Thursday, May 17, 2007

Cruising and chatting in castellano

Che, sos pendejo fachero. Busco un pibe re copado y morbo para garchar a full sin rollos.

Did you understand any of that? You'll be mystified much of the time if you rely on your textbook Spanish in Argentina. Here's a lexicon of some the slang you'll probably encounter in chat rooms and gay bars.

  • acabarse - to have an orgasm: "Me acabo ahora" (I'm cumming now)
  • a full - enthusiastic, uninhibited: "Busco sexo a full" (I'm looking for hot passionate sex)
  • al palo - erect/hard
  • besos negros - rimming: "Me dio besos negros" (He rimmed me)
  • chavón - guy, man
  • che - you, guy, dude, used as a filler or generic salutation, as in "Hola, che, ¿dónde está el banco?" (Hey, man, where's the bank?)
  • cola - bottom (more polite term for ass than culo)
  • copado - cool
  • culiar - to fuck , sometimes also spelled as culear
  • culo - ass
  • fachero - goodlooking
  • forro - condom
  • garchar - to fuck
  • morbo/morboso - wild and nasty: "Me gusta el sexo muy morboso" (I like really wild sex)
  • paja - handjob: "Me encanta que me dan las pajas" (I love to get handjobs)
  • pajearse -to masturbate
  • pendejo - twink, sometimes used in a disparaging sense
  • pete - blowjob
  • petear - to suck
  • petero - cocksucker
  • pibe - guy, usually a young guy
  • pija - cock
  • pijon - large cock or a guy who is well hung
  • re - very: "Estoy re caliente" (I'm very horny)
  • sin rollos - right away, no drawn out negotiations about hooking up
  • sin vueltas - no obligations or commitments, as in only a hookup
  • taxi/taxiboy - male prostitute, because if you can pay the fare, you can get a ride
  • trolo - gay
  • trucho - fake, phony

Now go back up to the top and you'll find that the first paragraph makes perfect sense. You're ready to cruise like a real porteño.

No hablamos español

We don't speak Spanish. Here in Argentina, we speak castellano (Castilian). It might seem the same to you and me but Argentinos are adamant that their version of Spanish is superior to the rest of Latin America, supposedly retaining the pure Castilian flavor lost by other countries. On the other schizophrenic hand, they're equally proud of the lunfardo slang that permeates daily conversation. Lunfardo originated long ago with lower-class criminal types and most of its word origins are bastardized Italian and French. So, we speak "pure" Spanish sprinkled with dregs-of-the-earth foreign slang. It's typical Argentine lunacy.

The most important thing to learn is vos (you). In Spanish, there are many ways to say "you":

  • tú - singular, used with a friend, family member, or someone lower on the social ladder such as a maid
  • usted - singular, more formal and used with superiors and new acquaintances
  • ustedes - plural of usted, used with any two or more friends or strangers
  • vosotros - plural, used like for two or more friends and family members, but mainly used in Spain
Vos is used in place of here, as well as in Uruguay and a few other countries. It's a singular form but not confined in Argentina to familiars. Here it is ubiquitous, used in all situations with everyone. I wouldn't be surprised if someone meeting the president of Argentina immediately addressed him as vos. I have yet to hear anyone use usted.

You won't actually hear the word vos very often. As you may know, Spanish verbs are strongly conjugated, so the verb form itself tells you not only which tense is being used, but also the person. For example, here's the present tense of the verb tener (to have):

  • yo tengo - I have
  • tú tienes - you have
  • él tiene - he has
  • nosotros tenemos - we have
  • ellos tienen - they have
As you can see, we really don't need the pronoun to figure out who it is that has something, the verb form alone tells us all we need to know. If we add the vos form, you'll see it is distinct as well: vos tenés. Generally you create the vos form by taking the unchanged verb stem, adding an ending that terminates with s, and stress the final syllable: vos sabés (you know). The main exception to this is the verb ser (to be), which takes the form vos sos.

