It’s beginning to sound a lot like Christmas

Christmas in Buenos Aires does not look like a Currier and Ives painting (or Thomas Kinkade, for those of you born since 1910).  That much you can derive from considerations of geography.  So the fact that the Rip Curl and Ronjon stores were having a Christmas Sale seemed predictable.  What I hadn’t imagined occurred at midnight, when the whole city lit up sonically with firecrackers.  We were at that moment walking home from the Only Restaurant Open On Christmas Eve via the Great Big Flower Which Is Only Left Open on Christmas Eve, and we were in the concrete canyons of stores and apartments.  A barrage of firecrackers echoes down the streets, but you see very little since most of the people are on the rooftops.  Some Roman candles arch overhead ten stories up, and florals explode in small patches of visible sky, but mostly it’s the cherry bomb in the culvert reverberation and the crackle of ladyfingers.  Children appeared on the balconies to call us Papa Noel.

The Ronjons of Buenos Aires advertise their Christmas sales in English.  Lots of Merry Christmas and Happy New Year signs in the downtown area, more even than Feliz Navidad or the faux-tolerant perversion of that, Felices Fiestas.  American culture is malignant.

One of the persistent myths of the guidebooks is that the people you meet are really flattered if you try to speak their language even a few words etc. etc.  If this was true ever, it’s gone out of style.  Like everyone in California, I know quite a few words of Spanish: Manteca, Merced, Coalinga…   I can understand a radio ad if I’ve heard the English version before, and I can string together a sentence if I have the time and patience of a Cerebral Palsy victim.  Well, nobody is interested in my internal struggles with multicultural self-image.  After three words, they ask if I speak English, the same as they would ask any Russian or Brazilian or Japanese, and the conversation goes from there.  Maybe this will change in the rural areas.

The television in the breakfast room of the Prince Hotel is showing a sequence of user submitted Christmas videos about twenty seconds long, of people from all over the viewing audience saying Feliz Navidad to the whole world.  It’s mostly children but every demographic is represented, by age, race, disability, anyone who has a friend with a video recorder, which is just about everybody.  I asked my friend Susan once if there was a cultural bias among photographic images in the mid-19th century, in favor of people who were wealthy enough to own cameras.  Susan said that there wasn’t.  Everybody had his picture taken, rich or poor.

Christmas in Buenos Aires

Speaking of pictures, here we are in front of the Obelisk Christmas Tree.  Merry Christmas to all!

(The picture above was edited in and posted from the Republica Salon, which is open and has free WiFi and they had a cheaper Christmas dinner last night but we didn’t know about it, with tango nonetheless.  It is the universal experience of traveling, finding out what you missed later.  Klaatu was no doubt kicking himself for having missed some epic Chess Records session that would have been the place to be, in 1951, on Earth.)