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Part one: Lost is no place to be

“Discúlpame señor, estoy perdido.”

“I’m sorry sir, I think I’m lost.”

Pushing through the door a bell rang as I announced my entrance while pleading for help.

A laugh broke out from the man behind the bar.

“Lost! Come in young man, you’ve found the right place.”

Buenos Aires is a magical place. It is big and chaotic, and it almost seems like there is only something as slight as a fine strand of the purest cotton holding it all together. The whole place is filled with today’s temples and shrines that look like they’re all ready to come tumbling down, and signs saying the city will rebuild the ones that already have. Buenos Aires is movement, and music, and passion. All built on an uncertainty that constantly lingers yet seems to have no effect on the people you talk to as you explore its overcrowded streets and avenues. I have not a single doubt in my mind that had I visited Buenos Aires a year or two ago, I’d have found something different, I’ll find nothing the same, if I come back in the shortest of whiles.

Maybe the never-ending flow of the place is why I’m now stood outside some long forgotten “Sports Bar” in La Boca. We’re four hours behind the UK here in Argentina, which means a half five kick off on a Saturday is the best shot I’ve got at watching Everton at a time that could be considered an acceptable hour to have a beer or two. I won’t be watching Everton here though. I won’t even be getting a beer in this place. It looks like this place closed long before we last won a trophy, over twenty fucking years ago. No Premier League game on the TV in this bar. Not even a fucking bar.

This what a Heading 2 will look like

I mean what did I expect. It was slim pickings when I was looking for somewhere to watch the game. There wasn’t much on offer. The allure of La Boca, the working-class neighbourhood that is home to the world-famous Boca Juniors drew me here, but in truth there weren’t many other options on the table anyway. I need to try my hardest to not blame myself for coming here. Tell myself, it’s not my fault! What am I supposed to do now though? I should have stayed in the taxi as soon as I saw the state of the gaff, I’m looking at now from the fucking curb.

La Boca might have been attractive because of what it shares with County Road. Everton and Boca Juniors share a lot and maybe that is why I chose the long-closed sports bar in LA Boca, out of all the shitty options Google Maps served up when I was looking for a place to watch the blues in Buenos Aires. The problem is La Boca is also famous for having streets that tourists shouldn’t go down. Sure, there are tours around the more colourful parts of the neighbourhood, but other parts have long suffered from Argentina’s economic uncertainties. Does desperation hangs in the air? If the fear mongers are to be believed, standing in La Boca, how do I know which street before me is safe and which street could see me lose my phone or worse? I need a plan, I need an “Open” sign. Somewhere I can take stock of my newfound situation. Then. I see it.

“Y”

The paint is faded and cracked yet the beautiful vintage style in which that y was originally painted is still clear to see. The y classically clear and bold as it adorns a concrete corner, that at this very moment seems to straddle the two streets that in my over-imaginative mind could be the life or death of me. The corner is broken by a short façade, barely big enough to hold a doorway. Above the door sits a sign that says “abierto” and next to the door a chalk board that lists the menu of the day. This is it. This is my momentary mecca. For a split second I wonder if it’ll have the match on, but then I shake that preposterous thought from my head and walk towards the door.

Y is a strange name for a bar though, isn’t it?

This is what a heading 3 will look like

The bar goes quite a way down both of the streets that lead to the y. The bar is almost all window, but above the glass runs two signs that run into each other at the y on the corner. Both have the same beautiful sun-bleached paintwork as the corner. What once must have been a luxurious cream has now faded to a tired old grey that peels away in places. On the street that leads towards the corner, in the same classic handwriting as the y, reads Rivera, yet the street that leads away reads nothing. Rivera y… Strange. Not strange enough to stop me venturing in though. I don’t know where I am, and I need a port for the potential storm that could be brewing around every other corner. In I go.

“Discúlpame señor, estoy perdido.”

“I’m sorry sir, I think I’m lost.”

Pushing through the door a bell rings as I announce my entrance while pleading for help.

A laugh breaks out from the man behind the bar.

“Lost! Come in young man, you’ve found the right place.”

The kind words come from a friendly old chap standing behind the bar in a plain white shirt. He looks to be in his fifties and wears a huge smile on his face as he watches me approach the bar. It takes a while for me to get there though, as it isn’t a small place; the bar must have at least fifteen tables and the whole place sits in stark contrast to weathered exterior. It is smart and clean, and the paint looks fresh. To the right of the bar the wall is decorated with the blue and gold of Boca Juniors and almost painted into the glory of the club is an incredible mural of Diego Maradona in that classic Argentina kit. He looks like he is flying with flames flying off behind him. No… it is, if I’m not mistaken he is just about to go around Peter Reid.

Instantly, I’m transfixed by the place and feel safe again. I’ve found myself. The barman calls to me again.

“Young man, … lost?”

I’m going to have to concentrate. I’m going to have to listen. My level of Spanish is good enough to get me in and out of trouble in Spanish speaking countries, but only if I really listen. For years I spent my time in conversation thinking of how I’d say what I was going to say rather than listening to what I needed to respond to. This left me with the rare ability to speak Spanish without being able to understand it. It was a hard lesson to learn but it is one that has done me good for speaking in English too.

