Monday, May 30, 2011

Grandpa goes to Hollywood

This is my paternal grandfather, or at least this is how he used to look around the time he married my grandmother.

Enrique, that was his name, had many jobs but only one employer in his life, the meat packing factory Frigorífico Anglo of Fray Bentos. He was born in one of the ranches where the livestock was raised, son to the foreman - in that limbo of the ranks of power, not exactly a plain soldier but neither a gringo, but soon started working in the factory as just another worker.

The tales from the work at the plant are very interesting - for example, management wouldn't allow a trade union but tried really hard to keep their workers happy by giving them ample benefits. If a worker was found trying to create turmoil he (or she) would be fired immediately, but had the chance to be rehired at the lowest entry level. When the demand for the product was high, the cuts weren't particularly, ahem, what you'd call "selected". While accidents were unusual, probably one soldier or two may have found a finger in their rations. Oh well.

Everyday work memorabilia may be fading with the memories of their protagonists, now frail elderly citizens in a sleepy town. The memory of the star product of the company, the corned beef, however, will be harder to wipe off.

Bully beef and biscuits were the main field rations of the British Army from the Boer War to World War II, says Wikipedia, which means that the little oblong can with the red tag is a given in movies of British wartime, from that time or reconstructions. Canspotting, if there is such word, is almost a sport when I watch those films. 

In The English Patient, I believe it's a can of Anglo's corned beef that Ralph Fiennes' character gives to Kristin Scott Thomas' when he leaves her in the cave. There's also another little red one in Gallipoli, in the scene where Mel Gibson runs through the trenches. I'm certain that I've seen in many other times but unfortunately, IMDB doesn't allow searches for props like corned beef cans, and still pictures of those movies don't pay particular attention to them.

That doesn't really matter, because part of the fun, the rare fun still unspoiled by the Google almighty, is trying to collect such quick sights. And whenever I do, I say aloud to whomever might be hearing, "My grandpa could have been the one to pack that can". And it feels really good.

Corned beef picture from here.

Monday, May 23, 2011


While I'm not a big fan of lists I like to write down series of things I'd like to acquire. Once I thought they might inspire other people to draw inspiration for presents but it never worked that way, so they're non essentials I plan to buy one day, maybe.

Writing down wishlists is an interest exercise. It seems to be a relief to that imprecise buzz of anxiety that fuels shopping on an impulse, and later, they're a good document of priorities of a certain moment.

Usually most of the items in my wishlist stay as wishes. A list from when I was 15 years old had many CDs of artists I haven't cared about for a long time, and items of clothing brands that don't exist anymore. Another wishlist from when I was 25 is mostly related to an apartment we don't live in anymore. The one from my 30th year was related to Minnesota, a place we're not likely to visit anytime soon. My most recent wishlist has one immaterial among physical items : I want some time out.

Sometimes I wonder what if I had those wishes made true. Maybe when I was 15 I'd have had a little more self confidence because of a nicer wardrobe (I doubt it). Maybe when I was 25 I'd have had a more comfortable home (I don't doubt that for a second). Maybe when I was 30 I would have lived in a prettier home (only probable). Still, I didn't have those things and life went on... did it make me less happy? I don't think so. Would I have better judgment when it comes to actual shopping? I'm sure I would.

The downside of buying according to wishlists is that one tends to feel challenged when needing to make a decision on the spot. When going to a store far from home, or a clearance sale, or a second hand store, places where coming back later is not an option, there are chances one ends up getting something less than ideal. So, in my next wishlist I think I'll add wisdom. Hey, a girl can wish!

Monday, May 16, 2011

Ingmar Bergman for children

Swedish director Ingmar Bergman created a large body of work spanning half a century and largely regarded as influential and profound. The stories usually go on the subject of good and evil with metaphors and the notions of comedy, happy endings or frivolity are foreign concepts.

Indeed those are complicated movies, the complete opposite to a summer blockbuster if there ever was one.

For my 9th birthday, my best friend gave me a book by Swedish writer Maria Gripe. The Glassblower Children, I think it was. Or maybe Josephine and Hugo, two books related. Whichever it was, I loved it and kept seeking and reading her books. Some of my friends also liked her books and we had some sort of informal book club.

Most of Gripe's book were the equivalent of Bergman for kids. They were metaphors of life and death, good and evil, and they did play games with my mind. I didn't know if grownup people got to be that complicated (first I thought no, then yes), and if everybody spoke that way (no, everybody speaks differently). Along with unhealthy doses of early R.E.M. they were the key to my moody teenager musings on self discovery and self forging.

I always fell short of what I thought I could be, judging by those larger than life characters.

Years later I'm reading Maria Gripe's books again and I can't find what was so enticing of that foreign culture to my childhood mind - language, religion, weather, celebrations, everything was different and brought no explanatory notes. They even sound dated (not that there's anything wrong with that), but that might be just a trick because of the time since I first read them.

Maybe it's because they're not exactly books for children and the grown up me is just warming up to them. Maybe it's because they led me to much introspection and I rather be frivolous and superficial. Maybe it's because, sad as it is, I don't understand them anymore.


Picture by Harald Gripe, from here

Monday, May 9, 2011

Time traveling to 2006

One day during this month will mark 5 years since I opened my first blogger account. Blogspot and Typepad were bubbling with people opening blogs all the time to speak their minds, to tell others about their day or interests, simply to own a public space and tasting what it feels like being the ruler in a little internet playground.

Some people really took off. Armed with one subject to write about, discipline and talent, they managed to create a niche and they became sort of celebrities. Most people telling little nothings or sharing everyday pictures moved on to Facebook, Twitter, PicasaWeb and other specific environments, and stopped blogging altogether.

In a way I still live in 2006, still immersed that blogging bubble. I didn't get the memo that people who don't know me probably aren't interested in reading me, but if you're here, you probably didn't get it either.

By the way, thank you.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Hard drugs

Nothing ever gave me such a disproportionate feeling of accomplishment like a good 30 minute run did - let alone a 60 minute run. Biking for 75 minutes, one mile of lapswimming and 30 minutes of rowing (all of these within a gym walls, I must say) also left me basking in a glow of exhilaration and invincibility.

I think those were endorphines, and man are they addictive.

During pregnancy I was brimming with health and with a permanent positive mindset. The Universe and I were perfectly tuned, and I've never felt better.

I think those were oestrogen and other hormones, and man did I miss them after giving birth.

So like a recovering junkie craving her next fix but knowing it won't happen, I'm just doing without. Making do and doing without, but starting to realize that the fix is going to come in an odd and unexpected shape.