I was a ñoño - still am
Saturday, January 15, 2022
|Halloween - 1952 - Susan Stone is the girl laughing on the right|
Primal Urge II Brian Aldiss
These evenings and nights I have succumbed to taking
sleeping pills as I think lots about my current state of affairs. I eat, take
care of the cats and with no work in the garden until, perhaps next month, this
leaves me with writing. And of course there are all those menialities like vacuuming and
doing my laundry. I think about what I want to write, knowing that this is good
therapy when one has little to do or need to do.
Last night I was thinking about my relationship with the
women who were part of my romantic life. I have written about it, the two links are above. I believe
that I can add some fresh approach to my feelings. As I have included before in these blogs, many writers including Joan Didion wrote, “I write to find out how I feel.”
Today I found a new Argentine word “ñoño” which translates
to nerd. I have been a nerd all my life and was even one before the word was
coined. Now I would like to amend that by saying that what I may have been was a precocious nerd.
It was in kindergarten in Buenos Aires that I would lift the
skirt of one of the Argentine quintuplets María Fernanda Diligenti. In Spanish
a kindergarten is “jardín de infantes”. The word infante does not have the
negative connotation of infantile. What did I know about the relation of a
little girl’s underpants to my feeling some sort of attraction? I later graduated to shooting spitwads to girls I liked.
By the time I was 10 I felt differently about girls. This
brings me to the crux of the matter of this blog. It was then, that without
knowing anything about the birds and the bees, I understood that there were some
girls I liked. I am not sure that I thought of the word attraction in relation
It was about this time that there were two American girls in
my 5th grade class that I enjoyed looking at. One was called Susan Stone and the
other Mary Lou Chase. They were good friends to each other.
I am not sure how a chauffered Cadillac came to be part of my life. Perhaps my mother interceded as she was teaching at the Belgrano
R, American School while I was going to the nearby grammar school. Susan Stone’s
father, the General Manager of General Motors Argentina,would dispatch
his Cadillac to pick me up in our middle-class neighbourhood of Coghlan so that I could play with his daughter in their
sprawling mansion in Belgrano. It was there where I saw my first TV. I have no memory of what Susan
and I did for fun.
It was at night in those days that when my lights were out I
would think of her and of Mary Lou. I had no concept of sex or anything related
to the erotic. I would think (dream?) situations where I would gaze on their
lovely smiles. No matter how I pushed wanting to dream of the two, I would
soundly go to sleep.
|Second row top -first 2 girls Mary Lou Chase & Susan Stone -1952 I am bottom right.|
It was not until my 8th grade in Nueva Rosita,
Coahuila, Mexico where my mother taught in a two room school to the children of the engineers
of nearby American Smelting and Refining Company that I began to see girls differently. My mother taught 8th,7th and 6th grades. With five other boys I was in Grade
8. It was in Grade 7 that I immediately noticed a lovely girl with black hair
and eyes called Anna María Ramos. When I had arrived I had been given the plum opportunity
of having her as my dance partner in a school dance. By then I was well into
becoming a ñoño and I could not dance well. I felt awkward. The closest I ever
became of being some sort of beau of hers was to accompany her to the edge of
the American colony where we lived where she was met by her Romeo (called just
that) who she eventually married.
I cite my experiences with women here to explain the
curious fact that while Rosemary and I had good sex for 52 years even until a
couple of months before she died, I now have memories of her no different from
those that I had for Susan Stone and Mary Lou Chase. I see her face in my-before-I-go-to-sleep evenings
with that curious unsexed, almost neutral but very lovely emotion that is
devoid of any passion.
|In this fuzzy photograph on our way to Vancouver 1975 this is how I see my Rosemary |
It would seem that I am going back to my emotional routes of
when I was 10, but I will skip any thoughts that might come to me to want to
lift a woman’s skirts.
Gracias a la vida - Reclaimed?
