Although officially it is still winter, by 8.30 it was already warm enough to enjoy a little coffee on the terrace while preparing myself mentally to cook breakfast for all 4 guests. Oranges to be squeezed, fruit salad to prepare, bakery to visit, eggs and bacon cooked to order. Of course, I only needed to do the cooked stuff (and not even that if I felt lazy) as Daniela had already dealt expertly with the rest.
Breakfast over and the sun was shining brightly, 26 degrees expected. I spent a bit of time helping my clients decipher the schedule for the Tango Festival in La Boca and explaining where else to go there (The Quinquela Martin museum) and more importantly where not to bother with (Caminito). I got rather enthused by the tango festival, a two week affair based around the world championship. Not so much the dancing, though I fancied seeing an hour or so of that but more the modern fusion concerts. I thought I had better go. After all if I can’t get excited about BA’s cultural offerings, how can I enthuse my clients? And this one offers so much choice.
So I spent a couple of hours knocking out a few emails and reading a book in the sun, before hopping in the car with La Doctora and racing through strangely blockage free streets down to La Boca to the very beautiful new Usina del Arte, a converted “Tate Modern style” power station that houses a couple of remarkable concert halls and lots of art space. I parked right outside and happily left the car on the street due to the enhanced police presence during the festival. Parking is free down there of course. We watched some of the qualifiers for the stage tango and then picked up (free) tickets to see Pampa Trash, one of the new Garage Tango bands from zona sur, as the southern outskirts of BA are known. Some of the most exciting music I have heard in a long time, brilliantly accomplished musicians, fusing tango with acid jazz, folk, be bop and rock. Difficult to describe accurately, but worth looking up on http://www.pampatrash.com.ar.
Then we wandered over for a bite to eat at El Obrero, an old fashioned bodegón. Calamaris and a generous glass of wine each. Followed by a bit more dance, another band to see, and then home in equally un-hassled fashion. A great day out at a cost of less than 10 of those Great British pounds I vaguely remember, for the both of us, including shows, petrol, lunch and cigarettes!
On the way back from the garage I picked up the shopping from our favourite fruit man, so tomorrow’s breakfast needs are accounted for. Sadly the guests are getting more strawberries as they are so good at the moment and we only serve the best, but I will throw some delicious sausages that my German friends make for me, into the breakfast mix . Now I am looking forward to my guests returning to help them plan their evening. They are keen on Jazz clubs and we have several close by but they know little about all the new and hidden cocktail bars that have been springing up recently. If I make them sound sufficiently mysterious and difficult to access, perhaps they might decide they need a native guide and of course I will be happy to oblige with a detailed tour. Any excuse!
How do I deal with the stress you ask me? What is it like to be at the hard edge of a fledgeling hospitality empire? Well sometimes I feel vaguely guilty about not having a nine to five job where I am expected to work nine till nine. There is a little echo from my conditioning about the importance of a career, about getting ahead, about making something of myself. Then I remind myself I was never really anything other than a remarkably good “communicator” (define as you will), who managed to convince many expert individuals of his own expertise, in fields that he had no qualifications in. Really that left me with few options. I could either head up a global bank or multinational company or run a little B&B in Buenos Aires. And the problem with the former is that you don’t get left with much time in the day to have fun.
Of course there is always the issue of money. Compared to my former self I have ridiculously little. But then I spend ridiculously little, doing so much more than I ever used to in London. And I have time to do it all, with plenty to spare, which if I wasn’t such a lazy bugger I would be dedicating to writing my third novel (still struggling to write the ending for my first), honing my body at the gym (I’ve lost 2 stone just because I walk around more, but got bored of the gym after 2 weeks) and learning to sing the blues (still at the training phase, 30 years of whiskey and cigarettes accomplished and the Blues School is only two blocks away). There is little I would really like to do that I can’t afford, though that may be explained by the fact that I am a peasant at heart and have also already had the opportunity to try many of the things we are meant to aspire to. My number one priority is eating well and while I like restaurants I couldn’t imagine eating in one every night. Here I have had the time to go to Chef’s school but more importantly have the time to produce increasingly more complex dishes from scratch (in my amazingly equipped kitchen), with ingredients from small local providers, that are turning out better every time. Food wise I’ve got it licked so its lucky I walk around a lot. And hell, it may even turn into a money making adjunct to my business one day if I decide to pull my finger out.
Maybe I’m too hard on myself? Maybe I’m not as lazy as I think? After all, my overriding responsibility is to make sure that my guests have a wonderful time in this city. Each time I go out to a new bar, restaurant, art space or venue, I am going out with purpose. Their experience will to some extent be conditioned by my recommendations. So my responsibility is to know what’s hot and what’s not, across the cultural spectrum. In fact it’s becoming clear to me that I am nearly always working, trying to discover a new cocktail, a peruvian fusion dish, a wine, a band, an artist or an interesting new social group that may seriously enhance the experience for my clients. Christ, I’m working a 16 hour day for less than a McDonalds employee. Shocking, what a sacrifice. I better program in a little siesta for tomorrow. After all, I don’t want to burn out. That might be macho for a banker but not for the owner of a B&B. Wake me up in time to cook dinner please.