Dear admirers after a short silence PRIVATE & CONFIDENTIAL is back.
Private and confidential started in Untitled magazine and now follows the saga of two of the characters, Hecate and Clermont traveling in America.
UNTITLED contemporary art, following the path of THE GREAT ILLUMINATOR (LONDON ELECTRICITY BOARD) has decided, after long and deep meditation, that the great success that we enjoy is not enough – it does not represent our (global) ambitions properly and transparently because we want More. If we want to gain a state of permanent NIRVANA we need to do More. How to do it? As always, when we need to decide something, I do a list with two columns. In the first I write the pros in tiny letters, in the second the cons in enormous letters – (I hate surprises). “We cannot go back to the PR company who have done all they possibly can to help us. We need something differentÉ exciting,” we wrote. The second column gave us the answer to the question of the first column. Who advises the adviser? Obviously somebody intelligent and who could be more intelligent than a member of MI6? They work 24 hours a day at being intelligent. We looked at each other as if we had seen the light of knowledge knocking at our door or, I should have said, opening our inner soul to a new dimension.
“Who knows an agent?”
“I can go to Cambridge and recruit one for our cause.”
“Well, they tend to be here and there. There is no way we want competitors to know our secrets.”
“I am sure they would do it for the United Kingdom and Untitled Magazine.”
“I believe an MI6 agent might be very busy at the moment.”
“That is not a big problem, we’ll get someone working for MI3.”
“I’m not sure, they are only half as intelligent as an MI6 member.” We took the decision. We would get an MI3 agent.
“Easy, they meet at the Spaghetti House in Tufnell Park every Friday.”
On Friday, we all went to the restaurant to see if we could approach an MI3 agent. Next to our table were sitting two guys and a girl. We were impressed by their mode of communication. Not a single words in three hours, their faces expressionless to the point where I began to worry that they were dead and simply pretending to drink and eat. This convinced us that they were perfect. Just what we needed: secretive, unassuming, a bit scruffy and half intelligent. Somehow I manage to spill the wine onto one of the men. The other guy jumped to avoid being stained by the cheap wine – I saw his fist flying towards my face but he stopped a centimetre from my nose. He was very lucky not to touch me. After a lot of apologies, we made friends and we invited the trio to help us. The girl had what is called a Mata Hari effect, a deep erotic voice and a bit of an eccentric look. The tall boy was pretentious and the other a desperate, lonely person. We explained our needs and they listened in silence. I calculated that if we considered the fact that one MI3 + MI3 + MI3 = MI9, then the three of them would produce one MI6 and a half. The next day they arrived at our office with a magnificent plan and a few pages with boxes to tick. “Fill them up. We’ll see you at the Spaghetti House on Friday.” And they disappeared
We analyse the pages in search of some clues. We find out that they use white paper, A4, 90 grammes, made by Motony. There is only one place in London selling it in the vicinity of the Holloway Road. Thus we deduce that the agents are from North London. It has been printed by an Epson, probably R2000 and the programme that they use is definitely Word. We know that they live close to the ‘Rancho’ (the headquarters of Untitled), that they have a PC computer, an Epson printer…and nothing else. Apologies, they go to the Spaghetti House on Fridays for a weekly meeting.
“Are we going to give away our inner secrets to three guys, well two guys and a girl, who we only met once?”
“Not yet.” On the last page, to our surprise, they sign their names, ‘John, John and John’.
“She is a he? No way, she is a she and John is just her “nome de guerre”.”
At that precise moment we feel that perhaps we have made a mistake.
“John is a very discreet name.”
They have kept their real identities to themselves and we need to do the same. We decide to change our names to something exotic, somehow challenging, engaging: Darcy, Tarquin, Hecate, Cyril, Octavia. We settle for a more artistic choice: Tracy, Tracy, Tracy and Tracy. Right, not left. Oh! My mother always said never talk to strangers who offer you sweets.
The questions on the paper have a rare quality, from the trivial to the soul searching. The first is mainly about our education. At what age did you learn to read and write? Followed by three boxes. Under the initial question were the words: ‘between 5 and 6 years old’. The next was a bit more imprecise: ’25 Ð 50′, and the last one had a big ‘NEVER’. A he/Tracy confesses at that moment that he can write but not read. He justifies himself with a post-modern answer:
“I don’t know, it is not for me to understand what I write, it is for the readers to decode my code to find the significance of my signs.” We look at each other in silence. The following question is: ‘remember the first time your mother/father went mad at you?’
“We are not telling you”, is the unanimous answer.
‘Name ten artists that your magazine has supported and that have subsequently gone on to become famous amongst other UK based magazines, museums, public galleries, curators, dealers, artists Mr and Ms Collector follow your nose???
“Jeremy Deller, Daria Martin, Catherine Sullivan, Pablo Bronstein, Lali Chetwynd, Gerard Byrne, Klaus Weber, Marjetica Potrc, Seb Patane, Jim Lambie, Eva Rothschild, Inventory, Ben Langlands &Nikki Bell, Santiago Sierra, Francis Alys, Jorge Macchi, Pablo Picasso, Daniel BurenÉ”
At that moment our friend Clermont arrives. We know he is from some backward South American country but he pretends to be French. He looks at us.
“Guai are you so guite”, says Clermont.
At the same time he snatches some of the pages from Tracy’s hand.
“Oh you inglish never anderstand aniting…” he says looking at the paper.
“What can we do, ah!” We ask defiantly.
“If you guant to get anyting in life firs you need to try with LOVE or guell SEX”, he spits at us.
“Oh! James Bond, the Anglo-Saxon style 007 always involves sex, coca cola and …and…clever tricks.” Tracy explains to him what is going on. He is very excited by the prospect of mysterious characters promoting our dear Untitled Magazine.
“We need to know more about John, John and John”.
“Clermont, you are right, we need to involve sex to get information about them. You need to seduce John and find out more about the other Johns.”
“Guot? John is a man. I don’t do men. I am a lesbian”, he protests. Tracy convinces him that John is a she. We decide not to answer any more questions until Clermont investigates the trio. We are certain that a Latin-Cartesian brain can help.
On Friday we sit in the Spaghetti House with Clermont and our pages. Waiting for over an hour until a she/John arrives. Her eyes stop on Clermont, ignoring us, she moves like a cat on heat towards our table. We can sense the Latin/Gaelic blood of Clermont exploding with desire. She/John has no time for us. Calling the waiter she asks for rum and coca cola and some clever tricks. At the same time she puts a Marlboro cigarette between her lips and asks the South American French boy for fire. Clermont is chauvinistic about Tobacco and he refuses to give her fire.
“I give fire only to people who smoke Gitanes or Galouse”, he says without any grace.
Somehow that stupid answer works wonders in she/John. She was more inviting. Clermont grows a few centimetres taller, his ego radiant as he concedes.
“Guell for you, I guill make an exception” he said, flicking a match under her nose.
I ask for the other Johns AND SHE IGNORES ME, so I ask Again and Again… until she stops looking at Clermont.
“Where are the pages?”
“There are not finished yet, because we want to ask a few questions.”
“No questions, we need them for tomorrow morning, 7 o’clock at Arsenal tube station.”
She disappears leaving CLERMONT hotter than a cat on Monday.
“Who volunteers to wake up that early?” A he/Tracy asks.
“Not me, not me, not me.”
Only Clermont keeps silent. After we have our dinner (Spaghetti Bolognese with a glass of bubbly Italian wine) Clermont says, “I’ll do it.”
“You need to change your name.”
“No way I have nothing to hide and everything to show.”
Next Morning, Clermont fills the suitcase with empty papers and a few magazines, goes to the Arsenal Station, where a he/John approaches him and surreptitiously passes an envelope before evaporating. Inside the envelope is a page with a simple order: “go to Cockfosters Station”. The timing is good, everybody else goes from Cockfosters to central London. Tubes at that time of the day tend to be disturbing, a mix of last night having a great time people with good morning I go to work types. Both move with lethargy, the first smell of alcohol the second of cheap or very expensive perfume.
“Well well welll wellllll wellll”, thinks Clermont with Latin/Gaelic logic. The wagon is nearly empty, just two girls with college uniform, two builders with builder’s uniform, two nuns dressed as nuns, a couple of young people sleeping and two uniformed police men who are walking up and down the wagon. Each time Clermont hears their step close to him, guilt eats his heart. He has written on his face, please do not stop me.
His mind is organising excuses, “when they open my suitcase and find blank paper, I shall tell them that I’ve just bought it and I’m going to Cockfosters to see my cousin John. Yes, he loves new suitcases and it is a family tradition, before you use a new one you need first to show it to at least three members of the family and my cousin John is the last. I can use it afterwards…”
Disappointingly they ignore him. When the tube arrives at Cockfosters Station, the other he/John is waiting for him on the platform. He has a nervous twitch. He is looking over his shoulder in a manic way, first the right one then the left… With the arrogance of the public school boy he says, “Follow me…”
Clermont starts walking towards the station when he feels a hand pressing his arms, “Not that way.”
Still nervous about the policemen Clermont is a bit jumpy. Only when he looks at the wagon and sees the two of them going up and down, the doors shutting and the tube moving, does he relax. They start walking in the opposite direction from the station, towards the rails. At first slowly then suddenly both are running.
At about 300 metres from the station he sees two abandoned trains covered in grafitti, “By Basquiat”, he thinks???.
“Basquiat graffiti”, says Clermont.
“What?” asks John.
Clermont feels that he has just discovered the posthumous work of Basquiat. He starts toying with the idea of selling it, “I need to know if Basquiat was wearing an Armani suit when he did that beautiful work of art? If that is the case I can add another £100000 and, boy, no attic can hold this piece of work, so sod my grandchildren.” He wants to be back in London, more precisely in Christies or Sotheby meeting some collectors and selling for £2000000. When they arrive at the train John says, “John is waiting for you inside…”
“She or he?” Clermont asks.
“It”, is the answer.
Inside the train wagon Clermont finds himself in the dark. Everything is broken and the glass windows are deprived of their function and now lie in menacing bits on the floor. It is a pity that they are not plastic, he thinks. He can easily recognise Tony Cragg’s hand, his shadow follows him persistently. The seats are in a state of gross disrepair showing the springs as twisted phallic symbols exploding between the cracks of the material. Suddenly he sees a few cigarettes stabbed into the seats: Sarah Lucas he shouts, shit there are more art works here than in the entire Tate Modern.
By now his imagination is spiralling towards the job in hand. Walking over all the dirt and chaos, created by the passing of time and the relentless energy of kids, each step needs careful consideration as his mission has become a tad dangerous.
After succesfully walking through the first cabin, he is confused. His expectations of wild sex and confessions suffer a violent shock. He discovers his nose and worse, he discovers the function of it when a deep smell of rotten eggs permeates his five senses.
For a split second he dithers with the idea of going away. The smell is repulsive, he cannot see himself getting into the next cabin. He has a tremendous desire to vomit because the smell is unbearable. At this point he forgets why he is there.
“Hurry up, get in.”, a she/John shouts.
