28 June 2010

una memoria del verano porteño.

[this photo's actually from my friend tony's roof on charcas, which is a few blocks away from where i used to live. same idea.]

on a sticky, steamy night in buenos aires, my host family and i were finishing up with a late dinner when the power went out. as summertime in argentina can reach scalding temperatures (compared with boston, anyway) and the rio de la plata doesn't do much in dragging the humidity out to sea, power outages during heatwaves aren't all too uncommon. i mean, think about it: refrigerators, air conditioners, fans, you flick one switch too many in one of the most densely populated cities in the world and you're bound to exhaust some power lines.

the lot of us - mariano (host dad), ines (host mom), andrés y francisco (host brothers) and i were finishing up the wine and starting to clear the plates when all of a sudden the room went dark. mariano started grumbling, ines went to the kitchen for candles and andrés, francisco and i threw open the door to the balcony and shuffled outside. our apartment was the penthouse in a nine-story building, and though nine flights of stairs doesn't seem that high up compared with the sky scrapers i've previously known, the traffic from below was muffled and far away and an eerie calm settled over our corner of palermo viejo.

andrés and francisco, both lanky and at least a head taller than their father, leaned over the edge of the balcony and were looking out below when someone started banging a pot against a railing a few blocks away. andrés and francisco started laughing and shaking their heads, with francisco pounding his fists half-heartedly against our railing as andrés explained that this happened during el críses when people would lose their power on a regular basis. within minutes, that one resounding CLANG CLANG CLANG-CLANG-CLANG was joined by leaden thuds and aluminum refrains as the neighbors broke out various kitchen utensils and took to their doors and rooftops as we had. everything for the long length of our street, was pitch black - no street lamps, no illuminated locutería signs, just the occasional headlights from cabs creeping onto our side street in the middle of a cut through. mariano and ines joined us on the balcony, mariano chuckling at the ruckus echoing around us, and the five of us stood sweating nine stories up until the streetlights came on street by street and the dining room lights glowed behind us. just as quickly as it had started, the balcony railing clamor subsided and everyone went back to their TVs, their dinners or their bedrooms, and mariano and ines went back to clearing the table.

andrés, francisco and i stayed outside for a minute or two longer than our parents, and i stayed out for a minute or two after andrés and francisco got bored and moseyed back inside. i spent a solid fifteen minutes hanging over the edge of the balcony looking up and down my street to make sure that it wasn't a fluke, and i went to bed that night completely in love with a power outage and everything about my neighbors and my home.

maybe it's the world cup madness and the fact that argentina is kicking SERIOUS ASS right now, but i find myself missing buenos aires and my host family more than i have since i left.

(if we lose power in this crazy humidity, i think we should start bangin' our pots and pans together.)


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