Daughter of Sparta: Part II

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Awakening as if from a dream I found myself unsure if my memory of the past day is reliable. I feel well, but am disorientated. My clothing is all in place, I have no golden wings protruding from my shoulders. Dawns light has reached the grove and I have stirred in forest growth bedding draped with a rich cloak. Bewildered, I rise and smooth my dark curled hair. Thirst and hunger mark the time for me, whilst I danced I neither drank nor ate and now here it is morning and my hunger suggests I have been here since dawn the previous day. Unsure what I should do, I head home. My parents may, or may not, have recognised my absence. I wrap the cloak about me, feeling strangely naked in my normal everyday Spartan dress, and begin to walk toward home.

As I encounter helots in the fields I encounter a strange sensation, it seems I am moving much slower than the others around me. I feel I am moving at a normal pace, yet those in the fields I see move at least twice as fast as I am. Shaking my head to remove the illusion I walk on toward the city. When I reach the outskirts of the city this sensation exacerbates which creates a deep sense of discomfort within me. I rush to reach home all the while preparing myself for the inevitable encounter with my parents, every moment the sun rises higher I am aware that my presence must surely be missed and a reckoning will be required. What could I say? I no longer truly believed that I had encountered a god, yet had I? I breathed deeply and continued my awkward approach homeward.

It seemed an age I negotiated the streets before entering my home by the, oddly, open front door. As I crossed the threshold and closed the door behind me, I realised the house was in uproar. Helots moved at a frantic pace and both my parents were standing appearing dumbfounded in the entry area. I ceased moving and stood still observing the scene. It seemed to take some moments before my presence was noted. This gave me time to further observe the scene, there had been an early morning disturbance that required more than the usual attendance of helots, the house was in disarray but not because I had not been here. My mother saw me first, I went to kneel and apologise but she caught me up in her arms and taking both my hands spoke reverently to me; ‘My daughter, we are overwhelmed, such blessing upon this house.’ Her eyes were wild with distant imagining, barely present at all. My father stepped in and took my left hand from my mothers grip. ‘Daughter, while you slept we have had a visitor in the early hours. He has made it plain he seeks your hand. This surprises us, as he is no ordinary man and spoke as one possessed, yet he has pledged his house to ours and we find it acceptable.’ I started to shake, from thirst and hunger I suspect but my parents thought it shock at the sudden proposal and rushed to seat me. I requested drink and food. They hurried our helots to serve and assist me. I gulped the at the wine to slake my thirst and eagerly consumed from the platter laid before me the goats cheeses, dried meats, olives and tomato. My parents sat and watched me eat as if they had never seen such a sight before, as though they had discovered what they thought was a useless pebble to them had been exposed as a rare jewel. Finally, my thirst and hunger was outweighed by their odd behaviour and my mothers announcement that there was a more than suitable proposal, I was driven to query.

‘Mother, whom has visisted this morning? Please tell me the news.’ My mothers face shone as she smiled in recollection, ‘Daughter mine, as you know we thought no easy match would be made for you yet this morning well before dawn the door banged incessantly, the helots raised and answered and stirred us from bed with announcement of the caller, we dressed and met him, dishevelled he was but clear on his intention which was simple, he desired your hand. We were eager to approve yet he pressed us to be certain, then gave us some strange terms but gods be praised, we have reached a beyond equal match for your hand.’ I waited patiently for my mother to continue then looked to my father who was terribly still. ‘Father, what have you to say of this match, who is the suitor to have our household in such uproar?’ My father stood still, wringing his hands and looking to Olympus. ‘Father, what say you?’ I prompted. I drank more wine and ate more, thinking all the while of the odd dream I had, perhaps it really was more than the imaginings of a devout supplicant. My father finally stirred. ‘Daughter, Cymone. The prince has come to declare himself and claim you. Yet, he speaks in riddles and I am concerned his father, our King, does not know of his intentions. I fear,’ his words were cut short by new rigorous banging on the front door. There was disruption in the house as a lush wrap was pressed upon my mother and battle dress for my father, no one attempted to manage my appearance which was surely a fright after my day of dance and sleeping on the rough. Finally the visitors were welcomed, the King, with his wife and son walking demurely behind him. It was obvious to me the King was in a rage but was tempering himself in the house of his honoured general, my father.