Her erotic voice accelerates Clermont’s feet. Once in he cannot believe his eyes. The cabin is an immaculate science fiction, high tech room with computers all over the place and a sofa in the middle of the passage. Soon he finds out the origin of the smell: a she / John is sitting on a chair with her skirt hoisted up and her beautiful legs streched and rigid, covered by a 4mm coat of an extrordinary cream. IMAAC IMAAC IMAAC. Three pots loiter on the floor.
“Guau, clever, cool, guot a hideout.”
“Sorry I need to be like this for 10 more minutes.”
“Can I open the window?”
“No, they are fake.”
They look at each other with the Knowledge.
“Guich is the fastest guay to the Tate Modern from Hoxton Square?, asks Clermont.
She looks puzzled but her training allows her to decontextualize and deconstruct any questions and in this way she is able to nullify the sexual tension of the words and obtain a clear picture of his intentions. Futhermore, she is using the other side of her brain. She scratches her leg with one finger nail, the line she draws exacerbating the smell. Looking at him she asks
“Are you a poet?”
“No I am not.”
“are you a poet?”
“admit it, you are poet.”
“No.” he protests.
“Yes you are. You write sonnets.”
“No, no, no.”
Clermont tries to understand what is going on. She is pretending but what?.
She insists . “Are you a poet?”
Perhaps it is the Anglo-Saxon sense of humour he concludes, deciding to follow the game.
“Yes I am a poet.” and opening his suitcase he takes out an AZ of London.
“And this is my latest book of poems, I will read you a poem I wrote for my ex girl friend but I was thinking of you. It is called Page 154. I must confess it is a bit long but I shall read the first 15 lines only.”
“Air street.W 1 Ð7G 61(1 M 145) Airthrie Rd Ilf Ð 2B 52.”
“Stop, I hate concrete poems, they put forward a structuralist framework with postmodern innuendos and are closer to the construction of a bridge than any emotional …”
“Sorgry, but you are wrong. They are Knowledge poems , this is the way my ex girl friend learnt how to be a taxi driver.”
Ignoring him she gets a plastic spatula from her bag and, streching herself to her ankle scrapes it away forming a mass of hair and cream. Visually and tactilely repulsive, Clermont’s fantasies evaporate and he becomes more business-like.
“How are you going to help us?”
“I don’t know. We only can provide Intelligence and help you analyse it.”
“About your readers, the tactics and strategies of the artists to play the game of promoting themselves, about your competitors “axes of devils,” Frieze and Art Monthly. For example, Frieze uses Weapons of Mass Advertising and in 45 minutes they organise a wonderful Art Fair. Can you match that?”
“I doubt it.”
“Can you compete with the original, exquisite design?”
“Nope, because our’s is better, you can read our articles.”
“And their highly well written texts?”
She starts cleaning her legs with loo paper. He is feeling that he is wasting time on all accounts. No sex, no help, no nothing.
“The two Davids for example.”
“Wojnarowicz and Lamelas.”
“That was very interesting 4 years ago when we had one of them on the cover and the other I cannot remember when we wrote an article. We know the genesis of both articles.”
“And guot about Art Monthly?”
“They are really dangerous. They are investigating ways of writing able to produce the same effect as sleeping gas and they are very close to achieving it. Can you match that?”
“Impossible……….but not a bad sales tactic”
‘I like you’ she thinks, whilst moving the left finger of her right hand over a piece of yellow paper for about
45 minutes. Well perhaps Clermont exaggerated a bit when he told us what happened. He’s probably telling lies, which is not very Anglo-Saxon, as we keeping telling him.
“In 45 minutes a lot of things can happenÉ buuuu.”
“Oh yes, you can wait for a bus for 45 minutes, in 45 minutes you can send a nuclear bomb from one continent to another and you can see half of a match played by the most brilliant team ever: Arsenal…”
“Ok, I can see you don’t have a clue, Untitled needs a hook in order to hold the attention of the readers”, she said. “Frieze is great, because the people who buy it never read it. They have no time to waste, so they flick through reading the ads in order to find out about their investments. ‘Oh! X has an exhibition in Y, that’s great. Oh no, look at this idiot T who is showing in B that is bad bad bad… He is going down and I have a few pieces by him.’ On the other hand, Art Monthly is great because it is full of serious impossibilities. Their readership has a lot of time on their hands, so they relax by reading shouting matches. They go like this: ‘You said that I said something which I never said. So, because you start from the wrong end of what I said, your conclusion of what I said is not valid, mainly because I never said that. I am the most intelligent human being, even if I am, and my judgment about ART is the only sustainable position after 40 years of deep study and concentration, only comparable to Sherlock Holmes’s avid curiosity for solving crime.’ Can you see how the mental structure of the text colludes with a labyrinthine mind, creating a strong sense of fascination and attachment similar to that given to Play Station games? It demands 100% attention.”
Depressed, Clermont said, “Let’s hope that they will eventually become deliciously poetic.”
“Untitled is simply brilliant but it needs to focus on personalities and more controversy. This is the English way of seeing things, like, let me thinkÉ like the Sun NewspaperÉ Fantasy Art” she mumbles, “You need to invent an exhibition that never happened, a romance between two or three artists who are discovered naked inside a barrel of cocaine. And so on and on…”
“Guot? You are insane. Imagine a Suntitled cover. The romance of the famous artist having sex with his canvas, the man who lost his right hand in a war and today paints with the left handÉ all in four colours. I know an artist who, when he was walking from Andalucia to hell, which apparently is not far away only 30 km or was it 45 km, had a dog bark at him.”
Suddenly a she /John became very agitated, looking inside her bag for a mobile phone
“Do you have a mobile phone?”
“Of course not.”
“Shit, shit , shit. What century do you live in?” He was disconcerted by her aggressive stand. Ignoring it, he pretended to be worried.
“Sogry, but shit, shit, shit doesn’t rhyme with live in.”
“Yes it does. Catch”, she said throwing her mobile phone with one hand and holding another mobile phone in the other. Clermont of all men was perplexed.
“Guat am I doing here?”
“Lets have phone sex”, she said.
“Guat? Untitled needs your help.”
Clermont lost his nerve “No I am holy f …s… do not need anything.”
“Come on call me, my phone number is 0789327487.”
“Can we be morrr primitive?”
“Call me or go to hell.”
“Sogry but I’m not prepared for high tech sex, we don’t have sexual education at school in my countgry.” She lost her patience and told him to get out. He turned his head towards a she/ John, looked into her deep honey eyes and walked up and down the wagon. He said goodbye with tears in his eyes. Outside the sky was Charlton grey. Kicking the earth, he forgot about Basquiat, about Untitled…
On his way home he decides to lie.
Sorry this chapter vanished from the computer.
Next day at the Rancho, three Tracies were waiting for Clermont, anxious to know what had happened.
A she/Tracy asked the others:
“Do we need to believe what ever Clermont says?”
“Well, no he is sexually paranoid, deluded, so sometimes he confuses hello with I love you.”
“He is very handsome, I am sure some girls say hello to him meaning I love you.”
“Bueh, these Latino garlic eaters believe their own propaganda.”
“Onion eater you mean.”
“Hey garlic, onion and frog eaters.”
They were discussing with certain venom the virtues of Clermont when he appeared framed by the door. On seeing him they started to clap and all at once shouted:
“What happened? Tell us what happened.”
“Nothing,” said Clermont with an exquisite sense of coolness, stroking his lips with a finger a la Jean Paul Belmondo.
“Don’t be a bore.”
“I am not going to go into any details. I proclaim that my first visit to Cockfosters guas a Delicious experience.”
They laughed with pleasure and complicity until they realized that he was prepared to say nothing at all.
A mysterious silence crossed the room for about 45 minutes until this magic moment was broken by Clermont’s voice
“Ere gue are.”
“I said ere gue are.”
“What did the Johns recommend ?”
“Ah that, not much, they are a bunch of out of work people.”
“Because of the integnet boys.”
“What about them?”
“Before, intelligence guas a guey of knowing little things and producing great results, like what was the rgeal coloug of Cleopatra’s gair. At first glance one can see it as infogmation of minimal consequence, a bit stupid yet in rgeality she lost ger kingdom because of that. Now you open the web, copy the vagaries of some American student and that is enough to stargt an invasion to steal oil. Who needs them?”
“What is the Cleopatra story according to you?”
“One morning, she was looking at erself in a brass mirror and discoveged one white air. She ated it, ad a fit and scrgeamed at one of er generals to go to the next village to get some special henna only available in Harrods, a little shop owned by an Anglo-Saxon Egyptian. The rgequest was geard by the boyfriend of the general, an intelligent boy who was a double agent for Rome. He organised the destrguction by fire of the shop, stock and other things argound. When the soldiers arrrived with a little note she had wgritten, they could not find the shop, the indications on the map leading them instead to a pile of ash on the floor.
They came back empty anded, she was furious shouted orrible things to everybody because she found three more white airs. At that moment the bloody Octavio attacked Egypt and when another of er generals asked for an audience to explain to er a plan to destroy the Roman army, she refused to meet him because of the three white airs and in desperation committed suicide not because the Romans were able to defeat the Egyptian argmy but out of pure vanity.
So now you can see how useful an agent was in other times although with cyberspace at our finger tips they arge unemployable.” “Crap tell us what they recommend or get out.”
“There are two strategies. The first attempt must be to drop in to some institution rgelated to argt and ask them to organise a workshop on ‘How to rgun a magazine and get a millon readers.'”
One of the he/Tracies started to laugh. At first it sounded like little burps then, with the tone in crescendo until it reached the pitch of hysterical cries, he held his stomach with his hands and his shoulders fell over his knees. For an instant Clermont thought that he/Tracy was going to vomit or have an epileptic fit. He/Tracy had tears in his eyes, he tried to talk but the emotions surfaced all at once until he recovered his composure and drying his tears said
“Imagine a well-dressed woman in her forties, exuding the confidence of knowing where the tail of a horse is, holding a long stick in her right hand.”
“Waait a minute what do you mean by well-dressed?”
“Expensive clothes” he goes on “The lights get dimmer, the room is full of fools in waiting. The well-dressed woman signals with a movement of her lips to the girl behind the projector “lets start.”
The guy next to me is biting his nails, the experience developing in front of his eyes is too much for him. After a flood of lights appears on the screen, we can read Good Evening in glowing colours on a black background.
Stretching her arm to point the stick towards the G on the screen, she repeats ‘Good Evening’ with a perfect posh accent as if she is going to give us a bit of the light that she radiates following with Ð Please look at the first sentence in the little book we gave you at the entrance.
I look at the photocopy and guess what it said? Good Evening! which made me extremely happy, close to an orgasm of pleasure, three Good Evenings in 3 seconds, these experiences had never happened to me before. Great!!!!
Unfortunately after that everything that followed was multiplied by three, even the Good Bye: first on the screen, then said and lastly read in the book.”
“Please Clermont tell us the second?”
“Helloooooo, let me finish.” The he/Tracy said.
“I’ve listened to enough of that.”
“Sorrgy but I do not like to be pressurised by anyone. I think you need to try this and if it doesn’t work, I’ll suggest a new Idea and I cannot tell you about this new idea because it is very new so its difficult to know about until it’s become old.”
