Tuesday, June 14, 2011


I read Jan's chronicles of the older milongueros and milongueras eagerly, hoping to recognize a face despite the short time I was there and the long and ever-growing time since then--and hoping that, if I do, the dash won't be followed by a recent death date. I don't think I've recognized anyone yet, other than a few who have (or had) wider reputations.

There is one who I know is gone. He was a cab driver and a friend of my teachers. They arranged for him to pick me up from the airport when I arrived, and he went far out of his way to help me overcome the difficulties of that first day. If there was a time when I knew I would need a cab somewhere, I called him. My teachers said his evening schedule was like this: He'd pick up fares until he wanted to stop and dance. Since he was, I believe, an independent driver, he could just stop into a milonga and dance until he wanted or needed to leave, maybe taking a fare from the milonga. It seemed like a very clever way to manage it.

Despite the language barrier, I learned a little about him and his family. His wife, his son--no grandchildren yet. I wanted to talk to him more--and listen more to him--but I didn't know how. At his prompting, I promised him that I would know more Spanish when I came back next time; he promised me that he would try to learn some more English.

I only ever knew his first name. 

When my teachers told me that he had died when an infection set in after heart surgery, I found another sort of language barrier: I did not know how to talk about him. 

How could I explain him to my friends? He was a tango dancer and a taxi driver and my Buenos Aires grandfather/knight in slightly battered but still shining armor. I didn't know his last name, and we could barely communicate. I knew him for two weeks--but the news of his death left a little hole in my heart, and in my thoughts of the city.

I wish I could have more eloquently expressed my gratitude for all his help. I wish I could offer my sympathies to his family. I wish I could tell them how happy I was to have known him, even so slightly and for so short a time. I wish most of all that he were going to be there whenever I next manage to go back.

All I can do is remember him. And even though I am sad, the memory makes me smile.


  1. A touching tribute to a dancer who touched your heart.

  2. Thank you, Jan. He did, indeed, touch my heart with his quiet kindness.

  3. An angel is someone who changes you from their presence. He was an angel, and is one again.

  4. Very nicely said, Mark. Thank you.

    I'm very happy that my friend, who was with me in Buenos Aires and also knew him, and I are going to be able to send a card to his family when our teachers return there in a few weeks.