Friday, January 14, 2022
Gracias a la Vida - Mercedes Sosa - Joan Baez video
Indigenous music south of the Río Bravo - Reclaimed?
Gracias a la Vida
was composed by Chilean Violeta Parra who was of mixed blood. This video
(link above) includes the well-known (but now dead) Argentine mixed-blood folk singer
Mercedes Sosa singing with Joan Baez who is a Mexican/American. Is this
Indigenous music? I believe it is. That it is in Spanish and not in an Indigenous language or dialect does not make it less Indigenous. in nature.
As time progresses inexorably, words lose their meaning or
Such is the once intimate visit (visit us at www.vancouvergarbage)
or the lovely share which now
involves placing videos you like with no explanation into social media. Another word is ghetto.
Chinatown in Vancouver is disappearing as such. When it
opened years ago it was because the Chinese were not allowed or could not
afford to live anywhere else. Now the younger generation of Vancouverites have
to move to the slightly cheaper suburbs. A ghetto was once a place in a city.
Chinatown was a de facto ghetto. Now a ghetto has been transformed into a wide
The above is my entry into attempting to explain how the
word Indigenous is currently going through another transformation from my
For those who have gotten this far you might want to
consider what my grandmother used to say of people who stated what they knew as
if they were experts. She said, “They
have a doctorate from F.W. Woolworth’s & Co." I am no anthropologist or linguist. But in the Martín Fierro you will find, "The devil knows more not because he is the devil but because he is an old man."
Because Canada and the United States share a culture that I
believe is Americocentral, those in Canada are not aware on how far Indigenous
music and culture can go in our continent if we modify what we say is
Few in Canada might not know that the Indigenous Peoples of my
native Argentina suffered the same kind of brutal genocide as those in the United
States. The campaign to push them west in the 19th century was
called La Campaña del Desierto.
But unique, I believe, is the fact that the prose poem work
by José Hernández, El Gaucho Martín
Fierro, 1872 is considered seminal in having brought into being the concept
of a country called Argentina. That its main protagonist, Martín Fierro is
conscripted by the Argentine army to participate into military genocide is only
now being seen with different eyes in this 21st century. This is far different from those who say the Pierre Berton's book Vimy signaled the birth of modern Canada.
Mexico, where I lived for many years and married my
Canadian wife in 1968, has a different narrative on its Indigenous Peoples.
When Hernán Cortés arrived in what was yet to be Mexico in 1519 he used a woman
called Doña Marina, but known by Mexicans in an unkind epithet as La Malinche as a translator and the help
of the Aztec-subjugated Tlaxcalans to conquer the country in short time. To
this day a malinchista (religions, nationalities, etc are written in lower case
in Spanish) is a person who prefers imported goods over the local-made ones.
And yet while we all know that the United States had a Black
president in Barack Obama, how many know that Benito Juárez a full-blooded
Zapotec Indigenous man served as the 26th president of Mexico from 1858 until
his death in 1872? And unique to Mexico, no statues to Hernán Cortés ever had to be taken down as none were ever put up.
How could this be?
I will give my personal explanation via my doctoral degree from
Day in Latin-American is called El Día de
la Raza. Because there was much more intermarriage between the
invading Spaniards and the local Indigenous peoples a more favourable expression
was used to denote the making of a new race (raza) of mestizos. Another word is criollo. At first the word in Argentina denoted Spaniards born in the colonies. In the 60s Argentine composer Ariel Ramírez published his now famous and first ethnic Roman Catholic Mass, La Misa Criolla.
I believe that the concept of a mestizo is not used in
Canada. The Indigenous Peoples are either full-blooded or described as of mixed
In Mexico, as in all other Latina American countries, there
is an active and also sometimes hidden racism. In my Argentina a dark-skinned
person is called a morocho. This can
either be because of black hair or of dark skin. Those poor people who followed
Perón were called descamisados (shirtless
ones) and cabecitas negras (those with heads of black hair). They were singled
out from the lighter skinned and more patrician white-skinned folks. Wealthy and or patrician white-skinned had no time for "cabecita negra" Maradona but love Messi as he is white.