All knelt except me, no one seemed to notice but I found I could not move, except to nibble at my food and gulp at my wine. The King consumed a vast breath before speaking, all waited looking as if they assumed the worst. ‘My son, Pleistoanax tells me that he has extended his pledge of marriage to your daughter Cymone.’ I quietly washed my hands and gulped more wine. ‘He did so without first consulting his parents, yet there is no greater match for a prince than a King’s honoured general, especially to a daughter who appears to be blessed by an Olympian. I have come to seek proof of this outlandish claim since there has been no evidence to suggest such an alliance in the life of Cymone yet.’ At this point all eyes were now upon me. I set my glass down and rose, I moved away from the seating area and into the more open reception area of the room, I knelt, and I prayed to Apollo to assist me, this could all only have come about if his visitation with me were a true memory, therefore this was the match he intended. Words found a way into my mouth, I found myself saying ‘Lord Pausanias, your son is wise, the god of prophesy has commanded him to look to the blessed daughter of Thorax. You question the word of Apollo?’ I was horrified at the rudeness of these words spoken to my King but as I said them with all eyes upon me, my golden wings unfurled and the Lord Apollo appeared beside me offering me his hand. While I took it and raised myself to stand I looked to room and all had bowed before us. Apollo’s eyes were bright and mischievous as he looked upon me, ‘I delight in your new wings my beloved, I imagine the world seems very different to you today, you may call to me any time you choose if you need my words or intervention otherwise I will see you kneeling in supplication in our grove as I command.’ I smiled in response and nodded my agreement as I sensed he did not require more at this time, he was upon the stage presenting his prize to the masses and I would follow his prompt.

‘My Lords,’ he stated winning their favour by suggesting they were somehow equal in lord-hood as he. ‘We seem to have some concern around my visitation to your city. I came to recognise Cymone and point out my favour of her to Pleistoanax as he simply seems the only Spartan man worthy of her. Cymone carries my blessing as all can observe, is this the only point in question?’ There was much rustling of robes but not one dared raise their head nor voice any concern. ‘I thought I would not need to appear to you all after speaking with the intended bride and groom, yet as I have had to, I will make plain, Cymone’s hair will not be shorn like a sheep on her wedding day. Her luscious curls will remain intact as a symbol of my intact blessing of Sparta.’ There was silence, none of the brave Spartans would speak directly to Apollo. Ashamed of my people I found my voice, ‘Apollo, Lord of prophecy and herds, we the people of Sparta thank you earnestly and beg your forgiveness if any slight has occurred, we promise all will be made up to you as desired.’ Now the others stirred all as one, voicing acknowledgement of Apollo’s wisdom, grace and beneficence. Apollo himself was absorbed speaking to me in a tone I realised none but I could hear, he described our coupling in words that made me shudder and blush vigorously and he demanded my return to the grove at moons rise to complete the ritual we had begun.

 

Words errant satiety

image Helen of Sparta

Link to Daughter of Sparta: Part I

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Daughter of Sparta: part I

detail-of-head-of-helen-P (2)As a child of Sparta, I always felt isolated. We celebrated militarism, austerity and athletic strength of which things I could find nothing to love. Raised to be mother to soldiers and run a household alone, while my husband lived in the barracks and returned home secretly at night, I found joy only in music, dance and the potential ideas that might transform our military state. These ideas, I learned early, were not popular among our people. They liked what they knew, we were extremely devout to our patron gods, with our diligent military regime we could do no wrong. I could see the potential wrong, but my ideas were laughed at. So, I kept them still, within, and focussed my desired ‘athleticism’ on dance but unlike the other Spartan girls I did not compete for favour. None of them moved like I and I would not move like they insisted I should. My parents despaired even to marry me, wondering if I would live with them forever or wind up a helot (slave) when they eventually passed to the underworld. Yet I yearned and plotted a secret plan that emerged in my heart, a hope that I may yet save my ‘misplaced’ soul. When I reached the age of promising, when I knew there would be no ‘sane’ Spartan suitor to request my hand, I took myself to my beloved glade, where I alone celebrated through dance to all gods and goddesses that would hear my wayward words. For the first time I raised an altar, before I had simply danced and sung but now I laid down the appropriate incense and wine coupled with drops of my own blood before I expressed my prayers and began to dance. I intended to dance all day, all night, to dance however long it took for the gods to see me and decide it was worthwhile to them to intervene.

