Monday, January 8, 2007


It's time for my doorman's monthly bribe.

It would be nice to describe it as a "tip." But it really doesn't feel like one.

It's delicate because I have to bribe him enough so that I'm not stiffing him, but not so much that I look like moneybags.

Ever since I gave him a special Christmas bribe, he has been quite solicitous. It's a little scary. But it's touching that he would find time for me in between pickling his liver, sucking down cigarettes, and leering at the women who come in and out of the building.

Plus, if I ever feel like my Spanish is, you know, getting too good, he is right there to keep me real. He usually speaks to me as though I were slow. And judging by the use of his hands, he may in fact believe I speak sign language.

It's worth mentioning that the doorman's union in this city is enormously powerful. They have a first-class medical center, vacation resorts, plenty of time off, and rent-free accommodations in most cases. And I know exactly what the doorman makes because it comes out on the monthly building expense report. If I quit freelancing and became a doorman, I could stop worrying about money.

Anyway, I have come around to having some grudging respect for him as something of an institution. He is probably the most porteño person I know and he does keep the place running.

After nearly two years, we have settled into a comfortable relationship.

He calls me maestro. I call him when I need the plumber.

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