Buying a home appliance can be an exciting event if it involves your first refrigerator with your bride to be. And it was so with my Rosemary.
But when you are an old man and you have to go to London Drugs to see if one could return a Hoover (poor suction and the removal of attachments was a Waterloo to my arthritic limbs) and to then buy a much more expensive but well-designed Dyson it can all be a yawn, and stressful, too.
And yet after tonight’s Rachel Maddow I took it for a spin and it worked like a charm. I was not overly excited but I was satisfied that it sucks (well).
I remember (and how many of you remember a similar scene) when sometime in 1955 in Mexico City the door bell rang and a man selling Elextroluxes was invited in by my grandmother. The man did ( the rigeur) demonstration with that predictable apology, “Don’t be insulted this looks like a clean house,” of quick passing over our living room couch and then opened the lovely aluminum Electrolux baby and showed us all that dirt.
We bought it. It eventually failed and then vacuum cleaners disappear from my psyche until we moved to Vancouver in 1975
In 1977 inour Burnaby renter, a man gave us a gift a set of steak knives (did he suspect I was Argentine?) and we bought his cyclonic wonder. Since then there have been too many more vacuums in my life.
In 1950 the ice man in our Buenos Aires neighbourhood of Coghlan stopped coming to our house. We were the first on the block with an almost brand new refrigerator my mother bought from a departing American diplomat. In that refrigerator I made my first package of Jell-O lime flavoured dessert.
A couple of years later when I visited my friend Susan Stone (I was madly in love with her) at her spacious home, her father was the general manager of GM in Argentina (and had sent his Cadillac to pick me up), I watched my first program on a TV. I vaguely remember oil derricks.
After that I was only passably excited when in Mexico City in 1956 my mother bought a Zenith TV.
Then I discovered Boston Blackie!
It was only in 1966 when an appliance and romance somehow became intertwined.
I had this lovely girlfriend called Susy who wooed me with food. I was a starving and very thin conscript in the Argentine Navy. When I visited her she would make me lovely sandwiches with Swiss cheese, liverwurst and pickles.
At the same time I fell in love with the music of Astor Piazzolla. I secured a couple of tickets for an evening performance at the Teatro Florida (long gone) on Calle Florida. Before the concert, Susy and I went to a party. When it was time I told her we had to take the train to town. She informed me that she was having a very good time so she was going to stay.
I left a sad man and became more so as I waited in the evening for the train to take me to Retiro. I arrived feeling awully sorry for myself at the Teatro Florida and sat down. The room was packed. The seat next to me was empty. I was at that point reaching a basement of melancholy. Piazzolla began my now (not yet then) favourite piece Milonga del Angel. I was about to cry when I felt a gentle hand on my right thigh. It was Susy, who whispered, “I changed my mind.” After the performance we crossed Florida where there was a store with appliances. Susy to the day that she died of cancer told me this was my invention. We looked at a kitchen range in that awful avocado and she said, “Alex wouldn’t that look nice in our kitchen?”
Her romance and love for me lasted until she met a violinist from the Colón Philharmonic. I was dumped over the phone.
Sometime in 1987 I returned to Buenos Aires assigned by a Toronto magazine called Vista. I rang the bell at Susy’s apartment. She opened the door, looked at me and said, “Aren’t you going to kiss me?” Later she confessed it had not worked out with the violinist and I did not ask any questions nor do I have any memory of what might have been said. I don’t even remember her kitchen.
But there is memory, and how memory can affect one like a sharp utensil. I have in social media a couple of friends who knew Susy. In one of the postings I noticed a man called Miguel with Susy’s last name. I might have met him since he was obviously her brother. I have no recollection. In his photos I found a family photograph that froze me.
It is a feeling that even as the photographer that I am is one that throws me into the confusion of trying to figure out death. Taking Epicurus’s advice that death is the absence of pain is not to my liking. It is the idea of thinking about not being able to think that is so terrible and why death is our human bet noire.
Part of that is seeing the face of a young woman who was alive with all her future in front of her (refrigerators and stoves perhaps?) that I cannot reconcile while still remembering the tone and substance of her voice and even the flavor of all those sandwiches.