The Persistence Of Memory
Saturday, June 23, 2012
|Ellen Carter - Buenos Aires - 1929|
The old couple used to drive by as I would get into my car. Without looking at me Henry Iseli would wave at me. He and his wife Leona were our neighbours from down the street. He had a little shop where he fixed and made violins. They were living on Athlone when we arrived in 1986. Perhaps a couple of years ago I noticed that his car on his driveway had suffered a front end collision. They did not repair it and he drove what must have been his wife’s car. I am sure they were in their 80s. A few months ago they moved out and their house was put up for sale. It was bought in under a week.
We are now keeping our windows shut as the house is being demolished. I will tell Rosemary to park our Malibu on the boulevard. As the dump trucks line up on our street to receive the detritus that was a fine home our car could be sideswiped. The noise has made our cats nervous. And of course as soon as the noise of the demolition is over, it will not be long before the ubiquitous nail staplers with which they now build homes will be our garden music this summer. Relief is not to happen as the house next door was also sold. It is only a matter of weeks before it too comes down.
If that weren’t enough we have been receiving mild but persistent door knocks from real estate agents wanting to see to what state of decrepitude we arrived at. Perhaps we will sell soon. It is inevitable that we will. My only hope of escape (and force Rosemary to deal with it) is to be vaporized in whatever forthcoming airplane trip I may take.
Everybody will tell you, and we were told how fast time passes once one reaches a certain age. It only seems like it was yesterday that we moved in. But 26 years have passed. We have had the house painted twice and the roof done once. Comparing the garden today with what it looked like back in 1986 would have made the original owner Kay Young doubt it was her garden. So many of the Lawson cypresses have died of root rot and three cherry trees died of old age.
Rosemary fears the day the house is sold and the excavators destroy our memories within the walls and our gardening efforts outside. I think I can safely say I can move out and not look back. But I could be wrong.
|Harry Waterhouse Hayward & Ellen Carter|
The melancholy induced by the wrecking of the Iseli home isn’t entirely so. Today I found (I have lost it so many times but the last time I did was quite a few years ago) the portrait of my grandmother Ellen Carter (curiously nobody in our family ever called her Ellen Waterhouse-Hayward or even Ellen Hayward). The photograph had been mailed to me from Argentine at least 20 years ago by my “uncle Leo Mahdjubian. When my grandfather Harry (in the second photograph) died sometime in the middle 20s Ellen had to make ends meet so she started a pensión
. One of her favourite pensioneros
was Leo, of Armenian descent; he had fought in the Black Watch in WWI and worn a kilt. He became a favourite of Ellen and of my father, brother and sisters. So Leo was “adopted” into the family. For many years well into the 70s he was our family’s low interest banker.
I believe that the only way not to lose a photograph is to frame it or put it into a family album. This time around I plan to frame it.
|Leo Mahdjubian & Alex - Buenos Aires 1966|
And yet I think, will there be anybody in my family who will care? After a couple of generations family pictures seem to lose their meaning. But these two pictures still charm my soul but not enough to mask the melancholy that makes me wonder what happened to all the mementos, and framed (or album) photographs of the Leonis. They were childless. Once dead (and they may still be alive) there will be no traces of them (violins, perhaps?) and the new house where theirs was will remain a memory of what it was before, by their neighbours until we too go the way of the wrecking ball.
A Polish Photographer Amazes
Friday, June 22, 2012
|Photo by Ricard Twardzick|
I found this image while leafing through Photodiscovery – Masterworks of Photography 1840 -1940
by Bruce Bernard at my Vancouver Public Library. I hurried home to scan the picture. The photograph, an albumen print, was taken in the latter part of the 19th century by noted Polish photographer Ricard Twardzick. I am amazed that it seems to have a very contemporary look.
