Legacy

A Grandfather’s Gift to a Grandson He Never Met


“Who has fully realized that history is not contained in thick books but lives in our very blood?” — Carl Jung


Visiting America

As my family tells it, his face—with its defined lines grooved by dirt, strife and time—held a solemn look most days. Weary or apathy was not the matter, it was a face well worn. A face having spent time in his village watching the nearby river slowly dismantle the fading banks. Even with all those years between him and the war, it was a face etched with wrinkles wrought by the tears he could no longer shed. Anymore, his mood would shift only after dinner.

“I’m going to America today,” he’d declare. Taking out his faux leather-bound album, grandfather would chuckle as he opened to the first page. The photographs were slightly crinkled having sat beneath cracked yellowing plastic covers for some years. But that didn’t matter. The true treasure were the faces sitting behind those sheets.

The smile would appear slowly at first. As pages turned, the creases in his brow and on his cheeks would stretch taut, crevices giving way to delight.

“Look at that!” he would shout slapping his fingers onto the photos. Then he would smoothen the photographs with those fingers, fingers well aged in setting bones, mixing herbs, punching posts and pulling triggers. “That’s my grandson!” he’d proclaim, as if sharing the images to the family for the first time.

My grandmother told me that during those span of years in their lives, this was the only time my grandfather really showed any emotion. The war and reeducation had wrested the rest away from him. What brought him life were his memories.

And that album.

Across the Seas

The world in which you were born is just one model of reality. Other cultures are not failed attempts at being you; they are unique manifestations of the human spirit. ― Wade Davis

Those were the early 90s. Telecommunications were much different then, strikingly so when considering the gaps between the Vietnam countryside and Philadelphian suburb. Phone calls were scheduled months in advanced by handwritten postal mail. A time was arranged and the family in Ang Giang would travel to the designated phone station where the phone sat. When the phone rang, they would answer. And we’d be on the other side waiting for a “Hello?”

At this point in my life I had never met my extended family. Beyond the perimeter of my parents and sister, the rest of my kin were all abstract ideas inferred by stories and brief phone conversations during special holidays.

I remember the last phone conversation I would share with my grandfather. I no longer remember the sound of his voice, nor exactly what we talked about, but vividly recall the setting that January evening.

Our lights were off. It was early. My sister and I were already asleep, but our parents woke us up in the dark dawn to call the family. With the 12-hour difference, our uncles and aunts would be back from their day’s work.

I still remember sitting on the shag carpet watching my mother with the cordless phone pressed firmly against her ear. In two weeks time it would be the Lunar New Year and my mother was excited to talk about some final plans before she would touch Vietnam soil for the first time in 15 years.

I remember her talking to the family as I rubbed my eyes, head rested on the couch with arms slung over the side. I wanted a chance to talk to grandpa and grandma. I wanted to hear their voices. My mother handed me the grey magical box that would send me to my family a whole world away. And we talked.

I can remember pacing the room, chirping excitedly. And then we said our goodbyes as I passed the phone along to my sister. And that was the last time I heard my grandfather’s voice. A week later he passed away.

Verbal History

There was no wealth after the war and so there were no heirlooms to pass on, no tokens, no mementos. All we had were the memories. All I had were the phone calls made 12,000 miles apart. And our stories. For a time, all we had were our stories.

Those stories and what they inspired became the only links left between me and my grandfather. Some were loving, others humorous, a few fantastical and others still, curious. My favorites were always the gung fu adventures involving my grandfather, his teacher and a mysterious man by the name of Ong Dao Luong. (While amongst my favorite stories, Ong Dao Luong will have to wait for another time.)

Hearing my grandfather taught gung fu in those days—that he, in fact, practiced in a familial style tied to our heritage—grabbed my imagination early in my post-toddler life. Vo Lam it was called, a general term for a variety of indigenous combat arts. Despite the lack of specificity in name, his art was his and therefore it was something worth exploring.

Grandfather would wake my mother up in the early mornings to practice in the predawn light. Atop the roof of their three-story home, he forged her through the skills of our family’s art.

I wanted to learn gung fu like my mother had. I wanted to practice with my grandfather. But at this point in my life, my mother didn’t remember much of what she had learned. That was so long ago, further distanced by other worldly trials and concerns. She was, however, able to recall a few movements from grandfather’s routine called “Man Ho Li Son”–Mighty Tiger Up The Golden Mountain. And while my martial arts journey blossomed in other ways, it was with those movements I first felt aspiration, an undying passion for a particular kind of cultural movement. Here was where I began to learn, not only my grandfather’s legacy, but also his secret in visiting loved ones so far away.

