"Horror of horrors!" I laugh as Eva tells me this is what is printed in the bathroom of the restaurant we are having lunch in. Today I dragged Eva out of the city. She is one of my closest friends. We met in Buenos Aires 7 years ago. We were staying in the same tango house.
We were so very different. I was the California nerdette. Independent. Dancing tango all over the world in between working. Eva...was Grandma Eva. Scared of her own shadow. Terrified to walk even 3 blocks alone afraid she would get lost. I dragged her all over Buenos Aires. It was her 3rd trip and my second. We became great friends.
I visited her in New Orleans, she came to California. We would meet in Buenos Aires. We emailed. We talked on the phone. Our lives in 7 years changed dramatically. I love to tease her. She went from dumpy Grandma Eva, to Eva, single grandma and ready to party. New hair, new figure, new clothes. No longer afraid to walk 3 blocks. Buenos Aires, Europe, and since hurricane Katrina - Texas. Me? We all know that story. The only thing that never changed is our friendship.
She came last month to stay with me. Susan was here from Minneapolis. Together we looked like the Andrews sisters. What a trio! Both women tried every way to extend their trips, but at this time of year it is impossible. Susan introduced Eva to Skype. She created a monster. Besides Skyping both Susan and I in the same apartment, she began to call everyone she could find online. We had to pry her away from her microphone to get her to come to dinner.
The apartment seems a little lonely without Susan. I made her and Eva promise they try to come back next year together. As she went out the door to the taxi, we called "Skype Conference November 15." I am still not sure why this date was picked. Eva leaves on Wednesday, so both of them will be back in the U.S. long before the 15th.
Today I demanded Eva leave her microphone so we could do something fun together. She had never been to San Isidro. I told her it would be a fun way to spend out of the city. The weather was beautiful. After so many cold and rainy days, this day was well over due.
At noon, I told Eva that if she did stop Skyping I was going to trash her Mac over the balcony. Reluctantly she put on her shoes and we headed out the door. First was a stop at Easy and Jumbo. I needed to look for something. Eva was amazed. This is our version of Home Depot (Easy) and a Super Safeway. (Jumbo) She had no idea a place like this existed here. I suppose if you really miss the mega-stores of the U.S. this is the place to come.
I like Easy because I don't have to talk to anyone. Hardware stores are considered a male domain here. I have received less than enthusiastic receptions at the local hardware stores in my barrio. The men don't appreciate Blondie asking for plumbing and electrical parts, drill bits, and industrial strength glue. They have no desire to help me, so they don't. They actually seem irritated I want to spend money in their store. So I go to Easy where I don't have to talk to anyone. I can look at everything, and usually there are lots of really cute young guys only too happy to ask me if I need any help. (Easy is a Chilean chain and they are big on customer service.)
As Eva marveled at the rows of things to buy, I found what I was looking for. Monday I will come back to buy. I push Eva out the mall doors so we could walk to the subte. I realize that she really doesn't know Belgrano. I figure we can walk down Juramento to the train station. That was plan A. Eva went for plan B which was to stop in the ferria in the park before we could get to the train station.
"Stop touching stuff." I tell her over and over again. "You are supposed to ask." Porteños expect you to buy when you touch and ask questions. You are supposed to ask. If you are not really interested you are just supposed to look. Here the vendors don't want to offend, but you can tell they don't want people touching their things. In the fruit markets they restrain themselves from slapping your hand.
Finally I pull her away from the market and we walk to the train station. She has never been past Martinez. San Isidro is two more stops. The train is packed. I tell her many people will get off at Olivos and take the train to the coast to Tigre. Some will ride to Tigre. Few will get off at the other stops. It is Sunday.
We are finally at our destination. Another world. It is quiet. Clean. Beautiful. Trees. Houses. I tell Eva this is where I come when I just want to get away for a few hours. She immediately understands why. I don't pay attention to where we are walking. We aren't lost, we just can't get to the square where the ferria is from where we are. I don't care. I love looking at the houses.
