The Benign Neglect Of The Vancouver CBC Orchestra
Saturday, March 29, 2008
In all the various articles in the Vancouver media of the demise of the CBC Radio Orchestra in September none mention that our nation's orchestra was never Canada's but our very own Vancouver's. When it was first founded by Ira Dilworth in 1938 it was the CBC Vancouver Chamber Orchestra. In 1980 it became the CBC Vancouver Orchestra. Toronto took possesion only in 2000 when it acquired its present name the CBC Radio Orchestra.
In the 60s I used to listen to Willis Conover's jazz program in Voice of America
. From Mexico City I was able to find the station in short wave. Conover familiarized me with cool jazz, the Westcoast California brand of jazz and performers such as Gerry Mulligan, Les McCann and many others. These were unavailable in Mexico City record stores. I was not aware that I was listening to propaganda.
I now love my Canada with its billboard-free highways. But we have more to offer to the world than that. Consider just Vancouver. My daughter Ale returned from Mexico City, not too long ago with a Mexico City Sunday paper. I noted that it had two pages of dance venues, two for theater and the same for classical music. This was astounding until I noticed the music was a surefire 19th century repertoire, the plays (the best of them) were Travels With My Aunt and the worst glorified soap operas. Dance was a legion of dancing swans. There was no experimental music or theatre or modern dance. There was nothing that cannot be found on any given day in our own "struggling world-class" city with its rich modern and classical dance culture, just penned experimental plays and new music concerts or concerts of the lesser known fantastic period of the 17th century, and a new music scene that struggles but still surprises.
Last night I attended a concert of the Pacific Baroque Orchestra
with my daughter Hilary and her two daughters, Rebecca and Lauren. This was a reduced orchestra (the normal one is bigger) of a violin, viola, viola da gamba (or cello), violon and fortepiano. Even the PBO knows of troubled times and often performs in a "pocket orchestra" form. Many national orchestras are beginning to do the same. They spread the work around.
In the 50 and 60s I drew enough maps of Africa using a red pencil to mark the borders of the British properties, protectorates and colonies to learn that the world was being swallowed up into empires. I thought that nationalism was dead and we would soon become one happy capitalist conglomerate nation. I was wrong and so were the experts. Nationalism is alive and well and the concept is spreading.
I was talking to a CBC producer friend. I asked him, "Why didn't the CBC Radio Orchestra travel to the north of Canada to promote its brand of music?" I was astounded when he answered, "They went in September." All the good things that this Vancouver-based orchestra has done to spread culture in Canada has been unreported. That emminent and cultured American Senator, the late Daniel Patrick Moynihan would only smile.
When I wrote about the CBC Radio Orchestra here
Bernardi had not yet stepped down (to be replaced by trombonist Alain Trudel, in itself an unique Canadian concept). I did not mention that the patrician conductor, John Eliot Gardiner avoids mentioning his stay in Vancouver in his lofty curriuculum vitae. Benign neglect must have been in full force by then. I state my fears that the CBC Radio Orchestra is one of the last bastions for the performance and (very important) recording of works by Canadian contemporary composers.
All the above and specifically my mentioning Wilis Conover and the Voice of America is patent evidence that the CBC Vancouver Orchestra (as I will always remember it) was a potential Canadian cultural gift to the world that was never used to its true potential. Can you imagine the columns of copy that would have been generated by :
Canadian Cultural Icon Plays To Its Troops in Afghanistan
Canadian Orchestra Plays In The West Bank.
Our much lauded but strained concept that Canada is a peace keeping nation would be far better promoted with cultural contributions to the world with our music, theater, dance and visual arts. A cultural peace corps of sorts under the umbrella of the CBC would promote our way of life to the world. Unfortunately the concept of culture in the modern CBC is to announce and promote, ad nauseum, the name of Jian Ghomeshi. A one-man-orchestra is cheaper.
Also not generally known nor have they ever been acknowledged is how CBC producers George Laverock and Karen Wilson (in other countries they would have been a legion, not two) and the CBC Radio Orchestra put together wonderful concerts, recorded for the radio and on CDs between 1979 and 1989. I can remember the gaunt and over-worked faces of those two (Laverock and Wilson) who with the help of virtuoso recording engineers like Don Harder made music that dazzled Europe. I know that Harder was often wooed by European recording companies and we all know how happy Cecilia Bartoli is when Mario Bernardi is present in her performances.