 

I danced a very long time; my lips were drying, and my limbs weary to failure, yet my will would not desist. I cried out with my entire soul to Ares, celebrating our military history and honouring our connection to him, I called to Athena, celebrating the wisdom she offers our military intention and imploring she would head my prayers, I called to Apollo lamenting that his prophetic vision did not visit our nation of strength often enough. I called, cried, lamented and danced my devotion for hour upon hour. At the point where my strength was nearly completely waned, I stumbled but righted myself and continued, then an ecstasy alighted me, blinding light filled my grove and a hand reached from behind me covering my eyes. Another hand reached around my waist and stilled my movement, I was spent and the arm that embraced me held me upright. A voice resonant of honeyed wine and ancient life spoke gently, as a caress to me; “child, be still, you have danced long and well, I am here, and I would take your sight briefly that I can be here in my full light without taking your vision forever.” I sighed and relaxed deeply into the embrace of the Olympian who held me, this surrender was my consent, who needed eyes to speak with a god! I heard an odd sound beside me, of tree limbs reaching and becoming entangled. The firm arms were replaced by tree limbs that grasped for me and embraced me yet also contained me, a moment of fear flared within me, yet the Olympian voice assured me this surrender was my destiny and his desire. Bereft of sight and trained from infanthood to be wary my other senses rallied to replace my lack of vision. I heard the steps of the earthbound god, I could smell god forced green growth and a lush tone that I could only relate to newly forged gold. I licked my dry lips and prayed my countenance was not ill after so much toil in dancing. “Hush mortal, these things are small compared to your desire for your people. You would dare to call upon the gods, who are content with the love of your people, to assist you in steering your people to a different path?” Humbled, I wondered how I had the audacity to plead my case so fervently, yet I persisted, I knew that my desires were constant, and the gods favour was not. I answered, hoping my mortal voice did not waver too much or give credence to my fears. “My Lord, I fear my people are short-sighted, without music and genuine expression, with only military training and limited intellectual pursuit, relying on helots to tend out crops I see our people are doomed for failure. I crave more than this for Sparta and believe with her diligence we can deliver much, much more.” There was silence for a time during which I felt only the branch tips becoming vines reaching further along my limbs, increasing their hold upon me, I was now bound firmly in place my ankles spread wide, my waist supported but pushed forward, my arms spread outward yet held so I could relax into this odd pose. I began to realise my exposure, the short dresses we wore meant the posture I was in laid my buttocks bare, I no longer had any limb free to move and defend myself if it were necessary. Again, his divine voice reassured me that my surrender was the sacrifice for his favour to my intentions. Once more I submitted but girded my resolve.

His voice emanated as if from everywhere, yet I could track his movement around my grove. His voice betrayed excitement, engaging my wit as I was aware of how bargains with the immortal gods could be laced with poison, I was not concerned for my lifetime but the potential within my womb. “I have heard your supplication and intend to bless your people through your immediate lineage so long as you heed my desires. Shall I name them?” I wet my lips, this was more than I had dreamed of! Yet, I must keep my mortal head, what if his terms were more than I could live up to? Then all was for naught. I must hear and be sure the terms could be honoured before giving accord. “My Lord, I know not which Lord honours me, please outlay your terms openly and fairly along with your true name that I may be sure my lineage may uphold our agreement.” His laugh was magical, it lured me to forget all argument and get on to the joys he suggested but my will was strong, at least I imagined it so, and I held fast awaiting his true response in words. “A will such as yours will not be swayed with mere Olympian godhead, and is as should be, the deal we strike is for the fruit of your womb as much as for you. My terms are simple, Spartan women do not require maidenhead for marriage, I shall have yours and restore it and reclaim it as often as I choose. This grove shall be ours alone until age comes upon you, then a temple shall be erected here in my and your name, this name we will create as a lesser god of the local realm, if you please me I do not intend for you to age in normal years and you will live as a lesser god. Your womb shall be blessed with demi-gods and mortals alike, your lineage shall stretch out long before you, but the mate you take shall always accept that you have a lover, I will not be an Ares belittled, I will be accepted by your mortal mate, do not fear, one of power and suitability shall come to your parents with offer within a few days. More simply still, I will not have your head shorn in marriage, I delight in your full head of hair. If you can obey me in these things then my blessing you shall have and lover you will become to Apollo, renamed Apollo Amyklaios for our meeting.”

