Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Floods, Brothels & My Chinese Wedding Bed

Last fall my apartment flooded. I won't bore you with the details of how that happened, but suffice it to say I won't be sending my neighbor a holiday card this year. One rainy day I came home, opened my door and saw 3 inches of water throughout my flat.

What was my first thought as I looked at my new aquarium? It was "how am I going to get this cleaned up in time to make tonight's milonga at the Monte Cristo?" You see, even when swimming in my kitchen, I had my tango priorities straight.

So, I moved out of my flat and into a B&B called, what else, the Monte Cristo. Yes, I saw the irony of the situation. Here I was spending a lot of time tangoing at the Monte Cristo & now I was living in a place by the same name. But that's only where the twisted humor started--it was about to get worse.

After I moved into the Monte Cristo (the B&B, not the place that has the milongas), the owner informed me that it was opened originally as a brothel back in the 1870s and somehow survived the 1906 earthquake. Then he gave me the key to the only room he had left that weekend. I walked into my room and immediately saw a Victorian Canopy Bed. It was one of those frilly things women love & guys hate. I shook my head wondering what I had done to deserve this. But not wanting to dwell on the fact that I was surrounded by a roomful of lace, I changed into my tango clothes and left the Monte Cristo for the Monte Cristo.

I tangoed my tail off that weekend & before I knew it the owner of the B&B informed me I had to move out of the Victorian Canopy Bedroom and into another room. This was because a couple had reserved my specific room months earlier (I'm guessing it wasn't the husband). So, I packed my bags and followed the owner down the halls to my new room. I was happy to be out of that room. I didn't care what kind of room I was moving into--anything would be better than staying in Martha Stewart's dream bedroom.

Or so I thought.

The owner swung open the door of my new room and proudly announced "this is our Chinese Wedding Bedroom!" I started laughing at the sight of the bed feeling like I was caught in some tango twilight zone. Certainly I was on one of those video shows & my tango friends were going to jump out and yell "busted!" But, alas, no, I had just descended another level into my purgatory, which I had just made worse by offending the friendly owner who had been so clearly pleased with the room. I looked around & noticed the oddest looking shower in the corner of the room. But nothing was going to phase me at this point, not even the owner explaining to me how to use the bamboo ladder to climb 5 feet down into the shower.

So, I changed again into my tango clothes and headed out to the Metronome milonga.

This is where I learned something fascinating. Something so shocking, so heretical, so unbelievable, I wouldn't have believed it if it hadn't happened to me. What did I learn?

In certain situations, men are more sympathetic than women!

You can laugh, you can think I'm a fool, but I swear my conversations at the milonga went something like this:

Me: "Yea, my flat flooded, so I had to move into a B&B. I was staying in their Victorian Canopy Bedroom."

My female friend: "Too bad about flood, but that's great about the Victorian Bed! What color is the canopy? Do you have any photos? How tall is it?..."

Me: "Um, I'm not really sure. I had to move out of that room & into the Chinese Wedding Bedroom."

My female friend (looking at me like I'd just won the lottery): "Oh my God, what wood is it made out of? How big is it? It must be beautiful! Do you have any photos of it...?"

Ladies, I'm normally reluctant to give out advice. But if a guy ever tells you he's had to spend the last 5 nights in a Victorian Canopy Bedroom & a Chinese Wedding Bedroom, please don't congratulate him on his incredible luck. Offer him sympathy instead.

And this is where my tango brotherhood rode into town and gave me the only answer one man can give another in depressing straights like this. When I told my tango brothers the same story their response was a universal: "Damn, bro, I'm sorry to hear it--that's just wrong."

My 5 nights at the Monte Cristo turned into 5 weeks, but eventually I did move back into my aquarium. By that time I'd received so many requests for room photos from my tanguera friends, that I took the two above for this tango blog (including the ladder in the backround of the top photo).

What did I learn from this whole experience? There are just some gender divides that can never be crossed, even if you do have a bamboo ladder.


tangobaby said...

Hey Mark,

That was a really cute story. You made me smile imagining it.

But for the record, you should know that not all women find poufy lace attractive. Both of those bedroom sounded horrible, but the Chinese Wedding Bed at least makes an interesting memory.

I think the best part was that you were living in a former brothel (although knowing the little bit that I do of SF history, I would not be surprised if quite a few places were former houses of ill repute). I hope you got some red lightbulbs and had yourself a party at least once!

Tara said...


Thanks for making me laugh. I really enjoyed this story and your wit. Now I want to go to this B&B to see the shower for myself! I can't believe you had to climb down a ladder to shower?!?

Mark Andersen said...

That's true, TangoBaby, I was generalizing even though I have plenty of female friends that don't like frilly.

Interestingly, after I posted it I got an email from a woman asking me detailed questions about the handwork of the Chinese Wedding bed & she wanted more pix.

Wow, I never thought of having a party there. I should've had a milonga in their parlor. That would've felt very much like part of tango's birth in Buenos Aires.

Mark Andersen said...

Thanks, Tara--now I wish I'd taken photos of the shower. It seemed so weird at first, but then it seemed normal within days. Doesn't everyone climb 5 feet down a bamboo ladder to get into their shower?