In the pictures here that's conductor Mario Bernardi and violinist Corey Cerovsek
in rehearsal in the CBC's Studio One.
An Evening In Lillooet - An Afternoon At Vandusen - A Pleasant Routine
Friday, March 28, 2008
There's nothing more comforting for us, specially for Lauren and for Rebecca, than routine. An evening in Lillooet, an afternoon at VanDusen. The seasons change both locations but the places somehow seem the same in a comforting way. The mountains may have snow or not, but they are always there in the same spot. In VanDusen Lauren and Rebecca like to take the same paths. The like to go to the maze or look for turtles having a siesta on the rocks.
Rain or shine, summer or winter, VanDusen is always a delight for them. Lillooet promises the adventure of "camping out", of strange insects or the possible sighting of a bear. Lillooet is getting there. "How long before we get to Lytton?" Rebecca might say or Lauren will count the tunnels. Are there 7 or 8? We always forget. But we like the Alexandra Tunnel as it is almost the longest one.
Lillooet is fire. Ale slashes and burns the grass. She burns the dead wood that falls from the willows. She makes fires for marshmallows. I fire up the small gas Webber for the ham stakes or the meat tacos. Ale chops wood for the wood stove that heats the living room as we sit to watch a DVD film.
We know that the red rhodo at VanDusen would not survive the intense desert cold or the scorching heat of Lillooet. But Lillooet is our experiment. We divide up our plants to see which will slowly (as we think most plants do) adapt to a new climate. We have been taking clumps of Miscanthus sinensis
'Gracillimus" and the smaller 'Yaku Jima'. We think this ornamental grass might survive. I have given Ale some old roses with Japanese Rugosa parentage. They will surely be hardy.
At Ale's you can see forever which is exactly as far as the mountains on both sides of the canyon. When we return to Vancouver it is odd to look out on our garden. The smaller scale plays tricks and it is almost unnerving.
In going to Lillooet I pass the ghosts of my memory. A biker bash in Boston Bar, a night drive to the Charles Hotel (also in Boston Bar) in my blue Fiat X-19 with Les to exorcise daemons with the help of Lou Reed. Taking pictures of elite Canadian Pacific scalers near Lytton. They induced small landslides to prevent big ones from destroying track and rail equipment. Walking through Spences Bridge one afternoon with Mac Parry. I have forgotten why we went and why we did it. I do remember Mac saying, "I want to show you something neat." Mac had a way of pronouncing neat
in a special way.
Some day Lauren and Rebecca will have their own memory ghosts to pass on their way to Lillooet. And they might even decide on exactly how many of those tunnels there are.
Un Pan De Dios
Thursday, March 27, 2008
Riding the B-Line bus on Broadway to teach my class at Focalpoint on 10th Avenue I was startled by the sign Transilvania Peasant Bread
near Collingwood. I decided that one day I would stop and have a look. I wanted to know if the baker was Hungarian or Romanian. As Erdély, Transylvania was Hungarian until recent times. This area which means beyond the forest
in Latin is now Romanian. Yesterday I finally satisfied my curiousity.
The pleasant baker that greeted me in the cozy brick oven store had mostly empty shelves with only five loaves of the Sprouted Wheat Bread to testify that I was indeed in a bakery. Florin Moldovan told me he was Romanian and the brochure he handed me stated that Transilvania (with an i and not with a y as the Romans did not have a y) Peasant Bread bakes only two other varieties besides the one I purchased. These are the Peasant Bread and a Light Rye Bread.
A woman arrived, an obvious steady client who was disappointed not to find her favourite Peasant Bread on the shelf. She bought the Sprouted Wheat Bread and told me I would like mine. This I did as I ate approximately one third of the still warm loaf on my way home.
The whole pleasant affair made me think of bread. It made me think of bread in my native language - Spanish. I realized that even though bread plays an important role in all cultures it plays an innordinate role in my Spanish language.