At that point a she /Tracy came to rescue Clermont. She wanted sugar for the coffee and some deodorant for, well you know for what.
“Please lets go together,” she said thinking perhaps he’d feel less intimidated and tell her a better story.
They went to one of the most chic shops in the area, ‘Dreams Come True’ was the name of it.
They looked at each other thinking lets find out about the dreams. She picked up a packet of sugar and some well -known deodorant and was at the till ready to pay when suddenly the she /Tracy said:
“Scuse me, where is the man?”
The man on the till raised his head in slow motion.
“Yes, the man in the TV ad for this deodorant who says take me with you. I want to do that.”
“Sorry madam but the man went with another client and it is never clear how long it’ll take for him to be back,” he said with the satisfaction of a man who has read Freud and knows how to deal with crazy people.
I bet he sees more mad people in a week than Freud saw in his entire life.
“Can I have a chair? I’ll wait for him to come back.”
“I do not recommend that madam.”
“Ok, if you cannot provide us with the man, at least you can sell it at a discount.”
The man was losing his patience and shouted
“I am not a Madam.”
“What ever you are take it or leave it.”
“Excuse me, this place is called ‘Dream Come True’ and my dream is to take the man in the ad to my house and put him in my bathroom cabinet and every morning elevate first my right arm exposing my armpit while he sprays the deodorant and the same with my left arm. If you cannot do this then change your bloody name to something like ‘We Are Liars.'”
The customers were becoming restless and a boy in the queue shouted
“Hurry up you woman.”
A woman behind him pressed her middle finger on his shoulder.
“Young man nobody told you to respect a woman.”
The young man had the face of a rothweiler and for a fraction of a second a she/Tracy thought he was going to bite her, probably on her neck, when she realized that she had a plastic collar around it so it was going to be difficult for the dog to bite, well the boy to bite. Clermont was fascinated by the scene.
The tension increased until the man on the till started crying. The boy, probably of Italian origin, bit his own hand while the lady behind walked away without paying and Clermont and she/Tracy left the sugar and the deodorant and walked back to the Rancho empty handed like the generals who pushed Cleopatra to commit suicide.
Back in the Rancho, Clermont developed a twitch which made him unable to explain everything else.
The she /Tracy decided to follow him anywhere and everywhere, she confronts the editorial morons with her tongue hanging between her lips and before they can react
– Fock off, we’re going to Argentina – by then they where holding hands like lovers.
The Tracys looked at them with amazement.
– Where?- they asked.
– To America.
– United States of America?
– Not USA, we are going to South America…
The she/Tracy decided to be called by her original name.
– My name is Hecate and I’ve fallen in love, I am madly in love, I am happy and I’m going to Argentina with Clermont.
Clermont, confused, felt a tad embarrassed.
The group of Tracys started laughing.
– Before you go anywhere, we need to know what John really told you.
– Well she said that Untitled magazine can go to hell because the Olympic games are much, much more important and prestigious for the country and the best thing is to make an Olympic magazine, she even suggested a few names . We are the best, so good that even when we lose we are the best.……That’s what she said.
Clermont and Hecate ran out of the rancho before the Tracys could react.
They kissed each other with a long, furiously effective entangle of the tongue in Holloway Road in front of two violent boy- handling dogs.
– And now she said – with a lost voice,- and now what do we do?
– First, he said with authority, – I don’t know, secondly I’ve shit my pants. I never imagined saying what I said. Going to Argentina is a stupid idea but I only generate stupid ideas.
– I am at your side- she said.
Walking down Upper Street in the direction of the Angel, Clermont suddenly smiled – I’ve got it! We’ll buy all the travel guides.
– Never, they are for mindless bourgoise, don’t tell me that you want to read them.
– Ok , but London is too small for them and us, we need to go. I’m trying to find a solution.
She closed her eyes, fluttering her eyelashes up and down, coughing nervously – we need to do as Cortes did.
-Who is Cortes?
– Spanish crazy man, with an ambition bigger than his king, who after crossing the ocean and arriving at the coast of the Aztec Empire, burnt all the ships so nobody could go back to Galicia or Catalunia.
-You mean that on one side was the Ocean with certain death hidden there and on the other side the mystery of a possible death? Guau I love you. I have an idea: we’ll destroy all the information about Buenos Aires so nobody can follow us
-Now I feel like Cortes , let’s destroy all the information about Argentina, let’s find the mystery, let’s have our hearts pumping like furious cats fighting for …
-Let’s do it but first we need to get money for the flight.
-Problems, money is always a problem. Never mind first things first.
They arrived at a bookshop in front of the Angel Square and walked innocently over the green carpet which absorbed the sound of their heels, looking for the travel section. Once in front of the bookshelves announcing Travel, Clermont curiously put a finger on the back of the first book on the left side of the shelf and followed the names with much gusto until a book about Argentina jumped into view. He took it off the shelf and with discretion messed it up with a green felt tip pen.
Hecate went to the Map section which was in front of the Travel section and resting her back on his, picked up a map of Southamerica and proceeded to destroy it.
When they felt satisfied, they started walking towards the door but just when they were going to put their feet out of the bookshop, a mild voice coming from a huge man said.
– Scuse me sir, our CCTV cameras caught you fiddling with a few books. He put his hand in his pocket and took out an invoice for £150.
– Could you be kind enough to pay for them?
Clermont went pale, Hecate shouted for help. The guy from the bookshop got Clermont’s right arm and Hecate his left one and both started to pull in the opposite direction. They managed to get out on the street and at the same time a group of young kids armed with ferocious dogs circled them. Walking slowly the one with a bigger dog stood up in front of the busy man from the bookshop and said something like,
– If you appreciate your balls it is probably a good idea to leave him otherwise my little poodle will eat them in one bite.
The man, unconcerned, started winning the battle against Hecate, who had the stupid idea of remembering how the Spanish dismembered Tupac Amaru and started crying, sobbing, imagining horses running in all directions pulling Clermont apart.
Somebody called the police but no problem there, they only arrived 3 hours later and by then the dog had attacked the man and destroyed the back of his trousers and they had run free with all the kids and dogs around them.
– Now we need to escape to another continent, the police are behind us.
They kissed each other with passion surrounded by the clapping and laughing of the kids and the barking of the dogs.
– Justice has been done, said a short boy with a face like an ice cream.
They felt great, like they had started a revolution against the information tzars, to liberate the people from the tirany of the do what I said or you’ll lose out because I am in the know. No more of if You go to Argentina YOU need to dance Tango, no more YOU need to see Boca Juniors against River Plate, no more go walking in Caminito or go to Fundacion Prada and no recommendation of the little hotel with a little dengue mosquito in front of the Theatre Colon waiting for YOU.
No more of all that crap.
TOURISTS OF THE UNIVERSE UNITE.
Now that the revolution has started, hundreds of travellers are going to go on the rampage and destroy all the books, cosmic hackers meddling in the million of silly blogs
Now is the time that if You are a tourist you need to find out for YOURbloody self.
For a miracle of the destiny, well no this is somehow meaningless……
The Tracys were great, they harboured them in the Rancho until they escaped to Buenos Aires.
They kept conversation for the flight: 18 hours of a living nightmare with hundreds of unknown people.
In the taxi towards Heathrow they were very cool.
They kept their nerve for the future, not a word good bye as London escaped from them, nothing, silence.
Everything was ok, until the custom officer in charge treated everyone as a Taliban.
– You, take your shoes off.
Clermont remembered that his socks had holes in each toe. He smiled.
– Your shoes, repeated the authoritarian git signalling with a pointing finger to him.
Hecate had by then taken off her shoes and was starting to pull her trousers down.
The officer looked at her . – What are you doing?
– Can’t you see?
Another officer picked up Hecate’s shoes and put them in a machine that looked like a torture chamber.
She shouted at him – Ehyyyy.
Clermont walked in with a silly expresion, meanwhile she ran to the end of the machine and got hold of her shoes and walked in with them in her hands.
Inside the airport , they were walking and looking at things, like a pencil or a bottle of whisky or a tie or a fat fat fat American with shorts and white socks.
Suddenly they broke the silence.
– He’s American?
– No, German, don’t you see?
– He’s American if you look at his lips, that shine of grease is typical of Mc Donald’s hamburgers and who eats them? Only Americans.
– Well, no, my cousin eats them and as far as I know he is not American.
They laugh and walk slowly towards a bar when two silky guys approach them.
– Sir, can you follow us? We need to ask you a few questions.
Clermont said – what if we don’t follow you, there is no reason to follow any one who says follow me. Who are you? Jesus in disguise?
_Sir, we are custom officers, said one of them showing something in his hand.
– You didn’t take your shoes off.
– What, do I look like a Taliban?
-No, but we are in charge of security and we ask the questions, not you.
They went into a corner and asked them for their passports.
At that moment Hecate found out that Clermont was from UK, and Clermont found out that Hecate was from UK.
– Where are you going?
Suddenly they changed from being polite to furious bouncing balls acussing them of being traitors to Queen and country.
They lost their sense of proportion when they heard Argentina, they forgot what they were there for.
– Maradona, Maradona and the hand of god, don’t you see it, he cheated and you’re going to spend our money there.
– That was a long time ago- said Clermont to calm them down .
-Excuses! We deserved to win that match – we were winning that match until Maradona used his hand.
Clermont said something silly like – I don’t know anything about football.
-You’re LYING! Everybody knows about football, we invented it.
-You? Me? Hecate?
-Yes, yes we created the damn game.
Meanwhile they were excited. Hecate pick pocketed a mobile phone belonging to the fat one and dropped it on the floor to change subject. Both of them jumped to get it thinking they’d just caught drugdealers by accident. Dissapointed, they went on and on.
– Bloddy Maradona If this, If that, If the other.
Hecate started laughing, Rudyard Kipling came to her mind, she was enjoying the atenttion and others passangers began to circle them.
-Marandona CHEEEEEATED – shouted the fat man. It’s a disgrace, what about fair play, eh what?? he said with tears in his eyes.
– We haven’t won anything since 1966.
-Rattin, Rattin, Rattin what did Rattin tell the German referee in 1966?★
-That is different.
– Because we won and if you win what ever you do is right.
– So the hand of god was OK? said a Pole who was listening to the conversation.
– No it is not ok, by the way can you show me your passport?
The Pole was surrounded by somethings like policeman of some sort and Clermont and Hecate escaped the attention of the two guys and got into the aeroplane.
After the most delighfull trip they arrived at EZEIZA airport.
★It was in the quarter-final match against the host team that Rattín was sent off by the German referee Rudolf Kreitlein for “violence of the tongue”, despite the referee speaking no Spanish. Rattín was so incensed with the decision, believing the referee to be biased in favour of England, that he initially refused to leave. As a way to show his disgust, he sat on the red carpet which was exclusively for the Queen to walk on. He eventually had to be escorted from the field by two police officers and as a final sign of disgust he wrinkled a British pennant before he was escorted out. This incident, and others surrounding the same game, arguably started the long-lasting rivalry between both national teams.
Inside the plane the people were ready to get out as soon as possible, they got their luggage down from the overhead lockers and waited with eyes full of sleep and hair in a mess. A tad untidy.