Then on a different page I noticed the picture you see below. It is taken by a now unknown Turkish photographer called Ahmet Ertuğ. Could this be the same model? Is the tattoo that of a salamander? I suspect that this woman may have been a belly dancer or courtesan.
|Photo by Ahmet Ertuğ|
Rosemary - The Snob In Our Garden
Thursday, June 21, 2012
Rosemary paid Rebecca today to remove the spent flowers from some of our rhododendrons. It dawned on me that all the rhododendrons in our garden have bloomed and I did not take pictures of any of them. I will have to wait for another year for the chance.
It seems that a garden, with a few exceptions is a fish story. Any wonderful rose today is still the smaller fish that got away yesterday.
|Astrantia maxima |
In spite of such conflict there is some harmony in our garden. When we started in the late 80s, Rosemary had her
garden and I had mine.
She had her
plants and I had my
plants. “Alex, why are you planting hostas in my perennial bed? You have a whole hosta bed there.” Or I might have said to her, “You should take care of the plants in your bed. They need watering. I am not going to water them for you.” Slowly we came to realize that the whole garden was ours. We started mixing our plants and worked jointly. In some cases Rosemary even asked,” I have an empty spot here. Do you have a hosta we could plunk there?”
|Clematis 'Duchess of Edinburgh'|
Rosemary did develop a curious habit of losing interest in plants that I became interested in. She was first with roses. Once I became crazy about them she lost interest. When I started buying hardy geraniums she was no longer so excited about them.
At this stage of our garden, which is 26 years old harmony does reign even though we sometimes sit on a sunny corner with our cats and look at some of the very large trees, and the unwanted shade that they produce, that we planted that seemed so small then. Some plants look tired but our affection for them keeps us from turfing them. Plants can be like old books.
|Clematis 'Duchess of Edinburgh' |
Then there are plants that I have forgotten about that suddenly I remember and when I go and look for them they are gone. Such was the case, just a week ago of Hosta
‘Reversed’. I always pointed this hosta out to visitors as my dyslexic hosta. “I am a dyslexic, you know.” I remembered the plant in the middle of the night. It became a nightmare as searched through the garden in my dream.
While harmony does prevail Rosemary and I still have our differences. Her interest in roses is not as keen as mine even though she is aware that the colour in our garden now (with all those rhododendrons gone) is being provided by the roses. And come late August, many of my hostas look quite pristine while her perennials are tired.
The biggest difference between us is Rosemary’s uncanny ability to know what a good (and fashionable) plant is. A good plant seems to be some sort of Man Booker type plant. It wins prizes but nobody (at least not me!) reads it. A good plant has to have and undefinable and esoteric beauty. Consider Rosemary’s fave of fave plant. This is the Astrantia maxima
. I have scanned the flower here and its back. It has no scent. This lack of scent is a major improvement over her other favourite plant, Astrantia major subs. involucrata
‘Shaggy’. Shaggy smells like the armpits of Mexicans riding a second class bus, a particular one called Circuito Hospitales Cuarteles Tlalnepantla y Anexas.
For today’s blog I will not write about my beautifully scented roses or my upright, pristine green, blue and variegated hostas. I made it a point to scan three of Rosemary’s plants and perhaps those reading here will comprehend my wife’s fine taste for fine plants. I must admit that in spite of everything Clematis
'Duchess of Edinburgh' has a lovely flower. I dislike most clematis as few have scent and many are lurid in colour. To top that they have pruning schedules that rival integral calculus in complexity.
Rosemary and I often wonder what our gardener parents would say about our garden. I know for sure that my mother would love the garden. But I also know that my grandmother Lolita would grin broadly as I do every time I piss in our guest bathroom. On the wall there are three of her pastels which she did sometime around 1900 when she was 15. They are garden and flower scenes. The one here is of some sort of poppy.
Sobacos & Escrotos
Wednesday, June 20, 2012
(De or. inc.).
1. m. Concavidad que forma el arranque del brazo con el cuerpo.
2. m. Ángulo de una parte de la planta con el tronco.
3. m. Cada espacio que deja en un cuadrado el círculo inscrito en él.
