Went to tango last night, on the Buda side of town. It is actually quite close to the Sofitel, which is about 150 yards from the entry onto Chain Bridge, the grand structure you always see in photos of Budapest. The milonga (tango salon) was about four blocks from where you exit the bridge on the other side. All in all, an easy distance to traverse.
It was in a beautiful community center right on the river embankment, providing a wonderful view of the Danube and the illuminated government buildings back over on the Pest side. Upon entering I introduced myself to the hosts, and young husband and wife team with whom I had exchanged e-mails before arriving. They were very warm and welcoming, and told me they looked forward to seeing "LA style."
As is my custom, I sat for about 40 minutes, reading the room and watching to see who is who and what is what. Of the 40 or so people in attendance, including a couple of Asian guys who, like me, appeared to be visitors, there were about 4 or 5 women who were really good; none of the guys, with the exception of the host, were really any good (they don't feel the music, or as we say, they lack musicality. They can do steps fine but they wobble -- indicating a lack of balance -- and often not dance in time with the music. To a developed eye, it looks horrible). Shame.
Any way, after finding out who the dancers were I approached the first. Name is Esther, whom I later learned was married to one of the lots of steps-but-no-musicality guys, and had just had a baby (which would account for the very healthy uh . . . milkiness of her dance). I could see that Esther has some dance chops and could handle the ride. So, I gave her one.
We danced about five songs, getting better and more acclamated to one another with each dance. She was great. With that marker set, as I sat down I could feel the eyes of other women calling for my attention. (In tango culture, particularly in Buenos Aires -- where this convention is pretty strictly enforced -- it is considered impolite to approach a woman you don't know to ask for a dance. In fact, women and men sit on different sides of the room. So, for a man to walk into a woman's "camp," as it were, and put her on the spot -- forcing her to either accept even if she doesn't want to, or to decline, causing him to lose face, is deemed impolite. Remember, its still very much a macho culture down there.
The way you invite someone to dance is through eye contact. If she wants to dance with you, she'll meet your eyes with a sustained gaze. Then, if you smile or begin to rise and she responds, you know you're on. The two of you then meet at the edge of the dance floor. Conversely, if she doesn't give you contact, or if she diverts when your eyes accidentally meet, you've been snubbed. The women of BsAs are very selective about whom they'll dance with. You have to establish your bona fides either by dancing with lower skilled dancers and be seen as being a superior dancer, or going directly for one of the top dogs among the dames -- my preferred method (only because I have the confidence and chops to do so; twasn't always thus). How do dancers separate the wheat from the chaff -- its all in the footwork; the feet don't lie.
Anyway, I could feel the eye contact, but I averted making contact with all but the next girl, Sylvia. She was more technically proficient than Esther, but less organic, i.e., she wasn't good at improvising or adapting to a new body as readily as her apparent partner (with whom she'd danced exclusively to that point). No biggy; after two songs we hit a stride. She, too, was great. After Sylvia I was approached by a guy named Gabor, who hosts another salon on a different night. He asked if I would be in town to come to his masquerade event on the 10th. When I told him I was leaving on Friday, he asked if I would mind dancing with his girlfriend, Diana. (You gotta love a guy who is so welcoming that he offers you his girl's body.) What was I to say? -- "sure."
Diana was also quite good, but more than that, her body was scrumptious. From the moment she pressed them soft babies against my chest, I was hooked. Of the three girls mentioned, she and I had the best height match (which affects your stride in the dance; I tend to alternate between long and short strides, and she could match me to a tee; Esther wasn't bad either, but I had to reign in some of my long strides to prevent her from sliding or tripping). She was giddy with excitement, and afterwards asked me to teach her two moves I had led her into (acutally, I was "putting them on" her but, remembering how nice Gabor had been, I retracted my claws).
Anyway, I danced again with booby Esther, got into a fun discussion with a Budapest native who now lives in San Diego (Lojosc, pronounced "Loi-osh") then the evening ended (they stop at 11). A number of folks came over to shake hands, which is always nice -- tango dancers love to welcome and acknowledge visitors, except in BsAs, where the natives can be quite snobby about "their thing."
I enjoyed the short walk back across Chain Bridge; the lights on the government buildings in Pest illuminated the night, giving them a spectacular elegance that made the walk much more enjoyable, even though the bridge itself was quite spectacular to begin with.
As I exited the bridge and turned toward the hotel, a violin player smiled and bid me "bon nuit;" when I paused to clarify he changed language (presumably believing I didn't understand his French) and said "good night." We both smiled and I said goodnight back. My, another nice guy! First, one guy offers me his girl, then a random street musician bids me goodnight; these are some really nice people.
As I neared the hotel, a nicely dressed woman, in a dark overcoat with a leopard print collar -- who appeared to be waiting on the valet to bring her car 'round -- approached me and with a soft smile asked, "do you want to have sex tonight"? I couldn't believe it, but I was on another plane and wasn't interested. She then offered the added benefit of sex and a massage, telling me it would relax me and send me right to sleep.
I told her I had actually taken in a spa massage earlier that day, and felt sleep wasn't far off. We chatted for a few friendly minutes, her trying to find any possible opening, me trying to let her know I wasn't interested but could be tomorrow (which is now, today). So, we bantered back and forth. Thinking I was casting her off, she asked if was leaving tomorrow (today), I told her no, Friday. Sensing she wanted me to ask, I did -- "are you here tomorrow," she responded "I'm here every day." Now there's a woman whose clearly escaped the shackles of state planning to seize capitalism full-on by the balls, literally. Gotta love 'er!
In any case, the jury's still out on whether I'm up for any hanky panky at this stage of the trip. In fact, this is getting very near to the end of my log. I leave at 8:00 a.m. tomorrow, heading for the CSE in NYC.
I found it ironic that my day began with the reference to Van Gogh, having fallen out with his family over his religious extremism taking up with a pregnant, alcoholic prostitute and ended with a proposition from a woman who, to my mind, had all the markings of a middle class housewife. Cross reference, yet again, to the "Hookers" thread.
I'm off on my last day of excursion around Budapest. Hope to update later.