Clermont saw the horror in their expressions, he guessed that they were worried about their looks, perhaps a mirror could kill all the passengers in 45 seconds.
In the seat in front of them a father was trying to stop his son crying, at the same time his wife was shouting at him to do something to stop the little boy. The poor man had in his right hand a bundle of bags meanwhile with his left hand he dried the tears from the boy’s cheeks.
Hecate felt sorry for him.
She said, – Don’t worry, there are a lot of psychoanalyst in Buenos Aires, they can help avoid the Oedipo complex.
– Mind your own business, the woman said humorlessly.
When the stairs were attached to the plane and the the doors opened the people started to move.
Clermont noticed that the movement was similar to a snake going towards the sunshine.
Hecate was running downstairs, diving onto the Argentinian soil, kissing and blessing it. After the little scene she walked along the tarmac beside Clermont in the direction of the custom officers office.
-I forgot to ask, do you speak Spanish?
-A little, I went on holiday twice with my family to Spain when I was five and seven years old. And you?
-I am fluent in… English.
-Clermont, why did you pretend to be French?
-I thought it was cooler than being from Muswell Hill.
-Hecate, why do you know so much about Southamerica? You surprise me.
– Well my great-grandmother was from La Boca, a port borough on the Riachuelo or Rio Matanza coast where the Italians settled. It’s full of colourful houses because the sailors gave extra paint from the boats which was never enough for anything so they combined all the colours of the rainbow and beyond. The English seamen taught the natives a fascinating game.
-Football. They learnt quickly perhaps because they had the practice of dancing tango and two great teams were born on the banks of the Riachuelo over the cobbles – Boca Juniors and River Plate.
– She helped Doctor Crippin’s mistress, Ethel Neave, when she arrived in Buenos Aires, and got a job for her with the woman from Chicago who ran a bar of debatable reputation where famous seaman- writers drank with her from her lips.
-Doctor Crippin is a wonderful name.
-He poisoned his second wife, (an actress called Corine Turner or Belle Elmore by her friends), in Camden Town, or to be more precise, in 39 Hilldrop Crescent because she had a problem with her pants.
-Yes, her pants, Belle Elmore found it impossible to keep them on although Dr Crippin went to any length to get the best pants in London for her. As soon as she tried them on she complained, “They are small, they are uncomfortable, they are too big” – well any excuse to pull down her pants. She used to say – “I do not want my vagina packaged like a sardine.”
Dr Crippin was an American doctor who ran into economical difficulties because he organised too many intellectual suppers at his house.
– What, they eat their words?
– Let me finish, every night she dropped her pants to share a bed with a different genius.
Dr Crippin, who was a bit of a creep, was fed up with buying pants for no use and he started crawling towards a madness called jealousy and killed his wife like a rat, with poison.
After that he told a silly story saying Corine had gone to America to visit relatives. In the meantime, Ethel went to live with him at Hilldrop Crescent.
The wife’s lovers started to ask some questions, and he made a step forwards in his silliness and said, without showing any remorse that she had died in California.
When he felt that the police had begun to be interested in the whereabouts of Belle Elmore, the old man went aboard a transatlantic ship with the intention of escaping to America with Ethel dressed as a boy and pretending to be the son of Dr Crippin.
– A bloody telegraph stopped them. It was the first time the police captured somebody thanks to a telegraph. She arrived at the port of Buenos Aires and my great-grandma took pity on a beautiful angel and found her a job as a waitress.
– Guau, Hecate I love you, you know everything.
– More or less, she said with a coy expression.
They were waiting in a queue to get their passports stamped.
In front of them a lass was standing, moving her feet nervously. Suddenly she was compelled to engage in a conversation with Hecate and when she realised that these two did not have the faintest idea of Buenos Aires, she volunteered to help.
– Is this your first time?
-No, we’ve done it many times at home.
-Jajajajaja, i mean in Buenos Aires.
-Do you speak any Castilian?
-I speak some Spanish.
-It doesn’t matter, you need to know only one word – “obvio”. When any person talks to you, just wait until they stop talking and if you are lucky , in that precise moment you introduce
the word “obvio” in the gap created between sentence and sentence. If you feel more circumspect you can use the combination of two words ‘mira vos” – that is enough to allow you to survive…in Buenos Aires.
The queue was moving very slowly, Clermont was annoyed and tired.
– Hecate, what happened with the happy waiter and your family?
– She sent one of my great- grandmother’s kids to England to be educated. That was my grandfather.
Suddenly the queue started moving quickly and they found themselves in front of a woman inside a fish tank-like office.
Clermont could not restrain himself and murmured –
– She is a fish.
The woman had beautiful hair a la Amy Whitehouse. She looked at the photos in the passports then she looked at them, scanned the passport and with the stamp in her hands
she said – What was that about a fish?
Clermont felt the elbow of Hecate in his ribs and collapsed on the floor with an intense pain.
Hecate smiled innocently at the woman who stamped a stamp and wrote with a Bic 90 days on one page, handing back the passports.
The girl was waiting for them on the other side of the fish tank and when finally they joined her she asked – Where are you staying?
– Any B&B.
– Humm that’s dangerous, this city is dangerous, very dangerous, she repeated just in case they didn’t understand.
– What do you recommend?
– Well, my uncle has a little flat in San Telmo, I am sure he can rent it very cheaply to you.
-They approved with a smug little gesture.
– My name is Tota, I will call my Uncle right now.
Clermont looked at Tota for the first time, he noticed that Tota had wonderful hair a la Amy Whitehouse, black hair and dark eyes , her shoulders were round followed by long arms.
He made nothing of his observations.
Tota called her uncle and after a conversation that they didn’t understand, she smiled at them and said – It is all organised. The flat is not in San Telmo but in Barracas, the borough next to it.
– My boy friend is waiting for me outside, I’m sure he will take you to Barracas.
Once in the car, a new 4×4, they met El Chuqui, a young man with sparce knowledge of an illustrious Viennese called something like Fred or Freud, he painfully measured his words so each time he spoke it was as if he was going to tell a deep and mysterious truth, even when he said- banana.
When they arrived at a modern/old building, Tota’s uncle was waiting for them in the entrance.
El Chuqui kissed both of them on their cheeks and said – Do not forget that this country was founded by a syphilitic Spanish gentleman, Don Pedro de Mendoza.
-Obvio – said Clermont to his surprise.
Next morning , they woke up in a beautiful flat full of light in the Avenida Montes de Oca. Hecate had found out in the Buenos Aires guide she hid from Clermont, that Barracas was born in the XVII century on the north bank of the Riachuelo, that the borough of Barracas is in the south of Buenos Aires and that Avenida Montes de Oca is named after Dr Montes de Oca. It used to be called La Calle Larga – (the long road) and was limited in the south by the Rio Matanza and in the north by Plaza Constitucion a main train station.
The Calle Larga was where an incipient aristocracy built mansions in the late XVII century, they made their money running a flourishing business in contraband and pig farming or perhaps cow farming.
Tales of romance and treachery took place in the houses of the Calle Larga, like the one of Admiral Brown, an Irish man, the father of the Argentine navy, and his daughter who fell madly in love with a young seaman called Canning. He volunteered to fight against the invaders and was killed in action – when she found out her sorrow was so deep she walked into the river and drowned.
Another story is probably a myth. A rich gentlemen whose name escapes me, was an eccentric and had wild animals in the grounds surrounding his mansion. His daughter’s boyfriend went one day to the mansion to surprise her but he was confronted by a lion who attacked and ate him. Perhaps there is some truth in this as there is a statue of a lion attacking a young man in one of the first, now dilapadated, mansions of the Calle Larga.
On the coast of Rio Matanza, the people of Buenos Aires stopped the first English invasion in 1806 and they resisted the second in 1807.
The virreyes Sobremonte and Vertiz escaped in an act of bravery, the first to Cordoba probably to a Jesuit mission, the second who knows where.
Then in 1871 THE PLAGUE.
The empty houses were rented by the room by émigrés especially the Italians. A popular place for working people, it was strange with bars of bad reputation, a refuge for outlaws, prostitutes and others.
It is a mythological borough, writers like Ernesto Sabato, Leopoldo Marechal and Jorge Luis Borges wrote about it and Payadores like Gabino Ezeiza or the great Tango composer Arolas, played in Pulperias of Barracas.
Tota’s uncle was very kind and had left a pot of coffee and some coffee on top of the table in the kitchen as well as a packet of herbs with a big logo YERBA MATE, CRUZ DEL DIABLO, a metal straw and a little empty pumpkin skin.
Clermont could not believe his eyes, he walked in circles around the table many times before finding the courage to look more closely at the packet and open it. He jumped back a metre or more.
-Ganja- he shouted – Hecate, look at this – fingering the grass on the table.
Guau, this is a very civilised society, don’t you see it’s a kilo of manufactured ganja and a pipe to smoke it.
Perhaps they are junkies.
Who ? Tota and El Chuqui ? Don’t be silly . This is a dangerous way of life, what a breakfast!!!!!!!!!
She was excited – let’s smoke a bit.
– WAIT we need to find out how to put the pipe and the pumpkin together.
They picked up the pumpkin and searched for the second hole. You fill it from the top but where is the hole for the straw?
– Nowhere, you need to make one. How how?
Somehow they maneged and put the metal straw inside the hole.
– Wait, what does CRUZ DEL DIABLO mean? Let’s find it out in Wikipedia…probably skank or something like that.
-Oh my god, forget it! All the narrow minded gits of wikipedia.
They prepared the pipe and sat on the floor of the balcony.
– Hey Clermont, do you think this is how the Red Indians smoke the peace pipe?
– Well not surrounded by the pollution of an avenue like this.
– Let me start, she said with excitment. She lit the pipe and inhaled the smoke and started coughing hysterically. Lying down, she gasped,
– I’m dying, I cannot breath, help!
He ran to the kitchen and got hold of a glass of water, came rushing back and poured the water over her head. She calmed down and felt better.
-This shit is shit, she shouted.
They decided on a more common breakfast and made coffee.
– Our first day in Buenos Aires, wait Tota gave me a piece of paper with some directions.
She looked inside her bag and found a drawing with a map of the area and a note. Go to Parque Lezama, walk around and have lunch in Bar Britanico, avoid La Boca it’s very dangerous because it is full of tourists.
La Boca, we are close to my ancestor Hecate thought.
In the middle of the morning they made a move. Walking in the street they saw a guy handling ten dogs and then another with eleven dogs.
– What are these guys doing walking like that?
– Walking dogs.
They strolled around Av. Montes de Oca as far as Calle Caseros and turned right as the map indicated and followed it until they arrived at Parque Lezama. A magnificent house confronted them, surrended by lush vegetation of palms trees and others with strange names like Drunken Stick, Cow’s tongue, Cat’s nails, Ombu and Jacaranda.
– It ‘s like a Cartesian garden.
– What do you mean?
– A French garden.
– The mansion with big verandas and beautiful terracotta exterior walls, was built by an English man called Charles Ridgley Horne in the XVIII century – Hecate said.
– He escaped to Montevideo with the fall of Juan Manuel de Rosas’ goverment.
They walked around it , ran on the grass, sat under the palm trees.