A civilization is a heritage of beliefs, customs, and knowledge slowly accumulated in the course of centuries, elements difficult at times to justify by logic, but justifying themselves as paths when they lead somewhere, since they open up for man his inner distance. — Antoine de Saint-Exupery

I spent the next years of my life asking my mother to retell me stories of my grandfather’s training, of his skills and of his personality. I dove into various styles of gung fu, boxing and MMA for the next 20 years of my life. In my early twenties I traveled back to Vietnam, to my uncles, aunts, great uncles and neighbors seeking nuggets of information about my grandfather. To discover how he interacted with people, what motivated him, the intricacies of his life and the peculiarities of his movements. With the help of loved ones I pieced together the aforementioned Man Ho Li Son in its entirety. My great uncle, a contemporary with my grandfather, attempted to show me applications and concepts he learned alongside his friend. The years prior spent refining other martial arts informed my practice with the new aspects I encountered from my grandfather’s art.

Fast forward four years. I met with another extended family member who recalled techniques and three additional forms. With a friend, I recorded this knowledge on video while dedicating a day practicing the forms, to not only document them digitally, but also commit them biomechanically. By day’s end, I received the physio-textbooks of my grandfather’s art, regardless of how patchwork the process, how piecemeal the research.

volam-elbow

Inheritance

There are aspects of gung fu and martial arts similar to dancing. But whereas there is generally a large level of cooperation in dance (there are certainly exceptions), communicating through martial arts offers more opportunity for abrupt randomization. While also requiring a level of cooperation and understanding, moments in martial arts provide plenty more instances of disruptive pulse-like exchanges. Many times, the purpose is to outsmart and out maneuver your friend, albeit in the hopes that your friend counters, returning the favor to you. It is communication on the level of a chess match—through feinting, counters and attacks. You not only learn your opponent’s or partner’s physicality, but also their mentality, personality and creativity. An exchange between martial artists can be made with anger and aggression or with amicability and admiration. Like life, communicating with martial arts has layers.

But how do you communicate in that way with a grandfather who passed before you met him? You can’t. But you can catch a glimpse of what it may have been like to do so by practicing the routines he practiced. By extrapolating the techniques from those routines. By contemplating what he would have suggested when you considered the relevance of using those techniques in exchanges with contemporary martial artists.

There is a concept of design called heritage design. It is the idea that in today’s planned obsolescence, in our daily items’ inherent devaluing over time due to the nature in which technology rapidly progresses, we should begin to again design things meant to last. Not simply lasting in our lifetimes, but creating things so well crafted they last generations. Designing family heirlooms.

These stories and the very tangible experiences of performing choreographed routines established by my grandfather, these are my inheritance. It is difficult to describe to someone who hasn’t had the isolation from family, who doesn’t desperately seek out glimpses of his past, it is difficult to describe how much this all means. For me, performing these movements are something very special, knowing that I am not simply reading a piece of history through which my grandfather lived, but for a moment in time and space performing the very movements he did, experiencing the same twist, turn and tumble of my limbs as he had. This experience, this art, my grandfather’s gift is my photo album. This art is a very sacred thing to me and it is through this art that I visit my grandfather

Some people are your relatives but others are your ancestors, and you choose the ones you want to have as ancestors. You create yourself out of those values. — Ralph Ellison

You see, I was never handed an oil-worn baseball glove, or precisely tuned watch. No one would want to sell their grandfather’s old timepiece; I wouldn’t want to sell my grandfather’s gung fu. What was gifted me was deeper than a simple bit of nostalgia. I was given a way of communicating cultural value and heritage within the mediums of story and practice, bonding me beyond land, ocean, time and death itself. My grandfather lives on because I dream of him, think to him and practice the things he cherished. For a moment in time, my grandfather visited my family through his photo album. For a moment in time, I visit my grandfather when performing those movements he performed all those years ago.

During those moments in time, he lives on.

Light Magic

Bus rides are usually hectic. By the time the public’s leviathan scoops me up at my stop, I can barely inch over the yellow “DO NOT CROSS” line that demarks the start of the aisle and the end of the driver’s zone.


I don’t mind standing as I’ll be sitting most of the day anyway. But the weight I see on the sullen faces around me forebode their 9-to-5-gruel. And this tempts the phantom knots I can feel in our collective shoulders.

This morning it’s different. While it started with a leaden gloom, the sun’s peaking over and out from it’s five-day hiding. The bus is empty and I have a seat. I actually have a lot of seats. I choose to only occupy one.