Consider the word for baker in Spanish is panadero
. That means one who sells or bakes bread. In English your baker could bake pies beside bread, pan
. We are more bread specific in Spanish! Since bread and water are obvious necessities for our survival the surname Pan y Agua
(modernized to Paniagua
) has been in existence since the 16th century. The surname originated in the province of León where it spread to Extremadura from whence it came to the New World in the ships of conquistadors like Cortez and Pizarro who were from Extremadura.
Un pan de dios
, (literally bread from God) is not equivalent to manna from heaven. In Spanish it describes a kindly person who will do anything to help those in need. There are many more expressions in Spanish with pan
in them. My favourite is pan comido
(bread that has been eaten). It means that a particular activity or job is an easy job to accomplish. Easy as pie?
When we first came to Canada 37 years ago we missed the tasty Mexican bolillo
similar to the Argentine flauta
(flute) or what we would call French bread. When we lived in Arboledas I used to buy bolillo dough at a nearby bakery to make the best pizza ever. I never told Rosemary what makes the bolillos in some Mexican bakeries saltier than in others. They say that bakers, who sweat lots being near the hot ovens usually bake topless. Sweat runs down and they wipe it off with the dough they are kneading.
The only bread that had any kind of taste was a Safeway brand of Dutch Crunch Bread. Everything else tasted of cardboard to us. It tasted of that Mexican white bread called Bimbo.
Bimbo, pan Bimbo
¡Hay! Que re-rico
Es el pan Bimbo.
Now I would challenge anybody who would say that a good loaf of bread cannot be found in Vancouver. Rosemary particularly loves the Safeway brand of medias lunas
or croissants. I favour the IGA pizza bagels.
And with my discovery of Transilvania Peasant Bread on 3474 West Broadway it has never been more evident.
In the evening when Rebecca and I went to Opera Sushi
I was only able to have a miso soup. The bread had filled me. Taking Rebecca home, she asked, "Can you put the Dracula music?" I knew exactly what she meant. I turned on the CD player and we listened to Bach's Toccata in D minor for organ. That piece of organ music is as much the bread of life as Florin Moldovan's loaves.
Two Jorges- A Card Shark, A Deaf Card Reader & Alsatian Food
Wednesday, March 26, 2008
I first met Jorge Urréchaga in 1972. Both of us were teaching at a private high school for rich kids. Jorge was born in Cuba of Basque heritage and he and his family had moved to Mexico City during the Batista defeat by Fidel Castro. We had not spoken much at first. His English, while not perfect was precise and he taught English Literature. His Spanish was perfect and precise. We talked to each other in the formal usted
. Instead of ¿Cómo estás?
(How are you?) we said ¿Cómo está usted?
which was stiffly formal. Until the last day we saw each other, when he came to Vancouver by bus from San Francisco in 1995 we used the usted
. Just before Christmas on the first school year both Jorge and I (I am called Jorge Alejandro and Jorge always called me Jorge) had a boy from the Korean Embassy as a student. Jorge was given a bottle of Möet Chandon Champagne and I received a bottle of The Glenlivet Single Malt (the 18 year old one). We both eyed our bottles and without saying any words we exchanged them. The next morning a very terrible looking Jorge with deep bags told me, "No matter how much water I used to dilute that whiskey it was always strong! The colour was always dark." We became very good friends then.
By 1972 we were living in the outskirts of Mexico City in a neighbourhood called Arboledas
. Jorge, who lived with his mother and younger sister (his father had died) would visit me in his souped up Ford Falcon. When I was in that car I was always terrified. He drove it as if he wanted to die. Jorge had a fine tenor voice and was a fan of opera. He would would stay late, even after Rosemary had gone up to bed. He would sing his favourite arias. Rosemary would have to close Ale's (our daughter was 4) room door. His favourite opera was Umberto Giordano's Andrea Chénier
. I soon knew this opera
very well. He also introduced me to Vivaldi's Gloria in D major
. He brought the Vivaldi one day and convinced me to buy his Acoustic Research
transistor amplifier and his Acoustic Research turntable. I would say that Jorge fine tuned my ears and taught me to appreciate music I was ignorant of.