-That guy Charles was a friend of Don Juan Manuel de Rosas, el restaurador .
-I don’t know. Who was Rosas?
– A man who was in power for a very long time in Buenos Aires in the XIX century and as punishment , he exiled himself to Southampton where he lived until his death.
-Southampton, I’ve never been to Southhampton.
The sunshine is playing with shadows and light, drawing changing images on the ground in the Parque. It’s like a green, grey and yellow oasis encircled by particles of gritty black pollution.
They were in silence under the Palm Tree, she put her head on Clermont , he stroked her blonde hair.
They were enjoying each other’s company.
-Hey, Hecate I know that you know everything but how did you know about that geezer Rosas?
She silenced him pressing her index finger on his lips, followed by a long, wet kiss.
– You know all those ads with beautiful people drinking rum under the palm trees, like us now. I always dreamt that one day, one day somebody would come to me and ask me to take a principle role in a film.
– You are beautiful Clermont.
– Lets make love.
– You are mad. Look – look at the dogs, trees around us. They have a million eyes.
– Sorry, it was just an idea.
They got lost under the shadows avoiding dengue mosquito bites until a huge monument with the sculpture of Don Pedro de Mendoza exploded in all it’s splendour in front of their eyes.
– Look. This was where Buenos Aires was founded in 1536.
– Monuments to commemorate illustrious men or heroic actions are ugly pieces of work, like Prince Albert’s Memorial in Hyde Park.
– Why him?
– Because he married queen Victoria.
– That is heroic ?
– O yeah, this one is ugly and meaningless because Don Pedro was in this land for about a year without achieving his aims. Most of the time he was in bed feeding syphilis and then he went sailing back to Spain but unfortunately he never made it, he died in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean.
Cubes of marble slabs formed the base of the sculpture of bronze, about 3 metres tall, of Don Pedro de Mendoza, standing, looking towards nowhere in the distance holding a spade in one hand and in the other, a little parchment representing the King of Spain’s guarantee giving him authority over as much land as he could conquer or as a friend of mine said, to rob the natives.
– He commanded 13 ships and 2000 men. Guau.
– Don Pedro was a fashion victim, dressed like one of the Pope’s Swiss guard in the Vatican contrasting with the image of a topless Querandi indian woman with her two arms streching towards the sky behind him, carved in marble.
– What’s it mean?
– No idea but I can pretend to know.
– I am waiting.
-Well any one dressed like the Adelantados represented a sophisticated society with rapacious instincts and tendencies to exterminate the natives and steal their land in the name of civilization, god and the crown.
– And the woman behind?
– She looks scared to death because not even in her wildest dreams could she imagine what she saw – people arriving out of the water with big animals (horses) , the Bible, smallpox, syphilis and the violent authoritarian streak of telling them that their society and civilization were a piece of shit and that if they did not change god, customs and all the rest, they would disappear like a fart.
– You have a way with words Clermont.
– Let’s have something to eat at the BAR BRITANICO, I can see it on the corner up there.
They walked to the Bar and found that Tota and El Chuqui were waiting for them sitting beside a window.
Tota’s coiffure and make up made her look beautiful, a bit weird but attractive. El Chuqui was pale and out of sink if you asked Clermont.
They kissed hellos and sat with them. From nowhere a guy with yellow hair and a mohican asked them what they wanted.
-Two submarines, said El Chuqui – What would you like?
– Two more submarines.
_- What are they?
– A glass of hot milk with a bar of chocolate that dissolves when you stir it.
– The Argentines have a deeply wounded psique, said El Chuqui with a solemnity worthy of a priest giving extreme unction.
La Tota is an art historian with an aristocratic background and El Chuqui a Charlatan with few words, his father was killed by the army in the 80’s and her mother escaped with him to Brasil and then to Paris.
When she found out that Hecate and Clermont were art critics for Untitled magazine she was extremely happy – so happy that she dropped her submarine on the floor.
The dry sound of glass crashing was followed by the spilling of milk all over the place.
The mohican waiter was not sympathetic.
El Chuqui helped to clean the floor and then looking intensily at Clermont asked him.
– What do you think about Tony Blair? The question touched Clermont’s fragile nerves.
– He is a deceitful mass murdering war criminal.
El Chuqui smiled in a patronizing way while walking out of the Bar.
They left the Bar Britanico unhappy with the treatment they’d received from the yellow punk after their submarines had sunk.
– Not every waiter in Buenos Aires is unpleasant, I promise, said La Tota assuming on her shoulders the pride of the nation.
They were crossing the road diagonally, the four of them standing at the intersection of the Calle Brasil and Calle Defensa, the cobblestones of the road playing with Clermont’s fantasies.
– Sh, sh, sh listen, can you hear the horses shoes clapping against the stones?,
– O yeah and the noise of the tramways too, said El Chuqui.
They laughed and enjoyed the sunshine biting their skin, making them move with certain slothfulness.
– Why do all the women I see have long hair ?, asked Hecate.
– Because they dream of being like Nicole Kidman, having shiny, long, blonde hair or brunette like Angela Thick.
– Angela Thick?
– Long hair plays with the erotic fantasies of the Argentinian male together with plastic surgery, said El Chuqui
Tramping around the holes in the Calle Defensa, trying to avoid the tourists, they soon realized that it was an impossible task so they found themselves smiling to the first one they passed, smiling to the second, and to any one that walked beside them or in front of them until Hecate decided she’d done enough smiling for a day and demanded food.
– I am hungry, she stated.
– Meat, said Clermont closing his eyes and dreaming .- I am agog to see a piece of meat.
El Chuqui said – Restaurants are where people do business, politicians make deals, lovers arrange places to meet and make love and so on. All that takes place around a table over a bite and a sip, anyway The Restaurant is the fabric of our society. I know a Restaurant in front of Parque Lezama.
– What type of tablecloths do they have?
– Last time I was there, they had two, a red and white check one on top and a plain red one below. Why do you ask this question?
– Sorry, but a piece of material can tell you everything about the place. My friend Marta and I used to go to the Gran Mora in the Bajo¹, and there they cover the table with white paper and sometimes newspapers and unfortunately the cover was related to the standard of the food and in the end we called the place The Green Vomit, but and it was a big but, it was soooooooo cheap that we kept on going.
They were walking along Calle Defensa in the direction of Barracas where the old Carrousel with the exhausted wooden horses going up and down, round and round still exists on the corner of Martin Garcia. On their way they passed Torcuato Tassi, a building named after an Italian painter which is now a good place to listen to Tango.
– When I was young I thought that Tango was the music of confused machos, always complaining about being left by a woman, always happy to come back to live with mum after being in prison or fighting with his woman. They cry about anything to show they are sensitive. On top of that are the stories of “malevos”, skillfull men with knives, bloody drunks, La Tota said.
– Machos are always confused, said Hecate.
– I blame Borges for that, he romanticised los malevos, responded El Chuqui.
– I blame Norah Lange.
– Because she destroyed Borges’ confidence as a poet when she left him to run after another poet, Oliverio Girondo.
– He stopped writing only poetry and started writing short stories.
– Are you sure?
– Tango for export, before we sold cows now we sell a way of life.
– My father loved Edmundo Rivero, a Iunfardo² singer. Remember that song Killing me softly? it had nothing to do with it but he brings that song to my mind. His tune is called Amablemente³ – it is the epitomy of Tango stories, the narrative goes like this.
The guy arrived unexpectedly at the room he shared with his woman. She was in bed with another man. After he’d recovered from the surprise, sounding magnanimous, he asked the other man to get out because in these cases the man is not guilty.
He sat on the bed and softly asked Catalina, that was her name, for a yerba mate⁴. She was scared and obeyed in silence.
She came back with the yerba mate and then he stabbed her ‘kindly’, 34 times.
– A bit violent -, understated Hecate.
They arrived at a Restaurant full of people, the waiter signalling a table in the left hand corner. It was like a long corridor with tables at each side .
The intense noise buzzing around surprised no one. The office workers were all sitting there with white shirts and colourful ties, the long sleeves of their shirts rolled up.
La Tota refused the menu that the waiter wanted to give them and asked for four rare Bifes de Lomo and a bottle of Malbec from Mendoza.
As El Chuqui said, the tablecloths had small red and white checks and the walls were all full of something. That was ok for La Tota.
The waiter arrived at the table with a bottle of wine in his left hand and a white napkin resting on his wrist, a bottle opener in his right hand and with ceremonial precision he rested the bottle on the table. Opening the knife of his corkscrew, one of those resembling a long ant, where the body is the handle, at one of the extremes a round head with an eye each side and on top of that a little knife, while at the other end something like a leg with toes which fits the neck of the bottle and between the two extremes, a dangerous extended metal spiral rod. Holding the bottle from the middle of it’s body, he started to cut the thin cover of lead covering the neck of the bottle. Once he had finished cutting the metal circle, he penetrated the cork with the spiral metal rod twisting round and round from the handle, suspending his hand in the air at each spin of the hand, until the spiral disappeared inside the cork, and he set the back leg on the border of the bottle neck, pulling the head of the ant up and taking the cork out. Separating the cork from the opener, he held it between his fingers looking at the end which had been inside the bottle with some excitement.
He offered a drop of wine in a glass to El Chuqui, who, following the solemnity of the moment, elevated the glass to a position somewhere between his eyes and the lightbulb on the ceiling, what Clermont would soon start to call an eclipse of wine. El Chuqui, looking intensely at the liquid in the glass, and with the same seriousness, put the glass under his nostrils and smelt for a few seconds. Clermont was fascinated, Hecate was fascinated, then he sipped a short sip, gargled and nodded approvingly.
The waiter was relieved and happy and filled all the glasses triumphantly.
Hecate was a tad nervous, she needed some green but decided not to complain and just wait and ask for salad later.
The bifes arrived on a white plate for each of them, a big piece of bloody meat, 3 inches high and about 5 inches in diameter.
Clermont went pale. Everyone noticed his reaction.
– Are you ok? they asked.
– Yes, he said – I had an optical orgasm.
– Guau, you are so charming, showing your feelings in a split second, can’t you grow up? said Hecate.
– You are exaggerating but Tirinika Taravanike never, never had that effect on me.
They attacked the meat like hungry animals and the wine loosened their tongues, each of them wanting to talk.
El Chuqui’s misplaced solemnity disappeard for a while.
– Now I like Tango, it is the memory of the collective consciousness of urban emigrees.
– It still suggests a nasty sound, said La Tota.
– Not modern Tango.
– What modern Tango?
– Piazzola, Mederos, Dino Saluzzi, Portotango.
La Tota stared around harshly, she preferred to listen to Madre Maravilla or Onda Vaga, sipped a large glass of wine and asked for another bottle.
The waiter started the ritual again but this time offered the glass to Clermont who took it with grace. He decided that neither the eclipse of wine nor the looking up was necessary, but he remembered that wine connoisseurs, after gargling for a while, need to spit somewhere, preferibly in a special basin.
Not knowing what to do, he swallowed it and nodded his head in approval and started feeling dizzy.
El Chuqui was asking Clermont about his work as a critic and
Clermont prepared a long winded explanation.
