Day 10: From Boliche to Borracho

We flagged a taxi outside the apartment and made our way toward Juan de la Cosa, a bar owned by a friend of the two ladies with whom I was out on the town. They joked in the backseat as I sat in the front of the cab, weaving our way in directions I didn’t quite yet understand before we were deposited at the doorstep.

Eugenia and Pilar joked with the doorman before we were waved inside. Adjusting my eyes to the dim light, we gazed onto a stage surrounded by plush couches and tables. A singer and five other band members shared the space under the lights; apparently my companions on the trip to this destination had known the group personally for nearly a decade.

The first floor being crowded, we walked up the staircase to a large second-floor area. Tables lined the railing, and a bar graced the far corner. It turned out that yet another friend was slinging drinks, and we were quickly supplied with a liter of Quilmes and three glasses on the house.

We toasted the night and walked onto a catwalk leading toward the outdoor smoking patio. Leaning against the rail, the three of us gazed down on the band and swayed with the music as we started drinking. At one point the ringleader started up a chorus of “Brasil, Decime Qué Se Siente”… and was forced to cut it off early as the crowd was unable to sing along. I, the foreigner in the bunch, seemed to know more words than most of the locals in the audience.

The three of us had walked in at the tail end of the band’s opening set, and after two more songs they took an interlude. In the meantime, the sound system started blaring out ’80s music and lights started flashing across the room. Tables were cleared, couches were moved to the margins, and the place was transformed into a dance club.

At that point we were three liters of beer into the day, not counting the two we had consumed before hailing a taxi, and the ladies headed downstairs to the bathroom while I drifted outside to the third-floor outdoor patio. Most people were clustered around the doorway outside, but I made my way through the bodies and ascended the staircase to properly sit and enjoy a smoke.

A thin haze hung on the air of an otherwise cloudless evening. It was the first time I had really had the opportunity to gaze at the stars of the Southern Hemisphere, and I stayed through two cigarettes as I sipped beer and tried to make sense of what I was seeing by drawing upon what little information I could dredge from the old astronomy classes lingering in the recesses of my brain.

Back inside, Pilar and Eugenia had returned. Smiling as I approached, Pilar grabbed my glass and refilled it yet again before setting down another empty bottle and resuming the dancing. The two ladies were expertly working the crowd of men that clustered around them, and as the night progressed and more and more liquid went down our gullets I realized that neither they nor I had pulled out a single peso yet. One guy after another would dance with either my host mom or her friend, smitten and all too ready to pay for another drink, and as 2 am became 3 am became 4 we went through well over two gallons of Quilmes and Stella Artois without any fiscal outlay.

In the final hour or so of dancing, while moving with the rest of the crowd, my glasses suddenly slipped from my face and onto the floor. Crouching quickly, I managed to find them — in three pieces. Tucking everything into my pocket, I wisely decided against trying to repair them there and instead kept the component parts safe until I had better light and space to put them back together.

With the music still blaring and the crowd still moving, we eventually bid goodbye to boliche at around 5:30 in the morning. I followed the ladies down the stairs and out to the street, where one of their friends awaited to give us a lift in a minivan that had seen better days.

Instead of immediately heading home, though, we ended up making our way to a pizza parlor that was packed with customers in the pre-dawn rush to get something solid on top of all the alcohol that had collectively been consumed. We managed to find a table overlooking a small karaoke stage where sloppy love ballads were being belted out by people uninhibited by self-consciousness. Heineken arrived at the table first, then a cheese pizza.

At that point my Spanish was still holding up where I could comprehend what was happening around me but had little recall for words as I falteringly tried to reply. I focused on the food and the beer and smiled whenever asked a question, which was often inaudible anyway thanks to the amateur superstars coming through the speakers.

We stood up and paid for our drinks, and I lit a cigarette as we stepped outside. The four of us reentered the van, where the clock on the dashboard said it was now just past 6:30. The car filled with cigarette smoke as three of the four of us inhaled and exhaled, and after a few minutes we arrived at the apartment.