This sounded simple enough, yet what suitor would accept such terms and how was Apollo so sure? Yet who was I to question the god of prophesy? I started to see how he hoped to best his brother Ares, our current patron, and not be disgraced for his lack of cleverness with the taking of lovers. Yet I must press… “Lord Apollo, you offer this mortal and her people great boon, yet I must be brazen ask how will my potential mate know of our encounters and not be shamed like your brother Ares?” His laughter now was so deep and natural I knew my question pleased him deeply. Once settled he replied: “Your mate is destined to see all encounters whether in person or if he is distant he will view them as the prophets see. He will see all and will know all when he asks for you. He is the kind of man that is not belittled by his mate having a lover, he will be the kind that feeds from this.” As a virgin and not being a man I did not know this was possible but the Lord of Prophecy was telling me this in his god voice, he took my sight thus he could be in his full presence meaning he only spoke truth and I trusted this. Perhaps I should not, yet I did. Without knowing I would say it, my voice spoke up; “My Lord Apollo, we have an accord.”

His response was indescribable, the limbs and vines that held me thrummed and shuddered then his hands were upon my face, softly as a lover expressing his devotion before something deeper and more bestial took him. My outstretched face was met with his divine shaft, having no previous experience he coaxed me through but I found an eagerness within me to taste and consume his godly length, deep moans of pleasure erupted from within me that I initially constrained but he encouraged so I let them free. The motion of his strokes upon my eager and sensitive lips brought about such desire within me I felt it would never be satiated. Eventually he spilled his seed within my mouth and I was struck with the enormity of what we had set in place, he stroked my face gently and commanded I imbibe his seed. Once I had obeyed him, I realised this was what he needed to instill the change within my form. I became aware of the minutia within me that began to evolve, Apollo was calm whilst I experienced this change of being, exchanging mortality for something else, foreign yet welcome, yet terrifying. Apollo strummed his lute and sang of my calling him ending the song with something I will never forget, not only the change of my mortality but the addition of wings to my form. As soon as he sang them they erupted from my shoulders. Golden, I could smell the molten gold, the pain was indescribable.

 

More to come…

 

Words by Errant Satiety inspired by Circe a novel by Madeline Miller and Michael at Dionsyian Experience

Image of Helen of Sparta (Helen of Troy)

Part II here

Wild Rose

Rose

My grandmother was named Rose, she lived in the wild and tamed three sons.

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“There was something about him that she wanted to learn, grow into, and hide in, where she could turn away from being an adult. There was some little waltz in the way he spoke to her and the way he thought.”

The English Patient, Michael Ondaatje.

Rose 1934

I promised to tell you how one falls in love.

The wild poem is a substitute

For the women one loves

Or ought to love,

One wild rhapsody

A fake for another

 

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“I believe this. When we meet those we fall in love with, there is an aspect of our spirit that is historian, a bit of a pedant who reminisces or remembers a meeting when the other has passed by innocently… but all parts of the body must be ready for the other, all atoms must jump in one direction for desire to occur.”
Michael Ondaatje, Author of The English Patient

 

Images:

  1. Featured image ‘Wild Rose’ by ideea on deviantart
  2. Image one: Rose and Eric courtesy of Errant Satiety
  3. Image two: ‘The Weeping Rose’ by KoAn72 on deviantart
  4. Image three: Rose and Eric’s best friend courtesy of Errant Satiety
  5. Image four: ‘Wild Rose’ by vulezvrk on deviantart

 

 

