Wednesday, November 19, 2008

TG DOES BUENOS AIRES: A Thursday Night Detour into The Love Zone

I hadn't been in the mood for our usual Thursday night ritual at El Beso in the last few weeks. The residency papers debacle, a bout of the flu, and doing away with the Italian grandma style from every room of our 12 year old apartment (Begone, flowery beige chintz!) was enough for me to avoid the scene for a while. But that didn't stop The Man from being in the mood...for love.

Under the ruse of wanting to go to quiet place with me to talk and have tea, he ended up wisking me away to one of the ubiquitous love motels in our hood. Now, why we couldn't just get it on at home where I know the sheets are washed was beyond me. But I was game to play the high priced call girl for a few hours.

The love motel, known colloquially as the albergúe transitorio or hotel transitorio, is Porteñan institution because, man, Porteñans are into sex. Just walk by the myriad kioskos, turn on a local TV channel, or check out the charmingly named porn shop, "Buttman", on Corrientes. And let's not forget tango and it's origins, my friends. I´m not talking the namby-pamby, aromatherapeutic "making love"; they're into sexing up. To accomodate all this heat, there are telos(in porteña-speak, hotels pronounced backwards), within every 2 or 3 blocks. There's one to cater to all tastes, budgets, and schedules, from the Sex Outlet (because why pay more for sex?) to La Cigarra (, there's bound to be one to fit your needs in your neighborhood. Some, like La Cigarra, the first love motel in BsAs to put TVs in every room and to be featured in 2 films, have themed rooms, like the Asian room, Tropical room, and, if your juju is outta wack, the Feng Shui room. Fun! Plus, they offer free coffee for two every day and a very generous 5 hour turno (turn or shift), but you'll have to call them or stop by to inquire about prices.

The albergue is popular with all kinds of couples: "legitimate", committed couples who can't do the nasty with a bunch of noisy kids or annoying relatives in the house, clandestine pairs of all combinations, as well as the usual business couples (read: for the working girl or boy and his or her clients). No questions are asked; no ID is needed...unless you look unusually young, in which case, they'll card you.

Albergue transitorios are not to be confused with the regular hotel or the hotel familiar. There is no nookie-per-hour going on in those respectable establishments, and if there were, people would have to pay for the whole night, thankyouverymuch. One may stay overnight at an albergue, but only if one checks in after, say, 10 or 11 p.m. This would be a decently-priced crash pad for last minute, overnight-only, late visitors to the area, except that one wouldn't be able to use the place solo, There is a couples-only rule for security purposes: you must come in with and leave with your partner. This prevents any sociopath from leaving his or her partner gagged and tied up in the room. It's an interesing and secure option (use your common sense, of course) for tango hook-ups--if that's what you're into-- after a particularly heated tanda of Di Sarli, Calo, o Pugliese. It happens.

We pulled into the darkened playa privada , or private garage, of one albergue promising renovacion on a sunny and warm late afternoon, and were greeted by gentlemen in a drive-through window, the same drive-through window where one would expect a cheery minimum wage worker to ask for one's food order. It works very much like a McDonalds or Taco Bell, only instead of the usual Egg McMuffin or burrito, one gets a key to one's room. In the nest o' luv The Man chose for the day's adventure, prices range from the dollar-menuesque 60 pesos for the most basic digs to 125 for the most luxurious. Payment is made through a drive-through window on the way out of the garage.

I am proud to say that I once rated the 125 peso room in this very same albergue when my partner and I were still in the honeymoon phase of our romance. It was everything you would imagine a room at love motel would be, complete with faux marble statues of gods and goddesses, indoor jacuzzi, mirrors, and an ample sized bed. However, after almost 4 years together, I rate only the 75 peso room. I didn't take it personally. After all, there's an economic crisis going on, and there are sacrifices to be made.

The seedy, worn look of the place was at once frightening and, yet, strangely alluring. From the drive-through check-in, to walls separating each parking space to keep lovers identites secret, to the separate entrance and exits, the love motel owner´s priority is your privacy, leaving you free to concentrate on loving your partner long time.

I wouldn't have been surprised to hear the bwow-chica-bwow-bwow soundtrack of bad 70's porn as we entered the building. The hallways were unusually claustrophobic and dark, lending it a striking resemblance to certain parts of the Haunted Mansion ride at Disneyland, but without the spooky pictures of people that follow you with their eyes.

I started immediately working on the lighting because it can make a shabby room look, well, less shabby. With just a few strategic flicks of my finger, the mustardy drapes took on a golden cast in la media luz, and the unsightly, mysterious stains around the bottom of the box spring? Poof! Gone.

Our temporary love nest was outfitted with a not-so-sophisticated sound system tuned into three stations playing rock nacional. The subrate speakers could make Frank Sinatra sound bad. I didn't check out the 20 inch TV, but, come on, who watches a lot TV in a love motel?

The obligatory mirror on the ceiling wasn't a surprise, but the condoms (bonus!) in our welcome packet with comb and hopefully clean robe and towel, was a generous touch. There were mirrors all over the room all for the narcissist and/or voyeur, and a woodlined sauna, in case we weren't caliente enough.

The bed was, well...what do you expect for 75 pesos for a three hour session? However, box spring and mattress thrown hastily on the floor was not conducive to the whole idea of romance. Despite the white, faux leather headboard, the whole arrangement just smacked of beer-and-pepperoni-pizza-perfumed university frat house. However, having the box and mattress on the floor is an inexpensive, albeit cheesy, way to prevent the squeaking that arises eventually from years of horizontal activity. The sheets were obviously not egyptian cotton, and the coverlet had long ago lost its satiny sheen, but I was relieved to discover the sheets are changed after every couple and that the mattress was covered entirely with a thick, impermeable ripstop. Given the number of couples who probably frequent the joint during the course of the day, these are good things to know.

If you´re not into singing your partner to sleep after the lovin´, you can always order room service. However, there's no need to worry about being recognized by the help. The little box attached to the door is made for special deliveries of wine, champagne or the classic sandwiches sin miga. Silent deliveries are made through locked opening outside your door, and remain there until you open the little door from the inside to collect your refreshments.

I preferred to clean up in my own bathroom at home, so we packed up and left our room well before our three hour limit ('cause we're efficient like that). As we walked out into the hallway, we didn't hear a sound. Although the building seemed empty, the parking lot was packed. Could they have soundproofed the rooms? With everything aimed toward customer privacy, I wouldn't put it past them. They seem to think of everything.

Wallet-friendly, discrete, and safe, the albergue transitorio is worth a quickie look for the more adventurous guy or gal.