Select Page

One day I was at BandH photo in New York, my second or third trip to the store, this time to discuss the possibility of buying a “penguin lens” which is what I still call my 70-300 (zoomcito) which I bought for the specific purpose of taking pictures of penguins on the Falkland Islands. (and I did!)

Throughout the discussion that I had with the salesman there, we did not discuss how thoroughly overrated the shopping experience at this particular photo-techy mecca store is. That I will leave to a writer who I happen to know is working on a story that will touch on this, and many other finger-pointing topics. What we talked about (among other things) was how anglos don’t get “us,” with “us” really meaning him, since I am an Eastern European quiltro (mutt), and only have gone vaguely latin americana in recent years. But he took me into his confidence, and told me about how his anglo girlfriend fit (or didn’t) into his Dominican family, and we became fast friends. At least until the sale was made.

Except then he started ragging on Santiago. No color, he said! It’s black and white and grey and brown and beige. It just lacks color! I didn’t know if he meant it was missing mariachi bands, or colored serapes, or brown-skinned girls in bright colored tanktops playing jumprope on the street. Color! he insisted. And he insisted it was lacking.

I could easily point to yesterday’s post, and the colorful sunset pictures I posted, or the rainbow of green you can see in a single asparagus stand in the spring, but I mainly (as I do when I feel offended, as I am part turtle, or perhaps ostrich) just got quiet. But not totally, first I cut him off and tried to correct him, because if I am part turtle, clearly I am part snapping turtle. Chomp. And I paid for my heavy lens, my cashier’s tag proclaiming that she spoke Turkish, Arabic and English, and went happily on my way, forgetting all about my adopted city’s alleged colorlessness.

But winter is upon us, and despite the occassional crisp-as-a-snowflake day with blue skies and a sharp ridge of brightwhite mountains, we’re in a period of grey. It’s a bit blah. And Santiaguinos, especially in the winter, tend to prefer dark blues, black, grey, brown, and beige to dress. Maybe it’s because the rainy days are mucky and awful and everything gets stained with street mugre (grime) if it’s not a dark color. Or maybe it’s just what the clothing purchasers buy, so it’s what we wear.

This came up the other day because I was wearing a scarf that I’d bought in Bolivia. It’s red/orange/darkorange/green/lightgreen/blue/darkblue/lightplue/pink/yellow/olivegreen/skyblue, repeated a few times. It’s bright. And it stands out. I was commenting to a friend last week that I didn’t know why people here don’t like bright colors (with the exception of a friend who I saw the other day who was a purple and violet vision of loveliness, head to tiny size-six toe). And we came upon something. In Chile we don’t have a particular word for “bright” as in bright colors. We have alegre, or happy. Colores alegres (literally: happy colors, means: bright colors) are seldom seen on the street. I wonder what it says about the collective psyche, if we fail to include happy colors in our closets.

I’m going to be in New York in a few weeks, and I was thinking of trotting out my best rainbow brite to see what kind of effect it would have. And then I realized that New Yorkers aren’t fased particularly easily, and that I’d pretty much have to dress in a suit of armor to get any attention, and that only because I’d set off metal detectors, and because of all the clanging. Plus the certainty that I would fall and get trapped on my back, limbs waving, like the turtle I claim to be.

Which wouldn’t be very bright at all.