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A Woman on the Wildside - A Dance of Fate in Argentina

'He made me comfortable in a manner usually signifying eminent intimacy.  Sometimes such people are guideposts, stationed by destiny to lead you to the next phase of your journey, or as agents of transformation.  On occasion, a stranger appears to offer a passionate night or two, a dance with danger, when traveling away from the homeland.'

Please Note:  "A Woman on the Wild Side" is a series of blogs chronicling author Anastasia Blackwell's experience traveling in Argentina, and features a mysterious young man named Tamerlane Rivera There are plans for the blogs to be compiled and and published when her adventure is complete..

Tamerlane Rivera removed his overcoat and used it to shield me from the torrential downpour.  He guided me from the Recoleta Cemetery to La Biela, a lovely restaurant on the square, known for the common presence of American actor Robert Duvall, whose movie, Tango Assassination, was filmed in Buenos Aires. The restaurant manager greeted Tamerlane as an old friend and offered a prime window table, with a view of the entrance to the cemetery and pedestrians passing beneath colorful umbrellas.  It was August, winter in Argentina, but it would soon be spring and the weather was mild

     Our conversation began formally, with mutual questions about our backgrounds. The chatter of guests and the soothing sound of rain beating against the rooftop afforded a homey intimacy.  He made me comfortable in a manner that usually signifies eminent intimacy. Sometimes such people are guideposts, stationed by destiny to lead you to the next phase in your journey, or as agents of transformation.  Occasionally, they offer a passionate night or two, a dance with danger, when traveling away from the homeland.

     “I followed the family tradition and went to law school,” he told me. “I come from a long line of attorneys and politicians. But, when I experienced first hand the corruption, in the government and courts, I was disgusted.  It is my opinion that there is no justice for the underprivileged in this land, or any other, from my experience.  Institutions are created to earn capital, create fear, and control the masses.

     He paused and looked out the window pane, streaming with rain.

     “Last night, as we stood facing the Tribunal, I saw in your eyes that you had suffered an injustice,” he said.

     “To be driven by fear is to ride in the trunk of your own car. You will never arrive at your destination,’ you told me.

     He offered an enigmatic smile and the reflection of something else.

      “Sometimes the courts will dole out a good result, often published it in the media.  It operates in the manner of a lottery or a slot machine, giving people hope and reinforcement that the system works to their benefit. But even then, the attorneys are the real winners,” he told me.

     “Do you still practice law?” I asked, and held his provocative gaze.

     “I occasionally take cases, to assist those who do not have access to a defense. But, mostly my efforts are centered on working with activists to create an underground social movement that operates both inside and outside the system. Our beliefs are rooted in the sovereignty of the individual.”

     "Are you a revolutionary?” 

     “I am a Transformationalist.”

     “I’m not familiar with the ideology.”

     He paused for a moment and drew a forefinger across his lower lip.

     My group organized the demonstration you attended. We provide political speakers and the trucks used to haul stage set-ups, video and audio equipment, and banners. I keep my eye on the spectators to make certain the crowd remains in control and the police are kept at bay. That’s how I found you, although you would not be hard to miss at any vantage point.” 

     I blushed at the compliment, though not entirely convinced his beguiling manner wasn’t universally administered, as heir to the machismo porteño culture.

     “I presumed your appearance was more than serendipity,” I said.

     “What path led you there?”

     “I asked the ticket seller at the train station what stop to take to arrive at Arenales and Suipacha. He told me to get out at the Tribunals exit.”

     “Then it was fate.”

     “How so?”

     “You got off at the wrong stop.”

     Our waiter, who moved like an invisible puppeteer guiding him by strings, arrived with a silver platter of steaming coffee and dulche de leche dessert, a delicious Argentinean favorite. Tamerlane switched to his native Spanish tongue and engaged the man in a banter that accented the deep melodic tone of his voice.

     A melancholy drifted over me as the pouring rain beat the window, obscuring our view. The world dissolved into a blur, leaving only the security of the present. As he spoke with the waiter I admired his impressive physical attributes.

     He had intense, soulful brown eyes, a strong jaw with a faint cleft in the chin, full lips, and luxurious dark wavy hair grazing to his shirt collar, an expressive chest straining against cotton, long legs, and muscular thighs. His high cheek bones would have made him near model perfect, were it not for the horizontal scar below his left eye socket. I wasn’t certain of his age, although he was clearly younger.  Yet, he hadn’t flinched when I told him my boys were grown.  Tamerlane reclined in his chair, raised his cup of café con leche to his lips, and observed me with curiosity, as the waiter departed.  His skin held tawny color, yet was translucent, naked, like still water - tranquil, yet teaming with life. He was clearly a man who had never experienced rejection or failure.  His eyes held keen intelligence, a radar that searched for subtext and anticipated the next move. Deeply complex and masculine, there was a hint of vulnerability lurking beneath that charged him with the illusive aura of charisma. 

