Oscar Bianchi

December 15, 2003, a dinner for tango fans or chronicle of an aching man

en though I think it was happy, I don't know if my childhood was, but if I guess it was long, it is quite long... So much so that I still believe in the Three Kings and in Santa Claus although, with the latter, since a couple of years back I'm somewhat alarmed. Instead of coming on December 24 in his red suit and with his sleigh and his reindeer, in the evening of the Todotango dinner he's turned up in elegant sport clothes, perfectly shaved, with his witty green eyes and saying: "You have to write the chronicle of this dinner", as if this were a "gift". And furthermore he handed me his card that says "Director of".

So I am in front of a keyboard trying to cheat Dr. Alzheimer in order to recall what happened last night. Firstly I remember that at sunrise on December 15 I was with an awful pain in my guts that I had to endure all day long hoping it was a passing nuisance: I was quite mistaken. At 8 p.m. I was still stuck to my poor guts which I tried to rescue with that other Argentine addiction called "self-prescription". But I confess that Buscapina Compositum is not the best aperitif for a party like the one that reunited us...

To make it worse around half past seven Buenos Aires underwent the influence of a tornado that had hit Santo Tomé or something of the sort that made the temperature go down several degrees and finally brought an impressive shower.

Maybe that meteorological phenomenon was the reason of the absence of some expected people. Then only forty of fifty diners came. That number would have been regarded as a success but now, as we were encouraged by the figures of the previous parties, it made us feel like orphans. A sensation increased by the delay because, tacitly, we all agreed to wait for those who were late.

In the meantime, the usual and expected re-encounters, kisses, embraces and shaking hands started intermission chats trying to hide that we all, every now and then, were looking at the door expecting the arrival of a crowd.

Among those who had just arrived and I greeted was the always sweet and spontaneous Verónica. She kissed me twice while she explained that the second kiss was from La Mondonguito and so the latter was intending to apologize for her absence.

Immediately I felt a gust of cold air on my back so I turned around to see if a door had been opened but I saw that there was the Czar looking at me with all the warmth of his beloved Siberia.

I greeted Verónica's aunt with a respectful kiss. She had come -then I came to know- accompanied by her husband, a pleasant man older than the Czar.

Fortunately around ten Arturito decided to bring the empanadas (small meat pies), if not he would have had to help many ones because, as it is traditional, bottles were circulating from the start.

Then I made my first count and I discovered that at the table where habitually Ricardo, Federico, Guada and Néstor sit the ineffable Lucci, Cespi and Ben Molar were missing. But once again my guts prevented me from any afterthought.

However, the absences were almost disguised by the presence of Leo Neirotti, an Indian chief born in Mendoza who has long since settled in the province of Verbania near the Lake Maggiore, Italy. He brought all his tribe (they were about twelve, including adults and minors) in which the queen was "the blonde captive" for whom he swims to cross that lake several times a week.

At another table Coco, the chief of ceremonial introduced me to several friends but the former sat at another where Pucherito Chico, that is to say, Alejandro Medina, son of the renowned Roberto Medina, was. The latter was a good singer that created "Pucherito de Gallina", a piece which we all remember in Rivero's rendition.

Alejandro was accompanied by Adriana Roldán (of whom we'll talk later), by Dr. Tango, Orlando Castillo and his wife. Verónica and her friends, together with the hurt José Pedro, Stella -my wife- Miguel Durante, whom I personally invited, (he's a history professor that states that tango is a fundamental part of the Argentine essence) and Alberto Rassore shared the table with me and enjoyed the chicken and the dessert that the handicapped state of my stomach rejected. Ah! As for José Pedro, I don't want to omit saying: Thank you, Flaco, had it not been because of your notes this chronicle would have been something impossible.

Near the window were the ever-present Miguelito Ahumada's sisters-in-law who enjoyed the valuable company of Elsa Rivas (Yes, Elsita Rivas herself, who in her long career was Ricardo Tanturi's vocalist) along with other friends.