4. m. Pez plectognato semejante al pez ballesta.
Real Academia Española © Todos los derechos reservados
Every language has terrible sounding words. In my Focal Point nude photograph class there is one word I use (and in such a class I am perfectly justifiable to do so) that will invariably make my students wince. That word is scrotum. As a man I do not find the exterior of man’s principle reproductive organ (or at the very least the second one) a very pretty thing. In fact very few of my female students have ever admitted to seeing one they liked.
Rebecca may have been around 7 when I took her to the Museum of Anthropology. We sat down and studied Bill Reid’s The Raven and the First Men
in detail. We walked behind and she noticed the squatting men holding up the platform that supports the raven. She asked me, “What’s that?” I answered directly, “That’s a scrotum.” I explained its purpose. Perhaps I introduced her to the birds and the bees before her father did! A year later while visiting the Seattle Art Museum we went into a salon that featured ancient Greek vases. From one end of the room Rebecca yelled at me loudly, to the horror of the people who were there, “Papi come and see the scrotums.”
Scrotum in Spanish is no prettier, escroto
. Spanish, a melodious language still spits this one out with enough verve to coat a mirror.
In my photo classes at Focal Point my students soon learn that in portraiture and in nude figure photography I have a fondness for showing hands, always in a graceful manner. Hands, after the face, tell us the most about a person. My students also know my obsessive pet peeve. I instruct them never (and I always repeat never) to show neck folds or ugly armpit folds. One of the reasons for this prohibition is that when you look at a photograph you usually look first at the blackest black. With few
exceptions that black is the neck fold or the armpit fold!
An armpit does not flow. No poet except Ogden Nash may have been tempted to use it in iambic pentameter. But consider the word in Spanish, sobaco
. I can assert here that sobaco is as bad as a word gets. A close second is Spanish for lap (as in a human lap), regazo.
When I looked up sobaco in my on line Real Academia Dictionary I was surprised to find out that the word is supposed to be of uncertain origin. Also surprising is its third meaning. When you inscribe a circle in a square the four corner spaces are sobacos!
Ghosts In My Memory's Imagination
Tuesday, June 19, 2012
I left my centrally located studio (on the corner of Granville and Robson) in September 2010. It was called the Farmer Building. My studio was long with windows overlooking Eaton’s/Sears. The block-long wall reflected wonderful light into my studio.
I had faced that perennial plumbing problem of finance (or how to fill a tub with water if the stopper is not attached) of money in not exceeding money out. My wife Rosemary was too kind. She said she thought that giving up my studio would undo my already low morale. So she let me keep it longer than I should. I now wish I had left the studio even a year before as we might have accumulated some helpful funds in the bank.
When I go to town and this is now rare I always make it point to pass by the corner. The building has been demolished but I can feel (or at least imagine) the ghosts of the people that posed for me in the many years that I was there.
Today I looked for a particular negative that is a mystery to me. I had been shooting in my studio some 10 years or more with a Widelux 35mm swivel lens panoramic camera. It became late so I left the camera set up and went home. It was only few weeks later that when I processed the roll of film from the Widelux that I noticed a frame/exposure that I never took. The negative is almost impossible to print as it is a highly streaked and over-exposed Kodak Black and White Infrared Film. In the murk of the photo (it is indeed in my studio) I can discern a couple. I have no idea of what they might be doing. One of them is a man. Is it possible that they were struggling and he pushed her out of the window, shades of Antonioni’s Blowup? There was a low roof below, so if she had fallen it would have taken weeks for anybody to find out.
There is another problem. The Widelux does not have a self-timer so that means that there was at least another person in my studio who pressed the camera’s shutter button. Who were they? I will never know. I will just have to add this couple to all those ghosts that inhabited my studio who still haunt my memory’s imagination.