In my years in Mexico we would discuss why it was that many
Mexican women would wear lovely stockings on unshaved legs or why Frida Kahlo
sported a moustache. In the 70s the Mexican police departments attempted to
prohibit the sporting of moustaches by its malepolicemen. Full blooded Mexican
Indigenous Peoples have no body hair or beards. The word used is lampiño. The unshaved legs and moustache
declared to anybody, “I have Spanish
blood and I am proud of it.” In buses I saw many ads for skin lightening
cream. If someone who was dark-skinned told you they had a new love interest
the obvious question to ask was, "¿Blanquito
para mejorar la raza? Which translates, “Light skinned so as to better the
race if you have children?”
While in Austin at a Roman Catholic boarding high school, I
was in a racist limbo. I spoke Spanish but was white. The Mexican/Americans in
the school shunned me as well as the white/Americans. When we would go to get
cheap haircuts at the barber college on 6th Street we were told to
be careful as we might be rolled by “spics”. It was in those years that the
Mexican/Americans began to use the term raza as “one of us”. By the Mexican Olympics of 1968, the term
raza de bronce, or bronze race was being used as Mexico began to take pride in
their Indigenous heritage.
Before coming to Vancouver in 1975 with my Canadian wife and
two Mexican-born daughters, I was from a school tradition where we were told
about “los pieles rojas”, the red-skinned Indians and los "orientales amarillos"
or yellow Orientals. Strangely I was taught that the Indians of India were Caucasian.
A Caucasian in those days was defined by features and not by skin colour.
When I arrived in Vancouver I told Rosemary that I had seen
what looked like Mexicans on the street and when I talked to them in Spanish
they did not understand me. It was then that I found out the Canadian
Indigenous Peoples were no different in appearance from those in Mexico.
My first job in Vancouver was washing cars for Tilden Rent-a-Car
on Alberni Street. As soon as I was
promoted to counter clerk I was told, “Do not rent to anybody whose surname is
George or John.” I asked and asked and finally I was told, “Because they are fu…..
Soon after a man called Moving Rock wanted to rent a station
wagon. I was determined to give him what he wanted even if he didn’t qualify.
When he abandoned the station wagon in Arizona I was almost fired. And I was
told, “No more Moving Rocks or Johnny Stones.” Johnny Stone was a black Seattle
pimp who came to Vancouver and rented a Chevrolet Vega. He always paid and the
car was always returned clean.
My first photographic jobs were for the CBC. While there I
never saw an Indigenous person of any kind, even as a stagehand. In fact the
only Indigenous persons I ever met up with were Pat John in the Beachcombers and
Buffy Sainte-Marie in CBC variety shows.
There is an increasing respect in Canada for all things
Indigenous. In my native Argentina, the adored writer Jorge Luís Borges, went
on the record disparaging Canada sending a totem pole as a display of its high culture.
In his literature Argentine Indigenous Peoples do not fair any better.
But there are now signs in my Argentina of the necessity of
removing statues of General Alejo JulioArgentino Roca who was president from
1880 to 1886 and from 1898 until 1904. It was he who as a young general was in
charge of the now infamous Campaña del Desierto.
In many ways we in Canada are ahead on these important processes called reconciliation and reclaimed But I do believe we must widen our horizon and include the Indigenous Peoples in the rest of the continent.
A very bright spot here in Canada for me is the pioneering work by Indigenous Peoples dancers to incorporate traditional dance with contemporary modern dance. One such luminary is Byron Chief-Moon.
Besides being an inspirational dancer he is a fine writer.
Indigenous Music south of the Río Bravo - Reclaimed?
Thursday, January 13, 2022
In my youth I was no different from those of my ilk. By the
time I had a record player I would play over and over again music I liked.
