Clark April 16th, 2007
I don’t want to forget about where I lived in Buenos Aires, as if this will keep the experience fresh. When I’m reminded of places I called home in the past, I can’t even tell people the street I lived on, or what my favorite restaurant was.
Thanks to the blood money from the shipping company, I had the good fortune of living in the heart of Palermo Soho for four months. I got an extra nice place, supposedly just for a week or two when Denise, my old girlfriend, came to visit from Peru. I ended up getting friendly with the landlady, Monica, and we negotiated a long term price and cut the leasing agency out of the loop. The place was a pretty basic two bedroom inside, with semi-cheesy but comfortable decor, but it had a massive terrace in back with an Argentine asado, which I never used. I hardly used the terrace either, but knowing it was there was nice, and people seemed impressed when they saw it. The apartment had all the gadgets, washing machine, and cable TV, which I watched a lot of for the first time in years.
My place was at Thames 2283, 1A, but they pronounce it Ta-Mays. It was three blocks from Santa Fe, a major thoroughfare in Buenos Aires with hundreds of buses, Subte stops, and all manner of shops. One street over was Borges, then Garruchaga, then Armenia, then Malabia. Going the other direction you passed Salar, then Paraguay, Costa Rica, et al and got to the plaza, called Plaza Cortázar on maps, but called Plaza Serrano by most. This was the heart of Palermo Soho, with many bars and restaurants and a major flea market on Sundays. Most flea markets around the world sell the same hippy crap, but this one actually had lots of young designers selling some cool and original stuff, cheap.
Restaurants of all nationalities were represented within a few blocks. A favorite was the Armenian restaurant, at the Armenian Cultural Center, on Armenia street. Hummus, tabbouleh, shish kebab, all cheap, delicious, with excellent service. At the high end was Bobo, just around the corner, where they knew me and I went out once with some of the wait staff. The owner bought me a drink once when I popped into the bar. Gardelito was more of a traditional Argentine steak house, supposedly the only kind of restaurant Buenos Aires had up until ten years ago. Then there were many simpler, cheaper places for daily eating.
All in all I had the great fortune of living in one of the world’s great cities when it was amazingly cheap and undergoing a renaissance after the economic crisis. Before the crisis Buenos Aires was as expensive as Manhattan. At the moment it’s cheaper than just about any city I’ve visited, and your money buys you the best of the best.
My daily commute for so many months was to walk down Thames to Santa Fe, cross the street and catch the 152 bus, a bus line that traverses the whole city. I would take this down Santa Fe, Santa Fe turned into Cabildo, and then Cablildo into Maipu, where I would get off at the start of the Tren de la Costa. I had a commuter pass and took the Tren de la Costa to the Marina Nueva stop, a five minute walk from the boatyard. The Tren de la Costa was by far the nicest train in Buenos Aires, going through all the rich suburbs and carrying tourists out to Tigre for the day. With my commuter pass I could use this train, and a bit of hoofing, to get to virtually every boat supply and services shop in the area. A common trek was just one stop to the San Fernando station to the Ferreteria Zimmerman, with its good stock of marine hardware, paints, resins, and goops. Then another stop would get me to the Canal stop, where a short walk would get me to Avenida Cazon in Tigre, home to both Casa Iriarte and Buloneria Tigre. Casa Iriarte was home to all form of hoses and fittings and run by a band of sweet middle-aged ladies. Buloneria Tigre was home to all manner of stainless and bronze hardware and run by manly men. One of the ladies at Casa Iriarte took a motherly interest in me, and once when a younger girl was working I saw her tit each time she bent over to cut pieces of hose.
I liked Coki Larosa and his son Gustavo, who made the new fuel tanks for Condesa, and it was a special joy to work with them because they were supposedly the secret suppliers to the evil boatyard and I found them on my own and dealt direct. Gustavo spent hours taking me to Casa Iriarte the first time and to get the epoxy paint for the tanks. He made sure everyone gave me his family discount. Gustavo was a giant, sweet, man with a stutter, but the stutter got better and better as he felt more comfortable around me. It always seems to be this way with people who stutter.
I also built a nice relationship with the Rebollar family, who made my stainless steel stove and made lots of other things out of stainless. They were always happy to drive me around or deliver to the boat.
It’s always been this way during my circumnavigation: some of the nicest people and best interactions are with people that a regular tourist would never meet.