In Buenos Aires we followed in the footsteps of one of the characters of Eric Stener Carlson’s novel “The St Perpetuus Club of Buenos Aires” as he made his way to the Institute for the Study and Resolution of Contested Glacier Frontiers (ISRCGF).
“I’m sure you’ve seen that wonderful building while window-shopping in Bario Norte. Its eight floors perch just above the gaudy, red canopy of the ‘El Tolón’ Café.
Up and up past all the other apartments until the cupola, a dome shingled like some ancient, grey fish. Mine is the apartment with the smallest window, all the way at the top.
As I go towards the Bulnes subway station, I pass by the mouth of the Alto Palermo shopping centre.
If you go down the steps on the shopping mall side and through the turnstile, there’s no option but taking the line towards ‘Catedral’.
Ah, those colourful tiles by Cattaneo and Co. set into the walls of the ‘D’line’s stations back in 1938!
In Bulnes, the mural ends just before that grey, metal, door recessed into the wall.
On the other side of the tracks, there’s the door’s twin, also always locked.
Within the mural, look for the zafra scene, a nondescript arrangement of sugarcane cutters, machetes held high. Within the scene, there is a picture of a large, brown pulley from which extends a cable going to a spar and a series of hooks.
When you get off at Tribunales, turn right.
At the other end of the platform, to your right, is another set of stairs going up. You must take these, because above them looms another Cattaneo mural dedicated to the conquistadores – shiny armor, rippling flags, proud ships and all.
Then out the turnstiles and to your right, up the mechanical stairs.
As a testament to Lavalle’s victory, a marble likeness of him thrusts skyward on a column just a block behind you…
Look down at the concrete blocks that compose the walkway.
Starting just where the ornamental fence begins to circle the plaza, you’ll see regular pattern of concrete rectangles 49 cm x 90 cm laid lengthwise.
Hug close to the plumbing supply store but not too close to the terrible synagogue looming to your right.
But it’s not until you reach the street corner up ahead that, all of a sudden, 9 de Julio Avenue opens up before you, like Machu Picchu rising from the mist…
The sight of the obelisk, towering 67 metres over the intersection of 9 de Julio, Roque Saenz Pena and Corrientes Avenue, will steady your nerves, reassure you of your goal.
As you reach Café Madeleine on the corner, you may be feeling rather giddy from the effort.
Past the cheap bookstand. A little more, and there, you arrive at 719 Pellegrini.
There was not, however, a squat, grey building encrusted with angels. There was not, for that matter, any building whatsoever.
+ Photography by Avantika Bawa