In the late 50s in Austin, Texas this meant The Everly
Brothers, Brenda Lee, The Ventures (and believe it or not) Conway Twitty.
Then by the 60s I became a more discriminating follower of
Miles Davis who was my introduction to jazz as was the Dave Brubeck Quartet.
In the early 70s I acquired an Acoustic Research transistor
amplifier and a pair of AR-3A speakers. I even had an AR turntable. I was a discerning
audiophile. And I have been ever since.
In this 21st century I believe that good sound in
the reproduction of music has gone to the barking dogs.
The beginning of the end for me happened when 5 years ago we
purchased a Chevrolet Cruze that had no CD player.
I must interject here to clarify to those who love vinyl. I
purchased lots of brand new records that had built-in scratches and even the
best of turntables (I have a Sony linear tracking one with a Stanton 500 MKII cartridge) will have bothersome
clicks. CDs eliminated all background noise (only John Cage would have
objected). I have a good vinyl collection that contains records that never became CDs.
I cannot comprehend how folks listen to music while driving
with their smart phones connected to the vehicle’s sound system. Furthermore I must point out that while almost all kind of
music is available on YouTube you must first be aware of the existence of that
which you want to listen to.
Whenever I visit my native Buenos Aires and stay at the
Claridge Hotel on Calle Tucumán, I walk around the corner to Calle San Martín, to
Casa Piscitelli. I am greeted by the owner Ing. Fabián Piscitelli (his father
opened the store in 1939) who will place in front of me CDs or DVDs that I will
surely like. This past December one of the CDs was Ariel Ramírez – 20 Grandes
In that CD I have become obsessed with Nostalgias
Tucumanas. I have been playing it over
and over in my very good home sound system that has JBL Studio Monitors. I like
Nostalgias because of the combination of Ramírez’s piano, a large Argentine drum
called a bombo, and a very small guitar called a charango. The composition was
composed by a noted Argentine composer, singer and guitar player called
And (very important!) because I have the CD and I know the
existence of the composition I was able to find it on YouTube. And here it is below. Note the strange rhythm. This is called a zamba (with a zed!).
Because of my present obsession with Nostalgias Tucumanas I
have been playing the CD in my car with a Sylvania CD player that I connect to
my car’s sound system. I place the player on two woollen winter gloves to
prevent it from sliding. The player does not skip at bumps but will if it
To finish this sort of rant I want to clarify the Americocentric
concept of what is Indigenous music. I love CBC's Reclaimed. They play Canadian
and American Indigenous music.
But (but!, but!, but!) are Canadians and Americans aware
that most of the music south of the Río Bravo (Rio Grande) is Indigenous all
the way to that southernmost city of Ushuaia?
Listen to that bombo in Nostalgias Tucumanas. This is
splendid Indigenous music.
Nostalgias Tucumanas - Ariel Ramírez on piano
Nostalgias Tucumanas - Los Chalchaleros
And Ariel Ramírez in one of my fave ever of his compostions on solo piano
Alfonsina y el mar
Two plus two plus two plus two
Wednesday, January 12, 2022
|Rosemary & Alexandra 1969|
Today is January 12 2022. I woke up early so as to make my
7:30 appointment with my ophthalmologist Dr. Simon Warner. I will have new
glasses next week.
Having these activities keeps me distracted and they give me
a purpose from one day to the next. It is only when it gets dark early in the
evening, and I get the cats in, that somehow I have time in my hands and feel a
So that is when I cross my small deck into my oficina to
sort through negatives of the family in Mexico from a faraway past.
I believe that we humans are so, because we have the ability
to associate and to find patterns. Today’s involve double negs that sit next to
other double negs. The first three are on one strip of six exposures. Thirty five millimeter film had either 20 or 36 exposures. I would cut them in sixes in order to make those contacts of old.
Three of the strips make sense but the last one does not. I
know they are Rosemary’s lovely legs. It seems I was experimenting with reflections
on a window and I can discern a kettle!