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Archive for October, 2009

Memories

Just got in the mail, from John Citron in Cape Cod, a 1978 International Fact Book for the old advertising agency conglomerate Norman, Craig & Kummel, of which John was a top official and I, head of the NCK outpost in Trinidad.

Reminds me  that I was Managing Director; that NCK (Trinidad) Ltd had billings of $2.2 million,  a staff of 31 and 26 clients including Aspro Nicholas, Berger Paints, Colgate-Palmolive, Nestle, Playtex, Royal Bank of Canada and Singer.

The fact book listed affiliated agencies around the world and it was good to see old faces, including Ed Roncarelli, a Canadian of Italian descent, and whose younger brother, on a return visit to Italy, was promptly conscripted into the Italian army; Mike Woodward, once manager in Trinidad, later in Madrid, with whom we spent time, and with whom we visited Segovia and Aranguez; and Inigo Bugalal, from the Puerto Rico office, who recommended a small hotel in Rome when we were in Europe for a conference, and found that, miraculously, we were within easy walking distance of St. Peter’s, which we visited on Palm Sunday that year.

Incredible, those days, and great the friendship with John who also once mailed us, no doubt at great expense, the metal nameplate of our agency office at 25 Queen’s Park West in Port-of-Spain, and which now greets us each time we drive into the garage.

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Skye

Skye wrote today saying that her book, Barbados, has been published and is on Amazon. So she has joined Lolita and Janice as published authors. I knew that she’d been having assignments in Barbados but had no idea that she’d been putting together a publication. Good for her.

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Angela and the elk

The elk story put us in mind of the episode in Zimbabwe, years ago.

Elle said that Ed, a relative, was driving home from work with his crew when they ran into an elk — or vice versa. They pulled off to the side and got out to drag the animal off the road.

That was when a car came by and slammed into the elk, flinging the animal against the poor fellow, smashing him against his truck, inflicting all kinds of damage.

In Zimbabwe John and Angela were driving along at night when they ran into a parked vehicle that didn’t have tail lights, severely damaging John. Angela managed to get out of the car, going around to the driver’s side, to help him, when a car careened into her.

People managed to get John to the hospital in a dazed condition and he was only aware, when he regained consciousness, that his wife had been killed back there at the scene of the accident.

Ed was luckier. He merely had a broken ankle, broken rib, dislocated shoulder; a vertebra in disrepair, and bleeding from his brain.

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I brought back a cache of books from San Diego and I’ll have a problem with space, but I was particularly happy with two of them, lucky finds: Spies of Warsaw, by Alan Furst, and a new book about Proust.

I first read abut Furst in a Bookmarks magazine some time ago, and wasn’t looking for his book, but stumbled upon it. Bookmarks made him out to be special and I found him to be in the Eric Ambler vein. Upon reading him in Santee I found him to be nimble, breezy and steeped  in European history of the period between the wars. I’ll be looking out for him now.

The Proust book is by Patrick Alexander, of whom I’d never heard. The title is Marcel Proust’s Search for Lost Time. A Reader’s Guide to The Remembrance of Things Past. And it is proving a remarkable read.

Alexander is not given to befuddling Proustian sentences and is orgnized. His introduction tells you the book is layered in three sections.

Part one gives you  brief overview of Remembrance, describing the main story and the major themes; a summary of the whole novel in less than 600 words — a protean feat — and a synopsis of the plot in each of the seven volumes. Part two has descriptions of the major characters and part three gives you a brief biography of Proust himself.

And with a nice touch he ends it all with internet resources to help you continue the Proust learning process. You can start with http://.www.tempsperdu.com, which I looked up and found to be resourceful. He mentions addresses of reading and discussion groups in New York, San Francisco and Boston. He even includes related Paris walking tours.

I confess to not getting enough of Remembrance. I remember Cliff Sealey ordering me the set long ago in Trinidad. I suppose even when I get hold of the spoken version of Remembrance and become steeped in it, Proust will still beckon.

To take in all that Proust put into his stuff you have, let’s face it, to take on a regular study program. Or, like Phyllis Rose, devote a particular period of time to properly doing him in, and you would be lucky if you end up, like her, with her book, A Year of Reading Proust.

And as she herself says, on page 71, I want, therefore I am.

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It takes time

Not far from where I live there is empty desert space between Snowflake and Holbrook, and a prime location for wind farms.But there is objection on the grounds, as some would have it, that these windmills are unlovely and would mar the arid landscape.

Turns out the Dutch, with whom one inevitably associates windmills, once didn’t want to have anything to do with them either, according to Alain de Botton in his delightful book The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work.

He tells us that “these early industrial objects had originally been felt to have all the pylons’ threatening alien qualities, rather than the air of enchantment and playfulness now routinely associated with them.” The early windmills were even denounced from the pulpit and, in some cases, burnt to the ground.

Ah, but enter the great painters of the Dutch Golden Age. Moved, he tells us, by “their country’s dependence on these rotating utilitarian objects,” they started including them in their canvases. The windmills were thus rehabilitated in the eyes of the Dutch people, to the point where, in time they came to be identified with their country, as were tulips and wooden clogs.

I related this evolution to our Dutch-born neighbors and they recall that from what was once thousands of great wooden windmills in Holland there now were perhaps only about 200, and they have become like national treasures.

And now, to complete the story, the Dutch landscape is dotted with these new, mechanical windmills, which some people in our area don’t want in their midst. It takes time

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