Hipsters NotTuesday, December 11, 2012
|Sherry, Mexico City 1963|
We had Hilary, Bruce, Lauren and Rebecca for dinner on Saturday night. We were celebrating Hilary’s (our youngest daughter) birthday early as it is on December 14. At the table Rebecca brought up the subject of hipsters and hipster culture. Rosemary did not understand so Rebecca explained while looking at me and telling her that is was similar to that of the one that I had lived as a young man. It seems that hipsters of old went to coffee houses and listened to jazz, wore black turtle neck sweaters and discussed Sartre’s discounting the very existence of the subconscious mind.
I thought about it and in my head I looked back at 1963, 1964 when I attended Mexico City College. I had a friend who was in a different line of learning to mine. He was an artist. He wore thick glasses and if you note the picture here he had a pen set in his shirt pocket and a belt case for his reading glasses (or maybe his sun glasses). His name is Robert Hijar and he always seemed to have beautiful women following him. I liked to meet up with him at the school cafeteria where we discussed art, philosophy, music (baroque and avant-garde), and jazz while enjoying the company of his beautiful art groupies. At the time Hijar and a mutual Argentine friend of ours, Sylvia Mansour conspired to find me a girl. Hijar called me up one day to tell me he had organized a blind date for me with a beautiful artistic girl who even liked jazz. I met up with her at a café at the Zona Rosa called El Kineret.
|Alex, Benji & Robert, Mexico City 1963|
The beautiful girl facing me was black. She said to me, “I am Benjamin but call me Benji. I am Jewish.” Over our coffee she informed me that she never had dates with men unless she considered them husband material.
In those two years which were eventually ended by my draft into the Argentine Navy I lived the life of a bohemian. Rebecca would call it a hipster life.
Hijar and I frequented the Benjamin Franklin Library (an arm of the United States Information Service, a side arm of the CIA). Only many years later did Hijar inform me that his parents were agents and that the garage in the back of his house which had many very expensive reel to reel tape recorders was one of his parent’s place of work.
Hijar would sketch while I stared at a girl called Judy Brown who was an acquaintance of Hijar’s. I was very attracted to her and I finally did convince her to visit my mother in Veracruz. The two-way trip was one sided in its romance as she told me she longed for her boyfriend … in California. Perhaps taking her to Veracruz was something like having coffee with Benji.
Hijar was not my only coffee shop companion. I liked to go to a place in the Zona Rosa called the Rana Sabia (the wise frog) where I drank black coffee while reading science fiction. By then I was smoking a pipe (Edgeworth Burley Mixture).
Even though I was studying engineering (I was very good at it until I had to tackle electricity) I was sort of an artsy-fartsy photographer. I went on photo safaris with Hijar and with a German friend. We took pictures at a Mexican Gran Prix and went to small towns outside Mexico City in search of pretty and old churches. We liked to go to the centre of the city, the Zócalo and we haunted the bookstores on Avenida Juarez or I stared at cameras that I could not afford at the national pawn shop, the Monte de Piedad.
We had no interest in popular music and I can remember the very day that my English friend Andrew Taylor (he became a most successful engineer) played for me the first Beatles single. I was not impressed.
By 1963, 64 I found my life’s true calling which was to photograph as many women as I thought attractive. The one here with the delightful nose I believe may have been called Sherry. She was tall, much taller than Hijar and met her through him. I never got past these snaps. But I have retained her negatives all these years.
I don’t think we were hipsters but I will not contradict Rebecca who at least has one thing to proudly claim about her old grandfather.