Our Highbrow/Lowbrow Day

We are trying hard to relax in Buenos Aires and limit ourselves to one thing a day (I know, poor us) due to the heat and the fact that we ran ourselves ragged in the US.  But we don’t relax well and sometimes there is just too much fun to be had in one day.  And maybe Matt’s and my definitions of “fun” are a bit diverse.

So we started last Monday at El Ateneo, an amazing bookstore situated in a renovated theater. Matt knows me well and it was actually his suggestion.  Books, books and more books, in a beautiful setting.  As much as I read, I don’t buy books for several reasons: I read too many books to afford to buy them all, I’m cheap and hate when I do buy a book for a plane trip or book club that I end up disliking,  I LOVE public libraries and think they are crucial to society and deserve support, and books ultimately add a lot of clutter (how many books do you actually re-read?).  I also HATE e-reading as I think reading without a physical connection to a book is soulless, but given my ex-pat life, I am resigned to checking out e-books from my previously local library (hey, I still pay Wisconsin taxes). But there are exceptions.  I am on a quest to find To Kill A Mockingbird in Spanish.  It is hands down the best American novel ever written (I actually own two copies and a book about the book) and I know it so well that I figure reading it in Spanish will be a good language lesson for me.  But, alas, El Ateneo, despite its splendor, did not have Matar un Ruiseñor.  I resisted the urge to buy another book (remember, I HATE e-reading and don’t have access to a good English print library), but it wasn’t easy.

After lunch in the cafe on the stage at El Ateneo, we commenced the lowbrow portion of our day: the track. Lucky us, we are staying near the Hipódromo Argentino de Palermo, a horse track and casino.  We managed to spend 4 hours at the track and and come away merely $10 poorer from bets and $5 from snacks and the program, fully justified as great entertainment, people watching and a Spanish lesson (“carrera” is “race”, for example).  We then spent an hour in the casino playing my favorite slot machine, Sex and the City, and between the two of us only lost $10. Well worth the day of entertainment and given our frugal Midwestern natures, no real danger of breaking the bank.  The highlight of the track was a race for which I picked horse number 6, who broke away from the gate and came racing down the track, riderless, before the race began.  It reminded me of the time I placed a bet on a Kentucky Derby horse who didn’t make the field. Thank goodness my bet was only $2.

My quest for Matar un Ruiseñor continues and I searched the boulevard of used books.  Like many big box stores, the salesclerk at El Ateneo had no idea what book I was talking about but nicely looked it up on the computer.  At the second hand shops, the proprietors all knew instantly what I wanted, despite my bad Spanish accent, and sadly shook their heads as they told me I was out of luck.

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