Friday, May 04, 2007

The Local Bar

I love bars and bar culture. I have been going to bars since I was old enough to sit on a bar stool—at least that is what my uncle Tony tells me. My dad was a bar patron extraordinaire, and he acculturated me when I was barely out or diapers. I guess that is why I have a strange attraction for bars and why I am always drawn to explore them. My father died when I had but 14 years. Perhaps I go to bars to understand him.

There is a bar, the “Pool Bar” on Calle Ayacucho not but two blocks from my departemento. I have passed it over 200 times in the over 120 days I have been here—vowing each time to enter. And each time passing by—except for tonight. Tonight, I went in.

Unlike most Buenos Aired drinking establishments, this bar has an actual bar with bar stools. Most bars are cafes that serve alcohol at tables—but this was a bar. I went in, sat on a stool, and order a “Botella de cerveza.” No chopp (draft) here—only bottles. The bartender, who could only be described as “disinterested” opened the half liter in front of me, as they always do, gave me a glass, and sat back down to resume futbol match that was demanding the balance of his attention.

I settled in and watched the futbol game—Gimnacia y Chicago—while young people came in and ordered drinks and bought tokens for the pool tables. After a while, I started taking pictures of the place—with the flash off to avoid being too obvious. Apparently, my clandestine picture taking attempts were all-too-obvious because the man in the stool near me tapped me on the shoulder and mugged for the camera. This was followed by other poses.

He introduced himself as Miguel and told me he is an artist. An Argentine, but not a Porteno, he came to Buenos Aires at age 32 because he, as he said, “Buenos Aires IS Argentina.” I am not sure I agree—but I know what he means. He said he has lived all over. He went to Catholic University, he has lived in Peru, Uruguay, Brazil, Mexico . . .but he now chooses to live and paint in Capital Federal.

We had a long, and—at times complicated—conversation. He asked me what I like most about Argentina. I told him, as best I could in my limited language ability.

In the United States, there is always someone, something, some group, some law who will tell you want is best for you. In Argentina, the people take responsibility for their own lives. In the USA, people give away their responsibility in the name of safety and security. Here, in Argentina, they fight to keep it and are willing to take the consequences.

In the USA of my childhood, we had that. We lost it. Or we gave it away. We got lazy and complacent. We are no longer responsible for anything. We are a culture of victims. Things happen TO us. We are passive and reactive.

Argentinos live on the edge. They pay their money and they take their chances. In the USA, we take our chances only if it’s someone else’s money.

I am glad I had a beer in that bar. And Miguel helped me find the reason.


Alan Patrick said...

i have some fond memories of that bar - used to play pool there through the nights with a friend who has since left argentina.

it's one of those classic 'all night' type bars. which inevitably lead to 'classic' all day hangovers :-/

i guess i really should get going on looking into that soccer match for us to go to :-)

Kat Acosta said...

Uh oh, Ken, you are sounding pretty Libertarian there. I do agree with your analysis though. I guess I am borderline Libertarian too. :)

I enjoy your posts.