"Please come to Canning with me." Jane is begging me. (Hurricane Jane is back..in full force.) "Canning," I say to her, "is against my religion." I have been in front of the blasted computer for 2 days. I feel like I am stuck to the screen. I need to dance.
"I can't go to Canning. That place is a nightmare." I tell her. I want to go to Gricel, but they have no air conditioning these days. With all the people and the heat it is like dancing in a Turkish sauna. It is impossible. I would rather not go.
"Please" Jane says. "I just want to go watch. I don't want to go alone." "Watch what?" I think to myself. I figure at least I can walk there and save on the taxi. "OK, but we walk." I tell her. Her face lights up. We agree to leave in a half hour.
Jane hates to walk anywhere. I refuse to take a taxi to Canning. Even if she pays for it. We enter the hall and line up to pay. Rulo, comes out the double doors. He sees me and throws his arms around me. "Where have you been?" He asks. I tell him I usually go to Gricel. "You need to come here," he tells me. "We have air conditioning." He hugs me and tells me once again he is glad to see me.
The chico taking the money is surly. He acts like he is doing me a favor. He forgets to give me a ticket and then argues with me. He looks at the number on Jane's ticket, and then the next one on his pad. No sorry, no nothing. Just a surly look. How welcoming.
We walk through the doors. I survey the room. Everything I expected. A tap at my shoulder. It is my friend Dany. I greet him. I tell Jane we should change our shoes. We go to the bathroom. On the way there I see several more people I know. Once our shoes are changed, we proceed to walk around the room.
"What are we doing?" Jane asks me. I tell her we are walking the room. I want to see who is here. Find a place to sit. As we walk I see more people I know. Not people I would dance with. This place is a disaster. I see Pedro and Jorge. I greet them. Pedro asks the waitress if we can sit at the table across. We go there and park ourselves.
I look at the floor. Big steps, people banging into each other. "Where am I? What am I doing here?" I ask myself. Jane asks me what I think about the dancing of a certain woman. "Are you serious?" I ask her. "Why?" "Well," she tells me, "In Villa Malcom, everyone thinks she is the best." I laugh.
A drunk guy comes to the table. You never see drunk guys like this where I usually go to dance. Never. He grabs my shoulder. He is slurring his words and is menacing. He wants me to dance with him. I decline. He puts his face in mine and starts to yell at me that I don't know how to dance, I am this, I am that. I say nothing, I agree with him. I look around. The men near me are seeing this asshole being abusive but they say or do nothing. This would not happen either where I go to dance. They would throw this guy out. Finally the jerk leaves.
A guy across from me smiles and motions that the guy is a drunk. No kidding, so why didn't you help me. I think. I watch the guy make his way around the room. It is amazing no one does anything about him. I think about talking to Rulo.
A tall man is at the table of Jorge and Pedro. They tell me he is an American. I introduce myself to him. He is slightly arrogant. Attitude. For what I am not sure. I tell him I know many people from Seattle where he is from. I ask him if he would please dance with Jane. He is tall and so is she.
He takes her to dance. I survey the floor. It is almost laughable. No elegance anywhere to be found. Many copy cats. From head to toe people are copying their teachers. They even make the same faces. You can tell who their teachers are. There goes a Julio face with a Geraldine butt. A Gustavo posture with a Graciela face. Does anyone feel the music? Is anyone even listening to the music? Or is it more important to posture and pose?
I see two guys I met last week at Niño Bien. I greet them. Jane comes back to the table frowning. She is not sure if the problems she had dancing were hers or his. She thinks it is her because she has not danced in a long time. "Let's see" I tell her. "I will ask him to dance."
I approach this guy and say "Come dance with me." He is a little surprised and I can tell he really does not want to. After the first song in the tanda, I know why Jane had a problem. He does not change the weight of the woman. He expects her to make the step but he is not leading it properly. So I change my weight so as not to create missteps. He says to me "Nice." as the song ends. I laugh.
I try to make conversation between the songs, but it is impossible. I try to recommend other milongas or places to go. He really does not want to hear it. Fine. No problem. What an attitude.
I go back to the table. "You were not the problem." I tell Jane. "He makes little steps but he doesn't lead the woman. That is why you could not find his lead. He should have changed your weight to complete your steps." She is relieved. Women always blame themselves. I am past that. Thank God.
I tell Jane, "I really do not want to stay here. There is no one to dance with. This place is depressing." She nods. "And I am walking home. I am not taking a taxi." "We are walking?" "You can take a taxi" I tell her. "But I am going to walk." "OK, we'll walk." she answers.
The last time I was here was 3 years ago with Roberto on his birthday. I didn't have to worry about dancing with anyone. Now I know why I have not been back. It will probably be another 3 years before I return on a Monday.
I go to the table of the two men I met at Niño Bien. They are nice dancers, but they have not been dancing all night. I say good bye to them. Then I add "You should try Gricel. The dancers are much better." One of the men nods. He says "and the music? The music here is good." I tell him Carlos Rey is the DJ at Gricel. He and Dany Borelli are the best DJs in Buenos Aires. "But this place" he says, "has the reputation." Yes, it certainly does, but not with those of us who dance.