Astor Piazzolla - Costumbrismo & a Porteño Misses His Canadian Wife
Saturday, January 01, 2022
In 1954 I left my native Buenos Aires for Mexico City. I was
12 years old. In Buenos Aires I never heard any tango as my mother opted for
the classical radio stations that played the kind of music that I identified as
“música del Teatro Colón.”
It was only when I returned to Buenos Aires in 1965 to do my
military service in the Argentine Navy (ARA – Armada República Argentina) that I
was first exposed to tango.
It was not the conventional tango. I purchased two records
called Tango contemporáneo - Astor Piazzolla y su nuevo octeto (1963) and Concierto
en el Philharmonic Hall de New York (1965). I was particularly attracted to
Piazzolla’s dissonance because by then I had been a fan of the music of
Thelonious Monk and John Coltrane.
Piazzolla y su nuevo octeto (1963)
I remember getting into a heated argument with my first
cousin Jorge Wenceslao de Irureta Goyena who said that this “Nuevo tango” could
not be tango as it could not be danced to. Many years later in the late 90s I
learned to dance the tango in Vancouver and I had no problem with Piazzolla.
But as I wrote here, it was in a live Piazzolla concert that
I fell in love with a beautiful woman called Susy.
I am planning on driving in late March to New Dublin,
Ontario where my Rosemary was raised. I have a portable CD player that I can
plug into my car and I have at least 50 hours of Piazzolla music which I will
listen to on my way.
I was in Buenos Aires from December 20 until the 30th.
I wanted to escape the gloom of a Christmas without Rosemary. But it was to no
avail as I found that staying in our former Hotel Claridge her ghost was
My family and my friends who work at the Claridge all told
me that as soon as I was back in Vancouver I would miss Buenos Aires.
They were right.
I must amend that, in writing here, that what I miss is an
Argentine/Buenos Aires identity that is in me that compiles all my experiences
of having been in that city and having met Julio Cortázar, run into Jorge Luís
Borges (without knowing who he was) several times in the mid-60s at the
Pigmalion Bookstore, embraced Doctor Arturo Illía (the man I had helped depose
on 28 June 1966) in 1972 in Mexico City and then the three times I went to the
city with my Rosemary. Rosemary somehow became part of that fabric of identity
that is my Argentine self.
There is a word in Spanish, particularly used by porteños - arraigado. It is about being attached to something or a place, much in the same way as a band aid. It is then painful to remove it. This feeling about being part of Buenos Aires is that.
Today I listened to an Astor Piazzolla DVD. I found myself
crying loudly with little control. Carlos Gardel or Julio Sosa leave me cold
(well, a bit warm) but Piazzolla is in my heart.
There is something about his music that defines “costumbrismo”which is a literary term used in Spanish for literature (and music, too?) that
is only of one city. Jorge Luís Borges wrote stories where he defined
accurately corners in his Buenos Aires.
Piazzolla, just a few notes of anything he has written,
brings in me showers of Buenos Aires memories, of my past, of my recent past
and of last week.
I believe that only an Argentine native of Buenos Aires, “a
porteño” can feel this.
I cried because I knew that I was listening to Piazzolla and
knowing there is nobody I can share him with. I would add that his music is not
a happy music. Somehow I now identify Piazzolla’s music with my grief for my
loss of Rosemary and in his music I can see in my mind her face.
Can it be possible that my Canadian Rosemary had in her a
costumbrismo for my city – Buenos Aires?
Twelve Grapes & Poemas de Amor
Friday, December 31, 2021
Today is New Year’s Eve and melancholy is setting in spite
of the warm company of Niño and Niña. On my way home from the YVR airport, back
from Buenos Aires, I told my driver to pass by the West Boulevard Feline Hilton.
The trip to Argentina was not what I thought it would be. I would sit in
Hotel Claridge lobby wingchair in wait of Rosemary who was to come down from our
room in the elevator (or so it seemed).
It was in Mexico many years ago that Rosemary and I adopted
the Spanish custom of eating 12 grapes each before midnight. I went around the
corner and bought the grapes. Tonight I will eat 24.
At the Ateneo bookstore, around the corner from my hotel, I
found this lovely book of love poems by a passionate Argentine poet (a feminist to boot) Alfonsina Storni who
is virtually unknown outside her country (although she was born in
Switzerland). I have other books of hers
but this one is special. I had a moment of strange awareness two days ago as
I was reading it in that Claridge Hotel wingchair.