The mothers beside me speak with light, accented notes. Their intonations are from two different regions of the world. The little boys with them have none.


Moments earlier, clomping up onto the bus from Green Street and striding gallantly down the aisle, the one boy cried, “It’s magic!” Grinning, he was clearly excited to see he’d somehow synchronized his commute schedule with his morning friend yet again.

“There is no such thing as magic honey,” chides his mother as they sit down across from the first mother-son pair.

The boy continues to speak. He tries to spell on the bus. He doesn’t get it right, but he’s determined to wrestle through breaking down “ingredients.” After a couple of “i” and “n’s” he stops.

“We could look it up in a dictionary you know. Oh! I know how to spell ‘dictionary’!”

Alas, before he can provide adequate solutions for either of those words, his stop arrives. “We should ask Google how to spell them,” he claims as he gets up for the door. “It’s not the smartest person. Google’s not a person. But it’s the smartest network.”

He slides down the seat and stubbles down the steps firmly grasping his mother’s hand.

“You become the smartest person by working hard like you just did,” says the other mother. Her and her son wave goodbye with big smiles.

He gets off the bus with his mom that told him magic doesn’t exist and they both continue on their way.

“See,” says the other mother to her own young boy, “he does not know how to spell those words, but yet he tries and tries. There should be no fear to learning.”

Now that is magic.

Welcome Home

“It is a strange thing to come home. While yet on the journey, you cannot at all realize how strange it will be.” Selma Lagerl

I’ve been attempting to adequately describe what it’s like leaving Matthew to continue the journey while I head home to start new things, meet new people and yet continue where I left off in July. It’s proving difficult.

Being home… well Lagerl says it best. But maybe the photos below can help.

While trying to figure how to best write my experiences of being back…

…I’ve attempted to re-familiarize myself with the city, biking to and fro…

…engaging local establishments, meeting up with old friends…

I’m still working on my thoughts.

I’m still lost in them.

I feel lonely.

I feel astray.

I’ll continue to sort this out. In the meantime, welcome to Philly. Welcome home.

Behind the Spaces

A year ago, I stepped out into Paris and felt at once wonder, awe and confusion. The buildings were so close to me as to feel confining, looming, tempting to fall atop one another, to fall on top of me.

As we wound our way towards the Seine, even larger, epic sculptures rose, the grandeur of it all was magnificent, but also overwhelming.

We continued walking, the space aired out a bit, the arteries of the city opened up to us. We stepped into throngs of cheery people weaving in and out of the streets, alleyways and each other. It was the Summer Solstice. Despite the joy that grew out of the shared festivities, when I think back to that night I remember looking behind towards the Notre Dame while noting:

“As beautiful as these spaces and structures are, someone—a lot of someones—built all of this.”

It’s easy to cascade over the spectacle of such monuments, to stare in amazement at the sheer dominance of human achievement. All it took was an idea, a genius, a king with a vision: these immense markers of civilization now sit to spell France’s glory.

But it wasn’t just one Louis’ vision and it wasn’t one Old Master’s persistence was it? It took many hands extending from overburdened backs to carry each piece of stone that made the historical monuments we see today. It clearly took a millennium of vision and certain genius for these to exist. But it also took the hard work of the unsung to manifest that idea.

The same is with any modern project, objective or goal. It’s easy to gloss over the machinations churning in the background as Matt and I travel the States. Yes, we do quite a bit of work ourselves, unnoticed by the general public. The grind of waking up early, following up with the professionals met days prior, mapping out a route for the new city we’re in, plotting the engagement of strangers and organizations alike, the continuous introduction of the project and the meeting of a new person to new person to new person for hours end over. It’s not a stagnant nine-to-five desk trap, but it is work. We’re lucky enough to have the opportunity: we enjoy it.

Behind it All

There is more to SBYF than just Matt and myself, however. The pictures and stories come from our point of view, but a very integral team sits behind us, behind the spaces, no less important to the project. They helped make SBYF what it is today, are helping make what it will become.

They all give their time willingly, donating extraordinary amounts of effort to create the digital storybook that carries the project’s parable, to test postcard prompts, to create copious amounts of logos, images and designs. These professionals shoot hours of video, edit hours of video, sound engineer music, record voice overs, hand sketch/draw/paint illustrations, execute well-planned photographs, design the experience (of three iterations) of websites and build physical exhibit structures. These are the folks helping make the idea happen. They are the ones Matt sits with to plan the direction of our mission, to discuss how to best preserve the beautiful postcards you send back and how best to showcase them. When the logistical weight of growing an intergenerational community looms over top, they are the helping hands that guide things forward.

