He came into my life like so many people do these days – with a comment.
It wasn’t on this blog. Rather, it was on my Nextstop.com Buenos Aires Guide. And it announced itself as being from Sun Valley, Idaho. You can probably imagine the sort of thing, Coming to Buenos Aires… need advice about tango lessons for beginners… got your name from blah, blah, blah. Nothing new there. But, in a master stroke (which surely indicated to me that he knew something of the workings and fragility of an artist’s ego), he added, You have an outrageous web site–really great!
Now, it was in a week when I was pretty tied up (or should I say drowning) in the first round of my post-edit book revisions, and I had almost zero enthusiasm for emailing with faceless folks in another hemisphere. But, since flattery definitely gets you further than no flattery, he stuck in my mind, and I ended up sending a brief email and suggesting he might try my good friend TangoCherie and her partner Ruben.
A few emails ping-ponged between the Americas after that because, in the game of responding to enquiries from people planning trips to Buenos Aires, one Which? What? or Why? inevitably leads to another. And in this particular case, by the second round of them, there were a few slightly unusual (between total strangers asking and answering travel-agent style queries), personal-ish questions from him, like, What are you reading at the moment?
In my slightly stressed stay-away-from-me mood of the hour, I confess that I wanted to retort, Why the hell are you asking me that? Bugger off! Questions about what I like to read, always did have the potential to panic me, even in person – I was more Enid Blyton and Agatha Christie than Charles Dickens or the Brontes, you see. When, weeks later, he asked if he could bring me anything from the USA, I suggested a Julia Cameron volume I hadn’t yet read. He didn’t email me back, and I thought I’d never hear from him again. A couple of Saturdays down the line, in Los Consagrados, at the table of Cherie y Ruben, I found myself being introduced to a man called Neil, and his beautiful daughter. I’ve got a book for you, he said, as if it was the most natural thing in the world, and out of his rucksack he pulled, The Vein of Gold.
I don’t know if you can imagine what it’s like when a complete stranger unexpectedly brings, all the way from their far-away land, a longed-for gift that you never thought you’d own. But, to give you an idea… I’ve just been waiting over two weeks for a parcel from my mum that contains my Spiced Chocolate L’Oreal Excell 10 Minute Hair Colour, and my new Moo cards: it cost £18 to send, it’s now well past its scheduled arrival date and I’ll probably never see it, ever, ever, ever… Aaaaargh-entina. Never mind The Vein of Gold, he was actually delivering gold – not only in the form of a new book to help me keep believing in and following The Artist’s Way, but also in his generosity, and in my surprise and delight to be on the receiving end of it.
By the time the night was out we were giggling a lot and spilling some honest beans: he’d advised me to keep the ’sexiest skirt in the milonga’, but lose the clashing top (he has a background in fashion, apparently); I’d told him that his questions (which, by then, I’d realised, revealed nothing more than the curiosity of a playful soul) about the contents of my bookshelf had almost had me legging it to Antartica.
We’ve met a few times since then. This Saturday gone, we ended up posing for the camera - Oh please do the tango leg thing for me, I want to show my mates back home! Naturally, I did protest a bit with some, Oh I can’t, we’re in a traditional milonga, what will the world think? type stuff. Oh, live a little, Sallycat! he replied. When I saw the picture, I laughed (and so did Carlos, who met (and did not punch) Neil at the far more informal Milonga Loca last night). In the photo: almost the whole of Los Consagrados dancing the Chacarera; and me and the guy from Idaho, who, it turned out, is full of sunshine energy as well as personal questions, having a ‘larf’. Anyone watching me? Not a damn soul. All far too busy having their own parties.
Want to see the whole picture?
Well, before I show you. let me give you an update on the progress of Happy Tango. I’m over half way through the post-edit revisions. I’ve got a talented tanguero from Oz checking the male perspective, and a tanguera sub-editor making sure that my punctuation is as perfecto as possible. There’s seemingly endless printouts of pages covered in red pen, mid-afternoon and late-night research reccies to milongas, and mucho work still to be done. At times it feels exhausting and never-ending, but the fact is that I have never loved crafting anything this much in my entire life. And en camino I’m learning to balance the work with play.
So, in the interests of spreading a few playtime smiles around the globe this Monday morning, I’ll share the full body shot now – Mr Sun Valley and Barbie, in a serious tango pose. And just for the record, here in Buenos Aires in November 2009, it’s a damn fine life.