Lufthansa Highlights Buenos Aires: My beloved city
I am in love with Buenos Aires. I lived downtown for eight years, from age 25 to 32, and still spend a lot of time here. My home is now 40 kilometers north of the city but like so many others I travel in several times a week. People who live just as far out or even further come day after day to study, to walk, to shop, to visit their psychoanalyst or to take care of all kinds of things. If necessary, I even come in twice a day. I don’t mind. And if I did, I couldn’t do anything about it because the pull of Buenos Aires is so powerful.
What I love about Buenos Aires? That’s a hard one to answer, as hard as making a clear statement about love. Maybe because there’s always something happening here. Because it’s such a beautiful place – and authentic, too. Or because it has so many theaters, cafés and bookstores, not to mention the trees and parks. Because this city is classical and contemporary all at once. And because waiting somewhere in Buenos Aires there’s always a friend I can drink coffee with; or the friend of a friend, or the friend of a friend of a friend.
Today I’m having breakfast at the bar of the Evita Museum in Palermo. I’m sitting in the light-flooded atrium, which is paved with black and white tiles and has a stairway on one side that is almost obscured by a profusion of flowers of every color. Bar and museum occupy a small villa that dates from the early 20th century. The Eva Perón Foundation turned it into a home for destitute women and their children in 1948. You can still feel Evita’s presence there today. The museum collection includes some of Evita’s clothes, shoes and hats, as well as her letters to her husband, former Argentine President Juan Perón, and some film and sound footage of her.
I admire her for the extraordinary person she was, but most of all the legend she created around her persona. I still have an hour to go till my appointment, so I think I’ll take a walk in Parque Tres de Febrero in Palermo, which is just a couple of streets away. As I step into the Poets’ Garden there, I glimpse the statues of authors of every possible nationality: Jorge Luis Borges in the company of William Shakespeare, Dante and Alfonsina Storni, to name just a few. At one point, I’m assailed by a sweet scent – the path through the Poets’ Garden ends in a large space planted with a fantastic variety of different roses.
I have no time today to go inside but I take the flyer. I’ll be back as soon as I can.
I have a lunch appointment at the Jardín Japonés, a restaurant where they serve sushi and other Japanese specialties. I am meeting the producer of my next play, which is based on my novel Yours. We want to talk about where and when it will make its debut. I stay on a little longer after we’ve said goodbye and wander through the garden. I cross the crooked bridge forming a bright red semicircle that stands out boldly against the surrounding greenery. The goldfish in the ponds seem to get bigger every time I see them.
A lake glitters beyond the garden, and I can see people strolling around, jogging, flashing past on inline skates. Some do gymnastics or yoga, others are learning to dance the salsa. I would love to join them but have other plans. I cross over to the Eduardo Sívori Museum of Fine Arts to see what’s on.
I sit down in the sunshine, open the book I’ve brought along – Deaf Sentence by David Lodge, one of my favorite writers – and read. It’s afternoon now and I’m heading south to take a look at some silver jewelry for an article I’m writing for the culture journal Lamujerdemivida. I alight on Plaza Dorrego, at the heart of San Telmo district. What a pity it’s not the weekend, when the traditional antique market would be in full swing, with street performers, portrait artists, bandoneon players and tango dancers everywhere. I stop in front of a living statue – someone dressed up as Che Guevara. A child places a few coins in his basket. A tourist asks the statue if he can have his photograph taken with him and Che agrees. I visit several silver dealers and make some notes.
Once I have gathered enough information, I stroll over to Puerto Madero. The view of the city from the path running alongside the Rio de la Plata river and the former docks is fantastic. On one side, the horizon is obliterated by some modern, rather bizarre looking high-rise blocks, creating the effect of a luxurious ghost town. Sailing yachts, the footbridge designed by Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava, semi-inhabited buildings – plenty of material there for a story I may write some day. I turn my gaze to the nearest building, and there to the only open window. I wonder who lives there, and why, and since when.
My path ends at Fortabat Museum. As always, I go inside to take a look at my favorite artworks: every single one of Antonio Berni’s pictures and Pieter Bruegel the Younger’s “Census at Bethlehem” – a profoundly literary depiction from which I could draw countless stories. The afternoon is drawing to a close and Puerto Madero is turning cold. Better head back to Palermo.
But which one? Palermo Viejo, Palermo Soho, Palermo Hollywood, Palermo Queens, Palermo Botánico, Palermo Chico? I opt for Palermo Soho because I need to buy a few things: notepads, paper, pencils. Alejandra Pizarnik, one of our greatest poets, is said to have spent all of her prize money from a major literature competition on stationery. I just couldn’t do that. At Papelera Palermo I buy a pad with a pretty floral cover, a gold colored pencil, an onion-shaped eraser, and a lead pencil.
The bars on Plaza Cortázar are crowded with people enjoying the evening. I decide to end my day not far from here in another Palermo, Palermo Hollywood.
One of my favorite bookstores is there: Eterna Cadencia. I let my eyes wander over the books on display, the loveliest and best works in the realm of literature. Sitting beneath the bookstore’s glass roof, I enjoy my last cup of coffee as the sky darkens. Time to go home. But then I learn that a panel discussion with two of my favorite authors is on the program a little later on: Hernán Ronsino and Carlos Busqued. So I stay. At nine in the evening I head out of Buenos Aires. Right now at least a hundred plays are being performed at theaters around the city, the first tangos are striking up in the milongas, people are meeting friends for dinner. I feel jealous. Buenos Aires never sleeps. It offers everything anyone could want, but first I need a rest. I’m on the highway now, bidding farewell to my beloved Buenos Aires.
But only for a short while. I’ll be back, who knows, maybe even tomorrow – moved by the spirit of the tango by Eladia Blázquez: "returning to Buenos Aires has the magic of a ritual."