Amidst the project’s mission to bring intergenerational connectedness, to foster relationships and to bring about the awareness of Alzheimer’s disease, it’s easy to forget the team that is helping in every way they can, bringing together their creative and logistic energies to achieve the SBYF Project’s goals. The value of work they bring to the table is staggering.

If there is one thing I’ve learned while working with a talented pool of hardworking individuals, it’s to value the people you work with and to value their creative efforts—especially when it’s donated. Sometimes it’s easy to dimiss their creation as simply a means to an end, but they’ve dedicated a part of themselves in making that tool. It only does these folks justice to mention them by name:

Whitney Krape
Steve Schaller
Robert Tontaro
Jason Finau
Ian Leibovici
Georgia Castellano
Dan Waldron
Arvil Prewitt
Andrew Christiano

And of course, you. Thank you for supporting our project (all of you who were once strangers and now no longer are!) and for submitting your memories. Without your page in the story, our book would be incomplete.

Entrenched in the day-to-day of the operational side of things, I wanted to take a moment and thank you, those that sit behind the spaces.

Photo Synopsis

To call this a photo essay may be misleading. It’s more apt to being called a photo synopsis.

The snapshots were chosen to give a quick overview of the variety of scenes and scenarios I encountered. There are interesting events that aren’t depicted below. For example, we had a wonderful dinner at the home of a Grosse Pointe, MI art center director and some of her best friends/colleagues. And I spoke at length with a Doctor of Social Psychology and his niece at the park.

With this past week of travel, encounters and workshops, there’s too much to give a thorough description of things learned, things seen and people met. I wager you can get a better sense of that over here.

But, for those of you that want to see what my eyes saw through the lens of a camera, here’s a glimpse of the sights from the road.

Toledo, OH

Toledo was a great city for us. We came into it late. These grainy, streaked photos best depict our state of mind. Hungry, we drove to Maumee Bay for some food. Had we felt better, we probably would’ve enjoyed some of their unique brews too.


On our way to Toledo earlier that day, this is a view from the Domonkas Public Library.

The hearty bread prepared by the personable folks at Country Grains Bread & Deli was a nice respite from the more urban setting of Toledo the following day.

Towards Detroit

The transformation along Lake Erie is at once beautiful, awing and sad. Along the edge of the water from Cleveland to Toledo (and even a bit past Toledo), parks, trees and the water offered serene solace. As we got closer to Detroit, the remnants of industry, vast architectural artifacts from a lost civilization, began to emerge.

Detroit, MI

Within Detroit, we saw the same remnant buildings, sights of the industrial grandeur that once was. Where industry left, the arts filled in. Detroit is an insightfully artistic community, with vast amounts of opportunity for the public to learn, appreciate and share art.

Beauty of Detroit

This is Edie Hardy, a veteran of the Korean War. He’s a kind, quiet man, who was interested in submitting his postcard to the project.

His friend, Roy Adams, wondered if his story would be adequate for the archive.

I was in college and a few people told me I should go marching with this man I didn’t know. We were in Washington D.C. and I got swept up with the march. People were yelling at us and the guards wanted to unleash their dogs on us. And then I understood what this man, who I didn’t know, was trying to do. Martin Luther King Jr. just wanted everyone to accept who we were.

Detroit Industry by Diego Rivera

We were given a special tour of the Detroit Institute of Art and came upon the Rivera Court. Wall frescas by Diego Rivera, the murals “depict industry and technology as the indigenous culture of Detroit.”1

“Rivera completed the twenty-seven panel work in eleven months, from April 1932 to March 1933.”1

Ann Arbor

Everyone we met pointed us to Ann Arbor. I handed out close to 100 postcards to receptive individuals and even got a chance to play capoeira with some of the folks at the Diag.

After a successful start in Ann Arbor, we rounded out the night with a film we never heard of: The Intouchables. Shown at Michigan Theater, a historic non-profit venue, the film was everything good about storytelling and humanity.

1 Art at the DIA: Industry and technology as indigenous culture of Detroit, Detroit Institute of Art

Speculative Query

There is a proclamation that states people in public space need reconnecting.

This remains true. There is absolutely no better feeling than connecting with a complete stranger, in the end both agreeing that we’ve connected with our fellow man. Breaking through that barrier of mistrust, that thin veil of viscous armor, creates a connecting point. And relating begins. For me, however, the trip hasn’t simply been about the golden virtues of our mission. Nor has it simply been a tale of adventures, whether rough or with ease. It’s made me ask tough questions and personally inquire.

While we’re walking around Central Park on an afternoon, why are we quick to point out the people on their smartphones or with their headphones plugged, but pass by—sans comment—those reading their paperbacks or perusing articles in a (hardcopy) magazine? Are we more comfortable with “traditional” media in public space now that there’s been a century of precedence? Or is our discomfort with the on-demand nature of current technology that can spiral a person ever inward making them lose sight of the world around them? I have my guesses, but no substantive answers. What I do know is that while engaging a human being one-on-one is far more rewarding, having done so, following up with them is far more conceivable with the current technology available. “You want more information on our project? Sure, below is our web address, but if you provide me your email, I can also shoot you a one page overview of what we do.”

Could it be that engaging in public space changed, because the multicultural landscape changed? Perhaps engaging in public space became so difficult, because every culture on American soil came from a culture that engaged in public spaces differently?

How about the idea that there was a time when Americans connected better, that golden era of trust and community? What changed? Was it the Red Scare and then the Cold War that altered the American perception of trust? Or the technology that came with it?

Perhaps it was easier for Americans to stay connected before the 1940’s and 1930’s because America was more homogenous than it is now. There was a time when, while we fought the good fight overseas, we locked up any Japanese-American into interment camps due to mistrust.1 That was the 1940’s. So was the trust and community only for a particular concept of America?

Then came a wave of social change during a time when we were at war against Communism and terror causing the Second Red Scare, McCarthyism.2 Change scared folks. War scared folks. Misinformation and ignorance scared folks. Maybe this affected our perceived notion of trust and engagement in public spaces as much as the rapid adoption of digital technology.

I don’t believe we’ve become disengaged so much as we are in the midst of learning how to engage with a diverse pool of merging identities, values and shared enrichment.

More importantly, as the United States grew to become the melting pot, answering the call for opportunity and freedom, possibly so too came the freedom and opportunity of differing cultures, of differing practices. Could it be that engaging in public space changed because the multicultural landscape changed? Perhaps every culture on American soil came from a culture that engaged in public spaces differently? If this is so, I don’t believe we’ve become disengaged so much as we are in the midst of learning how to engage with a diverse pool of merging identities, values and shared enrichment.

These, of course, are speculative queries, quasi-hypotheses constructed after 17 days of being on the road, four of which carried a headache swollen and sodden. Cause and effect of today versus yesterday is too easily assumed. And I only have questions. I could consider Jürgen Habermas’ concept of public sphere3 and the role of the Internet affecting it and I could address how developed discourse communities4 affect communication in public space. The chance of answering the questions above along with their relation to the topics stated are currently beyond my scope of research, but certainly within my interests to further pursuit in the future.

So my personal mission isn’t so much reconnecting a la the “good ‘ole days” before technology and before people stopped talking to one another. Those were different days with different rules and different cultures. With the Union being a diverse, multifaceted nation full of diverging and converging ideas, our postcards give us a reason to engage strangers within a public space. A peace offering to gain trust and thereby connect with the various communities we encounter.

After the growing pains of the 20th Century, I believe that the SBYF Project’s aim to join together a large tapestry of what America is today is noble. It challenges the difficulties the nation had in the past and looks towards an intergenerational connectivity. Engaging with the unknown, with strangers, with the strange and new, this is good. It’s a part of what makes travel so compelling, about learning from cultures, histories and experiences different from our own so enriching. Who would have thought we’d have that opportunity right in our backyard, with our fellow countrymen? Perserving these stories is what draws me to the project.

Perhaps one day we’ll still continue sharing postcards, preserving memories and connecting generations, but no longer need them as a tool to meet a stranger. A genuine “hello” and a sincere smile should do.

1 Children of the Camps, PBS
2 Senator Joseph McCarthy, McCarthyism, and the Witch Hunt, The Cold War Museum
3 The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere: An inquiry into a category of bourgeois society, Jürgen Habermas, 1991
4 Discourse Community, Erik Borg, 2003

Collections

Rambling notes from a digital-but-desirably-analog Anthropologist Wannabe

(Note: Or for the impatient, you can just skip all of the exposition and scroll on down to the photos!)

The rain followed us today. After several successful meetings with a variety of organizations we sop into the main Cleveland Public Library, through some epic archways and into the main information lobby.

“Can we help you?”

