In “Light as the Breeze”, Leonard Cohen knelt before his lover, whose charms ran from Alpha to Omega. When I first listened to this song of obsessive desire, I thought “Bravo!” that a grizzled old man could summon such passion. That was before I encountered Tango. I remembered Charlie, who used to preside over graduate student pool-parties in his hillside apartment overlooking the University. He was in love with a sylph-like neuroscientist named Delta, to whom he sent beautifully scripted love-letters on hand-made paper sealed with scarlet wax embossed with an imprint of a coiled snake. We mocked this echo of past times.
“One day we’ll be old” he said, “the hey-dey in our blood stilled. But we’ll cherish symbolic memories of our passions, an unforgettable dawn or a certain foxtrot, as we amble through another round of golf.”
The twin temptations of women and dance are reincarnated in the Hotel Fakir’s Indian hooded cobra swaying in hypnotic thrall to the music. Juliet embodied the hectic flush of first love, but our more mature infatuations are couched in billions of Kilo-bytes of Facebook ephemera. Fittingly, the ancient Romans enriched their passage through the portals of the psyche by praying to the female deity Lima, guardian of the threshold. In contrast, the doors of the British Museum were guarded for years by a misogynistic tomcat called Mike who died soon after the third Mickey Mouse cartoon opened in November 1928 (no Oscar). Speaking of temptations, “Papa Was a Rollin’ Stone” in the B-flat minor key of mournful Tango songs evokes illicit yearnings for the road less travelled. But I digress.
The theme of ambush by infatuation recalls General Wolfe’s triumphant seizure of Quebec seconds before three musket balls sent him to his Maker aged 32. Romeo was equally fervid in his pursuit of Juliet, as was Bogart in his iconic portrayal of greed in “The Treasure of the Sierra Madre”. And so we come to T as in Tango, that improbable amalgam of schmaltzy Gypsy ditties, some steps and turns, and a man and a woman. Add the uniform attributes of tango, a proud masterful chest and stiletto heels, and the result is magical. Ignatio Quiroga likened Tango to a game of chess where the victor is subsumed in a heady coupling of opposites. Once, mixing a whiskey sour at the Fakir, Quiroga addressed with X-ray acuity the allure of Tango to Yankees a world away from Argentina.
“The Zulus defeated the British at Isandlwana in 1879, but were later enslaved in the gold-mines,” he said. “From those water-logged pits came the Gumboot dancers…”
Just then, a redhead in high heels marking time by the Aquitania poster caught my eye, and I missed the rest of the story.