One of the most interesting moments of our friendship happened one day when he called to tell me that we were going to see Andrea Chénier at Bellas Artes, the Mexico City opera house. A young Mexican tenor was singing the part. His name was Plácido Domingo. Because Domingo's mother sang in a review theatre, el Teatro Blanquita, Mexicans considered him a Mexican then and do so even now. We listened to the first act in a TV station technical van. Jorge had connections. We then went to a loading bay and Jorge knocked in a special way. The doors opened and we were whisked to an empty box. This was the media box which was always empty.
Jorge would call for other reasons. "Tell Rosemary that we are going to the horse races in the afternoon and we are dining in the evening." We would meet Jorge at the Hipódromo de las Américas
. Jorge always chatted with a Jewish friend who owned a horse hair brush company. They would do this as the horses paraded for the paddock inspection. It seems the man knew his horses. He knew his horses by the sheen of their coats. We would pass on most races and then Jorge would tell us to bet on a particular one. I was always cautious but we always won. With part of the money the three of us would then dine at our favourite restaurant, Sep's
, which featured Alsatian food. I don't think I ever bought the Jewish horse hair expert knew his horses and I suspected that Jorge knew a few of the jockeys who probably threw races.
Another time Jorge called and said, "Tell your cousin Robby (he lived nearby) that we want to play some bridge." I told Jorge that Robby was an uncommonly good player. "Don't worry about it. If he asks just tell him we use the Schenken Convention." We of course won all night in spite of the fact that I have never been a good card player. I soon found out why Jorge won at bridge and at any other card game. No matter how perfect a set of cards was, within 15 minutes Jorge had every car memorized by the nicks or irregularities in the back. After 15 minutes our oponents could just as well have been playing with their cards facing the other way.
Jorge was into chess and he told me the history, play by play, of the world's most interesting players. He had a preference for a man called José Raúl Capablanca who happened to be a Cuban diplomat. From Jorge I found out all the ways chess masters cheated and how they bullied their oponents into making mistakes. I felt I knew both Bobby Fischer and Boris Spassky intimately. But then I also knew all about Maria Callas and Alfredo di Stéfano.
But the most unnerving calls were the ones were Jorge asked, "Is your mother deaf?" My mother lived with us and she suffered Meniere's which made her very deaf and very dizzy on some days. When that happened Jorge would come and my mother would read his cards. My mother, according to Jorge, was extremly good at it when she was deaf.
A month before my mother died she read her own cards at a function at the Filipino Embassy. She was reading her cards in the presence of the Cultural Attaché who was also good at card reading. We called her "la bruja", the witch. Something happened (I was there) because there was a sudden silence. We all asked but neither my mother or the Attaché made any comments. After my mother died the Attaché called to tell me that my mother had dealt herself the Queen of Spades and she knew she was going to die.
My mother was very deaf the one last day that Jorge came to visit us. She read his cards and told him he would be flying to Europe soon with a friend who was not good for him and that an accident would happen.
Jorge went to Europe without telling me who his friend was.
A couple of months later he called from Rome. "I have to return home now." On the spur of the moment I said, "Did you run over some old lady?" There was silence and Jorge asked, "How did you know? I have to leave town or I will be put in jail.She just stepped from the curb. There was nothing I could do."
Once Jorge returned I was walking in the Zona Rosa in Mexico City when I spotted him wearing a black leather jacket as he emerged from his Falcon with a young man (perhaps a boy). It was then that I realized that Jorge was gay and being gay in macho Mexico was not easy. I kept this to myself and I never asked.
Shortly before we came to Vancouver Jorge called me. We met at a cafe and he told me this story.
When I was in my teens I joined the Cuban Communist Party. It was the fashionable thing to do. I soon lost interest and gave it up. Recently I went to Houston for a nose operation. I had a blockage that prevented me from singing to my best potential. When I entered the US I was asked if I had ever been a member of the Communist party. I knew that if I was affirmative they would have prevented me from entering. So I told them no. The operation was successful and when I returned home my mother gave me a letter that had arrived from the US Government. I was banned for life for ever entering the US. When I returned from Rome after that accident my direct flight to Mexico City was diverted to Miami becaused of engine trouble. As soon as the plane landed two FBI agents met at my seat and took me to a room where they strip searched me and then put me on the first plane out which happened to be to Paris. I had many problems securing enough funds to fly back to Mexico City.
