I had dinner the other night with a friend. He was a tango dancer from a time ago. He started dancing over 20 years ago. He stopped when he had his second child 9 years ago. He popped in and out. Now divorced 3 years, he wanted to start back in.
"Tell me about the milonga." He says. "Tell me something." "The milongas are different now." I tell him. "They have changed a lot." "How is my old friend Omar Vega?" he asks. I stare at him in disbelief. He continues, "We were great friends. I knew him 20 years ago. What is he up to these days.?" "He is dead." I tell him. My friend looks at me like I am crazy. "Omar Vega." He says to me like I am stupid. "Do you know who I am talking about? He dances milonga traispie. He had a German wife and kids. I knew her." He tells me.
"Yes, I knew who Omar Vega was. I knew him well. He passed away almost 2 years ago." I tell him. He looks sad. "How, where?" I fill him in. He shakes his head. "Who else?" I tell him about Tete, about Osvaldo, about several other milongueros.
"The milongas are different now." I tell him. "Even the tourists are complaining." He leans forward as his jaw drops. "The tourists are complaining? What are they complaining about?"
"They say there are not enough Argentines in the milongas. There are too many tourists. They want to know where the locals go to dance, if there is a secret underground society they don't know about. They don't understand why the locals don't dance with them.
They don't seem to understand that the milongas are too expensive for us now. The entrance is 20 pesos. Something to drink maybe another 10 pesos, and if you have to take a taxi home, well another 20 pesos. 50 pesos for a night out is a lot. Most people do not go out more than once maybe twice a week now. They can't. It isn't like the old days. Who has a budget of a 1000 pesos to spend on milongas for a month?"
"The worst" I tell him, "Is when they complain to me about how expensive it has gotten here. As if I am supposed to feel sorry for them." My friend looks at me. "Nena, tell me something good." I smile at him. "I like the chicken."