A Measure Of A Man Lapsed - Part II
Monday, June 18, 2012
Two events this year have helped me feel better about myself. I wrote about them in the blog A Measure of a Man Lapsed
. At the time I could not reveal that I was a judge for a local BC Literary Prize that included the Hubert Evans Non-Fiction Prize), even though J.J. Lee's book, The Measure of a Man - The Story of a Father, a Son, and a Suit
was one of the events. The Measure of a Man was one of the books (66 in all!) under the consideration of the three (I was one of them) judges. The book was first on my list but alas while it was shortlisted (five books) it did not get the first prize. The other event was a dressing down by artist Neil Wedman.
But I can reveal now how important Lee’s book has been to suddenly make me feel like a new man! It all began with artist Neil Wedman laughing at my clothes which were mostly Value Village fare via my eldest daughter who lives in Lillooet.
Since I became a living and walking spark plug gap adjusting tool (the editorial photographer version of an obsolete tool) I have not regularly shaved every day. In fact in a most slobbish manner I have worn a shirt two days in a row (ditto for my Mark’s Work Warehouse socks). The folks at Mark’s sell these “copper” coated socks that are vaunted for sanitary freshness.
It may have been some twenty years ago when I had long hair and I was working in our garden’s back lane (also a garden full of old roses). I had perhaps not shaved and I was very dirty. A beautiful silvery haired neighbour in a convertible VW Rabbit stopped her car and said. “This is a beautiful garden. You are the gardener, aren’t you?” It slowly dawned on me that the woman thought I was hired man!
My friend Ian Bateson is in England dealing with the arrangements, after his father’s recent death. We Skype. He has mentioned a few times that I am wearing the previous day’s night shirt and that I am unshaven. And when we do talk it is about 11 in the morning for me.
This situation is slowly changing and I force myself to shave. While I do have my garden jeans (torn at the knees) I am now changing to better ones when I leave the house to go, perhaps, to the super market.
In the weeks before Father’s Day, I finally decided that I would buy new clothes. One important decision was the one to buy good dress shirts with the option of wearing them as everyday sport shirts. In fact I gardened just a few days ago with such a shirt, one with French cuffs and I put on my mother’s beautiful gift, a pair of Mexican Aztec calendar 18 Karat cuff links. I felt wonderful.
The shirts came from the Hudson’s Bay Company. They have frequent sales on shirts and sometimes they coincide with Senior Tuesdays. I received double discounts.
One of the unforeseen pleasures of wearing dress shirts with a tie (an in particular if they are of the button down variety) is that my arthritis makes it difficult to turn the collar down after tying the knot. I find it hard to button-up the collar. For this I ask for Rosemary’s help. This intimacy is a new-found delight! Take that J.J. Lee. There is certainly life for the well dressed old man!
The two final best moments of this recent new clothing splurge are a pair of black brogues that will replace the ones that I have been wearing until now which I purchased in Sears Roebuck Mexico S.A. around 1972. One is a black pair and the other a brown made of Corfam. While they still fit and look pretty good they are uncomfortable. Gravity and age has modified my poor man’s foot size (I have worn the same size since I was 20). The other best moment is a light gray, silk/wool blend sport jacket that would make Mr. Lee salivate. It fits me beautifully as I also have a poor man’s body for suits, shirts and jackets!
|My mother, and I wearing a brand new Argentine bespoke gray flannel suit|
Mexico City 1966
I remember days before Christmas Eve 1987. I was at the Bacchus Lounge of the Wedgewood Hotel. I was there having drinks with Malcolm Parry and his wife Nancy. They were in town. Mac, as we all knew him, had pretty well revolutionized and then invigorated the magazine industry in Vancouver with his Vancouver Magazine
and many others that at one time or another he was editor, not only in BC but in Alberta. I remember that he made fun of Western Living Magazine
, on the bottom floor of a building that it shared with Vancouver Magazine
. It was on the corner of Davie and Richards. Mac said that the magazine below was all about empty bathrooms. He soon became its editor and brought in essays and poems by Peter Trower into the bathroom mix.
