The Alienation Of My PresentFriday, April 17, 2015
|Linda Lorenzo with Nora's ostrich egg|
Enajenado (the Spanish word for alienated) has been very much in my thoughts of late as I fight (futile it seems to be) a sense that I am living in a world in which my corner garden is the only world I feel more or less part of.
As I drive around the city I know of the buildings that once were this or that but have been replaced by new ones for which I have no connection. If I were a migrating bird I would still not lose my way as memory would serve me well.
It was only about a week ago that I had to pick up my friend, Portland bassist Curtis Daily at his hotel, the Barclay on Robson. Because of the mess that is Hemlock Street I had to go on a roundabout way which somehow took me past Denman, Davie and finally to Robson. I could in my memory remember the drag queens that paraded in the early 80s and that the West End now is unrecognizable to me.
When I visit my friend Paul in Richmond the perversity, and diversity of Chinese characters on all signs make me feel that the conundrum of the Forbidden City, of ancient and remote China is now paradoxically more so and more inscrutable to my understanding than ever before.
I remember going with my mother when I was 8 to the house of the Chinese diplomats then in Buenos Aires and being exposed to strange food and the even stranger (to me) Chinese spoon. Even then I was dazzled by its beauty.
In the 80s I would stop to look at Russian Ladas parked on the street. It seemed to me that even the metal used was alien to anything I had ever seen. Now with Big Macs tasting the same in Mexico City, Vancouver and even in Saigon I find that my former alienation on what was foreign was kind of a comforting thing. It showed a diversity in a world of diversity.
Now the sameness of my present (sameness in that I feel left out by it all) makes me yearn (a word I have not used for years) for the comforting strangeness of the country I was born in.
When I perused Linda Lorenzo’s thick file and looked at the pictures I took using Nora Patrich’s trophy Argentine ostrich (ñandú) egg I felt that emptiness of being alive in the wrong place in the wrong time.
Memories of saddling up a horse (two or three sheepskins cinched on with primitive wooden stirrups), of riding off alone (I would have been 11) into the vast Argentine Pampa in search of avestruces that would suddenly pop up from the high grass to lure me away from their eggs. It was exciting to gallop after them. I would not have known what to do had one confronted me.I was always careful to keep my horse from stepping on the nest. The eggs had a powerful smell that Argentines call catinga. Far more pleasant was the smell of the rich and humid soil and the noise of the nearby teros (a beautiful Argentine bird) has returned to my present as I write this.
Linda Lorenzo is now a widowed mother. Nora Patrich is back in Buenos Aires (she must have returned with the egg). And I am here feeling less and less like I belong here and more and more I miss my Argentine family, my mother, my father and yes that rustling of the grass when the ostrich would suddenly stand and run towards that horizon that was never marred by even a measly hill. Sometimes that horizon would be interrupted by that Pampas tree, the Ombú under whose shade I would rest my horse, not knowing that someday I would return, in my thoughts, to that comforting shade from a city, cold and alien with its almost eternal cyan skies.