There´s warm weather in the forecast and it´s no secret what happens when the seasons change. ‘Round these parts, the soul numbing cold face of winter is crawling back into her cave as the tempting seductive winds of spring are fast approaching. That´s right, the seasons are playing in reverse down in the Southlands of Argentina. Crosswalks are now full of thirsty pale skin, rearing its sun deprived fangs, eager for a taste of the warm sun. Corner stores are packed with quick-tongued smooth talkers advertising shiny gadgets in their pockets for a cheap price. And of course, now commences the succulent flavors of El Night Life. The Night Life, that is, pulsating with vibrant debauchery, blossoming and pollinating the spirit of Spring time in October. As a measure of caution, we will lock ourselves out of house and home, beyond the walls of confinement and thrust ourselves into the whimsical winds of folly and play – because you’ve been playing it safe far too long.
Before we dive into random acts of our valiant hot-headed street walking discoveries in Argentina, we should reflect on a few cozy winter tales worth mentioning. The charming family that has accommodated me as of late has not only welcomed me with open arms, but with an open bar as well. It was written in the stars.
[And certain humanitarian ideologies would have us think that we’ve earned this somehow. That sometime in our distant past, when we were saints, before we turned into barbarians, we fostered an extremely kind gesture to a stranger in need, and this is the universe handsomely rewarding us for our generosity, and for all of our great deeds of seasons past done for those in need].
There was a well stocked family bar in the house, with remedies and spirit collections that could make you see double for a fortnight. My stay here was no doubt medicinal – Hearts full of gusto and a quaint little bar full of resolution. We got on just fine this family and I. If we couldn’t understand each other, because of the language barrier, at least there’d be a few empty glasses patiently waiting to fill us up with a bit of stick-to-itiveness, to remind us that one should never, not ever, let the burden of an unknown complicated language interfere with the global language of beveraging. It reminded us who we were at our core. Try telling a funny story in Mandarin Chinese, for example. You´ll discover your lack of wit – you’re not as funny outside of the English dynasty. However, a strong dose of humility chased by a clumsy swallow of Malbec masks the embarrassment and then embarrasses you all over again. They usually laugh nonetheless. I say it was the joke. Their faces say it´s my wine stained teeth. Perhaps we look like amateurs? Then again, maybe it´s the Fernet from last night, still holding strong?
Every evening, without fail, the gentleman of the house would encourage me to join him for a glass of whiskey after the day’s end. I’d then indulge in a *chopp or two, usually of the *Brahma or *Quilmes variation, which the lady of the house insisted on, to accompany our lush dinner spread. And so began heaven in Punta Alta, Argentina. And if I am to be an honest man, I´m sure I owe this wonderfully high-spirited family a few hundred liters or so of booze. But the bar was in fact unbarred, a hidden gem within the walls of their home, and it had my name written upon the Whiskey marks. So we will honor our code of chivalry and pay it forward to the next familiar stranger who shares our enthusiasm of refreshments and mistranslations on unfamiliar territory.
I’ve learned that becoming tongue tied and pleasantly fatigued due to overeating and professional drinking are common symptoms of faraway living. Not to worry, I´ve got a tongue twister for you to loosen the lips and avoid confrontation. If you aren’t careful, you might end up saying something worlds away from what you mean to say. So, say this in your sleep to avoid being misunderstood. My private studies show that this tongue twister is most effective after a few chopps, with good reason:
I´m not a fig plucker,
nor a fig pluckers son,
but I´ll keep plucking figs,
´til the fig plucking done.
And for the more skilled:
Once upon a barren moor,
There dwelt a bear, also a boar,
The bear could not bear the boar,
The bear thought the bear a bore.
At last the bear could bear no more
That boar that bored him on the moor.
And so one morn he bored the boar
That boar will bore no more!
I now leave you with a true tale about two tongues on a plate. After a long day of working, I opened the refrigerator in search of a snack only to find two very untied cow tongues, awaiting their seasoned platter of herbs and spices for dinner time. This has happened on more than one occasion. Somewhere in Argentina, there lay a few dozen speechless cattle, plotting their tongue´s revenge. For now, the dinner table devours their lost language. And I try my best to fit in.
Practice makes perfect. If you´re not careful, you may lose your tongue just the same. You don’t want to end up being the tasty topic of conversation at dinnertime.
Until next time.
Oh and do try to keep your tongue in your mouth.
*A chopp is how the locals ask for a pint of beer here in Argentina. An interesting find from a Rio de Janerio traveler´s blog describes chopp as such:
Unpasteurized draft “beer” is not called cerveza, but is known as ”Chopp” (pronounced show-pee in Rio and Chope in Argentina). Chopp is considered to be a separate product from beer. For example, if you ask for “cerveja” in Rio at a place that only has Chopp, you will simply be told that they don’t have any, as if they are not in any way substitute products. All the effort is well worth it though, because the draft product really is so much better than the bottled.
(For more on the history of Chopp and Brahma beer, check out this traveler´s blog http://ieatrio.com/2012/02/28/brahma-padrao-original-the-best-beer-in-the-americas/)
*Brahma is a Brazilian beer often enjoyed in Argentina. The Swiss founded Brahma in Rio in the late 1800s to try to re-create a European style beer in South America. “Brahma” is said to be an homage to the Englishman Joseph Bramah, who invented the modern apparatus to serve draft beer. The varieties include:
Brahma Chopp (pale lager), Brahma Extra, Brahma Malzbier, Brahma Black, Brahma Fresh, Brahma Light, Brahma Ice (Sold only in Venezuela and Dominican Republic), Extra Light Brahma, Brahma Morena, Brahma Bock, Brahma Bier (Special FIFA World Cup 2006 edition released in Brazil), Brahma Porter, Brahma Stout, Brahva (pale lager as sold in Guatemala and other Central American countries), Brahva Beats, Brahma Malta (Non-Alcoholic carbonated drink sold in Venezuela), and Brahma choco ( chocolate that has full percent cocoa).
*Quilmes – Quilmes is in fact an industrial city of the Gran Buenos Aires cluster. During the 1800´s, a German immigrant came to Quilmes and brought along from his country the enthusiasm and passion for beer,. He founded Cervecería Argentina. Today´s active beer varieties include Quilmes Cristal (Lager), Quilmes Light (Light Lager), Quilmes Bock, Quilmes Stout, Quilmes Red Lager, Iguana (Light Lager), Imperial (Pilsner), Andes (Lager), Norte (Pilsner), Palermo (Lager) Liberty (Non Alcoholic).