-Well, well, well. First you go to a place where they show an art
work: a site, a gallery, a video projection space. Once there I exacerbate my senses.
– How, do you do that, with some drug?
– No, just pretending that I know best, that my eyes plus my knowledge allow me to float on a cotton floor.
I walk around with a stupid look on my face because I don’t want anyone to know my feelings.
Afterwards, I make some notes to support my fragile memory.
– Stop that crap.
– Ok, if you want me to be boring that’s what you’ll get. A piece of art is always a system of signs, the sum of those signs produces a significance. I use a structuralist method of analysing.
First deconstruct the piece of work and then put it together. If in the process of this, between the two extremes, I discover a concept that helps me to understand life and pushes my knowledge a bit , I believe it is a work of art.
– You mean you can have concept without art but not art without concept?
– There must be another way of seeing.
-Yes – said Hecate – there is the Ideological criticism according to a French seminiologist.
The critic belongs to some ism, like marxism or christianism or fascism so she or he analyses art work through the lens of their certainties.
A work of of art can be bad only because there is not enough glorification of the working class or great because it shows the exploitation of man to man, terrible because it mentions the promiscuity of the priesthood and so on. Not a very accurate account but it happens.
– What can we do? – Hecate asked.
– Let’s go to Bellas Artes in Recoleta to see Candido Lopez.
– Who was he?
– A war artist who produced hundreds of sketches of the battle front, then sadly he lost his right arm and as a consequence, his hand.
– Which war?
– The war of the Triple Alianza, Brasil, Argentina and Uruguay against a suicidal Paraguay presided over by Mariscal Solano Lopez, killed in the final battle at Cerro Cora, who destroyed the country and it’s male population.
Some historians claim that General Mitre, then Argentinian President, promised not to get involved in the conflict but went back on his word??
El Mariscal succeeded Jose Gaspar Rodriguez de Francia, the first dictator in Paraguay’s history, who closed the country’s borders, isolating it from the rest of the world for 30 years.
Roa Bastos, the Paraguayan writer, portrayed him in his novel, Yo, El Supremo.
As I said, Candido Lopez lost his right hand so he learnt how to paint with his left hand and was able to paint hundreds of canvases of that war.
– I thought Recoleta was a cemetery.
– It is an exclusive upper class cemetery with beautiful mausoleums in a big garden. The Club of the everlasting rest.
– Not everybody there was the cream of the cream, Eva Peron is there.
– Peron and the Comisario Falcon blown away by the Polish anarchist is there too.
1 Bajo: Paseo Colon
2 lunfardo: The slang of Buenos Aires
3 Amablemente: Kindly
4 Mate: Argentinian tea
Buenos Aires is a city bordering the Sweet Sea or Rio de la Plata named
by a hopeful Spaniard in his search for silver and gold.
A poet called it the River of the Colour of a Lion, perhaps a more accurate description, and the Uruguayans are a bit confused describing it as The Sea.
The Portuguese tried to reach the coast of the river before the Spaniards, so they sent a flotilla from Río de Janeiro but it was God’s will to send them a powerful storm which destroyed their hopes and they returned to Brasil with bruises all over their bodies.
The inhabitants are called Porteños (people from the port) and come in all shapes, colours and religions. The women are so beautiful that even Charles Darwin noticed it, a man known for his knowledge about monkeys and a promoter of the myth that there can be a winner.
The men are pretentious and naive at the same time.
– Are they beautiful? – asked Hecate.
-Some of them are, some are ugly, some pretty, some horrible like anywhere else and Darwin kept silent about them replied La Tota. 13000000 people live in Gran Buenos Aires and Capital Federal, nearly
-30 % of the country are here.
Populating this area was a funny struggle; the Spaniards came with a few women and mixed with the native women and had children, later the slaves from Africa arrived.
The society took the shape of a pyramid – at the top were the Criollos, people of pure Spanish descent, then the mixed ones – Mestizos, the Gaucho drop outs, the indians and Africans.
All was ok, well sort of ok if you know what I mean, until a chap called Faustino Sarmiento messed up by calling everybody who was not his friend Barbarians, accusing them of being guilty of destroying the country with their ignorance and laziness. The remedy for that was to import civilised people preferibly from northern Europe, blue eyed and with protestant guilt and that was going to be enough whooops…
Did he shout civilization or barbarism? – that is the question, continued La Tota.
Faustino was a man of many talents. He was a writer, a politician, a president and the object of all primary school children’s hate.
He lived with his mother, doña Juana Albarracín de Sarmiento, who wove ponchos under a tree while he travelled 30 km by donkey to school and then another 30 km back and he never never lost a fucking day. He was from the province of San Juan, so every Argentine mother for the last 120 generations has told their daughters and sons, “You need to be like Sarmiento who defied weather, distance and illness just to go to school.”
– Bloody Sarmiento, that ‘s what I say, La Tota ranted relentlessly.
They were walking along Paseo Colon in the direction of Retiro.
El Retiro used to be an army barrack in colonial times, in front of which was a bullring and a place where criminals were shot but now it is a train station which supplies trains to the north of Buenos Aires where the rich people escaped from the plague.
They passed the Pink House where President Cristina Fernandez presides.
– From here, she lost a fight with the soya farmers last year – said La Tota pointing a finger towards a massive palace.
– Now she’s started another battle with the media barons – mentioned El Chuqui.
– How is it that porteños are so pretentious? asked Hecate.
– Jajajaja , it is not true, there are a few jokes about it but they are blasphemous.
– Here is one of the jokes. How does a Porteño commit suicide?
– I don’t know.
– They climb to the top of their ego and jump.
Clermont smiled, Hecate didn’t.
– Hey, did British people live here after the two fiascos of 1806 & 7? asked Clermont.
– Yes , they were economically influencial in 1820 , said Hecate with a certainty that surprised everybody but Clermont who had become used to her knowledge.
– In 1822 a census of foreigners showed 3500 English people in Buenos Aires alone, not counting the 200 Irish workers that Colonel O’Brien, an officer of General San Martin, father of the country, promised for the construction of the port of Buenos Aires – she went on with her speech – A Captain Heywood of the ship S.M.B Nercus mapped the best way to sail the Rio de la Plata , known by sailors as the seaman’s inferno.
La Tota kept her mouth open in admiration, her head inclined to the right about
45 degrees, while her eyes tried desperately to find the truth – who was this girl??? She could not stop herself asking, did you read that in a tourist guide?
What else do you know?
Weeellll, she said with squeaky voice, I can tell you the names of all the British companies in Bs As then. Without losing any time Hecate began :
Messrs. Brown, Buchanan & Co, Agents for Lloyds, M’Crackanans Jamienson
Miller. Eyes & Co, Miller,Robinson &CO, Winter, Britain & Co
Plowes, Noble & Co Dickson, Montgomery & Co, Duguid & M Kerrell
Bertam, Amstrong & Co , Heyworth & Carlisle, W.P. Robertson & Co
Anderson, Weir & Co, Tayleure, Cartwright & Co, William Hardesty & Co, Joseph and Joshua Twaites, John Gibson & Co, Hugh Dalls & Co, Peter Sheridad, John Appleyard, C.S Harvey, Thomas Eastman, Thomas Fair , Thomas Nelson, Green & Hogson, CMessrs, John Bailey, Jump & Priestley
John Ludlam , James G. Heisby, Henry Hesse , M.Dougall& Co,
Harrat & Co, R.B Niblet, Daniel Mackinlay, Thomas Barton,
George Mcfarlane , Stephen Puddicomb , Robert Utting
– Wait, are you joking, why should I believe whatever you say?
– Believe what you want, said Hecate laughing , I know sometimes I tend to exaggerate!
El Chuqui was so overwhelmed that he started talking about what he knew best – the other side of the mind, The End of the Family and Knots and how his mother saw Cooper, a crazy Southafrican psychiatrist in Buenos Aires in an extraordinary place run by a man of many talents like Sarmiento; a curator, a critic, a writer and an electric bulb seller who later became the director of the Museum of Bellas Artes and made a mess of it.
Clermont, who normally got the wrong end of the stick asked,
– What is the difference between Spanish and English Imperialism?
La Tota decided to look at a bird on top of a jacaranda tree while El Chuqui
pretended to cough to clarify his brain.
– Well – he said, taking his time. The Spanish are like happy robbers, they came to America, they killed anything that moved and stole as much as they could as soon as possible, where as the English did the same but with method and they allowed themselves more time, pretending to do something for the little natives. Perhaps it is a question of religion.
Clermont decided to ignore them and take photos under the beautiful arches with the sun shining in their faces.
The road was furiously busy, vans, cars, taxis all desperate to arrive somewhere with horns screaming and the pavements a broken mess.
He asked a blonde girl, who was walking a silly looking dog, one of those Chiuhauas, the kind of animal that the Aztecs used to eat for breakfast, to take a picture.
He gave his Olympus camera to her explaining what she needed to do. She listened to him until he realised that he was speaking in English and the girl didn’t understand a word but she could easily guess what he wanted so she stood in front of them looking at each of them with a disapproving gaze.
The dog started barking because he felt that he was not getting enough attention so she moved her head and arms to calm him down at the same time that she pressed the shutter button, cutting off their heads. She apologized and tried again. This time the shitty little dog lost his temper and bit her on her ankle. She threw the camera up in the air and Clermont jumped to the rescue of the Olympus catching it in a fashion that would have won him a contract as a goalkeeper if the English national team football manager had been around.
The blonde girl walked away in shame and apology and having separated from them by a few metres, she started kicking the little beast.
La Tota got the camera and rested it on a pile of rubbish. After looking through the LC monitor she pressed the shutter button combined with the self – timer, giving her self a moment to join them and appear in the photo.
They all smiled as if they were anxiously happy. La Tota was enthusiastic and asked them to stay put for another photo – this time they made silly faces.
They repeated the operation 10 times with 10 new photos polluting the world as a result, thought El Chuqui .
They were now very close to Retiro.
They could see Plaza del Retiro and beyond to their right, a train station called Retiro, a XIX century Victorian building which supplied trains to the North of Buenos Aires, Belgrano, La Lucila, Martinez etcetera. In the middle of the Plaza there is a silly tower with four clocks, one on each face, which used to be called The English Tower because the British people gave it to the city of Buenos Aires as a gesture of friendship. After the Malvinas’ war its name changed mysteriously.
To go to Bellas Artes Museum, they had to cross several dangerous roads with 6 or 7 lanes of cars full of mad drivers. They were just walking along one side of Plaza San Martin when Clermont started shouting – Look at that! – extending his arm and pointing with his finger at a young boy juggling skillfully with a few colourful balls in front of seven lanes of menacing cars ready to move as soon as they saw the yellow light.
In his left hand, the boy had four balls, two red, one yellow and one blue. He was jumping small jumps, separating himself about 1cm from the asphalt although the soles of his shoes were still touching the floor, an anxious movement before his act. They thought the boy was going to start the show but no, he was shouting to his friend. Suddenly they saw the yellow ball going up followed by the blue ball. When the yellow ball stopped going up and started going down and the blue ball was exactly half way to the top, with a precise movement, he threw one of the red balls up, keeping the other in his hand with three balls moving , 2 down and 1 up. He waited until the yellow ball stopped going up and sent the other red ball up while at the same time he caught the yellow ball with his right hand and started all over again.