The King of Ganchos; Born free

In Buenos Aires, tango styles are both as varied to the palate and as plentiful as the various courses of the traditional asado (barbeque); for those accustomed to ‘nose to tail’ dining, the full palate may be gratifying yet for those unaccustomed to consuming offal, they are not. To say the least, it is an overwhelming prospect for the aspiring tango dancer to find a style and teacher to suit them in the time the dancer has to enjoy and immerse themselves in the dance form at its source and height of availability. Tango is a passionate dance and fast becomes a lifestyle for those who take it up, some will learn Castellano, take up an interest in Argentinian wines or history, others will engage in learning about tango music or choose world class dancers via the all-powerful YouTube to observe and approximate their own style from. My partner and I were the kind of avid tango dancers that took up all those options and more. We travelled to Buenos Aires for the sole purpose of immersing ourselves in the tango culture at its source. Luckily for us within the first few weeks of our six-month trip in 2012, we discovered a veritable chocolate sampler box of Argentine tango to help us on our way.

Pulpo asado

El Pulpo, third from left, at a personal asado

Having already been well schooled by the many tango dancers and teachers that had taken the pilgrimage before us, we knew that to discover which milongas (social dance gatherings) are running and gather the general timetable of the multitude of tango events available in the city, we should gather the newest copies of the free tango magazines that are published city wide. From there, social media networks needed to be established as the magazines printed timetables of milonga and practicá (guided practice) but not necessarily who would be teaching the classes traditionally run at the milonga prior to the milonga proper or which orquesta tÍpica will be playing where. Fortuitously for us, El Tanguata magazine was celebrating a significant publication birthday and was hosting a free two-day festival ‘inspiracion’ inclusive of short workshops with a plethora of famous and infamous tango dancers. Apart from the ridiculous difficulty of locating the venue and that we turned up on time to discover that time runs differently in Argentina, we waited literally hours before anything actually happened, this event set us up beautifully for engaging in a relaxed manner with many of our dance idols and discovering new ones. There were four significant highlights: Mariano ‘Chicho’ Frumboli and Juana Sepulvelda dancing live to Ruben Juarez’s Prologo Para Mi Argentina (which can be seen here), dancing with tango legend Juan Carlos Copes, the unbelievably talented tango comedians Eduardo Cappusse and Mariana Flores plus encountering the infamous Norberto ‘El Pulpo’ Esbrez (1966-2014).

 

El Pulpo, or Pulpo as he preferred, being quick to affirm that only his mother called him Norberto, was one of the most inimitable tango dancers in the history of tango. Even distinguishing between nuevo, or new tango, and the more traditional milonguero styles, Pulpo’s nuevo style was utterly unique. Here was a tango dancer who earned the nickname ‘The Octopus’ for his languid movements and specific leg entrapment style, renowned for dancing to non-traditional music with a glass of red wine or cigarette in one hand, see this link for an example of El Pulpo dancing to an orchestra playing a cover of Nirvana’s ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’. My partner, had introduced me to El Pulpo’s style which he felt was impossible to imitate successfully without learning directly from the maestro himself, and there we were attending an event where we could have a lesson with El Pulpo face to face for free! It quickly became apparently that Pulpo was perhaps a little down on his luck, as we gathered for our lesson excited and more than a little intimidated we soon realised that there were only a few others joining the workshop. Optimists as we are this appeared very favourable for us but there was something in the way Pulpo reacted that demonstrated the disappointment known only by those that have previously known great success. Throughout the lesson Pulpo was patient, engaging, kind and enigmatic. His style, for me, was the equivalent of changing from aerobics to tai chi. My partner adapted better than I did but we both enjoyed the experience and decided to seek out Pulpo’s regular classes. I was not sure why we ended up connecting with Pulpo the way we did, there was something within both myself and my partner that Pulpo resonated with, but for whatever reason we had an incredible time getting to know the iconoclast of a man.