In 1995 Jorge called me, out of the blue. He was in Vancouver to visit a friend and he wanted to see me. I picked him up at the Greyhound Bus Station and he proceded to tell me that he was gay, that he was married to a man and that he lived in San Francisco. He told me had AIDS and that he was alive because of a potent cocktail that he took every day. He had dinner at home and with Rosemary we reminisced about the horse races and dining at Sep's. I looked at Jorge's gaunt and sad face and I knew I would never see him again. He gave me his phone number in San Francisco. By the time I remembered to call the line had been disconnected.
To me Jorge had a little of Byron in him. He was neither good nor bad. He was a complex mixture. He was a faithful friend who introduced me to opera. I respected him for never taking advantage of his talent for cards or for winning horse races to become very rich. He seemed to have in check that ambition all of us have for power and wealth. I think he was a bit of a hood. We all need to know a hood. It makes our life that much more interesting, that much more understandable.
If there was one tragedy in our friendship it is that I never thought to take his picture. The closest I ever got was this snap of our new arctic blue VW which according to Rosemary's (that's Rosemary in the back seat with Ale, an baby Hilary in the front) I took it near the Etchegaray post office were we kept a postal box. That's Jorge's back in the front.
Yumi Eto's Grand Fashion Sense, Mine - Not & Doug Coupland Lends A Hand
Tuesday, March 25, 2008
Since I was a little boy I often heard my mother tell me, "Hay poca gente fina como nosotros." This sort of meant, "There are few people around with our bearing, good sense, taste and manners."
For the spring issue, 2000, of Nuvo Magazine (a magazine for which I worked for short while) I was assigned to photograph an emerging Vancouver fashion designer called Yumi Eto
. Because this magazine had foresight (it is now standard editorial procedure) they arranged for me to photograph Miss Eto at a small Vancouver boutique hotel called Le Soleil
on Hornby Street. It was not that she ever stayed there but the art director told me it would look good in the photo credit department.
I have never really had much of desire to dress fashionably although I have had my moments. Back in the early 50s in Buenos Aires I was extremely ashamed of my Argentine jeans when my fellow American students at the American School wore Lees, Levis and Wranglers. I could not explain to my mother that all jeans were the same. I remember nagging her until she bought me a pair of black high top Pirelli tennis shoes. We called them tennis shoes then. And in Rosita, Northern Mexico I could never make my Lees look quite like Sammy Simpson's
In the late 50s I discovered the button-down shirt and black cordovan loafers
. I have never lost my love affair with former and I have long lost interest in expensive shoes. In the late 80s I went to New York City and went directly to Brooks Brothers to buy a blue Oxford button-down shirt. When it got time to pay, my American Express Card was rejected and I was most embarrased when the man behind the till (he looked and sounded like a failed Holywood British actor) said, "There seems to be a problem, sir, with your plastic." The problem was resolved to my satisfaction when I called up the folks at American Express but somehow the shine was off in wanting to be fashionable.
I now have no fashion drive or sense. I buy blue and black jeans at Mark's Wear Warehouse. Of late I have been indulging in the stretch variety of blue jeans. They would have been anathema a couple of years ago. I buy my black oxford shoes at Mark's, too. Every couple of years I get some dark blue and black mock turtle neck long sleeved cotton shirts. I used to wear all kinds of T-shirts (my collection hovered around 75) but now I will either wear pictures of my granddaughters on white T-shirts or black or blue plain T-shirts (from Mark's). I buy my boxer shorts at Simpson Sears.
While I insist in writing here that I was never crazy about fashion, my daughters never fail to remind me how I
used to carefully dress before going to a punk concert at the Smiling Buddha
. I wore tight black jeans, black Big John slip on low cut boots, a black T-shirt and a black leather jacket. The whole package failed on the spot as soon as I pulled out an Irish Peterson pipe
(in a stle called Canadian) and filled it with Balkan Sobranie tobacco and lit up.
Vancouver Magazine dispatched me to photograph another fashion designer in the late 80s called Katherine Regehr
, (right). A young Doug Coupland, (below, left) insisted in coming as he said he would help me style the photo. He did and my photo looked grand.
Even though I have no desire to be fashionable I remember some of the nice things that did happen thanks to the fact that through my work with magazines I had to at least know something about fashion. Recently after a successful shoot, a red haired woman with many freckles brought me white roses. It made me remember only one other occasion when something similar happened.
