Sunday, March 28, 2010


Many years ago when I visited Alabama I was given a ceramic ashtray (I've never smoked) that was shaped like a bare foot and bore the words "I got a kick out of Alabama." It was the ultimate kitschy souvenir. For some reason it was just humorous enough that I moved it around for years. I finally sold it at our big yard sale last summer. The woman who bought it thought it was hilarious. I think I also used to have salt and pepper shakers that looked like potatoes and said "Idaho" on them. It's an industry—T shirts, posters, bumper stickers, pens with moving figures in them. I actually used to be a part of that industry. Long time ago I was the manager of the Gift Shop at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. As the buyer for that shop I bought a lot of "souvenir" merchandise. I tried to find things that were not so corny as the ones I just mentioned and even designed some of the merchandise myself—aprons, totebags, etc.

For our dinner last night I brought out my tablecloth from Ecuador and put the flowers I bought into the vase I bought at the Eduardo Vega gallery in Cuenca when we went to Ecuador for Emily and Cayo's wedding. It was fun to use these things with guests who would recognize where they were from and appreciate how much I enjoy them. My souvenir purchases tend to be things that I can use, rather than place-branded tchotchkes. I think my feeling is always that when I use or wear my vacation purchases I will somehow relive a bit of a wonderful experience. Maybe that works a little bit. But not always. Souvenir T shirts tend to become painting clothes or working-in-the-yard-wear. On our trips to Ecuador I have purchased at least two hats, always loving the way they look on other people. I am never comfortable in hats. I like the bottom one of the two the best, but I feel a little silly in it.

On one trip I fell in love with a ceramic light at the Artesa store in Cuenca. Ray and I looked at it and looked at it and left it at the store. The next day we went back and inquired about having it shipped. They could ship it, but shipping would cost far more than the light. Another customer who seemed to know what she was talking about said, "Don't ship it. You'll never get it." Finally, I just couldn't leave it behind and they wrapped it and padded it and wrapped it some more and even fashioned a handle I could carry it with and it became one of my pieces of carryon luggage on the return trip. I schlepped it through Customs and multiple airports—kind of a pain in the butt—but I have not regretted it. I kind of planned my kitchen around it when we moved, and I love having it here. Sometimes I look at it and I actually do remember walking down that street to the Artesa store and the sounds and smells and the feeling of sunshine warming the cobblestones and the idea that I could take that little piece of Cuenca home with me.


  1. I love your Cuenca light. Like you, I enjoy reliving places I've visited through the things I've brought back.

  2. David and I schlepped a large Tuscan majolica urn home from our first trip to Europe in 1996. (You can see most of it on the left hand side of this photo.) I could only smile when we visited David's ex-wife's home last Christmas to see she had bought an almost identical piece on her first trip to Italy in 2001.

  3. The problem with souvenis is that we get in love with people, places, coulours, textures, tastes, smells... new to us and end up bringing home things that don´t fit in or we truly dislike in "real life".
    I see you make great choices!

  4. I felt your blog today. The world is my playground and I love to bring things home...but only that which I can display. Like you, I can touch an piece in my home and relive a moment. On a dreary day like today here in Bend, I can look around my home and travel the world.

  5. This blog brightened an otherwise very rainy and dreary day. The hats are a hoot.

  6. Anonymous7:15 PM

    the hats are cute but what is it about hats and short hair. They look better on women with longer hair than we have :-)

  7. Love your cheery, colorful flower arrangement and tablecloth.