“I’m sorry sir.” I reply. “Could you repeat that please?”

His eyes widen. I’ve made it all the way to the bar now, so he doesn’t have to project his voice quite so much.

“You are lost, are you? How does a young man like you get lost in a place like this? Where are you from?” His kind voice finishes the job his mesmerising bar started. I’m happy here.

“Football sir.” I have this strange habit of always saying senor over here. “I was looking for somewhere to see my team from the Premier League on TV. I’m from Liverpool, in the UK.” I was going to go on, but I didn’t the chance.

“Oh, you want to watch Liverpool play. We don’t have TVs in here, I’m sorry. People come here to talk about football, they then go to La Bombonera to watch it.” Bastard! There is nothing worse than people thinking you follow that shower from across the park. It happens all the bloody time too. As fucking always, the important thing is to forget it. What more can you do? This fella seems sound, just like all everyone else who makes the same mistake, so why not make a mate ay?

“No, I’m an Everton fan. I want to watch the Everton game, it has just started. I came looking for a bar up the street that the internet said would show the match, but I think it is closed. I’ll have a beer though please. Do you have Wi-Fi?” There it was, if he was going to reduce me to a dirty stinking koppite then I guess I could reduce his place to a high-speed internet wireless. I could maybe try and watch the game on my phone.

“No.” He shoots back. “No Wi-Fi, I’m afraid. People talk in this bar. I do have beer though. Are you happy drinking Quilmes young man?”

I was really starting to like this guy. I’ve always felt like there is something cheap and dirty about asking to log on to the Wi-Fi. It almost feels like smoking. Sometimes you do actually want to go on the internet and take care of some business, whatever that might be. Other times though, you just ask out of sheer habit and you spend more time on your phone than you do in the place you’re in. Needing to watch the blues trumps that quasi self-deferential introspective nonsense though, but it is still cheeky to ask though. Even if there are football adornments all over the wall. Even if you know people come to the place to talk about football.

A football bar with no TVs and no Wi-Fi. What the hell is this place?

“Perfect.” I reply. “I love Quilmes, it is good beer.”

I remember paying a fiver a pint for Quilmes back on Penny Lane like, and thinking it tasted like swill. Here though, in La Boca, it is much much better. Obviously, it tastes much sweeter over here where they make it properly. I’m not quite ready for the litre bottle my man cracks open and places on the bar next to a frosty glass, but I’ve definitely been surprised by worse. In Argentina most beers come in litre bottles and, accordingly, they come with these purpose-built bottle coolers to make sure they don’t go warm before you’ve finished them. The barman turns around to grab one of these alien bottle sleeves for my bottle, but I stop him.

“Sir.” I say, “The bar is quiet today, there is nobody else here and I left the house today hoping to watch a game of football I’ll now never see. Shall we share a beer? No need to keep it cool, if we drink it fast enough.”

He is grinning as he turns back towards me. “What a nice young man I’ve found here. You’re right! The bar is dead today, but sometimes a quiet bar is much more useful than a busy bar. I do tend to drink on days like these though and a beer with company beats a lonely brandy every day of the week, so I’ll gladly accept. Let’s drink a beer together. I’m Juan.”

Juan grabs himself an unfrosted glass, fills up a small wooden bowl with peanuts, and pulls up a stool on his side of the bar just opposite where I am sat. I start to pour us two glasses of beer from the monstrous bottle, with the blue and white label, he has given me and start to think about what he said about a quiet bar being better than a busy bar. Did I misunderstand him? Then the bell on the door rings and I turn to see an elderly woman enter the bar. She is well presented but I can see she is tired, almost like the paint job on Juan’s bar. She catches me looking at her and bows her head ever so slightly as she finds the furthest table away from me in the bar and sits down.

“Keep pouring young man.” Says Juan as he turns towards the coffee machine. “I’ll be with you again in a minute. By the way, you still haven’t told me your name. Just like in Spain, every bar in Buenos Aires is blessed with an amazing espresso machine. The steam wand on the coffee machine hisses as Juan heats up milk in a little silver jug, making it impossible for me to respond. He finishes up making a café con leche and takes it over to the old woman sitting in the farthest corner of the bar. They speak for a short while, but I can’t hear what they say. I only catch the word Ingles as he nods over towards me with a kind smile on his face and what seems to be a calming hand on her shoulder. In no time at all he is back on his stool with his beer in his hand. “Salu te young man, whoever you are?”

I can’t help but smile as we tap our glasses together and drink. “Cheers Juan. I’m Patrick. It is very nice to meet you.”

Part two: Just a drop of blood

“I don’t care if chupito means just a little one. Your beers have got me well on the way to being pissed. I was only supposed to be gone for a couple of hours to watch the match. I’m meeting Lindsay in a bit. Shots, whether they’re little or not, will send me over the edge.”

Juan laughs. I’m not sure if he is laughing at me. Everything Juan has done has made me feel like I could be the joke but then maybe, just maybe, the real joke is something else. Something much larger and he is only laughing because I’ve confirmed some nonsense, he long suspected was true.

“Patrick let’s not talk about now. We shouldn’t think about this moment and what it feels like to lose control right now. Is it not always true that your darkest times always come right after your favourite moments? Do you not worry most about those time you can’t remember?”