Yumi Eto was so pleased with her portrait that she sent me white roses.
"Camping Out" In Lillooet - Lauren Smiles, Rebecca Doesn't
Monday, March 24, 2008
As a boy in Buenos Aires my parents used to send me to the camp. Camp
, was the word the British living in Argentina had borrowed directly from the Spanish campo
as in campo abierto
or open country. Right after the Christmas season, when Buenos Aires was its most sweltering, I was sent to some place either in the province of Córdoba, La Pampa or Corrientes
. I remember that the one in Córdoba was called Glen Rest and boys and girls from the British and American community in Buenos Aires were shipped there for a couple of weeks to rough it.
According to Rosemary going to Lillooet
to visit Ale, our eldest daughter, with our granddaughters, Lauren and Rebecca, is just like camping. But this is a different camping from the one in BA. It is a rougher kind even though my daughter has amenities that Glen Rest did not have, like central air conditioning. This is so even though the house is not quite one in my opinion and closer to a well appointed shack! Rosemary brings everything we might need, even our own large skillet frying pan so I can make the breakfast pancakes. Watching Ale slash and burn the grass on her property (with the accompanying smell) and her insistence in lighting a fire outside in the evening so that Lauren and Rebecca could cook marshmallows is what made it seem like we were camping. And very pleasant it was!
During our two-night stay over the Easter weekend Lauren and Rebecca planted daffodils and they went fishing but caught nothing. They quickly lost interest in flying a kite (I could barely keep it aloft as it seemed to have stall characteristics that made it suicidal) and it was finally "eaten" by one of Ale's fruit trees. I had to constantly cajole (or force) Rebecca from playing computer games. Lauren was much more willing to follow Ale around outside in the sunny but cold weather. And we cooked a lot, it seems.
I almost did not notice that when Ale's 96 year-old friend Margaret arrived, on Saturday evening, with her daughter Lenora for barbecued ham stakes, Rosemary's scalloped potatoes and Rebecca's salad that she (Margaret) noted that both girls had grown from last fall. Once they had gone we sat to watch the Ben Kingsley, Sissy Spacek and William Hurt version of children's author Natalie Babbitt's novel, Tuck Everlasting.
Ale, who had not connected her TV to any cable or satellite dish since she arrived in Lillooet last July, had depended on a DVD player to watch movies. It had finally given up the ghost and we had arrived with a new player. I had carefully chosen Tuck Everlasting
and the Walt Disney Treasure Island
to give us some family amusement but with a challenge. It was interesting that the challenge happened even though both films were Walt Disney. We all noted that Robert Newton's Long John Silver was a full-fledged complex villain. He was neither all good nor all bad. In the end Silver escapes with the treasure. This was most un-Disney most un-Hollywood. When I saw the film in 1951 I was 9. I have a feeling that Rebecca understood the villain's very human behaviour much better than I ever did. In fact I am sure that I never caught on until this second time around.
Rebecca had already seen Tuck Everlasting
about a gentle family who after drinking from a spring under an oak tree had all stayed the same age for 100 years and were "doomed" not to die. It was most un-childlike that Rebecca refused to tell us about the plot twists or the ending even when we asked!
But it was the never-aging family Tuck that shocked me into remembering how Margaret had noted that the children had grown. Earlier that day, in the morning I had told Rebecca to grab Lilly, her stuffed cat and to pose for me by a willow tree and under and apricot tree. It felt different. Indeed both Rebecca and Lauren had grown. Paradoxically Lauren who used to be very difficult and fussy (about what she ate, for example) was easygoing and happy, while Rebecca who had always been easygoing and happy was more morose and even became angry when Ale's internet stopped working.
I told her to think about being a child who was becoming a teenager who was currently caught in a bittersweet transition. She seemed to understand and looked at the camera sadly. But when Rebecca asked to take a picture of Lauren (Rebecca had to bring a milk box to stand on so she could look through my large camera) Lauren, the child that she is, saved the day with a pleasant smile.