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The night that was particularly memorable followed on from a tango lesson wherein Pulpo had raged about the state of modern tango culture, about how the political past had eroded yet strengthened tango and how the current period was deeply saddening for him. He then pulled out an audio cassette, outdated technology then, and played us something incredibly precious to him; a song from his father’s orquestra tipica. Pulpo sharing this unique moment with the class led on to his inviting everyone in the class to share a meal and attend a milonga with him. The cassette we later found out, was the only copy he had which he played sparingly, given that cassettes stretch when played eventually distorting the music. Pulpo’s history was rich with tango, both his grandfather and father had played bandoneon. His father’s music was one of the many victims of the various forms of political oppression in Argentina, the masters of many famous tango orquestras were destroyed in an effort to quash tango as a cultural-political movement, Julio Esbrez was one of the musicians whose music had been erased. Public milongas had also been banned during that time with tangueros risking arrest by meeting privately to continue creating tango music with potentially political lyrics and to dance. Pulpo told us how he never wanted to follow what had become the family tradition, he recalled being dragged to milongas as early as three years old, falling asleep to the sound of tango music and the hum of crowds. Being rebellious in nature Pulpo wanted to be a ‘rock star’, more akin to Elvis Presley than to Carlos Gardel, his father disapproved yet Pulpo made the most of both worlds becoming the defiant rock star thorn-in-the-side of the traditional tango movement; although he was also a exceedingly accomplished traditional tango dancer as well.

Julio Norberto Esbrez

Julio Norberto Esberez, El Pulpo’s grandfather (front left)

In Argentina it is tarde or afternoon until around 8pm which is the time when dinner menus become available in all cafes and restaurants, when our class had finished it was still tarde so we agreed to meet later at Villa Malcolm, a hugely popular tango nuevo milonga venue. Milongas start late and run late, often the lessons at the beginning of the evening start at 10pm with the milonga beginning around 11.30pm and running until the small hours of the morning. Nuevo venues tend to have a broad spectrum of age groups present, though prominently younger to middle age dancers, etiquette is more relaxed in comparison to the traditional milonguero milongas where women and men sit separately with a special area set aside for couples who wish only to dance with one another. At a nuevo milonga women and men sit where ever they wish although the all-important cabeceo was still adhered to, albeit not as strictly, say if the room was too dark for eye contact to occur, or the layout of the room made eye contact difficult. It is a major breach of tango etiquette at a milonguero milonga to ask someone to dance in any other manner than the cabeceo – which is the art of seeking eye contact with those you are interested in dancing with, both women and men seek out eye contact but it is traditional, and still considered correct protocol, for the man to initiate the nod of the head to request the dance, the woman responds positive or negative and if it is positive usually the man will then approach her and guide her onto the milonga floor being careful to negotiate around the couples already engaged in dancing. This is a subtle art designed so that neither woman or man are humiliated if the dance is declined, although the bravado of the older men who are more common at the milonguero milongas did astound me. I was disinclined to dance with one man whom I dubbed ‘Argentine Magnum PI’, as his similarity to Tom Selleck as Thomas Magnum was uncanny, at my subtle disinclination to dance with him he made a loud joke with the men around him that the women were ‘playing hard to get tonight’.

 

At Pulpo’s request a large table had been set up at Villa Malcolm where the group could order dinner from the attached kitchens and dine. Pulpo did not dance but ate and poured drinks from one of the large beer bottles that Argentinian’s so enjoy sharing. We wanted to purchase a drink for Pulpo, a gesture that is common in our home country, but he refused as he considered us his guests. Pulpo then, somewhat ironically, pointed out that despite his reputation for being a wild drinker he was consuming cerveza sin alcohol – zero alcohol beer. He then explained that he had diabetes, which is why he didn’t drink and why he had, as he described them, ‘bug eyes’. I danced a number of tandas, a set of four tango songs in the same style which it is customary to dance the entirety of with the same partner, through this first phase of the evening. Many of these were with Mario, who is a gentle bear of a man, a nuevo dancer and tango teacher in his own right who was also a long-time student of Pulpo’s and deferred to him as a maestro. When he first asked me to dance I was hesitant, he took this in his stride and patting his opulent stomach joked that perhaps I was afraid he was too big and heavy to dance and proceeded to prove that he was both light and dexterous on his feet. My partner danced a number of tandas with Pulpo’s current dance partner, this connection seemed more like an apprenticeship where the dancer received one-on-one tuition in exchange for assisting Pulpo in his classes, who was an accomplished tango dancer from Germany. My partner and I also danced together, enjoying one of the best tandas we had ever experienced on the milonga floor.

