Daniel Tunnard, the Brit taking all the buses in Buenos Aires, continues his Colectivaizeishon series with The 4.
I’ve taken this bus once before, during my first attempt at Colectivaizeishon in 2009, and I don’t remember any of this route, except for the house with the crazy roof on San José and Juan de Garay. I don’t know what this is or whether its got a name and neither does anyone else I’ve asked, so we’ll just call it the House with the Crazy Roof on San José and Juan de Garay. The readers of the Argentina Independent even know the real name of the King of Beef, so somebody must know what House with the Crazy Roof’s real name is. The last time I took the 4 it left me outside the legendary Luna Park arena, where in the adjoining park there was a couple hugging a big tree and wearing “Tree Hugger” t-shirts, and I realised that spending my free time taking all the buses in the city was not such a pointless waste of time as all the other ways people choose to waste their time, such as 80s-throwback ballad-monger Ricardo Montaner, who was doing a seven-night residency at Luna Park at the time.
We’re going down Av. Brasil when it becomes evident that once again I’ve taken the wrong branch of a bus line and we’re not going to Luna Park, we’re going to Puerto Madero instead. This is news to me as I didn’t know that the people who lived in Puerto Madero needed buses. In fact, I thought that all the people who moved to Puerto Madero did so because they’re so rich they can do without all public services, and that instead of gas and electric they burn thick wads of two peso notes, and instead of water they bathe in Tibetan yaks’ milk.
But we only skirt round the edges of Puerto Madero, passing the floating casino that doesn’t float much anymore, being as it is built on fairly solid cement, and before we get to the nature reserve we take a sharp right and head into a part of the reserve where I’ve never headed because there’s a general belief that it is a place where only certain people of a certain sexual preference head in search of other people with similar preferences. And the bus rumbles on until I see that factory with the chimneys that no one really knows what it’s for (they say it’s a thermal electric plant but I’m sure it’s something far more sinister) and I haven’t the foggiest idea where all this is going to end.
Throughout the whole day I’ve been looking for a chance to crowbar in my chronicles of the trips on the 184, the 47, and now the 4, the fact that today is 5th October, the birthday of Justino Fonseca, also known as el Negro, because of his proclivity for tanning, also known as el Seco, because of his dry sense of humour, and also known to me as el father-in-law, because I married his daughter, obviously. Last 5th October we celebrated his sixtieth birthday. On 24th June, Justino died of a cardiac arrest, which was completely unexpected, despite his proclivity for putting away two litres of Quilmes beer and three packs of Jockey Club cigarettes every day for the previous forty-odd years
Last Sunday my mother-in-law told us that she’d found a buyer for Justino’s yacht, a twenty-seven foot sailing boat called Sofito (they’re not posh, my in-laws. Everyone in Argentina who lives by the river has a boat. Everyone. It’s like living in Buenos Aires and having a bidet. Basically, anything water-related that might be considered posh in other countries isn’t posh in Argentina. Even owning an ice bucket is standard middle-class behaviour.) The first time I went to Concepción del Uruguay to meet my future parents-in-law, in July 2008, we went sailing on Sofito and I got to know my future father-in-law, sailing, smoking, telling anecdotes and joking and laughing. Justino passed his future father-in-law exam with flying colours, even if I would take a few more months to pass the corresponding son-in-law test. Three years later, on 27th June , we went out on Sofito for the last time, on a sunny winter’s day quite knee-trembling in its beauty, to spread Justino’s ashes in the Uruguay river.
So I’m sitting on the 4, looking for a way to crowbar this story into this chapter, when I start to see hundreds of boats, great frigates standing on dry dock, and a huge amount of naval junk. In the distance I see Puente Pueyrredón. I’ve crossed that bridge on several occasions and always wondered what there was in this part of the city, a white space in the Guía “T” with a cursory reference to the Southern Dock and what was once going to be Boca Juniors’ training ground. And now I know what’s here: The Argentine Industrial Naval Complex, the Argentine Navy Repair Workshop, and the National Navy School. In the 15 buses I’ve taken so far, I’ve had various moments of “I had no idea this even existed”, but this is, so far, the best of these moments. Even a sailor gets on the bus, in full uniform.
Tip: if you’re the kind of vain person who likes everyone to look at you, get on a bus dressed as a sailor.
So here goes my first Colectivaizeishon for Tourists tip: go to the corner of Av. Brasil and Defensa. At Bar Hipopótamo, in the City of Underwhelming Sandwiches, you will find sandwiches that will not disappoint. I recommend the pancetta and cheese. Then have an ironic Argentine digestif in the Bar Británico across the road, where Ernesto Sabato wrote ‘On Heroes and Tombs’ (and sometimes on the tables too. Honk!) Take in the Russian Orthodox Church and Parque Lezama, once the private garden of Mr Lezama until he donated it to the city on the condition that they name it after him, and then get on the 4 (ramal “Balneario”). You will not be disappointed. Unless the sighting of a previously unknown place with a maritime connection just when you were looking for a place with a maritime theme with which to pay tribute to your late father-in-law on his birthday isn’t the kind of thing that floats your boat.