A few days ago I took a break from writing to go eat at the restaurant on Entre Rios. The owner is Paraguayan, there is a seventeen year old waitress who has the shield of a football team encrusted in silver hanging from a leather choker-collar, one dreadlock protruding from the neck nape as the rest of her hair is pinned up, her boyfriend sometimes is there to monitor her working conditions, stares with an evil eye when she serves me ever since a little social blunder I made in his presence not so long ago at which she at least had laughed.) Among the menu’s protagonists are merluza (trout or baby swordfish with mashed pumpkin,) different kinds of pastas, gnocchis—on a certain holiday one is supposed to eat gnocchis. Shrimp, calamares, chicken a la romana, raviolis with a sauce called “Il Principe di Napoli” are on the menu. The waitresses at times make me feel like Il Principe Di Napoli.
When eating the trout with my hands I wonder if it was fished out of one of the two subterranean rivers that pulsate under the city of Buenos Aires, whose above ground streets in most areas are veritable rivers of garbage that make Napoli look like a clean city. I like this city, but the Paris of Latin America is an elite fantasy, it is more Napoli of Latin America only with a much bigger and more aggressive citizenry.
It is winter, something like a cold day of Spring in Northern Europe, and the Andean Romans stagger along the sidewalks wearing exagerrated winter coats, a Russian would wear an extra t-shirt or a jumper. The man without legs and no crutches wears a big winter coat, he does some acrobating trick with his mouth and hands outside the glass, playing the match-stick girl from Andersen until the restaurant owner sends the football-hooligan-princess-with-one-dreadlock to give him a styrofoam with arroz con pollo.
That night it was almost empty—there was only an old man, from his features part Chinese part Guarani wearing his military cap and jacket from the Paraguayan army service, he stared at the television screen which was in turn trapped in his thick heavy glasses, his mouth buckled in a relentless grimace which was surely not a criticism of his asado meat simmering on a tiny metal furnace the waitress Melisa had set down. There was a table with old Napolitan looking men in jackets, one of them a fat son, bald, eating bits of lamb, his arms braceleted in silver and in tattoos.
From the tv set—always raging in this, my favorite restaurant—was an interview with Favio, a musician and singer I had never heard of before. Flavio, the caption read, would have been 75 today. Flavio had died.
From the tv set a song burst forth, he was a great Latin American romantic singer who had died, he had also been a virtuoso guitarist.
I watched at least four different sets of classic, immortal Favio. I was pleased to have encountered his music. In the end he was performing with a glittery colored turban, like an Orthodox Jewess. He sang about ”esa nina judia,” a Jewish, Sephardi girl of Buenos Aires, who he had been trying to make love to, to seduce, he sang of how her grandfather, a rabbi, threatened to ostracize her. I remembered having walked down the Once neighborhood, the Sephardi women to this day dress in a manner that would bring to mind medieval Andalucia or the lost Jewish neighborhoods of Morroccan cities where people spoke “Judezmo”–long, bizzarely patterened embroidered shirts and dresses of cotton or black long skirts, small embroidered and bejewelled sandals, black stockings (though many young portenas wear black stockings) Their wigs are poised in such a way to be actually arousing.
The Jewish girl was not the wife he had mentioned earlier.
The old footage of interviews and music videos were then interrupted by the breaking news.
“MAR DE PLATA–HOY—-HOMBRE SE AHOGO TRATANDO DE ECHAR LAS CENIZAS DE SU MUJER EN LA MAR” A man was trying to hurl the ashes of his wife from the trophy container into the sea of Mar de Plata (Sea of Silver, literally) but he slipped from the rocks and drowned.
It was the same day I got the news that my short story which is about seduction in Poland, titled “Goodbye Eurydycka” will be published in the forthcoming issue of Big Bridge , a great online literary journal for poetry and prose. Eurydycka is of course, Polish for Eurydice, who Orpheus was not supposed to chase back into the netherworld.
Favio appeared again, in the interview he said one of the greatest pleasures of his life was when he was able to fly to Bogota together with Sandro. Sandro was the singer beloved by all of Argentina’s house-wives, the called him the gypsy. My father had been crushed by him—after his Wagner concert he went to collect a check, and was in line with Sandro, who was complaining that they had stiffed him; Miguel Daniel had been very pleased with his high pay for the Wagner at Teatro Marseilles in Santa Fe, he felt the money was coming in and asked Sandro what they paid him—thinking he would be able to castrate the pop star; Sandro of course had been paid at least three times as many Australes.
The other day I heard from Augustin, the kiosko worker on Corrientes who sells erotic ghetto novels by a black writer from Quilmes and sings Peronist songs that Sandro is a Procer, a hero-founding-father not unlike Jose de San Marti. (I took a woman friend to the kiosk to show her the porno-detective books and for Augstin to sing to her, he interrogated us if we had been to the plaza de Mayo for Labor Day, I lied we had been, then he got smart and asked if Cristina had made an appearance and what she said, I answered I was there briefly, couldn’t see past the laborers, noisy with drum-din. Not sure if we got away clean.)
This was where I was, the night Favio died and a man chased after his wife’s ashes into a wave, Southern winter in the end of May, calamares with rice. It was a song celestial and cold that erupted from the old television set above the door.