I came to tango as an emotional refugee.
I could have said “pilgrim” and it would have suggested a quest, something sacred and ennobling. But emotionally I was in rags, so deeply desperate and so thoroughly unaware of my desperation that I can only imagine myself descending from that plane shuffling and in rags.
I am not a gambler, but I had bought a ticket to the other side of the planet, to a country whose language I did not speak, to a city where I knew no one. Only desperate people do things like that.
I remember preparing for my trip. I had an open ticket, which meant I knew my departure date but not my date of return. Whatever I told anyone else, I knew I would never come back. I was heading out. Forever. This would be a one-way voyage.
My ties to that previous world were all shattered. I had a wife from a Nevada desert wedding; no children but three dogs we had raised together. I broke up with her over a CB radio as I drove away from her trailer in Iowa City, Iowa where she had gone to study creative writing. (There are some crimes one should never confess, yet I feel compelled to do so.)
I guess that tells you everything you need to know about my life back then.
When I set out for Yale in 1983 with my family gathered around me on the front porch of our home in Piedmont, California I wore, from top to bottom, a canvas fedora, a bow tie and argyle socks. I was a snazzy dresser back then though my fashion tips came from some imagined past vaguely fused with the Ralph Lauren ads of the day. I was a freak – but at-least I was a well-dressed one.
I cherish departures and I remember them in detail. Departures are re-births.
When I set out for Buenos Aires in late September 1992, I had gone through the period of hitchhiking, cowboy boots, pickup trucks and horses and I was ready for something new. (Desperate people are always running from one thing while they grasp at something else.)
My friend Ignacio Peri, a fashion designer, had taken me to dinner when he heard that I was going to Buenos Aires. He gave me two pieces of advice: 1) let go of everything you have here when you leave, and 2) take a navy-blue blazer.
I followed his advice to the letter. When I set foot on that plane, I wore a blue blazer and I was on my way to leaving everything and everyone behind.
I took two other items with me that day that are still in my possession. One was a fine burnished-leather passport wallet of otherworldly luxury. I saw it in a travel store in Walnut Creek near Nordstrom and I bought it on impulse, though I was probably frittering away a week’s worth of meals when I got to Argentina. I took comfort in such a possession, as if nothing truly bad would come to someone with a passport wallet of fine burnished leather.
The other item was a small French notebook with acid-free paper in which I planned to begin my diary of this new time.
Against all the odds of turmoil and chaos, those two items remain with me today. The notebook of course was filled long ago and stuck in a box with all the other French notebooks accumulated in a life of writing. The passport wallet still travels on every voyage of this well-travelled life until the day my passport is pinched or lost.
Until then, we travel together.
By Kevin Carrel Footer – www.kevincarrelfooter.com
I’d love to hear your thoughts. Write me here or leave a comment below.
Want more of my writings on tango, Buenos Aires and the Creative Life?