LB and I walked from Palermo Viejo to Palermo Soho today. And after a few minutes with company, I realized something: not only are Argentines interesting (especially when they're not too macho or neurotic or dramatic), but expats living in Argentina are pretty damn interesting too. Tonight Erika and I went out for drinks--overpriced smoothies really--at a Swedish bar called Olsen. Pricey, hard-wood floors, real animal fur coasters. Everything about it was odd in fact, except the company. At a large wedding table we had:
1. Me and Erika, the writer and pediatric nurse from Chicago.
2. Our new friend from London, Anne, who is a photographer
3. Nicole from Singapore who is a consultant.
4. Basia from Poland
5. Yara from Lebanon
6. Ken from Texas/California, an engineer who was on his 40th country
7. Pia from Finland
8. Her boyfriend/husband (no one really knows) Robin from New Zealand, another photographer
9. Vanny, a Boliviana-Argentina
10. A bunch of New Yorkers who didn't mingle as much. Typical.
After a few hours of chatting, we finally got some dinner at this very expensive Italian restaurant in Palermo Soho where Erika and I doled out a $100 pesos for a glass of red wine and two decent Italian pastas (napolitana and a puttanesca that was actually spicy). My favorite thing, actually, was the free tapenade that came with the bread.
Afterwards, we decided to go to Nicole's fabulous loft apartment where I became quickly aware of my class for yet a second time (the first being when I had to order two $35 bottles of Malbec for the table). Even so, I had a brilliant time. I don't think I've laughed that much since I was an avid pot-smoker, and that was in college, assisted by my carefree attitude and a bunch of THC.
Why did I laugh so much? Well, in a word: Ken. Ken is a nice, interesting, well-traveled guy. He's pretty smart too. But the problem is that Ken wants to dominate each and every conversation, even if he doesn't know what he's talking about, or if he's relying on conjecture, or even if he's speaking only from personal experience. Because he's a good person, it's hard to get mad at him. But because he actually sabotages a robust group conversation from taking place where everyone gets to shine in their proper light, sometimes you kinda hate him too. You find yourself listening to him because he's the only one who's speaking and yet in the back of your mind you know that he's the only person speaking because he keeps interrupting everyone, cutting them off once they're getting interesting. It's rudeness, agression and unabashed self-centeredness that's not really ironic or clever in anyway. Cleverness is an art the Brits know well, and they get away with a lot because they're so good at self-deprecating humor. But as for we Americans, sometimes we don't get it. We're usually understudies at best because we take ourselves so seriously. Of course, I have my own pedestrian theories on why Ken's this way, but I'll spare you those. But what I found really hilarious and satisfying, was the way that Anne, Nicole and I slowly joined forced and took Ken down, one snide comment, one come-back, one argument, one piece of sarcasm and rhetorical question at a time until eventually he just stopped making all this winding speeches that screamed LOOK AT ME LOOK AT ME! ( and not in a Anita Brooknerish kinda way either, I was thinking more To The Lighthouse kinda look at me). Finally, Ken resigned himself to a plate of chunky silence, and a lot of head-shaking. It wasn't so much that we were mean to him or that we even wanted him to shut up, just that we were bringing him back to our level, to the little people level, a level that wasn't so bad really, a level with some smart and interesting and artistic and practical and well-traveled, friendly people (among us, a few former Cambridge, Yale, Notre Dame, Loyola students, a level where nurses, investment bankers, company consultants and fiction writers lived and breathed together for a few hours). Of course, we're all slightly arrogant. I mean, social justice is fundamentally arrogant on some level. But, at the same time, I think we're good people overall, flawed because we're human, but loving, basically sincere, curious people too all the same, and we think sometimes princes need to sit with their people, and the people should be allowed to use the royal china set from time to time. That's all.
A few shots from tonight that will now make much more sense: