Day 836: Alamos, Mexico

Living in Antarctica where one needs to wear a coat even in summer was beginning to get tiresome, so Laetitia decided to lead her next tour in sunny Mexico.  Known as La Ciudad d los Portales for its arcaded colonial-style buildings with lining cobblestone streets, Alamos was named a Pueblo Mágico, magical village, by Mexico’s Secretariat of Tourism for its natural beauty, cultural richness, and historical significance.  Founded in the late seventeenth century and named by conquistador, Francisco Vásquez de Coronado, Alamos began life as a silver mining town.  Although many of the fine homes built during the silver boom are gone, expatriates from Canada and the United States have restored a number of them and regularly open them for tours.  The tour proceeds provide funding for the education of disadvantaged Mexican children.  The designs of the colonial homes revealed why they are so attractive to people from the north.  The mild climate allows the inner rooms to be built without walls separating them from inner courtyards.  Thus, one can sit in the living room and have the sense of being outside.  Laetitia and her group spent the remainder of the day walking through the beautiful old city, visiting the Plaza de Alamos and the Museo Costumbrista before going to their colonial style hotel where they dined on Sonoran-style food and Mexican beer.  The dinner became the subject of Laetitia’s limerick of the day.

If you are a girl or a fellow
An Alamos evening that’s mellow
Is some Sonoran food
That’s bound to be good
When consumed with a Negra Modelo.

Day 835: Anna Livia

The Antarctic research station library had a book collection that followed neither rhyme nor reason.  Generally, researchers arrived with books that they wanted to read when they had spare time.  They usually read them while they were there and often left them behind when they returned home.  So it was that the library had a copy of Finnegans Wake.  James Joyce published it two years before death.  It is an experimental work, devoid of plot or character development, that wanders through dreams, literary allusions, multilingual puns, and verse in a seemingly random fashion.  Among the mostly shopworn books in the station’s collection, it stood out as being relatively unused.  In spare moments, Laetitia read at it in bits and pieces.  One of its characters is Anna Livia Plurabelle who personifies Dublin’s River Liffey.  On Laetitia’s and Granny’s trip to Ireland, they saw the bronze statue of Anna Livia, a half-reclining female figure in a pool in Croppies Memorial Park near the River Liffey.  She decided that her next tour would go to Dublin.

On the appointed day, she and her group met on Grafton Street near the statue of Molly Malone where she had conducted her first tour more than two years ago.  On her previous trip she was amused at how Dubliners satirize their statues with nicknames.  Molly Malone was called “The Tart with the Cart,” owing to the contention by historians that the young women personified by Molly were likely street vendors by day and streetwalkers at night.  The statue of Anna Livia was moved to Croppies Park in 2001.  Previously it was on O’Connell Street in the midst of rushing water in a tub-like enclosure leading to the nickname, “The Floozie in the Jacuzzi.”  The tour day’s itinerary included the statue of Dubliner, Oscar Wilde, lounging on a boulder in Merrion Square.  Among other appellations, it is often called, “The Gay in the Hay.”  On Liffey Street, two older women in bronze with shopping bags chatting on a bench are known as “The Hags with Bags.”  The Spire of Dublin a 400-foot high stainless steel elongated cone near the river has been dubbed “The Stiffy on the Liffey.”  Laetitia decided to distill these clever one-liners into a multiple-verse limerick and some a song called Quare Statue Fare that she and her cousins would perform at Uncle Milt’s next party.

Now Dubliners aren’t at all chary
‘Bout nicknaming their town’s statuary
And are often designers
Of rhyming one liners
In pubs when they’re all making merry.

So that Grafton Street’s Molly Malone
As the “Tart with the Cart” is well known
Or the “Dish with the Fish,”
City fathers may wish
For less comic verse talent homegrown.

And may want them exiled to Bolivia
Who dubbed the bronze of Anna Livia
As the Jacuzzi Floozie
No doubt they were woozy
With booze but it makes for good trivia.

And some likely have scorn for the wags
Who coined the rude name, “Hags with Bags”
For the bronze ladies stopping
To chat after shopping
On a bench near the quay with its flags.

And then there’s the spire near the Liffey
That has come to be known as “The Stiffy”
A Freud symbol phallic
Although it’s metallic
So perhaps the resemblance is iffy.

Though not famous like Ireland’s greats
Wilde, Kavenagh, Moore, Joyce and Yeats
These rhymers have fun
With slang meaning and pun
And bring laughs that the spirit elates.

