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In New York my mentor was a friend of a friend called Bob. Bob lived near the apartment I had been lent in west 53rd street. He would meet me each morning in a diner for breakfast and check up on me:

"OK yesterday I told you to see the Citicorp building. Didja see it?"
"Yes Bob."
"OK. And I told you to see the Seagram Building. Didja see it?"
"Er, well, actually Bob, you see…"
"Ass…hole! See it today, willya?!"

Bob was perfect, even if he did try to make me pick up women in bars ("Go on, do that British accent".) Bob is like me. He knows every street and every building. I have seen tears in his eyes when he talks about the city.

So as a guide I am as impatient as he is. I will cluck and nag at my visitor taking them to the version of the city I want them to see. Sights and approaches are preordained: how for example we shall approach the Piazza Navona from precisely that direction because thereby (in the tradition of the old and aesthetic Baedeckers) the contrast between the meanness of the access and the splendour of the Roman square is most accentuated. My visitor to Buenos Aires will (and I mean will), after a walk from the Plaza de Mayo (with pause, not optional) to visit the twenty five storey baroque-ish Edificio Barolo, reach in time for tea the Confiteria Mulino with its huge mottle mirrors and its elderly cummerbunded waiters and a visit to the Colon theatre, home of opera in Buenos Aires and closed when I lived there; but not so closed that you could not pay a man with a torch to show you this titanic space, his lightbeam magically eliciting from the otherwise unpenetrated gloom, an ormolu cornice here, a caryatid there.

   
 

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