything.

But getting back to the physical contact thing, it's rarely as out-of-line as it was coming from the octopus masquerading as an internet cafe employee. My second encounter with him reminded me of Christmas Day 2007 when, after my morning jog, I was walking down Avenida Santa Fe trying to find an ATM machine that wasn't out of service. Out of the blue, a middle-age woman who was emerging from the subway station approached me, wished me a merry Christmas and gave me a big hug.

It was a small interaction that left a huge impression. I'm not sure whether she sensed my slight melancholia that morning or if she was on her way home from a senior-citizen rave and was still rolling on ecstasy. Regardless of her motive, her actions cheered me up and made that gift-free Christmas in 90° weather my most memorable since 1983 when my mother bought me a subscription to Billboard magazine for Christmas. While the other kids played with their new gadgets, I sat on the couch, happy as a clam, reading my magazine cover to cover.

It's a mystery why my parents never locked me up in an institution. Some strange kid I was! Maybe I didn't get enough hugs. That's it, my New Year's resolution: to give more hugs. Come here!
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