One of the distinct pleasures of visiting Buenos Aires, my place of birth is that I have a family there. This time around I met up with a first cousin from my mother’s side, Wenceslao de Irureta Goyena whom I had not seen in 50 years. But on my father’s side I have three first cousins, one Inesita happens to be my godmother. She has five children and her five children have families of at least five kids. I am not sure that Inesita, now 90 can remember the name of all her grandchildren, not to mention the great-grandchildren.
When I visit Inesita and company I am surrounded by family, a large one. This unfortunately contrasts with my small family (but intimate it is) in British Columbia where I have two daughters and two granddaughters.
It is simply a case of math. Because I am now 71 I no longer have any uncles. I have three first cousins in BA and four more in the United States. That’s it.
When I look at my two year old address book (I quit buying them when I realized I would put few new names and cross out lots every year) it is a sure thing that my life is in diminishing returns re friends and relatives.
That is why I want to report that before I traveled to Buenos Aires I met my friend Nora Patrich’s new beau (they have been together 7 years) through Skype and I instantly sensed we would make good friends. This was the case.
I stayed in Nora Patrich and Roberto Baschetti’s home in Bella Vista for three weeks. During that time I was exposed to a warm man, always with a grin on his face, who made me feel instantly at home. And that is even though, politically we were at odds. He is an avowed Peronist. I am not. He works at the Biblioteca Nacional where he researches Argentine history and specializes on Eva Perón, Juan Domingo Perón and that period in Argentine history when the military government “disappeared” thousands of political activist, many who did not believe violence.
Baschetti lives with an artist, who can be difficult at times. He seems to deal with Nora Patrich and knows when to retreat to his office.
It was our daily morning routine that endeared him to me. We would walk, around 10 in the morning (leaving earlier became a problem as our train at the station was simply too full) to the Ferrocarril San Martín station which was 8 blocks away.
We would head to the
corner café (across from the station) called El Viejo Faro (the Old
Lighthouse). This café was run by venerable waiters who had worked there for at
least 40 years. We would sit down and order our usual two cortados (a strong
coffee with a bit of milk foam) and two medias lunas de manteca (butter croissants) for me and two
medias lunas de grasa (lard) for him. Baschetti did not approve of my dunking
the beautiful pastry. And he never mentioned one way or another if he agreed on
my technique of pouring one little packet of sugar which I did not stir. At the
end of the coffee the coffee-laced sugar at the bottom is a delight.
|Roberto Baschetti & Nora Patrich|
We talked of Borges, of books of his football team Boca Juniors or about politics. Both of us avoided confrontations on that front.
After our breakfast we would cross the street where Baschetti always insisted on using his transit pass to get my ticket. We would let the train that came from farther out of the city and get on one that came from nearer stations. We usually sat down for the almost one hour trip to downtown Buenos Aires. We would get off one station before the end of the line Retiro at Palermo. It was there that I took the subte (the subway) to my destination while Baschetti took a bus to the library.
We usually made arrangements to meet in the evening at 7:45 at Retiro. We always managed to find seats.
I miss Baschetti and I miss his wonderful asados (barbecues). But what amazes me and gives me food for happy thought, is that I have made a new friend. It seems that this is not an easy task these days for an old man.