Oct 22, 2009

Portrait of a room: retro american kitsch with a twist

[click on the image to see it enlarged]
Photos and collage by me.

It's not every day I walk into a room decorated in classic 50s-70s Americana. What an unexpected surprise to happen upon in Madrid. It's a lucky thing I have my camera on me. Nicolas blames his fetish for American memorabilia on the influence of American TV in his youth, shows like Starsky and Hutch, which explains all those posters and the model car from the series. Although license plates from almost every state, posters of Elvis, Elvis theme Russian dolls, and stacks of cds of rock 'n' roll from the 50s line his walls and shelves, Nicolas insists he's NOT a fan of the USA. He just loves the music from this period and has been collecting this retro Americana for years. (an aside: this is an apparent contradiction I've noticed a lot in Spain. While folks here are often too happy to poo poo the Americans, they sure love American movies, tv shows, music, etc...)

In the corner of his room, there is a lovely old double bass, which fits in with the 50s theme but in fact plays more classical than classic rockabilly. Nicolas, who grew up in Buenos Aires, Argentina, tells us a beautiful little story about the journey of his double bass. His instrument is originally from Madrid and was one of the secondary instruments belonging to a fairly well-known double bassist. This musician brought his collection of double basses with him from Madrid to Buenos Aires when he moved there decades ago. When he died, his daughter sold his double basses at auction and Nicolas bought the one you can see in the photo. When Nicolas relocated to Madrid a few years ago, his double bass came with him and, in a way, his bass was able to return to its homeland to begin a new life with a young classically trained contrabassist. This isn't quite the story of the Red Violin, but for me, this serendipitous journey half way around the world and then back again infuses the non-matching tuners, the sensuously scrolled head and the curvaceous dark wooden body of this upright bass, with character and soul. And I admit, I sometimes enjoy the personification of inanimate objects because it allows me to see the inner beauty of a thing shining through its casing and what I might otherwise have overlooked as ordinary becomes instead illuminated by the firelight of stories. A beauty to behold, a spark for my imagination and a flicker upon which to daydream.

I found this room intriguingly and deliciously disorienting. Thanks to Nicolas, for letting me take photos and share his room on my blog.


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