Return of the Mustard People
(July 12 - August 8, 1998)

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Well, I wasn't planning to write a travelogue this week because the plan was to have a rather quiet, unexciting weekend. HOWEVER, STAY TUNED!

Friday night Diane and I decided to branch out on our own and find someplace to eat somewhere away from the hotel.  We had eaten 5 of 9 nights right around the hotel and that is very unlike us.  We walked down to the Florida (pronounced Floreeeda).  Now this was more to my liking as there were musicians, mimes, etc on this pedestrian walkway.  We found a cafeteria to eat in and learned that
beef is not beef anywhere you eat it.  We will now only have beef in the more upscale restaurants we have been eating in.  The beef that we had in this cafeteria was horrible.  It could have passed for the scraps that the other restaurants throw out. 

Saturday started out as a rainy, cool, dreary day so we went down to the restaurant and had a big breakfast and went back up to the room to let the weather clear some.  The plan for the day was to take a train out to Acasusso (sounds Japanese, as so many words we see around the city) to find the Harley-Davidson dealer to buy t-shirts that Diane's friend asked her to buy for her and her husband whenever we are out of the USA.  We got a late start (2pm) because we forgot that many of the stores close from 1-3pm.  Acasusso was very nice, sort of like the suburbs.  We saw some very nice, clean residential streets, some marvelous houses, and a nice quiet ambience about it, very unlike Buenos Aires.  We got the two shirts, stopped at the McDonald's for a snack and headed back to the hotel.  We met a couple from Houston who were on the same train as us that were doing the same thing for some friends of theirs.  Saturday night, Diane, Merle and I walked over to Puerto Madero, some refurbished warehouses down along the water, to find a place to eat.  We decided on a place called Columbus and it turned out to be great food.  It was an Italian restaurant so we had a break from the beef and chicken that we have been eating.  I hadn't had rissotto in a long time so I had a great Rissotto di Mare (seafood in a rice dish in case you aren't familiar with this meal).

Sunday started out as a nice quiet, but cool day.  After breakfast, Merle, Diane and I started out for San Telmo, an old section of BA where we would find vendors, as well as people dancing the tango on the plaza.  We were about four blocks from the Sheraton and only a block or two past the Catalinas IBM building when it happened.  A youngish (20s) guy and gal came out from behind the cover for the bus stop and started speaking to us and waving and pointing to our backs.  I turned my back to Diane and said "please tell me I don't have mustard on my back".  Diane replied "yes, you have mustard on your back and down your pants legs".  You guessed it.  The 'mustard people' struck again, this time all three of us got spritz with mustard.  HOWEVER, they did NOT get close enough to us to lay a hand on any of us to try and pick our pockets or Diane's backpack.  I immediately brought up my video camera, turned it on and pointed it at them and that caused them to immediately start to move away.  I followed a little, but mostly using the zoom to get some footage of them as they went back across the street.  The guy moved quicker than the woman and I couldn't get much of him on film, but I got some of the woman, although she held her hand up to her face some of the time.  They both got into a taxi, probably part of the ploy, and took off. 

Diane and Merle came up the street asking if I got any film of the old guy across the main avenue.  Unfortunately, as soon as he saw Diane and Merle pointing to him, he split and I didn't get him on film.  As we put the pieces together, Merle remembers seeing the old guy cross the main street from our right and he must have come right up behind us as we crossed one of the side streets and squirted us in an instant with the mustard and then crossed back over to the other side of the main avenue.  Then his young partners took over.  I'm still annoyed that I didn't pick up on that guy crossing the street because WE ALL KNOW ABOUT THIS PLOY and STILL we got nailed, Merle for the SECOND time this trip.  The good news is that they didn't get anything and nobody got hurt.  We don't suspect these people are dangerous people.  They move off if they think you're on to them.  Diane also has a security device that emits a high frequency, high decibel sound when the pin is pulled and she was ready to pull the pin if the guy and gal didn't back off.

We discussed whether we should go back to the hotel to change, but Merle said maybe we should just continue on with the mustard on our backs.  That would tell any other low lifes that we had already been taken and they would leave us alone.  Sounded like a good idea, so we continued on to San Telmo.  I told Merle and Diane maybe the next weekend we should spritz ourselves with mustard before leaving the hotel to ward off these low lifes and make them think we have already been attacked by some of their peer low lifes.

We made it to San Telmo and we did feel better there because there were more people around and some police.  We think these people target folks where there aren't many people around as witnesses.  We did see a couple doing tangos on the plaza.  We also met a family from NJ that were on vacation, having come from Santiago, Chile to spend a few days in BA.  We warned them about the mustard people.

From there we walked over to the Caminito area, which was also quite an adventure.  To get there we walked through some areas that probably made my blood pressure go up and Diane's heart race.  Once we got to Caminito, which had vendors and performers on the streets, we were fine.  We took a taxi back and I write this as we wait to go out to dinner at 6:30.

So our planned unexciting weekend turned out to be rather exciting after all.  My manager had told me that by not ever wanting to go to South America, that I was 'limiting my experiences'.  Hmmm.  I think I was happier with my limited experiences to places like Tokyo (where I feel 100% safe), Paris, Madrid (although Diane's purse was picked here on a 1995 trip), Stockholm, Zurich, etc.  I'm sure this will be my one AND ONLY trip to South America.  Not that pickpockets don't exist in Europe, but our feeling is not one of being safe here.

Tune in again next week to see if the adventure continues.  We hope to go spend a day at a gaucho ranch (estancia) next Sunday.

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