 

Pulpo spent most of this period of the evening talking with both my partner and I divulging his life story. He discussed the pressures of growing up in a tango family and explained more in-depth about the politics of tango and how having forged a name for himself he now hid things, like how he no longer drank alcohol, because people then asked too many questions about his health. His health, he admitted to us was poor and he was about to embark on an American and European tour in the hopes of recovering some of his former glory and, importantly, to make some money. What Pulpo didn’t want the tango community to know was that he was suffering from complications with his diabetes and needed a liver transplant which he could not afford nor was he very high on the public waiting list because of his age. I think perhaps his state of introspection might have been why he opened up to us so much. We were somehow a safe pair of ears that he was able to divulge his truth and secrets too as we were not a part of the Buenos Aires tango social circuit nor had we come to him ignorant of the subtleties of tango culture. We, like Pulpo were aware of and lamented the central issue within tango politics; Argentine Tango having been recognized by the government as being a national cultural icon worth of heritage status was a ‘catch 22’. Because of this, tango has become a commodity, not just within Argentina but internationally, meaning every aspiring tango dancer/teacher we met was plying for trade or more importantly saw us a potential ticket into the overseas market. This made it difficult to establish the authenticity of each teacher and made it important to be discerning and cautious. The market was flooded with such teachers.

 

As the milonga wore on Pulpo and Mario decided to head to the iconic milonga Parakultural at Salon Canning. At this point we discovered that Mario’s day job was as a taxi driver. As Mario said working as a tango teacher he still had to make money to put food on the table. Pulpo, his dance partner, my partner and myself all piled into Mario’s taxi and made our way across the city. Mario crooning at the top of his lungs to the tango songs on his car stereo system. We had been to Salon Canning before but to arrive at a milonga with Pulpo was an entirely different experience, for one there was no charge at the door and everyone referred to him as ‘maestro’. The other elements were subtler, waiters were more attentive, and locals intrigued by who was at Pulpo’s table. When Pulpo eventually danced with his dance partner they were watched attentively. The following tanda she was immediately beset with dance requests and Pulpo lamented that people ‘always wanted what he had’, this outburst seemed to leave him disgruntled and subdued. Pulpo did not dance with me publicly which I was somewhat relieved by, as I simply was not proficient in his style, nor would I have welcomed any more attention than I already currently had. Even dancing with Mario, who was well known, meant that there were attentive eyes taking in our dances, although it was satisfying to hear the elusive compliment ‘¡eso!’ uttered by a native tango dancer at a highly reputable milonga.

 

Pulpo recovered from his darkened mood and he and my partner resumed conversing intently, being of a similar age they had many commonalities to discuss. Pulpo compared himself to the American rock singer Kid Rock saying that the song ‘Born Free’ surely must be written for him. He lamented the festival where we had met him, reminiscing of the time when there was an entire festival devoted to his style and the proponents of this style were called ‘Pulpitos’. We discovered, although we often attended milongas until the very early hours before hunting out one of the 24hour cafes dotted around the city to refuel before heading home, that Pulpo didn’t seem to need much sleep. We parted when the milonga ended near dawn but as soon as we arrived back at our apartment Pulpo was sending us messages both to check we had arrived home safely and inviting us to join him at his apartment for breakfast and more dancing. We needed sleep so did not take up the offer immediately laughing (ironically) as we were convinced we had adapted to the milonga lifestyle better than most. Shortly after this night Pulpo embarked upon the first leg of his international tour only to end up hospitalised. For the next two years he was in and out of hospital. When the Buenos Aires tango community finally learned of Pulpo’s condition they rallied to raise funds for a liver transplant, sadly before the operation could occur, on 16 July 2014, Pulpo succumbed to liver disease. In Pulpo’s last conversation with me he was in hospital and when I asked how he was he simply said he was like a motorbike with no reverse gear, only ever going forward, signing off by saying we were beautiful friends and always in his heart. We may not solely dance Pulpo’s iconic style, but we were both were deeply moved by our connection with this exceptional tanguero who will forever be an inspiration in our hearts.

Limbering up.

routine_malaise_by_shesabromide-d3d5vzq

Stretching out of the silence, through the torpor, the ache, the awe… beginning to move toward the lyrical mind. There has been a enormous gulf that is impossible to fill, there is only one way to explore it…  and that is by being present, so once again, here I am.

words: errant satiety

images: Main image Routine Malaise; featured image photophobia both by ShesABromide on deviantart