Saturday, February 12, 2011

Five things I will miss most about Buenos Aires when I'm gone

I've still got two and a half weeks left to enjoy Buenos Aires, but already I'm getting a little misty, thinking about what I'll have to give up while I'm off having new adventures and making new memories in Melbourne. I've been pretty tough on BA over the years, but I was the same way with New York. When it comes to cities, I always slam the ones I love -- eventually. But there's a reason why I stuck around as long as I did. Well, actually, five of them.

Ensalada de fruta Eating in Argentina has been tricky, to say the least. I'll pass on the vino (cheap and tasty, but I'm not a big wine person), the milanesa (absolutely disgusting), and the chorizo (hard on the teeth, worse on the digestive system). When I arrived in BA, I hadn't even touched meat in more than 15 years. Because decently prepared fish is so difficult -- and expensive -- to come by, I added chicken to my menu about one year in. After two more, I was once again eating red meat, too. It was either that or overdose on carbs, cheese and sweets, which I had begun consuming in larger quantities than normal to compensate for the lack of anything else. My waist line benefitted, but my taste buds were underwhelmed.

I just never really got into Argentine beef, and I'm still not sure what makes it such a cut above the rest of the world's. Of course, since I hadn't eaten meat for 17 years up to July of 2009, I don't have much to compare it to. As for the other dime-a-dozen offerings here, the Italian food is hit and miss: great pasta, terrible pizza. The helado made me like ice-cream for the first time in my life, but ultimately, like the pasta and the pizza, I can take it or leave it. Fruit salad in BA, however, is an entirely different story. Here it's not just a bunch of dried up chunks of cantaloupe, honeydew melon and watermelon, but an orchard of fruits -- peaches, pears, oranges, apples, bananas, grapes, strawberries, plums, kiwi, pineapple -- swimming in natural juice. Man cannot live on ensalada de fruta alone, or else I probably would have tried to.

Pilates When I arrived in BA four and a half years ago, pilates was just part of a throwaway lyric in a throwaway Madonna song. (Remember "American Life"?) It's been a way of my life for four years now, part exercise, part therapy, part Spanish lesson. (Last year when I took a pilates class in London, I couldn't understand a word the teacher was saying because I was so accustomed to being instructed in Spanish.) Although I spend more time running and just as much time in the gym as I do on the reformer, pilates is the physical activity that will most define my time in BA. (I'm hoping for an improved sex life down under.) When people who think I look younger than I am ask for my secret, I always tell them, "Face by Kiehl's, body by pilates."

Ambar la Fox Nightclubs, I've seen more than a few during my time in BA, and if walls -- or strobelights -- could talk, what a tale they'd tell. But for the last two years or so, it's been all about Saturday night fever at Ambar. In fact, I haven't stepped foot into another BA club in months. To be honest, the crowd is a hot mess -- young, loud and very messy -- and aside from that spectacular Victorian chandelier overlooking the foyer, the place itself is kind of a dump.

All that said, it's the only party in town where the DJs have been ballsy enough to season their steady diet of Lady Gage and the Black Eyed Peas with the White Stripes, the Strokes, Dizzee Rascal and Elastica, and the spectacle -- a stage show featuring scary monsters, super creeps and other assorted space oddities -- is nearly as big a draw as the playlist. I know, it's only rock & roll, but that's why I like it. When I leave I'll take plenty of great memories of BA nightlife with me (though, sadly, of no club that plays decent hip hop), but the music at every other future hot spot will have to live up to the sound of the underground at Ambar.

Guys whose names begin with M Martín. Marcelo. Matías. Mauro. Marcos. Manuel. Mario. Mariano. Miguel and Maximiliano aside (the former is, after all, just a Latin variation on Michael, and apart from my portero, I've strangely enough met no one who goes by the latter), you name him, I've done him in BA.

My friends I always say that I didn't move to BA because of the people, and that's the ugly truth and nothing but. Still, as infuriating as porteños can be, that didn't stop me from meeting the most interesting characters and making some excellent friends here. Once the flavor of the ensalada de fruta has faded from my taste buds, when I've found a great new Pilates instructor whose English I can actually understand, when Ambar's boom boom boom fades into the wind, to whom will I still be telling all my dirty stories? That's what BA friends are for.

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