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The Gringo Puts Everyone to Bed.

by David Miller Mar 17, 2009
Notes scribbled during a party at my father in law’s house in Buenos Aires after a day of watching piquiteros blockading the neighborhood with stacks of tires set on fire . . .

3:30 am.

We’re dancing to Cumbia Villera. The Indian masks on the walls seem to be scowling over the dance floor.

Cumbia villera is the rhythm of the cartonero clopping down the street with his horse.

It’s the music of the streets. Like hip-hop, the words don’t hold anything back. They talk about life in la villa.

And here, just like there, it is the music of the poor that moves the children of the middle-class.

5:00 am.

I help the dj load his gear into his truck, and–what the hell—someone has broken in, stolen his toolbox. He just shakes his head and says, “What can you do? Aqui te roban, aqui te matan.” (Here they rob you and kill you.)

5:30 am.

Almost dawn and only four of us left—Gabi, me, DJ, Gustavo. The dining room / dance-floor is covered with this nasty black resin. We can’t figure out what it is at first, then we realize that everyone tracked in ashes from the burnt tires in front of the house.

Now the four of us are sprawled on couches and armchairs in the living room. A small fire still burns in the fireplace and 40 empty beer cups line the table.

We’re listening to some heavy techno music, a show called metro dance, which is broadcast live from a club in Buenos Aires. It feels like the four of us here are connected somehow to everyone else listening to this station. I’m imagining groups of friends gathered in front of other fires, inside other houses, and all the locos still dancing between the booming walls of the clubs.

5:45 am.

Gustavo and DJ passed out now, but Gabi keeps rubbing her blackened feet on them. She’s asking me why why why does DJ want a girlfriend who is Latina. I keep telling her, baby I don’t know—everyone has his or her gusto, and anyway you’re drunk. you need to go to sleep.

She tells me, no, no, everyone else needs to stay awake and talk to me, and I say, “Nena, you’re finished. If I start telling you a bedtime story you’ll be asleep in 5 seconds.”

“Try it,” she says. And so I start telling her a story about a girl who hears drumbeats in the rain, and she’s asleep in 5 seconds.

I check the fire, cut off the lights, the stereo, leave my friends there snoring in their chairs. I walk upstairs, feeling something I can’t quite define. Maybe it’s a twisted pride: for once the gringo put everyone to bed. Whatever it is, it’s something peaceful. I get into bed next to Lau and just before I close my eyes I hear a rooster crowing.

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