Clermont started running towards the child just as the lights changed and stopped just before a car nearly killed him in the act.
– What are you doing ? asked Hecate.
-I wanted to save that boy’s life for God’s sake.
– Guau, you are a hero Clermont, said Tota kissing his forehead.
– Sorry, but I had a tragic vision and in that vision the boy was run over by the car in front of him. He flew over it and the car behind just flattened him and rivers of blood were all over the asphalt and the boy died and the two criminals escaped speeding away and nobody did anything.
The boy was OK, ready for another juggling session as soon as the red light stopped the cars.
1.-Do you juggle Clermont? asked el Chuqui.
2.— Of course, I juggle all my life.
– With ?
– My life
When the lights changed they all held hands and ran for their lives, crossing the 7 lanes of menacing cars. The intensity of the pollution plus the shine of the sun blasted their view like a mirage. They arrived on the opposite side of the road breathless, Hecate rested her back on the wall of an arch trying to fill her lungs with something, she felt a flimsy twitch at the savage magic of the running for her life.
They were by then walking down Avenida Libertador with several arches along one side and could see Retiro Station with its ugly interminable wall on the left. They were about 15 minutes away from the museum, Tota explained, and showed them the beautiful facade of a colonial house – the Fernandez Blanco Museum – although she couldn’t remember if that was the house of somebody with that name exhibiting his collection.
– This was the suburb of Buenos Aires, where the tango was first danced by women of dubious reputation and ‘malandras’ (slang for men of dubious reputation), said Tota.
El Chuqui asked them if they had read The Man of the Pink Corner, a short story by Jorge Luis Borges.
– No- said Hecate.
– It sounds like a gay musical – said Clermont
-Well, it’s a story that happened not far from here in Maldonado which was later called Palermo and is now divided in two with the divine names: Palermo Soho and Palermo Hollywood in an attemp to be modest. There are three characters and the story teller. It happened in an open patio where all kinds of people met to dance tango and drink. Jorge tells the story
of two cuchilleros, (a subclass of slum dwellers able to take offence at anything, sometimes fast with knives): Rosendo Juarez, a local hero (involved with the Lujanera
hembra brava), who was cool and until then brave and Francisco Real, a crazy macho in search of a fight. The rest you must read.
– Kind of but not the same yet the same.
Hecate walked in silence in a way that showed she was fighting with her memory. They were strolling along Avenida Libertador, passing hundreds of people that happened to be there at the same time as them, like hundreds of ants moving in all directions, communicating between eachother telepathically mysterious religious thoughts, wait a moment , she was balancing her idea, its true that ants have an organised army, so why not a religion? She was lost in her mind’s eye. The sound of the cars was terrifying, a black cloud being left behind, promoting the sensation that your lungs have been polluted and your private audio spectrum invaded to a point of no return and after a few days, one becomes mad.
– Ahh what nice pollution, the smell is delicious – said Clermont with the intention of being controversial.
Suddenly, Hecate said – I’ve got it!
– His name was Rafael Angel Jorge Julian Barrett Alvarez de Toledo, born in 1876.
– Never heard of him.
– He was the eccentric son of a bastard daughter of the Duke of Alba, Doña María del Carmen Álvarez de Toledo y Toraño, originally from Villafranca del Bierzo, provincia de León and a Coventry man, Mr George Barrett Clarke and if you were a Southamerican anarchist you’d probably know about him.
– Are you sure?
– Nope – said Hecate scratching her head.- He was young, beautiful and rich and lived in Madrid spending his inheritance money until the bee of honour bit him and he challenged another aristo to a duel.
The reason was as silly as always, something like a point of honour. He was desperate to be a member of an exclusive club and was refused because they suspected that he was homosexual. The rule was that the club did not have rules but powerful bosses made laws according to their wishes. One of them, a lawyer called Jose Maria Azopardo Comprodon, was the one who accused him of being homosexual or at least spread rumours.
After the disappointment, Barrett decided to go to a doctor to be able to certify that nothing had been inside him from behind. He presented the results to the club’s commision but they still refused him membership of the exclusive club. He defied Azopardo Comprodon to a duel, but he refused to have anything to do with him, not even killing him because duels are for men of honour and he believed that Barrett was not one of them.
At this point Rafael was so mad that he made a fool of himself. Azopardo appealed to the Tribunal of Honour which was presided over by Don Joaquin Fernandez de Cordoba y Osma, Eighth Duke of Arion and Second Duke of Canovas del Castillo, five times Grandee of Spain and on top of that a friend of the King, whose verdict was that Mr Azopardo acted as a perfect gentleman and Mr Barrett could go to hell.
Furious, he went to a Gala session at the Circo Paris and asked for the Duque of Arion’s box, walked in and whipped the Duque on his face. From that moment on he realised that he had commited social suicide and his life changed for ever.
He knew that the Spanish establishment was as brutal as any other, so he escaped to Buenos Aires to stay with the Alvarez de Toledo family.
– Crazy people are everywhere. What happened to him in Bs As?
– He became a writer and a journalist in order to survive. He met with the intelligentsia and shopkeepers of Bs As. At that point the writers were divided between two antagonist groups representing opposite interests: the Boedos and the Floridas, so named as they used to meet in two bars, the Boedo Bar on the corner of Calle San Juan y Calle Boedo and those of Florida who met somewhere in Calle Florida maybe what is today Floridita in Florida and Calle Paraguay. Roberto Arlt was the most famous of the Boedo group and Borges of the Florida. Arlt wrote from his heart and was able to spell most words wrongly, meanwhile Borges wrote from his head and his grammar was immaculate. Both groups liked Rafael but he ended up in Asuncion, Paraguay, writing fervourous, anarchist proverbs, said Hecate.
– Boedo vs Florida, these two groups were engaged in a class war. They rumbled about revolutions and mirrors, the Florida boys and girls published a magazine called Martin Fierro after
the famous poem of Hernandez, while the Boedo boys , (I’m not sure if they had any girls), published one with a pompous name like Pensamientos.
They were banned from walking into eachother’s territory and the punishment was horrendous. If any of them fell in love with a member of the opposite group, they met on neutral territory, for instance the Bar La Paz in Calle Corrientes, said Tota.
– I was thinking that no social class has the monopoly of being immensely stupid, said Hecate.
– Well said, – said Clermont flabbergasted.
Something jumped inside El Chuqui’s shoe. He knelt on the road, took his shoe off and turned it upside down. A tiny little stone fell onto the pavement.
He twisted his head upwards and spat out one of his pearls.
– The Argentine people have a psychological dependency on Peron which is why after 60 years they still support the Peronist Party – they want to be Peron.
– Not all the Argentines are Peronist, but all the Peronists are from Argentina. Well perhaps not, Rafael Nadal the Spanish tennis player is a Peronist, said Tota.
1.-He is great. I like the way he hates that silly little ball. He smashes it with the intention of killing the man with shorts in front of him.
The imposing building of Bellas Artes sits on an island surrounded by speedy roads or as poet
Al Soon of Eritrea said a river delta of asphalt. The dark red colour of the facade and the columns
of the ex water supply building gave an air of surreal fantasy , the `jacaranda trees scratching
the sky with their purple nails.
–Here we are, said el Chuqui. – It’s a very beautiful place of green grass, ancient trees and sculptures
– of unsung heroes.
La Tota extended her arm and with great theatrical skill deserving of an Oscar exclaimed – Plaza Francia is there – and signalled with her overgrown purple nail.
-The oldest ombu tree in Bs As lives there.
_ A kind of baobab tree.
EL Chuqui scratched his head and said – It is not a tree, it’s a huge bush and in front of that is La Biela, a coffee bar where all the best asses of Bs As sip coffee.
– Later we will have coffee and I will show you the bush-tree.
-What does this wood with leaves look like? asked Clermont.
– There are illustrations of the Baobab tree in a book called El Principito written by a French pilot.
– Hmmm, said Hecate disapproving of anything French.
As soon as they started climbing the stairs towards the entrance between the two massive columns, a man who looked like an administrator appeared.
– El Mosca, said La Tota.
– No estaba en NY?
El Mosca ended in front of us.
hola, holala, kiss, kiss.
– El Mosca is a local hero.
– What is El Mosca?
Clermont tried to understand why the fly and not the frog because that was a more accurate description. He was lost in thought when he heard La Tota say:
– Our English friends Hecate and Clermont.
– What are you doing ? he asked.
– Going to the Museum, said Hecate – with her short fuse temper – as you can probably see – she finished.
– My name is Juan Pedro Pablo Francisco Jose Perez Rigerte Anchorena Itaurralde and El Mosca is my nick name but you can call me The Fly.
– I understand now, The Fly is cooler and easier to remember.
The Fly got a card from his trouser pocket and without stopping looking fascinatedely at Hecate, invited them to a party at his flat that night.
They walked upstairs, he walked downstairs.
La Tota was laughing – what a little lecherous donkey.
– He is a well known artist in Bs As.
He believes it is god given to be surrounded by a group of wanna be boys and girls. In his last exhibition two years ago, called 24 Hours, he installed himself in the gallery the night before the preview. At about 8 o’clock in the morning, he had breakfast, stretched a huge canvas and started painting from the top, left hand corner, a detailed self-portrait. At midday he stopped for lunch, drank a good amount of wine and became a bit dizzy attacking the rest of the canvas with the fury of an abstract expressionist painter. At tea time he smoked hashish and the canvas was nearly covered in colour by early evening.
During the day some people went to peep at what he was doing but most waited until the pre view opening.
At 9 o’clock the professor of Artes Visuales de la Universidad of little money arrived to make some money and talked for about 30 minutes with the brilliancy of a well rehearsed speech.
When he had finished the talk, the well dressed audience started clapping as did the poorly dressed, followed by a silence of about 3 seconds, followed by a SHOUT. The eyes of the visitors poor, rich and in between went to a corner where The Fly and his then girl friend Eloisa Sanches de Pistamante were fighting. She pulled from her bag two pairs of boxing gloves and threw one pair to him.
-You bastard !!!!!!, you’ve stolen my idea. I created this installation, this is my baby – she said with tears in her eyes while her hands slid into the gloves and with two or perhaps three jumps, she started sparring with the head of The Fly.
Some people tried to stop her because he didn’t defend himself but were stopped by an exited crowd, so they could not stop the punches flying at the Fly until blood ran down his cheek and she realised what she had done.
The Fly collapsed and went to NY, escaping the dishonour.
The next day the art world was divided in two: those who accused him of plagiarism and those acclaimed him as a genius.
– Guauauaua – said Clermont with interest – It’s like a B movie, it has everything, art, drugs, treason, love, violence and controversy.
– What happened to Eloisa ? asked Hecate.
– Not much. Her career ended that day like the baby she conceived in her mind and after feeling lost and a tad tired, she married a collector, a good man.
– Controversy, why? Hecate asked.
– I thought originality was more dead than the dinosaur.
– A Spanish friend of mine said something that another Spanish said before him – a good artist copies, a genius robs.
– The friend of your friend was Pablo Picasso, a sordid, communist painter, a well known womaniser who lived in Paris. He knew all about that .
