On Fading FriendshipTuesday, October 01, 2013
It seems that it was not too long ago that my Spanish friend, symphonic conductor Juan Castelao told me that he kept tabs with his family in Galicia with something that he called Es-sky-pee.
Some four weeks ago I watched Nora Patrich in her home in Bella Vista in the outskirts of Buenos Aires talk with her just over a year old granddaughter who is in Gijón, Spain. Nora did go to Spain earlier this year but I wonder if her granddaughter who smiles and does all kinds of tricks for her grandmother on Skype knows the reality from the virtual image. And yet I cannot criticize this modern advancement that beats that “long distance feeling” by a mile.
For some years I had a tremendous friendship with Argentine painter Juan Manuel Sánchez and his wife Nora Patrich (also an artist) who did not live far from my Kerrisdale home. We talked every day (any hour of the day or night) and we visited frequently. We worked on all kinds of collaborative work. Best of all it was to speak my mother tongue and to discuss stuff that I could only do so with a fellow Argentine. And through Sánchez I obtained a wonderful art education. I often told him that he reminded me of a slightly paunchy Picasso.
|At El Cuartito|
Some 10 years ago the couple split up and went back to Buenos Aires on separate airplanes.
I was furious (!) with both of them for having ruined this nice thing we shared. I expressed most of my anger towards Patrich and for a few years I refused to answer her emails or see her when she visited Vancouver. I was awfully silly. But I never did find anybody in Vancouver as receptive as they were to work on anything at any time.
With Sánchez I kept up a pleasant relationship via Skype. I could never see him as he refused to buy a computer so I had to call him via my computer to his phone.
Every time I would call him he would ask me when I was going to visit him in Buenos Aires. This kept on for some years and by then I had decided my fight with Patrich was stupid.
So when Patrich invited me to stay at her house for three weeks when I told her I was planning to travel to Buenos Aires at the end of September I realized that my saving on the hotel made the financial arrangements of the trip a possibility.
Via use of the internet I obtained three Argentine models willing to work with Patrich, Sánchez and me. There was a wrinkle when I informed Sánchez. In the end he said he would allow his ex-wife to visit and work in his studio once.
I knew that Patrich had a new partner, the sweet librarian Juan Boschetti. I also knew that Sánchez had a younger girlfriend (an artist) with whom they shared a Woody Allen type of relationship as Ruth (that’s her name) kept living in her house. I knew that there was a level of possessive jealousy involved. But I planned accordingly and even found that one of the models, Roxana was willing to return to Sánchez’s studio once or twice a month to pose for him in exchange for the odd sketch.
I traveled to Argentina with lots of hopes and plenty of cameras, two film and one brand-new digital.
I visited Sánchez and after our first abrazo it felt like old times until I broached the subject of bringing Patrich. That was a no. When I then pared down the idea of just the two of us working with Roxana that became a no, too.
I saw Sánchez twice. The first time we had pizza and moscato at the round-the-corner El Cuartito and he met my first cousin Jorge Wenceslao. Ruth dropped in for a few minutes. After that Sanchez refused all my overtures of going to his studio with a model to work together. I suggested we work in another artist’s studio (a friend of Sanchez). That was a no.
On my third week I felt quite depressed in Buenos Aires and I gave Sanchez a call. I told him over the phone that I was saying goodbye and that I was disappointed that we had not worked together. He took this with aplomb and did not question my motives.
I understand that an 83 year-old man who has a relationship with a woman in a large city and that lives alone in a small studio/apartment has a lot to lose especially if he might sacrifice all that for an artistic and collaborative fling with a friend (me). And yet something in me makes me think that is the last I will see of the man as I will perhaps not return to Buenos Aires and both of us are not spring chickens.
I feel remorse for not having properly said goodbye to him.
But that damn Skype and all those promises that came my way from the man have been hard to forget.
It seems that every time something like this happens I go back to Harold Bloom who wrote in How To Read and Why (2000)
"We read not only because we cannot know enough people, but because friendship is so vulnerable, so likely to diminish or disappear, overcome by space, time, imperfect sympathies, and all the sorrows of familial and passional life."