In Patagonia Day 44
Tomorrow ends another extended wander as I begin that long slow passage via bus, plane, and train back to the place my passport calls home. My final, non-airport evening demanded a visit to Altamira, a fine brewpub down the hill from my hostel. Just like my favorite Castro pub, it was not open when advertised, so, not wanting to climb back up all those dogshit covered steps, I drifted down to the square with Neptune’s statue, turning into the Bar Cinzano, one of my best random choices this trip. Established in 1896, the Cinzano is a classic bar, straight out of a Hemingway novel or a Chilean version of The Godfather. Fake wood formica counters with the pattern worn off, a line of wooden stools showing decades of sitting, little attempt at decor, just the slow accretion of objects— posters, boat models, a wall with 2014 World Cup brackets. It is a sports bar in the old-school sense. Not some space crowded with TV screens tuned to multiple games selling watery beer and hot wings to a clientele whose best days were in college and who still use the word “bro” without irony. No, the Cinzano has one, not-so-big screen and I am sure is crowded with long-time patrons and fans on match day.
Many years ago I was in Paris for a conference, staying in a small hotel before the days when the rooms had televisions. It was during the EuroCup, so in the evenings after shedding my fellow conferees, I sought out a place to watch the matches. Across the street was a narrow bar filled with elderly Parisians, clearly their neighborhood spot. Against the wall was an old, big-screen tube television— a little grainy, but definitely fitting the decor. I entered to not particularly inviting stares, found a seat in the corner and quietly drank whatever beer they served (the French version of Budweiser). I sat through every game shown, returning nightly throughout the week, cheering for France and the Netherlands (which was at the time my adopted home). As the nights passed, I was greeted with familiar nods, and, toward the end, the patrons were all cheering for my Orange—Hup Holland! unless of course they were playing France.
Clearly I was an outsider at Cinzano, ordered a Quimera pale ale (Santiago brewery), and watched the regulars pass through, as familiar to each other as the worn counters. If I lived in Valparaiso, this is where I would stop at the end of the day, and definitely is where I’d watch football. So grateful this last little wander gave a glimpse of old Valparaiso.
T. Hugh Crawford