Links to more of my Alfonsina Storni blogs
I have come to realize that somehow my future is behind me
and my past is in front of me. I look into that past as if it is now and I see
that first image of Rosemary sometime at the end of 1967. In my mind and out
loud I call out here name and think of her as the young 23-year-old I met when
I was just 25.It is as if I am about to have my first date with her.
There was one poem, whose title and last sentence hit me like
nunca serás del todo mío.
You, who will never be…
You, who will never be all mine.
I seems I am falling in love with a girl I just met all over
Am I a Crazy Cat Lady?
Wednesday, December 29, 2021
|Niño & Niña January 6 2022|
Of late since I have returned from Buenos Aires I have been
hit with a fit of depression which is all about isolation during dark, cold,
rainy and snowy days. It has not helped that since I went swimming with my A5
Galaxy phone in the Claridge Hotel I have been without the ability to look up
words I read in my books or the NY Times with Google. Perhaps I might have my
phone back and repaired next week.
Meanwhile I find that my Niño and Niña keep me company all
day. I am not sure I agree with the Argentine pope that cats and dogs go to
heaven. I do not believe I will go there or the place below. I opt for my
personal reality of oblivion.
Perhaps Bergoglio and I share the idea of the humanity of
cats. Are they persons? Are they aware that they exist? Most of all I see them
as living memories as they were both loved by my Rosemary.
Cats and the meaning of death
Turning into a cat
Geranium 'Rozanne'& Feline Philosophy
An ode to a cat - Pablo Neruda
A un gato - Jorge Luís Borges
To a cat - Jorge Luís Borges
It is comforting how they lie between my legs and on my
chest when they can. As soon as I turn off the light at night they get very
close. I can feel their body heat from below my sheets. While they are
certainly not the heat of a human body and of my Rosemary there is something
not palpable but that I feel that there is more to a cat than meets the eye.
I became very upset a few days ago when the very Roman
Catholic son Jorge of my Argentine nephew Georgito reprimanded me for telling
his five daughters that I was considering becoming a trans woman so I could be
an authentic cat lady. He did not see the joke. I believe that anybody with a
deep religious faith that does not include a sense of humour has to be
I decided to Google (with this computer as I have no
phone) if Christ ever laughed or smiled. If he did, there is no record in any
of the gospels. But I am sure that he must have at some point.
|Rosemary & Niña 5 December 2020 ( 4 days before Rosemary died)|
|Rebecca at the Buenos Aires Botanical Garden|
|Our cat Gaticuchi|
Guanajuato, Guanajuato, Mexico 1962
Tuesday, December 28, 2021
|Guanajuato, Guanajuato, Mexico 1962|
My photographic life in 1962 in Mexico was simple. All I had
to do was to pick up my Pentacon-F, load it with Kodak Tri-X and go out into
the street to take whatever caught my eye. Sometimes with my friend Robert Hijar
we would go on trips to Guanajuato, Mexico where I shot the pictures you see
I had no idea then that someday I would become a
photographer in a place I had no idea existed then, Vancouver.
It was perhaps in these street photographs that I began to
I look at these now and I feel like more than 64 years have
gone by. Was it almost a lifetime? I had yet to meet Rosemary or do my military
service in Buenos Aires. I was barely a young man as I was 20.
Looking at these photographs I can smell that fine scent
that is dry dirt under a hot sun.
In the years that I have returned to Guanajuato (at least 8
times and once with not only Rosemary
but with our granddaughter Rebecca) I have passed by this city well and
wondered what might have happened to that young girl. Her photograph plays a
trick on her true size. She was tiny. And yet she almost looks like the grown
woman she would one day be.
The Argentine Conscript Sailor
Monday, December 27, 2021
|Buenos Aires - 1965|
From this side of this 21st century I would like to tell
you something about the sailor seen here. He is Argentine, and, because he was born
according to his birth certificate on April 18, 1943 (and not his real
Sanatorio Anchorena birth on 31 August, 1942) he did his two year military
service in the Argentine Navy as Clase 1943 and is 22 years old here. Because Jorge
Alejandro Waterhouse-Hayward is wearing navy blues, this photograph must have been
taken during an August Buenos Aires winter. His hair seems a tad too long, so
soon after this photograph, Cabo Moraña, Infantería de Marina ARA would have
sent the conscript for a haircut.
The photograph was perhaps taken by one of Jorge Alejandro’s
navy buddies with a Pentacon-F with a 50mm Tessar lens. There is no explanation
for the apparent failure of the usually accurate focal plane shutter.