It's not easy to find a book with conjugations that include vos, but don't worry, there's a simple trick. When you hear a verb and it doesn't match anything you know, it's probably the vos form! You don't need to use it yourself, everyone here understands quite well even if they don't use it in their everyday speech.

So if people ask you ¿de dónde sos?, you'll know they're asking where you are from and you can reply soy de los Estados Unidos, che, ¿y vos?

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Comida Peruana

The past two Saturday nights I have gone out with David (Current Something #2), who is half Argentine and half Peruvian. He lived much of his life in Peru and I've been learning from him about the country and its culture. On both evenings we dined at Peruvian restaurants in Buenos Aires. Not just restaurants serving Peruvian cuisine but the real deal, owned and staffed by Peruanos, so the food is authentic, according to David.

Our first foray was to Contígo Peru on Echeverría in the Belgrano district. At 10 PM there was a line of customers waiting outside on the sidewalk. After about 25 minutes, we finally got in and were seated at a small table for two, pretty much cheek-and-jowl alongside other customers and tables. With only two places to compare, I can't say that it's typical of Peruvian restaurants, but both of these were very crowded, at least double the density of US restaurants. Of course, there's plenty of privacy anyway. With so many people crowded together, the noise level is such that you can barely hear each other.

One of my favorite dishes in Latin American cuisines is arroz con pollo (chicken with rice). The basic ingredients remain constant but the dish changes dramatically from country to country, so I decided to find out how it's done in Peru. It was a bit of a surprise. Usually the chicken is tiny morsels mixed in with the rice. Here it was a chicken breast served intact on top of the rice. It was nicely flavored and came with a side dish of papas a la huancaína, which are boiled potato pieces smothered in a spicy cheese sauce that is a startling shade of yellow.

A note of caution for you: beware of olives! My arroz con pollo had several whole green olives atop the rice. In Argentina, it's common to have unpitted olives in the food, even on such things as pizza, so be careful before you bite down hard or you'll urgently need to know the word dentista.

For dessert, we shared a suspiro limeño, a fluffy sweetened milk-and-egg confection that sits on a base of cinnamon-flavored caramel pudding that tastes much like flan.

Price for 2 entrees, dessert, and 4 beverages (we were thirsty!): 38 pesos (US $12.33)

Our next dining venture was at Status on Virrey Cevallos in the city center. Again there was a line out the door to the sidewalk. We were tempted to skip ahead of our place when the hostess kept calling out for the same person every few minutes but we decided she'd never believe either of us was Florencia. Once we got to our table, I realized this place was even more tightly packed than the first restaurant. Our table literally touched the next table and for anyone at the inside tables to leave, we had to stand, push in our chairs, and let them pass.

We started off with an appetizer, ocopa, a traditional dish of southern Peru. Potatoes are certainly a staple of the cuisine! Here they are yellow potatoes, sliced and boiled, and covered in a green sauce made of walnuts, white cheese, and the herb huacatay which provides the definitive color and flavor.

David also introduced me to Peru's national beverage, chicha morada. He just said it was chicha, which I had heard of, and therein lay the problem. Being a voracious reader, I had come across chicha and remembered it as being made of fermented maize (corn). The traditional method is for the village women to chew the corn, spit it into a jug, and let it ferment. Well, that's all I could think about as I stared at this glass of potentially pestilential purple liquid. I was pondering the wisdom of swapping spit (ok, not really swapping since mine wasn't going anywhere) with unknown dozens of crones from high up in the Andes. Being both polite and adventurous, I tried my first sip and it wasn't so bad, actually kind of sweet and fruity. Eventually I found out that there are two types of chicha and mine had 0% added saliva. It's just boiled purple maize, pineapple, and sugar. If you're in Peru and squeamish, avoid the other type, chicha de jora, which is a pale yellow color.

Peru has a lot of people of Asian descent who have made their own contributions to the national cuisine. I chose a dish which has Asian roots but is now considered traditional, chaufa (chow fun). Unlike the version we're used to in the States, this uses rice instead of noodles, but is similarly flavored with soy sauce, ginger, green onions, and egg, with a choice of meat or poultry. David decided to go with lomo saltado, beef prepared with onion, tomato, soy sauce, vinegar, and aji chilis.