     “Is your family buried there?” I asked him, looking out the smeared window toward the gates of the Recoleta Cemetery.

     “Yes.  They lie next to the murderous general.”

     “Is there no other choice of destiny?”

      “Perhaps,” he said softly, and I saw the first crack in his resolve.

     I shifted my gaze to a painting on the paneled wall of a beautiful couple dancing the tango. The raven haired beauty wore a low cut red dress, slit to thigh, and a shapely long leg was wrapped around the leg of her sultry partner. They were either drunk on love or Malbec wine, and their infatuation was tantalizing.

     “Would you like to learn to dance the tango?”  He asked, and broke into a grin that revealed an enviable set of teeth

     “I’ve heard it’s very complicated,” I answered and cut into my dessert, oozing with warm caramel and chocolate.

      For the man it’s complex.  A woman only needs to learn a few moves. The man controls the dance and the woman follows his lead.”

     “It seems women will never break free from that blue print,” I said, with a dash of playfulness cutting through my sarcasm.

     “It takes discipline to understand how to get into the head of your partner, to learn how he thinks, to understand his weaknesses and strengths, while introducing your own spice and personality.  Done properly it transcends the partners and alters the essence of the dance,” he said.

     “I’m not good at following. I like to be in control,” I said, and met his gaze dead on.

     “To be in control is to be out of touch with your instincts,” he said, and I thought he might take my hand - but instead he motioned for the waiter.

     “I call Tango the Dance of Fate.  The man defines the nature of the journey and the woman uses instinct to follow him, while introducing her own stylistic accent.  At some point in the dance, the woman begins to influence the instincts of the man, and the dance takes on a life of its own.”

      “As the couple falls in sync, they inspire each other to create moves neither would have never imagined, if left to their own volition. Art is created when that happens, and sometimes the passion bleeds into the bedroom.  But not always,” he said with a seductive flicker of his eyes.

     “I have experienced what you describe as an actress working with a highly skilled partner. It’s what drives my passion for the craft. But I view it more as a duel.”

     "Duel implies a loser, " he said

    “A duel is a game of strategy," I answered.

     He flashed a charming smile to the women seated beside us, a quartet of coifed matrons with suits buttoned to the chin, primly sipping tea and taking dainty bites of flakey empanadas, who had ceased their casual chatter to eavesdrop.

     "There is an underground club where the greatest tango dancers in the world practice for championships, away from the eyes of the gawkers and those who steal choreography. If you like, I will take you there."

     “Do you dance?” I asked, and finished my espresso,down to the last drop.

     “I used to compete – when I was a student at the university. Now, I enjoy it for recreation.”

     “In that case, perhaps you can recommend a studio for me to learn a few basic steps before you introduce me to the dance floor.”

     “The rain has stopped.  Let me walk you back to your hotel,” he said. “It will be dark soon.”

 TO BE CONTINUED . . .

 

 

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A Woman on the Wildside - Sex and the Cemetery in Argentina

"The place was tranquil, in a disturbing way, beautiful in a gothic manner of opulent splendor, a facade for darker stories - a ghost town in the literal sense."

NOTE:  A Woman on the Wildside is a series of blogs currently being written by Anastasia Blackwell, chronicling her experience as a single woman traveling in Argentina, with the purpose of publishing the complete series.

"I imagined a late night tryst beneath a full moon, bare skin against cold stone, alive in the shadows of death, a delicious shock of electricity riding spine to heart, and the drive to create new life”.  

     I strode down bustling Avenida Alvear, past the Cathedral with  open door confessionals and prayer stalls lined with candles.  The sweet smells that wafted from the bakeries and candy shops filled my senses with delight, and. I ached to stop and try the fine leather boots and jackets in the windows of upscale boutiques, but I was running late.

     Tamerlane Rivera appeared as I made my way past Our Lady of Pilar Church to the entrance of the Recoleta Cemetery, its stone façade in stark contrast to the swirl of white clouds floating, adrift in a sea of blue. He wore a black cashmere coat over a white collared shirt open at the neck, and dark wash jeans.  His embrace was firm and confident, affording a kiss to my cheek that left a trace of musk and spice.

