Through my eyes

living my life without regrets

Thursday, January 26, 2012

San Telmo

San Telmo is the oldest suburb of BA. It was a Mariners hangout, and full of bars, brothels and houses of ill refute in years back. Certainly, it was Tango Country, and still is filled with Tango Schools, Tango Milongas (Schools),
Tango shows, etc. Today’s houses are no longer the brothels of years back but much quieter, refurbished places, even posh in some spots and the area is quaint and there are plenty of stuffy Antique stores.
Every Sunday, for more than 9 blocks off the Plaza de Mayo, along Defensa Street, BA has a flea market.
It all started as an Antique market but has developed into much more today. Officially the start of the market is the Plaza Dorrego, yet we saw it continue on and on down Defensa St.
This Sunday, rain is promised to break the temperatures of 34 C + (98F) and to cool things down. Rain also means I would have fewer people to bump into, fewer vendors too, but I felt some would still be there. So it was a good day to go and visit. I packed my little red, cheap back pack with water, some tissues that can double as toilet paper and off we go.
Walking to the seven blocks to the Subte is now routine and we know how it works. Our Subte takes us to Cathedral, the end Station. We step out and yes, we look up and watch for bird droppings. The gods are with us; we are not bombarded by birds but after crossing the Plaza de Mayo, at the beginning of Defensa Street, are mobbed by people. Somehow they must not have heard about the weather forecast, most of BA seems to be here.
It is crowded. And this is the summer vacation period for most Porteños. Many locals are not even here as they are on vacation. Police have roped off the street and amazingly it seems very organized.

The merchandize you ask? From A to Z, whatever you can think of is here. You will find from the nutty to the sublime, from kitsch to treasure. It is all in the eye of the beholder. Not a lot of haggling happens here. The price listed is what you pay or you keep on walking. Is it cheap? I don’t know, but it is fun!
I see colorful running shoes (sneakers), airy sandals for the ladies, I see jewelry, smoking Joes (incense burners),
paintings, hats, dresses, musical performers, Tango platforms with dancing, and on and on it goes. The street is long and packed. I find an electric outlet that allows me to plug in my US based plug and buy it for 15 Pesos. I keep on walking. Then I stand still to hear the wonderful performance of a classical guitarist who is fantastic. Even the locals rush to buy his CDs and I buy one for 30 Pesos. All of this stuff goes into my knapsack.

It is hot, no clouds in the sky, the sun beating down on me. The road is cobblestone, so walking is precarious, watch how you put your foot down. There are holes; there might be dog poop on the street. The sidewalks are occupied by the vendors, the visitors walk in the middle of the street, and no shade for the walkers, it is hot. I drink some water. About midway to the Plaza Dorrego a man seems rushing in a raincoat; necktie up in the air, glasses askew in a panicky hurry.
It is a performer, but he is good and makes it look ‘real’ even though he is standing still. He was joined in his performance by another shopper mimicing his actions.
We see a man selling wooden utensils and buy a salad fork and a spoon; both carved out of rare woods and add them to my collection in my knapsack. On the corner stands a man with a gizmo that can make sounds like a rooster in the morning. I pass on that. A bit further, a Tango performance is in progress, a passerby, a Japanese lady, dances with a Porteño and they are both good.
And on and on Carol and I walk. While we started off at about 10 AM it is now about 1.30 PM and time to sit down someplace and rest our bones. It is hot! No rain in sight, not even a cloud. We try to get into a good looking small restaurant, but the door is closed. We look through the glass and yes, a man asked us what we would like and naturally we said, a table for two and he slammed the door in our faces and walked away. Is it rude? Yes, Very rude! But that too can be part of BA. BA is a mix of extremely nice and very opinionated people. We walked on to find another place and did find a restaurant right on Plaza Dorrego. We just sat down, drank some mineral water and I ordered a sandwich. It was good to hang up my knapsack, take my sunhat off and stretch out.
The activities in the restaurant were typical BA, too.
An artist was charcoal sketching a group of 4 at the next table. Two ladies traded the latest neighborhood news one table over and even took this photo of us. Ah, it felt good to be out of the sun, to sit down. The activities around us are abuzz. It is a constant coming and going. A busy place!
Having sat such for some time, we got up and walked one more time around the Plaza, but…. the heat was too great. We walked away for some blocks and took a taxi back to the Subte station and took the train back to our stop at Plaza Italia. Coming out to street level I noticed I had left my knapsack at the restaurant, yes, along with all my new buys. I have no hope in getting any of it back. Naturally it was stupid of me and I blamed my aging brain but it was hot, too.
It never rained that day, I wish it had. I might not have been so worn out and felt so miserable about losing my cheap knapsack.

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