After more than three months of living in a city of 3 to 12 million (depending on who you ask), I've realized that I've more or less kept my sanity intact due to some key reasons. When I've holed myself up with my laptop to work on final papers, I will fondly think of these places and people. So the top five reasons that I've remained sane (more or less) here in la Ciudad Autonoma de Buenos Aires begin with: Thelonious Club.
Named for the great (American) jazz pianist, Thelonious Monk, the place is fairly well hidden on the first floor of the building that sits on the corner of Salguero and Guemes. For the first timers, it has only a small sign with its name and self-declaration as a social and cultural club. For folks like me who keep returning for whatever reason, the eerie blue light peering through the first floor windows is what distinguishes it from the rest of the surrounding buildings.
Twenty pesos will let the jazz enthusiast enter before 12:30 a.m., and only 10 pesos afterward, due to the fact that two bands play on Friday and Saturday night. The interior is dimly lit, adding a cool mystique to the long bar and relatively small stage in the very front. Admittedly, the fairly small space inside gets rather crowded rather easily, and more often than not I've simply sat on the steps that lead up to a small balcony and the ladies room.
It is always amusing to see the confused look on guys' faces as they descend after realizing that the men's room is not adjacent to that of the fairer sex. I guess I'm just twisted like that.
So really what is it that attracts me to Thelonious Club? The music is generally professional grade, occasionally bringing in fairly well-known artists, and really quite varied. I've listened to classic trios of piano, upright bass, and drums, larger groups with saxophones and trumpet added to the aforementioned group, more 21st century groups who listened to too much Pink Floyd, and maybe even a funky quartet sporting a Sousaphone in place of a string bass. Yes, that last group was American. The performances are definitely worth the 10 peso entrance fee.
There is something more going on at Thelonious Club, however. It is a very international place, as music very often tends to be, attracting a curious number of French tourists in addition to the generally louder (and more drunk) Americans. The first night I went there one Frenchman praised the music and condemned my compatriots with more English profanity than I know in Castellano. I also accidentally told an Argentine woman that she tasted good, meaning to complement her taste in dating (she was supposedly with the saxophonist). I have definitely heard German and perhaps Japanese spoken as I tried to get the attention of one the bartenders, who all speak passable English (but I speak better Spanish). In conclusion, it attracts a very cosmopolitan mix of nationalities, ages and alcohol tolerances.
As I have discovered that I am not really the "boliche" kind of guy, Thelonious Club has become my way of enjoying a Friday or Saturday night without demonstrating my utter ineptitude at dancing or getting too inebriated. American students would call it "chill," but I think the Argentinians would call it "tranquilo". Todo bien, che.