     At the finale of the demonstration at the Tribunal he had offered an invitation to show me the sights of Buenos Aires. I had agreed, despite numerous warnings that a single woman must be cautious when traveling in Argentina. I did not regret the decision, as his beguiling good looks had the same affect in the harsh light of day as the romantic warm hue of moonlight..

     “I grew up in the barrio of Recoleta, on the street that houses many of the embassies.  Most of the wealth in Argentina is held by the people who live within the district.”

     He guided me past a vendor cooking glazed walnuts, through neo classical gates and Doric columns into one the most famous cemeteries in the world. Inside the walled gates was a city of extravagant mausoleums that housed the remains of wealthy, famous, and infamous Argentinean citizens.   

     “Most locals born to the neighborhood are baptized in the church, educated, build careers, get married, raise children, retire, and move to the exclusive city of the dead, when they pass on.  It is expensive real estate and there are no simple stones, the kind used to mark the remains of common people.”

     “No Exit,” I remarked.

     “I’m sorry?”

     “Your description reminded me of an existential Jean Paul Sartre play.”

     “He is one of my favorite philosophers,” he said.

     “Mine too,” I said, in half earnest, distracted, by the vast array of artistry used to render the essence of a human life.

     The place was tranquil, in a disturbing way, beautiful in a gothic manner of opulent splendor, a façade for darker stories - a ghost town in the literal sense.   

     The elaborate marble mausoleums were decorated with statues in a wide range of architectural styles, tightly attached, like miniature houses, decorated with sophistocated sculptures, art, and photographs. 

     A strong French influence was apparent, but pyrmids, Egyptian motifs and Masonry symbols added an eclectic flair. Laid out like city blocks, the main walkways lined with trees led to narrow streets meandering for what seemed like miles.  There were thousands of homes, and many offered clear views inside doors and windows, of elaborate, wood caskets adorned with precious metals.

     The most touching was the crypt of a young woman who had mistakenly been buried alive, and then died of fright when she awakened. She had been reburied behind glass, in case she reawakened a second time.

     “Eva Peron is buried further down this walkway,” he said, and led me along a narrow path to an elegant crypt lined with flowers and notes from her fans.”      “She would have been forgotten beneath a slab in the country had she not used her beauty and eloquence to reform the country. “

     “I read she was embalmed by her husband.” I said..

     “Yes, and was stolen by thieves after he died.  She was held as the property of his widow for a period of time.”

     "A woman’s worst nightmare,” I said..

     “Beauty and power exact a price,” he remarked, with a warm smile.

     Evita rose from poverty to become an international icon for her rhetoric, personal style, and tireless work on behalf of women and the poor.  A victim of uterine cancer, she lost her life to what created life and defined her as a woman. 

     “Is her husband, Juan, buried beside her?” I asked.

     “Her family would not let Peron lie beside her since he remarried after her death.  The crypt next door is for sale for $500,000.  Money buys position.”

     “It’s heartbreaking that she lies here alone, a spectacle to tourists, with a plot ‘for lease’ next to her, when her passion and commitment to her husband and her country were unconditional.”

     “Legacy is all that matters.”

     We passed the statue of a warrior on horseback. ”This famous general was revered for his slaughter of the local natives. A monument to genocide,” he said.

     Tamerlane paused before a broken-down crypt, with glass shattered and laced cobwebs. The dusty coffins inside could be clearly seen and a top was slightly ajar, which made the scene even more macabre.

      A high pitched cry came from inside the crypt and the wrought iron door began to open. I gasped and I jumped back, nearly into Tamerlane’s arms.

     “It’s a feline not a ghost,” he reassured me, while barely stifling his amusement.  “Cats are brought here to live when their masters are laid to rest. They keep the rodents at bay.”

     A tabby cat stepped outside and sauntered leisurely down the street to the next abandoned home.

      When a citizen dies their surviving family members are required to pay the caretakers to keep up the property.  If their relatives fall into hard times or lose interest in their old relatives, the deceased are left to the ravages of nature.”

     “Foreclosure in the cemetery,” I replied.

     A dark shadow passed overhead and the sultry scent of the aquatic permeated the air.  A shroud of black clouds threatened to flood the streets of the departed.

      Tamerlane turned to me with a mysterious smile.  His gaze lowered to my lips, my heart began to race, and for a brief moment I was lost to fantasy.  I imagined a late night tryst beneath a full moon, bare skin against cold stone, alive in the shadows of death, a delicious shock of electricity riding spine to heart, and the drive to create new life”.

     “There is no escaping Capitalism if you choose to lie with him,” he remarked, and looked deeper into my eyes as though to capture the image of forbidden love I had conjured.

     “Who owns your soul?” I asked, in a shallow voice. 

     “My soul is not for the taking,” he replied.