Mac had left the local magazine scene, hired to improve a startup magazine with lots of ambition (it was financed by Frank Stronach) called Vista
Mac was a man that I then admired and admire to this day. While there are no obvious mutual overtures, there are signs and feelings of affection between us.
|Malcolm (Mac) Parry and the Bentley|
That evening at the Bacchus Mac told me he had bought suits that day at Holt Renfrew.
In the latter part of 1988 Mac offered our mutual writer friend Mark Budgen and me to travel to Buenos Aires and Uruguay to write and photograph two business stories. Sometime in late November or the beginning of December Mac was fired. We still had our assignment so Budgen and I flew to Toronto and we had a day before making connections via Aerolíneas Argentinas to Buenos Aires. We visited the Vista office and Mac’s name was nomen non grata. We were given Mac’s now empty apartment for the night before our next day’s flight.
|My father George|
Budgen and I found ourselves in the apartment and I made it my goal to find some remnant of Mac’s presence. In the kitchen we looked everywhere, looking for a bottle of Scotch. All we found was a half empty box of sugar coated breakfast cereal. There was nothing. Then I went to the bedroom and opened the closet. It was there that I found three Holt Renfrew wooden hangars and I remembered. I was left with a strong feeling of melancholy. Budgen and I successfully went to Argentina and Uruguay but only managed to do a piece on Montevideo.
Today I was reading J.J. Lee’s The Measure of a Man –The Story of a Father, a Son, and a Suit.
In it I read this:
There is a suit in the back of my closet. Over the years dust has gathered on its shoulder. I own other better suits but I hold on to this one because, for me at least, it is special…
What do I want from my father’s suit?...
Standing between the hamper and the foot of the bed with his jacket in my hands, I sink my face into the wool and breathe I his scent for the first time in years.
I feel jealous as Mr. Lee has far more objects owned by his dead father. I have a few photographs and his King James Bible. There is no scent of him except the one in my memory of his Player’s Navy Cut Cigarettes, Old Smuggler Scotch, and his tweed jackets. There was something else, perhaps and after shave but I never asked him what kind it was.
|Bill and Jack Wong, Modernize Tailors|
Like most Argentine men who dressed well he liked nicely ironed flannel slacks and blue blazers with metal buttons. He wore Harris Tweeds. I don’t remember his suits but I know he wore his half Windsor knot ties askew. He had lovely wavy silver hair and a small moustache. He looked like a handsome David Niven and sounded like him except for a slight Manchester accent.
My father while not exactly British, since he had been born in Buenos Aires would have never worn his shoes without socks which seems to have been all the rage with young men (and men who think they are young) in Buenos Aires. The unsocked look goes with a deep blue shirt, the blue blazer, the gray flannel slacks and, very important penny loafers (brown if you please) without them (the pennies).
My first fashion statement began when I was around 8 and I made my First Communion. I had inherited my first cousin’s (Robin Tow) black suit. I refused to wear long pants so I forced my mother to have them converted.
My fashion sense did not improve nor was it ever important in my life until I went to St. Edward's, a Catholic boarding school in Austin, Texas.
We did not wear jeans as we were not allowed. We wore khaki pants and they came back from the laundry with extreme starch and razor creases. While I did sport a minor duck cut I decided that I needed long and black pointy shoes if I was going to look at all like a Pachuco.
|Ivette, my Puerto de Liverpool pinstripe|
& my Fraser Institute tie
This phase did not last long. By grade 10 I had a friend Stephen Burdick who instilled in me the wonders of wearing Bostonian cordovan loafers. We began to visit the very expensive haberdashery Reynolds Penland on Congress Avenue where I bought my first ever buttond down shirts and slacks that did not belt loops that were called continentals. It was at Reynolds Penland that I bought my first and last (I was never able to afford another) Hart Schaffner Marx suit.
Burdick and I weren’t the only ones who dressed well. There were three classmates of ours who made it a hobby to walk out of Reynolds Penland wearing more clothes than when they had gone in. They also had that habit of hailing a cab and taking it almost to our school. Two would get out and disappear while the third made like he was going to pay the driver and he would then bolt.
