Club Gricel - a fresh start, or the road to ruin?
As soon as I uttered the words ‘Club Gricel’ to Moneypenny I regretted them. Sometime in the distant past presumably I had enjoyed an evening at Gricel, but now I struggle to recall when.
Club Gricel is at La Rioja 1180, way out through Constitucion along Humberto 1st over Av Jujuy. From the outside it is unauspicious, announced only by a couple of tangueras smoking by the pavement door. After paying the entry fee at the tiny desk, a curtain pulls to reveal the salon, beyond which is the bar that sports Gricel’s famous neon sign.
The problem with Gricel is the people. I hasten to add that I have nothing against the aged, but there are times when Gricel makes the former El Arranque look like a kindergarten. And then there are the tourists, dancing wildly with the old milongueros as they flirt with death. This is Gricel’s lethal cocktail.
A plump waitress escorts me to my table hidden away in the corner from which I may observe the pista. A couple of ancient milongueros nod in my direction but tonight I have not the will for the big showy embrace, so pass at speed.
It is after midnight and true to form, Moneypenny has not yet arrived. As the champagne appears, one of the grand dames of the milonga catches my eye with her skilled mirada. The orchestra is Fresedo, perfectly complimenting her invitation. We navigate the floor, avoiding the stumbling steps of the infirm and the lane-changing of the tourists. The freshness of arrival at Gricel has evaporated in a single tanda. Returning to my table I sip from my wine glass, feeling the consoling energy of bubbles against my nostrils.
Moneypenny’s arrival, when it comes, has the air of a car crash to the ¾ rhythm of a vals. Tonight she seems breathless, as if she has run from Av San Juan.
“Calm down old girl and put your shoes on”, I venture, noting her sharp reproaching stare as I speak. For what seems an age, Moneypenny fiddles with her shoe strap, giving up as the lights lift to announce a performance.
Professional tango dancers in Buenos Aires make their living from exhibitions. Within the entrance charge most milongas boast a midnight performance from aspiring dancers. Sometimes, by luck or judgment, you will catch famous dancers and may witness a seminal moment. But generally aspiring hopefuls struggle to create something new, or a new definition of something old. Perfection eludes them, and their performances end with polite applause. Tonight, I stifle a yawn and resist the temptation to check my Bremont.
With the performance complete Moneypenny still struggles with her shoes, so I rise to accept a Russian tanguera’s mirada. She combines Kseniya Sobchak’s beauty with Putin’s assassination skills - the perfect match for Gricel’s pista chaos.
Only later do I notice that Moneypenny is no longer at our table. I glance across the salon to see her in his embrace. Moneypenny is like a moth to a flame. ‘So much for her escape’, I whisper to myself, ‘It seems that Moneypenny is not through with espionage!’
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