     “Does that mean it’s not been given?”

     “It means it has not been bought.”

     The heavy clouds began to give way to a torrential downfall.

     “Come, let’s find shelter,” he said, and took my arm to lead me outside the walls of the city of the dead.

Recoleta Cemetery

 

Recoleta Cemetary
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A Woman on the Wildside - A Taste of Freedom in Argentina

Author Anastasia Blackwell joins protesters in front of Tribunal in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

" I to be rocked to the soul by a passion I couldn't control, an obsessive,  unquenchable desire that burned through the night, blazed shadows against the stars,  and brought new meaning to a world gone stale.  Purpose."

Please Note:  "A Woman on the Wild side" is a blog written by Anastasia Blackwell chronicling her journey in Argentina, featuring a mysterious young man named Tamerlane Rivera.  The series will be published upon completion.

A Rebel is Born

America 1776 - a new constitution affords "men" their God given divine right to life, liberty and the pursuit of  happiness.

America 2013 - "The divine right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness  will never hold up in court,"  a prominent attorney told me.  "Courts are created for attorneys to make  a living and justice is for those who can pay for it."

"An injustice to one citizen is a blow to us all," I protested.

He nodded with a patronizing mile.

     'Art is a powerful means of expressing social, political and emotional discontent, and rebellion is often best clothed in subtext.  But sometimes you have to speak your mind, and not give a damn about the consequences', I wrote in my journal.

To that end, I took action.

In a serendipitous moment, alone on the Buenos Aires streets while visiting my son studying abroad in Argentina,  I came upon a political demonstration.  The passion and vigor of the congregated masses transformed the air with the thrill of  possibility.  The  throng  took me deep into their folds and moved me, like the undertow of a current,  to face an imposing judicial building.  Beneath the colorful flags of the demonstrators and the brightly lit Tribunal voices elevated by loud speakers exposed truths, both esoteric and unspeakable.

They cried out against a government that had lost touch with the needs and desires of its citizens. They spoke of  inflation, political corruption, unjust courts,  and greedy banks, and even darker, of  torture, underground justice, and stolen and murdered children.  It was a triumphant showdown of man against institution, beneath an enraptured sky.

The speeches of men and women of all ages and ethnicities echoed through the night, as tears were shed  and a torrent of human emotions swelled up and filled our hearts.  Light flooded from the windows of the stoic building, held strong by its columns,  unmoving, defiant, secure in its weight and position, as the police closed in.

We stood before the Goliath building, a glorious sea of humanity,  together in our purpose to fight for our God given rights  - the promise of Democracy.

A man positioned himself next to me - tall, powerfully built, dressed in a pea coat and jeans, with golden skin and lush dark hair spilling to his collar, topped by a black fedora displaying a gold crescent pin.  He bestowed warm brown eyes and a smile, his teeth glimmering white beneath the bloated moon.  His Spanish baritone resonated like a caress.

"You are an American?" he asked.

"How did you know?"

"We cannot allow government institutions  rule us through fear,"   he stated simply.

The night had grown cold with the passing clouds, and I folded my arms and drew my coat tight, while  searching his intense eyes.  Lost there, I saw something of myself reflected back, a part of me I had not known existed until that moment - and something profound began to awaken.  Flags waved the image of revolutionary Che Guevara and patriotic music stirred the citizens to near riot.

"I am a single mother.  How can I stand up against a powerful male patriarchal system?  The American constitution was meant to be democratic, but it was forged by founding fathers, not mothers."

“Your founding fathers fought a similar battle, only as the bastard children of a strict and unyielding father across the Atlantic. You can accept their remedy or choose your own.  There are many ways to revolt and many ways to achieve your goals once you set them,” he said, with a charming smile.

"Are you a revolutionary?"

"A transformationalist."

"I'm not familiar with the ideology."

"My name is Tamerlane Rivera.  Welcome to my country," he said, and he offered his hand.

The crowd roared, canons fired, and a zealous, chaotic energy infused the square that was intoxicating, exhilarating.  Yet, it wasn't enough - I wanted more.

I wanted to be rocked to the soul by a passion I couldn't control, taken to the furthest edge of mind and body,  by an obsessive, unquenchable desire that burned through the night, blazed shadows against the stars and brought new meaning to a world gone stale.  Purpose.

journey shifted in the moment, my perception of reality altered, like awakening to a winter morning with  a freshly fallen blanket of snow, pristine, untouched, ready for the weight of the first footsteps to bring life  a hidden landscape ready for the taste of something new.

Challenging the Tribunal

Anastasia Blackwell

9-16-2013