In Buenos Aires in the mid 60s I decided I would have my first (and it was my last) bespoke tailored suit. I went to an Austrian tailor and chose a thick Argentine gray flannel. It was to be a three-piece suit. At the time I was smoking a pipe and I used (I was not quite a purist yet) a Zippo lighter instead of wodden matches. My tailor measured it as he made a special pocket in the vest for it. He was scandalized when I insisted that my pants have no pleats and no cuffs but he put his foot down when I demanded a zippered fly. "If you want that I will not make your suit." I relented. I was very proud of this suit and wore it often until my body changed and the suit disappeared from sight and from my memory.
I have managed to dress well for most of my life as I have a poor man’s body. By this I mean that I can wear a suit off the rack that will fit me well. I have poor man’s feet and it is easy for me to find shoes that are comfortable. While I am 69 I can proudly show you my feet that look like that of a younger man’s. They are smooth and free of all calluses. They are narrow and quite beautiful as I inherited my feet and shapely legs from my mother.
|Claudia in my Puerto de Liverpool pinstripe & my |
Sears Roebuck black brogues
Confusion began to sneak in to my dressing habits about 15 years ago when I was going to some formal party and I was adjusting a bow tie. I looked at myself in the mirror and noticed that the tie did not look right with my Brooks Brothers light blue, button-down shirt. I called my friend John Lekich who immediately said, “Don’t!”
My dressing habits have deteriorated as I have grown older and go to fewer formal events. Mr. Lee would be shocked to know that I have a handsome Oscar de la Renta black blazer that is made, nonetheless, in Romania. He would not be impressed.
The low point of my dress up career happened a couple of months ago. I went to the screening of a Marv Newland short film at the Pacific Cinematheque. I spotted artist/painter Neil Wedman and illustrator/designer Deryk Carter. Both were splendidly dressed. Wedman was wearing a beautiful suit a vested sweater. After the viewing they and Newland (who was wearing what looked like a very expensive and dark three-piece suit) that we go over to the nearby Bodega for tapas. This we did. I sat facing the two suits (Carter was handsomely dressed but was casual). Wedman observed me and said, “Where did you get that (pause) sweater?” I told him it had been given to me by my older daughter who had bought it at a Lillooet thrift store. “It shows,” Wedman said. Then he added with an extremely loud guffaw, “At least you are wearing a shirt with a collar!” and began to laugh. I felt embarrassed and decided that that both Wedman and Newland were right and that I would inject better dressing habits in the future.
|Leslie smoking an H-Upmann cigar, wearing my |
Puerto de Liverpool pinstripe
I began by telling my eldest daughter Ale that for Christmas she was to buy me nothing and in particular no clothing. I have been discarding my torn jeans with holes in the right knee (a photographer’s malady) and before concerts and the theatre you might have spotted me using spray starch on my shirts and carefully removing cat hair with a sticky roller from my black jackets and my Hudson’s Bay Company, off-the-rack Bill Blass pinstripe suit. I now even carefully polish my beautiful black leather brogues which I bought at Sears Roebuck Mexico back in 1972. They are still good.
Of late I have been going more often to select a tie from my considerable tie collection. It has been fun. I tip my hat to Mr. Wedman and Marv Newland. And yes, Mr. Lee, dressing well might indeed be the measure of a man.
Postscript: Last night I went into my oldest daughter’s former closet and took out my mother’s Pieles Weinburger seal fur coat. I put my nose to it and I could smell (or was it my imagination?) hints of Chanel No. 5 and Jean Patou’s Joy. But I will not be wearing the coat any time soon. Perhaps Rebecca or Lauren some day.
