Hanging out at Mama Racha

Mama Racha, Palermo Soho, Buenos Aires

Lately I’ve been writing at Mama Racha, on the corner of Av. Armenia and Costa Rica, in Palermo Soho. It’s a good walk (about half an hour) so I get at least a little exercise. Although a couple of days ago I got caught in a rainstorm about halfway there, so ended up molting more than working. The servers, all young women, are pretty and aloof. They express no curiosity about what I’m doing scribbling on notebook paper for two or three hours, but they offer a pleasant and distracting view when one is required.

There is more than enough view outside, through large, tall windows all around. I sit in back where I cannot see directly out a window, or that is all I would do.

It is on a busy corner. Diagonally across the street is a small park popular with dog walkers needing a break from walking the dogs. On another corner is a cafe that is more a bar, really. I think it is called Bartok. Across the street in another direction is one of the most popular night spots for cruising youth in this part of Buenos Aires – Sugar. It is closed during the hours I’m awake.

Inside Mama Racha

I like the way Mama Racha looks, exposed brick walls, uncovered old wooden tables scattered willy-nilly, a large old photo blowup of the market that occupied this corner a few decades ago, and a wall of wines in the back. There is a larger area upstairs, but I think it is used mostly at night. It has, as they say, abundant character.

It also has a stark reminder that Buenos Aires can be a rough place, even in these ritzy neighborhoods. I noticed small web straps with clip fasteners screwed securely into the back of each chair. I wondered what they could be used for? Then the other day two young women came in and attached their purses to these straps, therefore locking them to the chairs. It still feels odd to me to live in a place where not only would something like that be considered necessary, but that it’s so necessary someone would come  up with such a solution.

Yesterday there was an interesting, briefly entertaining event. A young woman, quite strikingly pretty (but so many young women are here) took a table near mine and, after securing her bag to the web strap, took out a new Mac Powerbook and proceded to work on what looked like designs for handbags; she also had drawings of a fashion nature on the table. Then she got a Skype video call, first time I have seen that happen in a public place. I could not figure out how to take a surreptitious photo (using my Blackberry cam) of her screen, but wish I had. The woman she was video chatting with was standing in what was obviously the dressing room area of a bathroom, applying makeup to her face, naked. At least naked to the waist, which was as far down as the Skype screen sent. They chatted away, laughing girlishly often, in Spanish so I didn’t understand most of it, until I think the woman in the cafe realized that anyone from tables behind hers could see the screen, that including not only me, but another table where two men and a woman were discussing what seemed to be business matters. So she folded a piece of paper and placed it on the upper end of the keyboard so that all remaining visible on the screen was just her friend’s face, still applying makeup. Yes, in case you’re wondering, luscious.

I work pretty well here, in spite of many potential distractions. In fact, I long ago figured out that it is the potential for distraction that allows me to work creatively. My brain locks down in peace and quiet and solitude. I am not able to explain this at all. I’m sure there are theories. In a quiet, empty space, my mind pursues distraction, seeks to fill the emptiness. That usually means finding anything to do that isn’t work. But in a place filled with the natural mess of daily life, I am able to withdraw into the thoughts that sustain the work.

It may also simply be habit, for I have done most of my creative work in some cafe for two decades.

Work on “And It’s Only Love” is going very well; I think it is more than half finished. In spite of the incomparably wonderful distraction of a topless video Skype chat, I came out of there yesterday with two keepable pages. A fine day. Which also happened to be sunny and warm.


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