When we walked into the art exhibit on Friday, they were already dismantling it.
But Guy No. 1 couldn't have been nicer. "Take your time looking around," he said. Then he spent some quality time with a cigarette and Guy No. 2.
The exhibit was mostly comic-style panels. The guys were patient with us, but they didn't waste any time either. We'd read one panel and they would take it off the wall while we moved on to the next one.
It could have been a performance piece about the impermanence of art, but I'm pretty sure they were just closing down the exhibit . . . several hours early. If we'd gotten there even half an hour later than we did, there wouldn't have been anything left to see.
The biggest piece in the room was this. We overheard the guys talking about it. It wasn't an original; it was a reproduction done by a local poster shop. So when they took it off the wall, Stu said: "You should ask them what's going to happen to it."
And I knew he was right. I mean, this could be my big chance. Could I make off with that great poster?
When we finished looking at the last panel in the exhibit, Guy No. 1 asked us what we thought. We gave it enthusiastically positive reviews. Then Stu coyly asked a question we already knew the answer to: Was this poster an original?
"Come on, Guy No. 1!" I thought. "Shrug your shoulders, smile, and let us walk away with the poster." But, no. A small part of me was disappointed.
Then, unprompted, he pointed toward the front of the room. "Do you guys want to take home part of the exhibit up front?"
We were ecstatic. "Yes!"
We could not stop laughing. We grinned like idiots while he grabbed one of each item on display.
- 1 box, Sueños & Delirios. Consérvense en lugar fresco.
(Dreams & Delusions. Keep in a cool place.)
- 1 box, Pelusas. No se conforme con menos.
(Lint. Don't settle for less.)
- 1 box, Mini agujeros negros. Fuerza cósmica a su servicio.
(Mini black holes. Cosmic force at your service.)
- 1 can, Plasta informe. ¡Sin sabor!
(Formless lump. Flavorless!)
I walked away happy with my free art and very pleased that Stu was able to see one of the best things about living here: Anything is possible. Granted, that's also one of the worst things about living here.
We walked around a lot on Saturday. We saw some very cool old buildings, some in great shape and others not. Even the ones in good repair were often marred by graffiti.
The name I most covet for my blog is "Buenos Aires, City of Faded Elegance." Because it's spot on.
We saw the stately Congress building, had coffee and a bite to eat in two of the city's classy cafés notables, and stopped in (twice!) at an artisinal cheese store.
But we also walked through some slightly sketchy sections of town, climbed over trash strewn across the sidewalk, sidestepped unsavory puddles, dodged mysterious dangling wires and watched an endless parade of hawkers scraping together a living on the subte — a lot of them children.
At one point we paused on Avendia Rivadavia to take in a beautiful building that would not have been out of place on any boulevard in Europe.
That's when Stu said that parts of the city look like they've been hit with an atomic bomb. It's true. Elegant buildings stand amidst chaos, grime and squalor.
We talked about the toll it must take to know that your city, once grand, is now in so many places held together by string.
What would be worse: To be able to remember the golden age? Or, as is the case with most people alive today, just to see suggestions of it while its legacy crumbles around you?