In early March of ’05 I attended Argentina’s Mar del Plata international film festival. Four or five days, as I recall. Before flying back to Los Angeles I was able to spend nine hours in Buenos Aires. Here’s what I filed on 3.10.05:

“I flew out of Mar del Plata around 12:30 and landed at the slightly east-of-downtown Buenos Aires aeropuerto an hour later, and went straight into town to nose around and explore. I had about nine hours before my plane for Los Angeles was due to leave around 10:45 pm.

“I left my bags at the Hotel Intercontinental and walked over to the Casa Rosada, the ornate, three-story presidential residence with the famed second-floor balcony that Eva Peron addressed her followers from. (The paint isn’t exactly rose — it’s more like a fleshy off-pink). I walked around the San Telmo district and visited the open-air flea market. A big crowd was watching a couple dance the tango. I gave them ten pesos when they passed the hat.

“Director Fabian Beilinsky (Nine Queens) told me to go to a restaurant in San Telmo specializing in Argentine beef, called La Brigada (Estados Unidos 465). The aroma of perfectly-broiled steaks was transporting. I could tell right away it’s a class joint, although a bit too popular with the local swells. People were milling around outside and some kind of ticketing system was in place that I couldn’t figure out. I eventually gave up.

“I then rented a bike and pedaled all the way up to Palermo, in the eastern section of town. Palermo is the emerging hip section, like Manhattan’s Soho was in the early to mid ’70s.

“Buenos Aires is almost completely flat all the way around town, so biking anywhere is no sweat. You just have to be fearless about buses and crazy cab drivers. I travelled about five or six miles, all in.

“I ate at a small cafe/restaurant on a quiet, tree-lined street in south Palermo, called Viejo Indecente (El Salvador 4960). It has an alternate name of Maldito Salvador, which is what it’s called on the business card and on the website .

“There was an attractive woman with Tourette’s Syndrome sitting behind me. She didn’t seem to be swearing as much as shouting. It was kind of a cross between a loud scream and a loud sneeze. (‘Aaaggghh‘!) I kept asking myself as I ate, ‘Do I want to move outside or something?’

“Buenos Aires is a flat, somewhat hot and sweaty city with superb restaurants and deeply beautiful women, some with bedroom eyes and many with long slender toes. The best part for me was the absurdly low prices. Everything is one-third the cost. It put me in the greatest mood not to have to spend any serious money. I felt like a trust-fund kid.

“I cruised past the brick-walled cemetery where Eva’s remains are entombed, and the whole area around it was covered with T-shirted tourists, swarming like ants. The nearby restaurants were all cheap fast-food joints (McDonald’s, etc.). The vibe felt lurid and grotesque. I peddled on without stopping.

“B.A. is very much the bustling, pulsing place — crowds, music, culture, intensity — but the buses spew out exhaust like there’s no tomorrow, and you’re forced to breathe in the fumes as you’re peddling along, and with all the heat and clamor and the lack of much in the way of old-world architecture I began to conclude that Buenos Aires isn’t as sexy or intriguing as Paris, Rome or Prague. Or Berlin, even.

“But at least it’s gritty and alive, and I’m sure it’s a richer thing for X-factor people who live and work there and congregate at the right places.”