Taking the elevator up to the third floor, the four of us drank Jameson for a nightcap and my host mom put music on her stereo. She started dancing with the male friend that had drove us over, and Pilar cajoled me into joining her for a dance. The four of us fumbled drunkenly around the small living room, eventually finishing our whiskey and calling it a night around 7:30 as the sky outside started to brighten into a new morning…


Two hours later, I rolled over and could not fall back asleep. Burping beer and whiskey and burdened with the lingering taste of stale cigarette smoke in my mouth, I walked to the bathroom to see my sunken eyes in the mirror. I hopped into the shower.

After drying off and getting dressed I sat down to see what I could do about my glasses. Both earpieces had popped off in the tumble to the dance floor, and I methodically drilled holes through the frame by hand before using staples to MacGuyver them into a wearable state. After my handiwork, wired and unable to sleep any longer, I grabbed a camera and headed toward the river.

DSCN0224

I made my way on Oroño before taking a right turn away from the silos of the Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Rosario. The fresh air started to reawaken my senses, and I sipped from the water bottle I had brought along while strolling the pedestrian path along the riverfront. Saturday wanderers were taking in the sunshine of clear, warm morning as I stopped here and there to take pictures of the skyline and the barges on the river.

DSCN0232Leisurely making my way along, I stopped several times to photograph amazing graffiti that popped up every so often on one of the buildings. Far more than just absentminded tags, the wall art in this city tends to veer toward the extravagant.

After several kilometers of walking I eventually descended a long staircase and arrived at what appeared to be the intersection of one of the main highways. Watching for traffic, I gazed down a long tunnel to my right before starting to make my way back to the apartment.

I thought for a moment about something to eat, then on making some coffee, and ultimately did neither. While my host mom slept off the excesses of the night out, I checked for messages on my tablet. A group of classmates was about to congregate at El Cairo to watch the Brazil-Chile match on their big screen, so I grabbed my things and locked the apartment door behind me. Once again I rode the elevator to the bottom floor and let myself out onto the street.

Walking through the sunshine toward Sarmiento and Santa Fe in an old Newcastle United jersey, I pulled a cigarette from my pocket and smoked it along the way. Ten minutes later, I was pushing open the heavy wooden door and squinting from the change of light. At the other end of the cavernous restaurant, Zach and Quinn were waiting at a round table. I pulled up haggardly and plopped into one of the plush seats.

We ordered a round of the Quilmes Bock, my first time tasting this variety from the brewery, and the beer started to assuage the pounding that had started in my head. A few minutes after my arrival, the match began. Brazil drew first blood, Chile equalized, and as more of the crew arrived to watch the second half we were on a collision course toward the first penalty shootout of the 2014 tournament.

Brazil would ultimately win, dashing the hopes of the many Argentinians in the bar that had been rooting against the longtime soccer rival, a dreadful display of penalties exhibited by the Chileans in defeat. Hoping to play a little soccer before the second match of the day, we paid the check and headed toward the river.

Instead we watched a group of youths skateboarding, kids as young as six or seven and as old as 18 or 19 taking turns launching down a ramp toward a jump set up downriver from the Fluvial station. Unable to find our other classmates who had mentioned playing soccer earlier in Facebook, we enjoyed the spectacle for a half hour or so before strolling to Urquiza to find a spot to watch the Colombia-Uruguay match.

Without “El Mordedor” to drive the offense, Uruguay took a backseat to the magical play of James Rodriguez and the Colombians. Eschewing more alcohol, I bought a Coca-Cola at the hole-in-the-wall where we had stopped and sipped it while Colombia knocked off their fellow South Americans 2-0.

As I returned home, my host mom was still in dire straits as she fended off the worst of the hangover. A light dinner of vegetables and steak was enough to satisfy my hunger without stirring the alcohol still digesting through our systems. Soon thereafter, Eugenia turned in before 9:30 to sleep the rest of the excesses away and I watched highlights of the matches on the television accompanied by several glasses of water. It was going to be an early night for me as well; running on fumes, sleep came far easier than it had 16 hours earlier.

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