And I took out my camera that, according to José Pedro, is "digital" but only because I handle it with my fingers, nothing else. The warm Soledad del Valle, asked Ricardo García Blaya to make a summary of one more year of stay in the WEB and later she broke the ice by singing the tangos "Yuyo verde", "Como dos extraños" and "Al compás del corazón".

When the ambiance was warmer Adriana Roldán, without warming-up, gave us a wonderful rendering of "Nostalgias" and my guts jumping with joy reminded me that they have come with me and were here to stay.

Thereafter it was clear that on that evening everybody preferred gnocchi to the "metal piece" (microphone). And that was the occasion that Marito Pino used to read the short but moving message sent by Adolfo Sozzi apologizing for not being there. It as well represented the notes sent by e-mail by Betty, Enrique Limonchi, Antonio Benegas, Carlos Gutiérrez, Daniel Beller, H.J. Dobalo, Walter Penfold, Rodolfo Parisi, Miguelito, Jorge Gutman, Leonardo Pérez Varela, Irene, Osvaldo, Aníbal, Jaime Goldstein, José Carvallo (José Carbó), Carlim, the apostle (perhaps to dissimulate his presence among us) and others which my memory cannot recall.

Elsa Rivas that soon will appear at "Il vero Arturito" simply accepted the invitation of her "godchild" Soledad although she deceived us saying "...I don't forget the lyrics but I forget the tonalities..." before taking us to the tango paradise with "Suerte Loca" and "Parece mentira". The latter was a tour de force for her vocal cords because she put the mike aside.

It's in vain to tell you that at this time of the evening my guts were already dancing with corte y quebrada, because they had decided to be mere witnesses.

In the absence of the tangos sung by Dobalo, the backwards talking of Adolfo and the "souvenirs" by Osvaldo Serantes, Mario Pino and Coco were in charge of the surprises: the former sang some tangos with good intonation as he usually does (Senda florida, Recuerdo Malevo and Cuesta abajo) but also he gave us a poem of his own and a master class of how a poem has to be written.

His Excellence, the chief of ceremonial also presented us with a beautiful work of his about Mesa del Tango but, as corresponds to his rank, he made our dear "Chiche" Val read it. The latter is known by his friends as Melena (Mane).

The warm mood that surrounded us and the insistence of the diners, not only persuaded Adriana who delighted us with "Tarde" but also Soledad who came back on stage for a rendering of "Milonguita" and to summon Elsa again to sing "Cautivo" in a two-voice performance.

But Elsita is a born singer so, not to leave us unsatisfied, she immediately sang "Nada más" and made us clap our hands fervently.

Once again I heard the call of my guts and, when I saw to it, someone reminded me of the fact that we owed a recognition to a person whom we very much know through his works but we scarcely know his face: don Arturo, the Magician of "Il Vero Arturito". The very mention of his name was enough for starting applause and hurrahs that thundered through the room.

As I'm not quite reliable handling the mike I passed it on to Soledad again so that she would say farewell to us with "Ciego" and "Milonga del Trovador" in a female adaptation in order not to challenge Jairo.

The glasses of champagne were already empty, some friends have left but the night was not over yet. Sergio Crotti was in charge to show it. He was the guitar player who had accompanied everybody that evening and he decided to say "I'm here" with "Adiós Nonino".

And here please allow me to say something. I know that among us as soon as we mention Piazzolla suddenly the waters are divided as if after Moses' order but, and this is exclusively what I think, had don Astor only written this piece, fans and enemies would form a sole choir of admirers.

Let us add that for me "Adiós, Nonino" has connotations that personally touch me and, except Cacho Tirao's rendition, I didn't know any other version as guitar solo. I say this so that you all understand why my guts finally occupied my whole thoracic cavity with stars and colored lights.

The evening was ended and when, already on the taxicab, I told Stella "I think that this dinner was not at the level of the previous ones", her answer was as usual, sweet and with a halo of love: "You're nuts!"

And I asked to myself: Me or my guts?
What do you think?