Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Juan's Night on the Pampas

This past weekend, my nephew Juan Massolo and a couple friends traveled to the city of Junín, in the Pampas of Buenos Aires province, to see the Argentine rock legend Indio Solari, formerly of Patricio Rey y sus Redonditos de Ricotta. According to Juan, who’s a 20-something professional at an economics consulting firm, it didn’t go quite as planned.

I’ve translated Juan’s account of his adventure here, partly for what it shows about how things can go wrong in Argentina – though not all rock concerts end like this one. But it’s also worth reading because of his attitude that, even when things go wrong, not all is lost, and bad trips can be the most memorable ones.

While it’s relatively long, the video above (which is not Juan’s) helps visualize last Saturday’s experience, from the departure through the concert. It does not, however, tell the story of what went on outside the walls. I recommend sampling it rather than watching the whole thing.

A Pilgrimage Without A Mass
Well, yesterday I went on a seven-hour pilgrimage and never got to hear Mass! So that you understand the metaphor, I’ll explain the details: We left Buenos Aires by car at 3 p.m., to hear a concert by Indio Solari in Junín. The route was pure hell because there was a fatal accident that morning, so we had to detour via San Antonio de Areco. To drive the 260 km from Buenos Aires to Junín, it took six hours!

We got there at 9 p.m., left the car where they suggested, and started walking toward the raceway. Then we realized it was a ten-km walk! It took us an hour and a half in the midst of the scenario that seemed like a march of zombies in the dark, or that could have been appeared in The War of the Worlds, when everybody climbs out of their cars and starts walking on the freeway. Tired from the walk, we arrived and realized that the ticket booths had closed some time before and there were no more tickets.

For doofuses like us who arrived without tickets because the brokers in Buenos Aires told us that the Junín racetrack (pictured above) had an almost unlimited capacity, we had no alternative but to try to get in with the crowds that were pushing against the gates because the show was starting. Things started getting ugly and, after two unsuccessful tries, we realized it wasn’t meant to be, but it was hard to resign ourselves to having spent all day in the car and screwed up so badly.

While we were figuring out what to do, we walked about 50 meters from the mess and ordered ourselves some choripán sausages. As we were paying, there arose a tremendous commotion and the security guards, along with the police, came running with their nightsticks trying to push the people away from the gates that they were trying to force open. In just a few seconds we were in the crossfire, as luxury spectators, open-mouthed with choripán in hand and a spoonful of chimichurri sauce in the air, as one side was throwing bottles and anything else they had, and the other was shooting rubber bullets (into the air, as far as we could tell).

When we started seeing some people get bloodied nearby and the sausage salesman yelled “Everybody under the table!” we realized we weren’t watching Telenoticias and that if we didn’t get out of there quick it could turn out bad. We took shelter behind a pickup truck. Full of adrenaline, but without dropping our choripanes, we watched the situation for a while and saw how the “people” (I use quotation marks because at this point they seemed like remote zombies beyond the reach of reason) started fighting back against the security (who seemed to be enjoying themselves and inciting them!).

This happened a couple times, they came, they collided, they “pushed them back.” At our first opportunity we sneaked along the fence on one side and started walking the ten km back to the car even faster – in just an hour twenty. With no desire for anything else, we got into the car and started back to Buenos Aires, which took us only two hours less than the trip out. At 3 a.m., 12 hours after starting out, I fell into bed, but satisfied with having spent an entire day with friends chatting and chortling in the car! I’m not being ironic - to everybody’s surprise, none of us got upset or returned in a bad mood.

Was that too long a story? Well, I enjoyed writing it and explaining the metaphor.

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