Price for 2 entrees, appetizer, and 2 beverages: 34 pesos (US $11.04)

On our cab ride back uptown along Avenida Córdoba, we got some free entertainment. A small hatchback car pulled ahead of our taxi, with its hatch open. Sitting in the cargo area, drunk as a skunk and singing his lungs out, was a stark naked guy. Alas, he wasn't one of Argentina's lovelier men but perhaps I'll be luckier the next time a naked borracho (drunk) happens by.

Friday, May 4, 2007

Beauty compels us; reason merely cajoles (Mason Cooley)

Why did the Argentino run outside during the lightning storm?
He saw the flashes of light and assumed God wanted to take his

Argentinos have a reputation in Latin America for being arrogant but perhaps there's some justification for it. They are indeed a strikingly handsome people. When I first visited Buenos Aires in 2005, people might have thought Linda Blair had grown older, taller, and had a sex change. My head was constantly spinning as I turned to look at yet another drop-dead gorgeous guy walking down the street. Beauty compelled me to look, it was irresistable.

Remember, presumably 90% or more of these are straight guys, who typically are not self-absorbed about their appearance. They're not the WeHo pretty boys who spend 2 hours every day plucking, exfoliating, depilating, bronzing, firming, and otherwise primping before they even step outside to pick up the morning paper. No, these are regular guys who jump in the shower and then throw on whatever clothes they spot in the closet. They don't need to do anything else because they have a natural beauty. Anywhere else they'd be cover models but here they just blend into the urban landscape.

In time, one gets used to it. After a couple of weeks of re-enacting The Exorcist, I'm much more self-controlled about my gaucho-gawking. I literally can't walk one block, go into a café, or enter a subway car without spotting one or more guys who are simply stunning. I still notice them but I certainly don't gape at most of them anymore. After all, another one will come along within a minute or two. As I stroll through the city, my mental chorus goes something like "model ... model ... model ... ah, a supermodel, let's get a better look!"

As time goes on, I'll try to snap some candid shots of Argentinos in the street and you'll see why they just might believe God would love to have their pictures.

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Book fair

Today I went to the 33rd International Book Fair of Buenos Aires, held at an enormous exposition center near Plaza Italia in Palermo. For me, it was a very convenient location, less than a 10 minute walk from my apartment. Buenos Aires is a city of book readers, as evidenced by the profusion of librerías (bookstores) in every neighborhood. This fair draws not only the local book lovers but readers, sellers, distributors, and publishers from all over Latin America.

There were 4 main exhibit halls in use for the fair, each one a colossal building. I didn't even try to count the number of exhibitors but I'm sure it was many hundreds. Every niche possible was represented, from scientific tomes to comic books. Along with the many booths and books, the fair presents numerous lectures, children's actitivies, readings, book signings by authors, and much more. I was hoping to find some English-language books for recreational reading, since reading in Spanish is more work than pleasure for me. I didn't find any but it's probably because after about 4 hours I grew fatigued and left, having seen perhaps only half of the fair.

However, I did pick up a few books in Spanish. One is all about the historic cafés of downtown Buenos Aires, including the well-known Café Tortoni, the first coffeehouse in Argentina. Those who know me know that coffee is my passion so I'm thrilled to have this book. Another one I bought is a Spanish translation of The Years of Rice and Salt by Kim Stanley Robinson. It's one of the most intriguing books I've ever read (in English, of course!) and one of these days I'll feel confident enough in my Spanish to tackle this version.

For visitors to BA who can't be here for the annual book fair, I recommend strolling down Avenida Corrientes toward downtown. It's lined with small bookshops, new and used. Also highly recommended is El Ateneo on Avenida Sante Fe near Callao. It's an amazing place not just for its huge inventory of books but also for its architecture. It was originally a theater in the grand old tradition and the bookstore owners preserved and restored as much as possible when they converted it to its current use. Click the link to view the pictures and you'll see what I mean.