A Wallet from Paseo de Recoleta
Meeting local artisans and craftmakers is a great way to connect when traveling. I don’t mean beach vendors who hawk blankets and t-shirts sporting crass puns and inappropriate cartoons, rather local sales folks at street fairs and farmer’s market style gatherings that sell locally produced wares. Like the Ybor City Market in Tampa.
Every Sunday in Buenos Aires you can visit “Paseo de Recoleta,” at the large park near the Recoleta Cemetary and Señora del Pilar Church.
My travel mate Lou and I were wandering around here on a sunny October Sunday, taking in the live music in between perusing belts, jackets and other leather goods, while appreciating the relaxed atmosphere. Everyone was having a great time strolling the booths or picnicking on the green listening to live music. These were exactly the type of crafts and souvenirs my friend wanted to find. He reminded me this again, the first time a week earlier when chiding me for purchasing an “Evita” coffee mug at a Florida Street crap shack.
I bought a few shirts for my niece Lili, a belt, and when I saw a stylish single fold leather wallet I immediately knew it was a perfect replacement for my current wallet of 10 years. It was soft suede leather with a sharp emblem on the side. The gentlemen selling them made them all, and I knew it would be an excellent personal investment. More so than an Evita coffee mug.
Back home I transferred over my contents and showed off the craftsmanship to friends and coworkers. The weeks after my return were busy training and getting to know C.J., a three year old special needs rescue chihuahua that had mysteriously found his way to our door from the Adams County animal shelter.
A month later I found my wallet on the floor next to a chair I never sit in. “Strange,” I thought. I assumed that it had fallen from my messenger bag. I don’t lose things, and that should have been a red flag that something was up. A few days later I came downstairs to find C.J. entertaining himself on the couch by holding my wallet down while picking and tearing at the seams. He had stuck his little snout into my messenger bag, grabbed my treasured wallet, and entertained himself all Friday evening gnawing it apart.
My heart sank. I was furious that a special momento and something I valued was now a soggy chew toy. Why couldn’t he had found the stone I had heisted from Calle Laprida?
I reprimanded him in the best manner I was able and gave him a long time out while drying the wallet and the two slobber soaked 20 dollar bills. The wallet was torn and ruined. I’m not a professional dog trainer, but I know the window of discipline for dogs is short. I went to bed without speaking to C.J., but we made up the next day and I could tell by his bulging brown eyes he knew he had done wrong. Or maybe he just wanted to go for a walk in the park.
That weekend I looked through my little pile of stuff still in my travel bag. I save things like city guides, club flyers and art programs. I had a small paper bag with the name and insignia of Luis Tinti – the gentleman who handcrafted his leather goods and ran his booth. Even better, his email was clearly marked on the bag.
I snapped a few photos of the destroyed wallet, and sent him an email in Spanish explaining what had happened, and how much I appreciated the wallet. I asked him if he had an identical one he could mail, and sent him the locations of a Fed-Ex. He wrote back, very appreciate of my note and commiserated C.J.’s behavior. He said he was in the process of producing more with my favored design, and sending it Correo Argentino would be more economical. I told him to take his time, and he insisted I not pay until it arrived.
A few weeks later a perfect wallet showed up. I wired him some money (first time ever using Western Union) and send him some extra for his time and consideration. Although I love C.J. I don’t trust yet that he won’t smell the new leather from three rooms away and do the same, so I’ve continued using the original ripped wallet while saving my new one for a special occasion – like my return to South America.
I suppose the down side to acquiring goods that have special meaning and significance, is that you can really get blue when they are lost are destroyed. Fortunately in this case it worked out, and I thank Luis for that. If visiting the Paseo de Recoleta I highly recommend tracking him down. Just keep your good leather away from C.J. I also purchased a pair of leather shoes by Oggi, which I only keep at work.
I do use my cheesy “Evita” mug daily – it’s a perfect scoop size for C.J.’s dog food.