A little over a week to new year's. Time to review. It was exactly one year ago that I tried to move to Buenos Aires.
Two days before the flight, my ankle twisted, bones rebroke in my foot and the entire thing swelled to a painful softball. It happened while I was going along, sober, in flat shoes.
Toronto was trying to thwart my escape. I couldn't walk, let alone haul suitcases full of costumes. But I pulled out the carved and painted Mexican cane I keep for my tricky ankles and set my mind on endurance.
There were extra seats on the plane, but the two men who got to the row first claimed them, the California-based Argentine professor making it clear that an undesirable spinster such as myself was lucky not to get stowed with the other bags.
My unraised foot continued to expand. The two men spent the night bonding, the Argentine only addressing me to accuse me of attempting to steal his pillow.
I had the name of a hotel from a guidebook I'd found at the library that was only 14 years out of date. In a new book, a cheap hotel is $100. I was budgeting for $10.
I hadn't had a chance to repack after the accident, and maybe I still believed I could wear all the shoes that went with the getups I'd created to assure my quick ascent to stardom in my new home. I certainly felt the weight of my crazy scheme as I hobbled, hauling cases, cane and guitar down a pedestrian street, through a narrow door and up a flight of steps to a room where we all fell in an exhausted heap.
My little significant other, Reina Luminosa the doll, and I settled into a cell whose walls were painted with three bands of colour. It was like being in a slice of Neapolitan ice cream, only hot. But we were happy. We'd made it.
It was after dark when I ventured limping into unknown streets in a South American city of 13 million, looking for New Year's Eve. I made it to the main square, Plaza de Mayo. Nothing but pigeons and police. I asked one of the latter what happens on New Year's Eve. He had no idea, and asked why I'd come there.
I recall that feeling of complete desolation with which I am overly familiar. But doggedly I carried on. I found a cab and quizzed the driver, who, discouragingly, knew nothing of New Year's Eve fiestas either. I remembered the name of a plaza I'd seen in a book, got an estimate of the fare and asked him to take me there. We chatted through the empty streets and came upon the square in a low-key groovyish area. There were chairs out, and people, so Reina and I left the cab.
Waiters hurried among tables of tourists and locals. Germans were throwing the ice from their sangr'a on the cobblestones. I grabbed it to melt on my inflamed hyperankle.
Eventually, I conducted my first test for the snootiness for which the Parisians of the South are notorious.
"Joven," I addressed the waiter. "La vieja tiene sed!" Young man, the old lady's thirsty. He failed. He laughed. He wasn't snobby at all.
At midnight, bombs, flares and homemade flame-powered balloons went up. I hugged Reina Luminosa, who is understandably jaded when it comes to my schemes for us to thrive somewhere, and soon.
Reina and I did become famous on our street, a cross between the Yonge Street mall and the midway at the Ex. The completely tattooed handbiller greeted us every day, the shoeshine man asked if I was a "white Indian," and the old gents in the menswear shop said they'd been admiring my hat.
I practically cried when the lad I became friends with in the lunch place gave me a sandwich on the house. "Where I come from this does not happen," I told him.
I travelled on cane-assisted foot and mystery buses with polite drivers and courteous passengers. Thirteen million people, and none of them seemed to be in a bad mood.
The only sour types I encountered in the whole huge city ran a grocery store named, and I'm not making this up, "Toronto"!
But it soon became apparent that my plan was hatched of desperation and I'd have to return to the north when the money I'd blackmailed was gone. I cried all the way back to Canada, where the customs official refused to even return a hello. Wouldn't want to give a false impression of the place.
I have a lingering souvenir of that time. The ankle still needs a bandage. Somehow, Reina and I will push the boat out again. For New Year's Day 2007 I'll bide my time with a trip to Grossman's to see Laura Hubert. Every Monday night "until further notice."