The question was directed at me. Usually, when we split up, I field the questions just like Matt. When we’re together, Matt takes charge and I act as backup. Today, though we are paired, I am the target.

“Yes, actually. We’re a community art project driving across America handing out postcards to preserve memories… uhh… actually, let me pull one out for you to see.”

Large archway and double doors directly behind the information desk.

I hear Matt chuckle. Like I said, when we’re pulling a teamup, Matt usually has the card in hand, pitch in place. And he’s done it so many more times than me.

“It’s an art project to bring awareness to Alzheimer’s,” Matt says. I’m still fumbling for the card. “We’ve been engaging local libraries in every community we come across to see if we can share this project with any writing or art programs you may have.”

I’ve managed to pull the card out now and as Matt’s talking to the one information specialist, I show the other how the cards work.

“We know just who you need to talk to. Aaron’s the one.”

Specialist 1 jots down Aaron’s information and hands it to Matt.

“Actually, is there someone available today we can talk to in person? You see, we’re just here for the day.” Score. I just provided some leadership skills there. Hopefully it made up for my earlier foil.

“He’s busy right now, but we can try.” Specialist 1 calls Aaron. “Well, they said they’re only here today and they have an art project about Alzheimer’s… Gentlemen, Aaron will be right down.”

From chess sets to chess manuscripts, John G. White gifted the library with centuries worth of artifacts and information.

Aaron meets with us, shakes our hands and asks what he can do for us. We explain the project again and he assures us that he can incorporate it into some workshops and programs they have scheduled for the upcoming fall.

“By the way, I know you guys are on a tight schedule, but do you know about the Cleveland Public Library?” Aaron asks.

Matt and I both shake no.

“Well, if you guys have the time, I’d like to give you a tour. We have one of the oldest and largest Chess collections.”

Already I’m grinning. If there’s anything I love more than large neoclassical libraries, it’s large neoclassical libraries promoting chess and history.

Special Collections Department, Third Floor, Cleveland Public Library

We take an elevator up three floors, walk through an exhibit corridor full of antiquities and into another information desk.

“These gentlemen are with me. Do we have nice books lying around we usually show to the guests? Any large, illustrated books we showcase?”

Aaron proceeds to show us the various pieces within the Special Collections Department. As we’re left to admire Babylonian cuneiform seals and 19th century portraits, Aaron brings Pam, the Fine Arts and Special Collections Manager over to us.

“Here’s Pam, she’s the expert here and knows about every piece we have in this library.”

Pam goes on to show us the following, bringing some out of hidden storage for us to see.

As described to us, John G. White was a wealthy enthusiast of the Orient. According to Aaron, it didn’t matter what the subject was, as long as it was exotic and from the East, White wanted it. White ended up donating his extensive collection to the Cleveland Public Library. Click here to learn more about John G. White and his contributions to the Cleveland Public Library
Reference label reads: MEXICAN; 20th Century Chessmen. Made by Seri Indians in the Sona Desert. Wood, ironwood; brown vs black. King 4-5/8″ H. A rare find carved in stylized geometric forms with uniform circular bases tapering upwards… Purchased by donor from La Especial Gift Shop in Nogales, Mexico, 1983, Gift of Charles K. Rath, Jr. 1991.
Reference Label: Manuscript Leaf from a Koran
From Turkey
Nashki script with gold leaf decor
17th Century
The body of the text is a beautiful Nashki with bold inscriptions in Tsuluts style run across the page. Nashki is a specific calligraphic style for writing in the Arabic alphabet. It is the style most commonly used for printing Arabic, and usually the first to be taught to children. The decorations are executed with the greatest skill; on highly sized and polished paper which gives the appearance of vellum. The leaf lacks the name of the calligrapher.

After hearing that I teach as a part-time instructor at the Moore College of Art and Design, Pam rushed to unearth these fine specimens.

Volumes of the L’assiette au beurre, a French publication “open to anarchical designers” that satirically mocked authorities and organizations.
Premieres Armours & Souvenirs
La “MERCEDES” de Femina & La Gallia du “Journal”

In the end, I had to be torn away. “Phil, parking meter’s empty.” Damn those meters. We did have several more stops to make so it wasn’t just because of the parking authority.

Pam and Aaron left us with their cards, a promise to promote SBYF Project and copies of their beautifully designed books on various subjects promoted by the library. Both were wonderful hosts, fantastic ambassadors for the city of Cleveland. As members of the public’s resources for information, culture and art, they were some of the finest. And they even indulged a visual designer’s dreams of being an anthropological researcher. If only for the day.