In a scene in Tuck Everlasting
Angus Tuck (William Hurt) takes out Winnie Foster (Alexis Bledel) out in a rowboat to try to explain his and his family's fate. He explains, "We're like rocks stuck a the side of the stream," as all around them leaves rattle in the wind and autumn approaches. I must take Tuck's advice and glory at my own mortality (unlike his immortality) and enjoy every instant as my granddaughters grow up and change.
El Huevo De Colón - Columbus's Egg
Sunday, March 23, 2008
My on line dictionary of the Spanish language the RAE
(Real Academia Española) defines el huevo de Colón
or Columbus's egg:
huevo ~ de Colón.
1. m. Cosa que aparenta tener mucha dificultad pero resulta ser fácil al conocer su artificio.
This translates as: That which appears to be very difficult but is easy once the trick is known.
Venetian Girolamo Benzoni in his History of the New World
wrote that when Columbus returned from his trip to the New World and sat down with nobles of the Spanish court they tried to diminish his accomplishment telling him that sooner or later some other Spaniard would have discovered it if he (Columbus) had not. Spaniards were so enterprising, the nobles said, that it would have been inevitable. Columbus asked a servant to bring an egg and he dared the nobles to stand it up without any help. The egg went around and no enterprising Spaniard was able to accomplish the feat. Columbus gently tapped the bottom of the egg (he dented it without breaking it) and it stood with no help. The nobles then understood the point that Columbus was trying to make - someone had to be first. To this day we say in Spanish that Columbus was the first man to make and egg stand. Most think this story as apocryphal but it sits well with most of Latin America and Spain where Columbus is still seen with some reverence.
In fact there is a monument to the discovery of America by Columbus in the shape of an egg in Sant Antoni de Portmany, Ibiza, Spain. Inside the hole there is a stylized model of one of Columbus's caravels.
And there is a lesser known one in Seville.
Eggs are very important to Latin Americans. I will never forget seeing an early Mexican talk show on TV in the late 60s. Some comedian was asked what he put on his eggs in the morning. Since eggs are testicles to us, his answer brought down the house, "Talcum powder, madam." A huevo
or testicle is also called a cojón
and the expression ,"Me importa un huevo
," (or cojón) means, "I don't give a damn." Cartagena-born author Arturo Perez Reverte has written a very funny essay on the subject. Part of it is referenced here
But the funniest story on Columbus's egg is a Catalonian song by the group La Trinca.
EL HUEVO DE COLON
En toda la historia sin discusión
no hay un huevo mas famoso que el de Colón,
Se hizo amigo de la reina
por medios muy singulares
haciéndole con un huevo
unos juegos malabares
Y le dijo: "isabelita,
a ver si me dáis un barco
que quiero echar un vistazo
al otro lado del charco".
La reina se convenció
no se sabe cómo fué
si no fue por lo del huevo
¡vete a saber porqué!
Y embarcó con los Pinzones
que eran unos marineros
y estuvieron en remojo
mas de tres meses enteros
Y cuando todos decían:
"Colón, ¡que te den morcilla!"
escucharon un calipso
"¡Ya estamos en las Antillas!"
Y feliz de estar en tierra
besó el suelo con unción
como hace el papa de Roma
cuando sale de excursión
y volvieron a España
y aquí se termina el cuento
que empezó como una coña
y acabó en descubrimiento.
Y se trajo de recuerdo
para la reina y el rey
cuatro indios con maracas
que cantaban "Siboney"
Y así gracias a Colón
hay tiendas de ultramarinos
tabaco, patatas, mulatas
y psiquiatras argentinos
y lo de la Madre patria
y los trescientos millones
corridos, guarachas, pachangas
y otros ritmos sabrosones
En toda la historia sin discusión
no hay un huevo más famoso
ni ques sea tan vistoso,
más glorioso, más garboso
más rumboso, más marchoso
que el de Colón.
Lletra i música: LA TRINCA
I will only translate this passage to give you an idea:
Y así gracias a Colón
Thanks to Columbus
hay tiendas de ultramarinos
there are grocery stores that sell products from the New World
tabaco, patatas, mulatas
tobbacco, potatoes, mulattas
y psiquiatras argentinos
and Argentine psychiatrists
y lo de la Madre patria
and that thing about the Mother country
y los trescientos millones
and the three hundred million
corridos, guarachas, pachangas
y otros ritmos sabrosones
and other really juicy rythms