We pass by a huge home gated in with a stone wall. I sniff the air. "Asado" I tell her. (Barbecue) I sniff again. I smile when I realize what the "other" smell is. Eva comments "with really nice herbs." "No Eva," I tell her. "That is marijuana." "You should move here" she tells me. I roll my eyes.
As we walk the cobblestone streets, the San Isidro cathedral looms in front of us. It was built in 1898 and is now undergoing a huge renovation. It is of a majestic neo-gothic design. There are statutes and mini-plazas flanking the church. It was rumored that the priests came to the cathedral to plot over-throwing the military government during the dirty war.
Plaza Mitre has a small crafts fair on Sundays. Nothing like the fairs in the capital, it is much smaller. You see much of the same things that you see everywhere, just in smaller quantities. Less people. We walk from stall to stall looking at jewelery. I am proud of myself. I am not buying anything. I do not want to buy anything. Thank God, there are no clothes here.
We walk the cobblestone streets. I put out to Eva that San Isidro is the Rugby Capital of Argentina. Go figure. There is a modern shopping complex that houses the station for the Tren de la Costa. This really is not our thing. I am glad when Eva decides she too can pass on seeing the ticky tacky over priced tourist stuff.
I tell her about a restaurant that I really love to go to. I tell her that Madeleine and I always eat her. It is a Spanish restaurant. I don't know exactly what street it is on, but I always seem to get there. As we walk the cobblestone streets, we pass the oldest house in San Isidro. It is the House of General Pueyrredón, built in 1790. Eva begins to doubt that there is a restaurant in the middle of a residential district. "This is Argentina." I tell her. "Where city planing is just a myth."
We turn the corner and there is my restaurant. A big smile crosses Eva's face. It is a charming beautiful place. As we walk up to the patio, the waiter recognizes me. Eva always gets a kick out of how many people I know, and how they always seem to remember me. I ask our waiter if we can sit outside. "Yes, yes, of course." He says to us. "Anywhere you like." Although the inside of the restaurant is beautiful, it would be a shame to sit inside on such a beautiful day.
He brings us menus. I ask him how his English is. "Terrible" he tells me. "Terrible." He asks me how I have been. "Wonderful" I tell him. "Wonderful." he laughs. I love the food here. Maybe because it is a little different. They have portobello mushrooms. I tell Eva we have to have them. She agrees. I order a radicheta salad. I know they grate excellent fresh parmesan cheese over it. I tell Eva since I found 2 of the dishes she has to pick the main dish. We are going to share our lunch. Portions here are too big for one person. We sit on the patio watching life go by. Down the street, The Tren de la Costa roars by . It is more like an electric trolley car than a train.
The waiter brings the mushrooms. They are just like I remembered. Stuffed with fresh vegetables, a little cheese, and a spectacular sauce. While we feast on the mushrooms, the waiter mixes our salad with lemon and olive oil.Just like the mushrooms, it is so fresh and tastes wonderful. This is wonderful food. The bread is baked by the restaurant. They serve butter. "Now where am I again?"
When we finish the salad and the mushrooms, Eva is ready to ask for the check."Eva," I remind her, "We still have the mariscos." (Shellfish) She moans "I forgot, this was so wonderful." We figure we can always as for the plate to be wrapped up to go. Our waiter appears with a large white plate loaded with seafood. Our eyes get huge.
The seafood revuelto has everything - clams, mussels,shrimp, octopus, calamari, mixed with eggs and potatoes. I would not have minded some hot sauce, but what the heck. You can't have everything. Just like everything else it is well prepared and delicious. It has been a long time since I ate like this. Probably when Madeleine was here.
We sit in the warm sun. This is a perfect day. We watch the cars drive by. People come and go. I feel relaxed. It is another world here. You can almost see the river. You can hear the sounds of the feria. The waiter clears the table. He brings us coffee and lemoncello. Eva has never had lemoncello. She loves it.
We have talked about everything women talk about. Family, men, food, men, tango, men. Eva goes upstairs to the bathroom. When she comes back she has a big smile on her face. "Did you read the signs in the bathroom?" she asks. I don't remember any signs. She tells me they are sayings written and framed. "Enjoy your life now" she smiles, "because you might come back as a man."