Day 834: O’Gara’s

There was another party at Uncle Milt’s.  Laetitia arrived early and met Elsa for happy hour at O’Gara’s, a venerable Irish pub in St. Paul.  The limerick of the day was inspired by Laetitia’s thought that, like green-wearers on St. Patrick’s Day; everyone in an Irish pub is Irish regardless of ancestry.  Bryn, Luciano and Alicia were at the party and joined Laetitia to perform A Toast to Lewes and Bell.  Laetitia wrote the day’s limerick about O’Gara’s.

If your Gaelic ancestry is liar-ish
And you’re actually Finnish or Bayerishe
You’ve no need to fret
As your whistle you wet
At O’Gara’s, the whole crowd is Irish.

Day 833: Art Fraud Squad

Laetitia led a group to Springfield, Massachusetts.  Their destination was the Michele & Donald D’Amour Museum of Fine Arts that had an exhibit on famous art forgeries called “Intent to Deceive.”  Five forgers were featured:

Frustrated by meager public interest in his own paintings, Han Van Meegeren created several works that were supposedly painted by seventeenth century Dutch Master, Vermeer, during a previously unknown early religious period.  He added Bakelite (an early plastic) to his paint to give it the hardness and tendency to crack that characterized that of Vermeer’s era.  These forgeries found their way into museums and art collections of prominent Nazi’s like Hermann Göring.  After World War II, Van Meegeren had to confess his fakery and demonstrate his skill at it to avoid being convicted of treason for selling Dutch art treasures to the Nazis.  That he fooled the Nazis made him a folk hero but he still had to serve time for forgery.

Charm and a fabricated persona as a dispossessed Hungarian aristocrat gained Elmyr de Hory access to the social circles of the rich and famous.  Another frustrated artist with a lackluster career, he and partner, Fernand Legros, are credited with selling into the art world over 1,000 forged works over a 30-year period, supposedly painted by known masters such as Modigliani, Picasso, and Matisse.  Though often pursued by authorities, de Hory’s only jail time was two months in Spain for homosexuality.  In 1972, Orson Welles featured the forger’s life of notoriety in a film called F is for Fake.  He died in 1976, allegedly of a sleeping pill overdose.

Eric Hebborn trained at the Royal Academy of Arts, the most prestigious art school in England.  Although he produced exquisite art, it didn’t sell.  Unable to support himself as an artist, he taught and worked as an art restorer.  He soon realized it was a relatively short step between restoring a damaged authentic work of art and creating a de novo fake.  In the 1960s, he established a gallery in Rome that exhibited authentic works of art along with forgeries attributed to Bruegel, Castiglione, Corot, Mantegna, Piranesi, Rubens, Tiepolo, and Van Dyck. He sold his fraudulent pieces only to art dealers apparently following a somewhat unorthodox ethic based on the question, “Is a fake so exquisite that it can’t be distinguished by an expert from that of a master not of comparable value with a genuine piece?”  He wrote two books, Drawn to Trouble and The Art Forger’s Handbook.  Shortly after the latter was published, he was found with a fatal head injury on a street in Rome.  His murder has never been solved.

John Myatt was a farmer’s son who went to art school and amused his friends by mimicking the works of other artists.  Afterwards, he became a teacher and had some success as a songwriter.  After his wife left him, he quit teaching and attempted to support himself and his children by painting and selling “genuine fakes,” works in the style of masters that were clearly identified as imitations.  When he learned that his best customer, John Drew, was selling his imitations as genuine works at auction houses like Christie’s and Sotheby’s, he quietly continued supplying the paintings even though he now knew he was participating in fraud.  Drewe created false documents and altered records in museum archives to cover his tracks.  Myatt served four months in jail; Drewe served a longer sentence.  The notoriety enhanced the demand for Myatt’s paintings.  They now sell for up to $45,000.

Mark Landis poses as a priest and approaches small art museums offering to donate art works from his family’s collection.  The donated works are fakes painted by Landis himself.  Since he has a history of mental illness doesn’t charge money for the donated paintings, he has never been prosecuted.

Laetitia viewed the exhibit as a cautionary tale for those who purchase expensive works of art and turned her thoughts into a limerick.

When at an art auction affair
Where what’s sold is quite pricey and rare
You’d best be on guard
When you use your bankcard
It’s a clear case of buyer beware.