– What do you mean?
– Well you know, said Clermont, indifferent. –The Cubist school of painting started after he saw some African masks, to be more precise, Vlamick, another twit walking the streets of Montmartre, bought a Fang mask from Cameroon and showed it to his friends who were so taken by the beautiful sculptural lines of the long nose and the holes representing eyes, that they decided to copy them…
When they went through the big doors at the entrance and arrived in the Hall of Bellas Artes, La Tota asked them to
sit on a bench then, walking behind them she covered Hecate’s eyes with a handkerchief and then did the same to Clermont.
El Chuqui was very happy – we’re doing this because we want you to go straight to Candido’s work. Undistracted. So we’ll guide you through out the laberinth.
They walked for what seemed to them like hours. They could feel the wind and hear voices, they held hands and senses the skin of the other.
When they stopped, they pulled off their handkerchiefs and GUAU there in front of them were the most beautiful battle landscapes ever painted by a left handed painter.
– El manco de Curupayti, announced La Tota.
A sense of drowning in an intense spiritual experience invaded their souls and bodies.
Speechless, they stood for a long, long time in front of a battlescape painting.
– Only Ucello has made me feel this. 15 years ago, I was walking in The Tate gallery and saw a little painting, Saint George killing the Dragon.
I stared at it for hours until the poor woman invigilating the paintings became nervous and called the guy from the next room. In the end, there were five guards patrolling the room, waiting for my next move. I realise that to her I looked like a tramp or perhaps a junky.
I sensed the release of tension as I walked away.
They crossed the roads that separated them from La Biela bar and the Ombu tree.
– The corner Bar had a Madrilenian feel said El Chuqui .
Wooden framed chairs and leather seats . Wooden panels on the wall and a few guys moving nervously behind the bar, a few waiters all dressed in immaculately in white jackets and black trousers with their hair combed back close to the scalp like King Juan Carlos, zig zagging around the tables.
They sat outside looking at the famous old tree that isnot a tree but a herb in the Plazoleta San Martin de Tours, patron of the city beyond a beautiful colonial church, La Iglesia Nuestra Señora del Pilar built by the Order of Recoletos in the XVIII century.
The waiter arrived with a smile on his face, a face finely divided in half by a Clark Gable moustache.
– Three expressos and one tear. said La Tota.
Hecate was very excited. Her mind’s eye was working at high speed after the discovery of the Curupayti painter. She was, inspired.
She thought that begging for a tear to a waiter was the most poetical way of asking for milk with a drop of coffee.
The dusk produced a surreal light through the leavesof the old ombu. She realised that one of the branches was supported by a thick stick to the floor like a very old man.
They were surrounded by the sweet smell of perfumes.
-There are MORE varieties of perfumes here than in the ground floor of Harrods – said Clermont.
El Chuqui was looking curiously at the people on the others tables.
– When I was young my mother used to take me to a Bar in Paris, on the Rue de Tigana. She asked me to invent a story about the people sitting around us, I always started and then she followed like Chinese whispers .
Hecate said – great let’s play, I’ll begin .
– Do you see that young man with dark glasses near the left hand side window?He is a journalist, his pen is for hire, you can offer him a few hundred dollars and he’ll write a story to seduce whoever you want to seduce.
– What happens if the one you want to seduce never reads anything not even a supermarket’s list?
– I have a cousin who is obsessive about what she eats so she only reads the labels of the things she buys before she buys them. Going to the supermarket with her was an experience lasting several hours.
– Easy man, you print whatever that genius writes on labels and
stick them on tea boxes, coffee jars and so on an so forth.
– Nothing’ll happen it is just a waste of resources and time, all those years at school learning to read, for what?
-Obvio. Mira vos, said el Chuqui in Spanish which means look at you ironically.
The table to their right was populated by three old ladies dressed as if they were going to the palace of Westminster for a summer tea party, full of jewellery here and there.
To the left three young girls dressed in very little but with thick, very thick make up, making it impossible to see the colour or their original skin.
They were all talking at the same time.
Behind them three man dressed in Lacoste shirts and jeans, the
uniform of a well dressed porteño, desperately tried to make eye contact with the young girls, who, knowing what was going on ignored them, well up to a certain point because they were handsome.
– As you can see we are the only heterosexual table. It is all very transparent – the old ladies are married to an Estancia, the young girls want to marry an Estancia and the boys’ fathers own Estancias.
– No, the old ladies are widows, their husband left them some cash to buy perfume only.
Apparently they died because the smell of cow and horse shit had a virus that attacked their elbows, penetrating
the epidermis and going directly to the heart. It’s very slow so
it’s possible to live a long time before arriving at their destiny.
– The young girls are the children of anorexic mothers obsessed with their images and some of their obsessions were passed on to them via the celebrity industry. Mirrors , plastic surgery, cosmetics and …
Hecate felt a glorious sense of laughter – I bet the boys are dog trainers-.
– Let’s get off, said el Chuqui – let’s go to the Fly’s party.
– It’s not far from here, we can walk there.
They arrived at a building with about 5 floors on the corner of Calle Parana and Calle Libertad, pressed the bell of the electronic porter and after few seconds a crispy sound allowed them to open the door. Pushing it, they walked into a hall of marble, a shiny pink texture on the floor, walls and ceiling.
– It’s very cold here, I don’t like it, said Hecate.
-It’s like a tomb. Hard and horrible.
They went to the 5th floor in the lift. The door of the flat was open so they just walked in.
After a lots of kisses and hellos they relaxed and were able to look around the flat. The living room was quite minimalist, nothing on the walls, a few white sofas and a white carpet, not a mirror anywhere.
El Chuqui and La Tota mingled with friends and Hecate and Clermont found themselves talking to a short man, with a glass full of Fernet Branca and Coca Cola, the most fashionable drink in Buenos Aires, after mate.
The short man was a pleasant talker and in about 45 seconds he gave a good resume of his life. Then, without breathing he jumped to an explanation of his project.
Clermont found it difficult to follow him, so he told the short man, whose name was Guillermo Alert Finoccio, that he had hearing problems because when he was young, his brother punched him
on the left ear.
Hecate was interested in knowing what the project was about.
– Well you must know Richard Burton the English explorer
who translated the Karma Sutra. I am doing a series of drawings.
– On the Karma Sutra.
– No, or yes, but no. I am taking as my starting point the subject but I’ve twisted it.
– Ah – Sutra Karma.
– No the Car Sutra or the Sexual Encounter Inside a Small Car, the 36 different positions of making love and obviously I am drawing each of them in real proportions.
– Guau – said Clermont unable to take the short man seriously.
– And which position is the one in which the woman has more pleasure?, asked Hecate.
Guillermo went red and said, – I didn’t try all of them so I don’t know. After that Guillermo left them to talk to a serious man.
– The Fernet Branca and Coca Cola is a cocktail to get drunk quickly- said a young girl in perfect English.
Hecate thought I know this girl, fuck who is she? her brain crashed
like an Apple Mackintosh computer on a bad day.
Until the girl extended her right hand with a long purple nail on the middle finger, ( the rest were very short) and said without any accent
– Katinga Sotheby- Bonham.
Hecate, responded Hecate
– I used to work at the Tate Gallery as a Junior curator.
– Got it! I said I knew we’d met before.
– We used to work at Untitled magazine.
They looked at each other with fascination. What were they doing 14000 km from London?
– I’m here on a special mission,said Katinga
-Organising an exhibition?
– No. I have been recruited by M6. Uhhh, You’ve never heard of it?
-Guat?, said Claremont with his French accent.
– That, she spies for queen and country.
Katinga had a nice round face with nice round big eyes that she turned around which made her look mad.
She moved towards a corner where she whispered her mission to them.
– So you are here to found out if Bolivia exists.
– Guau, why does the Foreign Office doubt the existence of a whole bloody country?
– Because Queen Victoria did.
– Did what?
-Said that Bolivia doesn’t exist.
– It’s not very clear, I’ve got some clues to follow, she was very, very angry with a Bolivian General. So she decided to banish it from all the maps in her kingdom.
The Foreign Office boys are a bit nervous about contradicting her wishes.
– Why was she so pissed off – after all she was far away from him.
– Perhaps he refused to have sex with her because she was always sitting around and he found that very complicated for love making.
– No, she was sitting around mainly because she was very short and wanted to hide that fact furthermore, it’s difficult standing up counting money from the colonies all the time.
– So…she is dead now.
– Not really said Katinga, her legacy is alive.
Katinga went quiet
– Let’s go to the balcony.
The balcony was up there close to the sky.
– I am not allowed to tell you all this, it’s dangerous.
– Too late darling.
Her eyes went around three times just to be brave.
She breathed deeply, drank a glass of Fernet Branca and Coca Cola.
– The General was an alcoholic, he drank Chicha in huge quantities. Chicha is made in a peculiar way. People chew the fruit and then spit inside a recipient, where it ferments llalalalalal.
One day the English ambassador went to the government palace and was received by Juana Sanchez naked, (she was the general’s mistress). He was very drunk and offered the Ambassador a glass of Chicha. Monsieur le Ambassador, knowing the process of making it found it difficult to stomach and gently refused to drink it.
Melgarejo felt that the guy in front of him had refused to acknowledge his generosity, so he asked what he wanted to drink.
– Coffee please.
The General asked for a cup of coffee. When this was finished, the general called for another and then another.
The Ambassador said thanks I do not want anymore coffee.
The General got a gun and rested it on the head of the ambassador and make him drink until the poor man started vomiting.
Asking his guard for a horse, he tied the ambassador to the horseand kicking the back of the horse let them go. The man ended somehow in Buenos Aires.
When Queen Victoria found out she was furious, outraged and decided to banish Bolivia from the world.
-Are you sure?
Then the Fly shouted something and everybody shouted and started running downstairs .
La Tota got hold of the hand of Hecate and they ran together followed by Clermont and El Chuqui. They thought it was a fire or something but when they arrived inthe horrible pink hall and La Tota rested her back on the marble slabs breathing with difficulty,.
El Chuqui said I am worried very worried.
– Perhaps La Tota is pregnant.
– Me pregnant?
– Yes you
– Congratulations said Hecate embracing and kissing La Tota chic.
– Since when is she pregnant?
– Oh well a few hours ago.
Outside the massive door the Buenos Aires night was waiting in the shape of a huge lorry. Everybody jumped in the back cabin and the
driver started touring the city singing and laughing.
We were in Avenida 9 de Julio, the widest avenue in the world at the intersection with Calle Corrientes, where a huge but huge Obelisk
representing the virility of the Porteños was .
They were jumping up and down singing old Beatles songs, the warm wind of summer enveloped them in a sweaty armpit
What a beautiful night.
The van was stopped by the police for speeding.
The policeman was very nice, he smiled here and there, some of the girls in the van were wild and he didn’t know how to handle
them until one went to the point
– How much do you want?
He gave her a little book and she started asking for contributions but only paper please no coins…
When the policeman realised that a few English people were in the van, he said
– Margarita Thatcher’s died.
Clermont couldn’t resist saying – Iron lady rust in peace, as he had read on facebook a few hours before.