Oscar Bianchi

A memorable celebration (Last dinner of the year of “La mesa del café”)

uesday December 10, 3 o’clock in the morning; Superí and Sucre, the most mysterious corner in Buenos Aires and, in this case, the place to where a kind friend drove my wife and I in his car, and, through alcoholic vapors, I hear him say: “Would you mind writing the chronicle of this dinner?”.

Minutes later and, finally at home, I pretended to have wrongly heard it, but Stella deprived me of my last piece of hope: “Yes, that’s what he told you” and added: “And you promised to do it...” (Alas!)

Four hours later not even “Sonrisal” can free me from the hangover that invades me and I’m not capable of gathering three ideas so I decided to write a few rough notes before my neurons end up in “formatting”.

Coco del Abasto’s invitation was a meeting at “Il Vero Arturito” at nine in the evening and our first surprise was that when we arrived, three minutes before the appointed time, half of the guests were already there...

Intimately I began to suspect that the red wine was having a preliminary effect on me because in Buenos Aires no proud porteño is capable of arriving with a delay of less than half an hour.

As me and my wife had not been in the two previous ones, it was hard for us because we only had made contact through the Internet. And as no one had been so kind so as to wear his or her “nom de guerre” on a visible place, I had no alternative but shaking hands with whoever I came across and tell him: “I’m El boa and this is my wife, d’you do?”.

Then the avalanche of faces, names and sobriquets began: Coco, despite his grandpa’s face, you’d better not leave him alone with a girl!; José Pedro, with a load of papers due to his detailed organization; Ricardo Pareja, with his thankful warmth as if he were not an eminent patron at the Mesa del Café; Verónica and her husband boasting their elegance; Adolfo luckily does not shake hands very strongly, otherwise you’ll get a double bone fracture; Osvaldo Serantes whom, at least, I knew his voice on the phone, and many more that we’ll go naming along this chronicle.

Before half past nine we were all seated and when we were beginning to be hungry, Coco, as if he were a schoolteacher, with some papers in his hand, started to call the roll. And we were more than sixty!

While the waiters were bringing empanadas (meat pie) and cheese cut in pieces, cured ham, pickles, matambre (a dish of boiled meat), and olives, other guests kept on arriving: Bruno Cespi, Oscar Himschoot, Néstor Pinsón, Federico and Ricardo García Blaya, old chums, and La Mondonguito, a quite attractive short girl that during the meal evidenced her ability for eating and talking without contradicting at all my Mom’s precepts (“Kid: don’t talk with a full mouth!”).

I was so happy when she sat beside me that I made my best to keep her glass full, but for that I had to touch bottles of (diet) Kaka-Cola...

While we were eating “fettucini allo scarparo” and the sweet-basil was beginning to compete with Chanel, Opium and other female scents, José Pedro caught a mike to read the names engraved on the “Wall of the Absent ones”. It was a long-distance acclaim and an occasion for a toast. Meanwhile at a table in the center of the room Jorg Gutman, who was with his wife, arranged his tie and was eagerly looking around.

Later he handed the mike to the “capo de tutti capi” (boss) who, visibly surprised by Coco’s capacity to gather people, gave us a historical portrayal of “” and, specially, its “Mesa de Café”.

He as well highlighted the presence of the dean of tango emotion, Mr. Ben “Poroto” Molar, father of the Tango Day, whose celebration gathered us in advance, and two direct heirs of the author of “Marioneta”, that is to say, don Armando Tagini’s son and grandson.

And as his words were not very clearly said because the vision of a roasted chicken with potatoes made his mouth water, he handed the mike to Pinsón, a qualified professional speaker and dentist who always leaves us open-mouthed although not always at his consulting room. The latter highlighted the presence of some professionals of the milieu: Roberto Mancini, Abel Palermo, Julio Pane and some others I don't remember now. He introduced Alfredito Sáez who played a guitar and evidenced a perfect intonation in his small melodic voice with a vast repertory. He sang, among others, "Ventarrón", a tango piece he dedicated especially to Bruno Cespi.

Meanwhile Osvaldito Serantes, according to his tradition, brought "souvenirs" and appeared with small-sized models of a streetcar with a legend on its side "El tranvía de los recuerdos" (The streetcar of memories). They were built with the patience of a Chinese mandarin, with the neatness of a third grade school teacher and the effort of a Senegalese Negro, especially if you take into account that he made one for each diner and he made more than enough, several were left over...

Suddenly a voice worn out by cigarettes, wines and experiences began to say «I'm an Argentine and so what!».

It was Lito Federico who recalled his exile when the open window of his refuge in Madrid began to show him his Buenos Aires, his country, and his friends. He, instead of sobbing, wrote these stanzas that made many of us feel as if a knot of a tie we were not wearing was squeezing our throats.

Others that little by little were appearing and dared to sing were Adolfo, who sang "La Nalafu", that is to say "La Fulana" backwards, our friend Dobalo, Cristina Pérez, Alfredo Pereyra, Nino Crespo, Tagini's grandson and Luis Alberto Giletta, director of the weekly magazine "Nueva Tribuna" of Bell Ville (Córdoba), who a capella sang "Mi ciudad y mi gente".

Lito Federico, who had attracted the attention, especially, of the ladies, took advantage of his time of glory and, struggling with the cord of the mike, approached my table and recited a couple of poems. One of them -especially dedicated to one of the ladies-, about the proposal of ending a love affair but which finally demonstrates that it is impossible.

The ladies present were delighted and, what is worse, among them my wife was.

Poor Nino dared to order coffee while some guys incredibly kept on eating gnocchi; the waiter, who was exhausted by carrying bottles, assured him that he'd have it after the ice cream at the end of the menu.

Such was the uncontrolled joy, effusiveness and warmth that, after the toast with champagne of all the patrons of "La Mesa", everybody began to flee and no one remembered about having coffee, even though most of us needed it strongly.

There we all experienced the magic of that evening, of the shared friendship, of the "chest to chest" embrace and, in this case, not via e-mail and of being aware of how much we owe to Coco. Each time he gets twice as much guests, so such an extent that he is planning for the next dinner that he'll try to bribe the presidents of Boca or River into holding it in a big field in the open air.

And so at these circumstances my friend, mentioned at the beginning, did not allow me to take a taxi in the state I was. (Had they checked me to find alcohol in my blood maybe they would have scarcely found some drops of blood) So he offered to drive me on his way home. But he also had hidden intentions and, with the complicity of my wife, they compelled me to write about this event for those who were there and for those whose weren't.

But the hangover still remains, boy, so resign yourself, ché Ricardo, with these poor notes about an evening that, from now on or, at least, will deserve to be named at La Mesa until the next party: THE EVENING!