The EYM: Uptown Saturday Night
Guest column: The EYM on crutches, bravely heading out into the night.
EYM here—on assignment. One of my primary goals in tagging along to Santiago was to experience some of that legendary castellano hablado nightlife, the kind that starts at midnight and doesn’t end until lunch the next day. I’d say I made about a D+.
But, as you faithful (bored?) readers know, I’m a cripple. I did my best with what I had, and maybe my expectations were too high, but you know I had a decent Saturday night.
It started off, as do all good nights, with a little bit of what the kids these days call “pregaming.”** Now I assume that the phenomenon of drinking in your house before going out is not a new one, but the terminology may well have changed since the repeal of prohibition, so… “pregaming.” Wine, piscola (pisco and coke), piskola (pisco and Inca Kola, a hypercaffinated, bubble gum flavored soda from Peru), and—for courage—straight pisco. So I was ready to go. In fact, I was so ready to go that I wore only jeans and a polo shirt, a stark contrast to the Chilenos with their heavy coats and keffiyehs. (Two problems: everyone down here seems to think that 4° C is actually 4° F, and keffiyehs are SO 2008.***)
I set off at around 11 pm, a reasonable time for the night to begin among the jovenes. Maybe a bit on the early side, but it is winter down here. Took the metro downtown, where everyone under 25 got off at the same stop, the one I had been planning on taking. So it looked like my plan was a good one.
Walked across the river with a cohort of fellow merrymakers, the whole time being bombarded by individuals hawking hot fried things. My target was the Pio Nono in the Bellavista barrio. I had heard that this was where all the happening nightlife was located, and the signs there designated it Santiago’s “barrio cultural and bohemio,” so I thought these would be my people.
The first real indication that I had left Topeka somewhere along the wayside were the PACKS OF WILD DOGS CHASING MOVING CARS. This doesn’t happen in the US because we think that euthanizing wild dogs is more humane than letting them be run over or freeze to death, but there’s no accounting for taste. I walked up and down the busy but not terribly busy Pio Nono, where there must have been 40 bars and discotheques (playing Britney Spears and Cascada) in a quarter mile, none of which I would ever consider going into. I’ve been called many things, including a cultural egalitarian—but never by someone who hadn’t mistaken me for someone else.
On some side streets there were huge, cheesy discotheques with big lines and at least 10 visible bouncers. There was a Greek themed one, a Jamaican themed one, a rock and roll themed one. From these, too, I demurred. Then, walking down the middle of the Pio Nono, I saw the Long, Extremely Tall Arm of the Law: 4 carabineros trotting on HUGE horses. I felt like an Inca. A very, very law-abiding Inca, since these Pizarros had automatic weapons to go with their horses.
Eventually at around midnight, I ducked into a small bar on the outskirts of Bellavista from which I heard live music. I sat watching a decent set by some locals (I think their name was A Bass, Some Drums, 2 Guitars and 4 Moustaches) and ordered 2 piscos on the rocks. They finished at about 1:30, and I caught a taxi home.
The taxi driver was effusive, excited about an American audience. He explained to me that George Bush had armed the whole world as a result for his lust for oil (my Spanish still isn’t that good, and he was rather excited about this idea). He also explained that Barack Obama isn’t a gringo because he’s black. I am not sure if the two points were related.
**Edidad's note: EYM is 20. But drinking age is 18 in Chile, like in any civilized nation.
***Edidad's note: I would have said 2000, the second Intifada. But things come and go...