El Abanico - Folded & Opened Again
Sunday, June 17, 2012
A hand-held fan is an implement used to induce an airflow for the purpose of cooling or refreshing oneself. Any broad, flat surface waved back-and-forth will create a small airflow and therefore can be considered a rudimentary fan. But generally, purpose-made hand-held fans are shaped like a sector of a circle and made of a thin material (such as paper or feathers) mounted on slats which revolve around a pivot so that it can be closed when not in use.
The movement of a hand-held fan provides cooling by increasing the airflow over the skin which in turn increases the evaporation rate of sweat droplets on the skin. This evaporation has a cooling effect due to the latent heat of evaporation of water. Fans are convenient to carry around, especially folding fans.
The above is from Wikipedia. It is amazing how a purely objective definition of something can take all the romance away.
Below is a reprise of a blog of mine from January 6, 2010 called El Abanico
. While looking at some of my files today I remembered my photographs of Helen Yagi and her Japanese fan. I found them more beautiful on this viewing and decided that a reprise of El Abanico could be a good thing.
Si la mujer escondía los ojos detrás del abanico, estaba diciendo a su interlocutor que lo quería.
If the woman hid her eyes behind the fan, she was saying to her would-be suitor that she loved him.
Si colocaba el abanico sobre la mejilla izquierda, la respuesta era: No; y si lo posaba sobre la derecha, la respuesta era: Sí.
If she placed the fan on her left cheek, the answer was: No; and if she placed it on the right cheek the answer was: Yes.
Si la mujer se abanicaba con rapidez, significaba que estaba comprometida; y si lo hacía lentamente, le transmitía que estaba casada.
If the woman fanned herself quickly it meant that she was engaged; and if she fanned herself languidly, she indicated that she was married.
The foldable fan was invented in Japan in the 7th century. From there it spread to Europe where it was commercialized. It was particularly important to Spanish culture. From Spain the fan traveled to the Americas. It was and is primarily used by women although in some cultures men use it, too. In the 18th and 19th century the fan was widely mentioned in literature and was an important element in painting.
In Spanish literature of the 19th century and 20th century, especially in Seville and Granada, there are many references to be found on fan lore including the special significance on how women communicated with each other and with would-be lovers with the fan.
Both my grandmother and mother who had been raised in the tropics of Manila were experts with their fans. They could close and open them with a deft flick of the wrist. It made a little noise, a swish that seemed to me magical. Even though I attempted to master the skill (I believe it is an art) I failed. Every once in a while I like to open the two sandalwood chests (and smell the inimitable fragrance that I relate to an exotic past of my family in the orient). The chests (my grandmother called them "my camphor babies") have been part of our family since the early 30s. I like to open the various little cardboard boxes (Spanish or Argentine chocolate boxes and here an Argentine cardboard glove box ) that contain my grandmother and mother’s fans. Some are from Spain and some from the Philippines.
There is a very beautiful one from the Philippines of turtle shell and the cloth material is a delicate but tough fiber called jusi
which is made from Chinese silk. This fan was my great aunt’s, Buenaventura Galvez Puig
. A few years after she died my mother and her younger sister Dolly argued as to who was going to inherit the beautiful fan that had Buenaventura's initials in diamonds and emeralds (you can see where they were on the upper right hand side of the fan). My mother graciously (smart in my opinion) suggested that Dolly could have the jewels and she (my mother) would keep the fan. Dolly immediately pried them out. The fan’s jewels have been long pawned but I (via my mother) still have the fan.
The word for fan in Spanish is abanico
which is a diminutive of abano
which comes from the Portuguese. The verb abanar
in Spanish is used when one is describing, as an example, fanning a fire. But if one fans oneself with a fan (an abanico) the verb is the beautiful sounding abanicar
. Me abanico
(I fan myself). Or, “Amor, abanícame
.” My love, fan me.
The first alternating current electric fans came into use in 1891. Spaniards and Argentines call this “new” and modern development a ventilador
. Mexicans may be a bit more conservative or simply just more romantic as they call electric fans abanicos.
The very Argentine Linda Lorenzo seen here was most competent at flicking her fan open and closing it.
Lady Windermere's Fan