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Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Audiffred, Magicians and T-shirts, Oh My!


Some mornings, one wakes up in parts of the brain that have got piled with unaddressed mysteries, a mental lumber room in which lower artifacts are ruining underneath and upper strata are accessable only by funicular.  Choice of actions narrows to dusting, organizing, sorting, cataloguing or simply kicking stuff until a path is cleared to liberty. I always choose the latter. The three items assembled into this post were dragged out so I could get the door shut. 
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There are ripples in space-time that permit enigmas to go unchallenged in conspicuous places. One of them is on the waterfront in San Francisco. At the corner of Mission and Embarcadero, among modern highrise buildings --I first noticed it while staying at the Rincon Center 20 years ago-- is a remarkable example.

File:Audiffred Building (San Francisco) by Sanfranman59


Hippolite d’ Audiffred was living in Mexico spang in the middle of the 1800s . By 1865, what with  Emperor Maximillian and one thing and another, Hippolite felt a bit jumpy being French in Mexico. He bought a donkey, loaded it, and walked from Vera Cruz to San Francisco for exercise and  health.

Hippolite prospered and, in the 1880s, exploited this spacetime ripple to materialize a Second-Empire Parisian style building on the waterfront lot, complete with Mansard roof and high railed deck. It is still there, across the street from the Ferry Plaza. Also, still, there is the phantom figure on the roof, discernible in the detail below.  I do not know when it first appeared, but reckon it's been there quite a while. 

I drew this doodle of it while waiting for the bus to Emeryville:

I do not think it is the ghost of Audiffred because it proves, upon close inspection, to be a man in a chef's hat and pajamas gutting a haddock on the deck of a spacial-temporal ripple.  When I got home, I Googled gutting haddock on the deck of the ripple and got such a screenload of alternatve biography that I had to travel back to 1949 and modify the zodiac. This leads to our next enigma, turtle doves.



We are accustomed to seeing every variety of stout-bodied Columbidae appear out of top hats and sleeves, even thin air, during magic shows. The magician is a master of his... HIS? Why are there so few female stage magicians? I am almost old enough to think yet can't recall a single female magician, can you? Don't cheat now --I didn't-- and let's not pretend this has escaped our notice. I have been bombarded by every advertisement and bought the same tickets you have, but have not seen a female magician. Why? I asked the highest  authority.

Norma said, "It's a neglected part of rebellion against the Puritan ethic. Wizards were men retained by leaders for counsel and power but witches were burnt. Who wants to get burnt?" Can this be so? I think of dancers, who also dress in top hats and tails, like magicians, and remember what Ginger Rogers said: "I did everything Fred Astaire did -- except backwards and in high heels."

I must tell you, I fear I've got into deep waters here --not an entirely safe post-- but look forward to any discussion it might induce. Yet, and yet, now that it concludes, I am most curious about why we brush our hair and then, only afterwards, decide to put a different t-shirt on. Enigmas are endless --good thing too.

31 comments:

  1. Dammit, Geo
    You roped me in with this one. Let's start with Salem and the Witches: There are several interpretations of the witch trials, everything from fungus caused hallucinations in bread to social divisions between town and country folk. To my mind undecided, except Cotton Mather get's off cheap.
    Onward...
    Regarding the building on the hill in SF...you neglected to say the street level is now a very so-so restaurant.
    Ok, why would anyone go to Emeryville? The mudflats are now devoid of clams, so why go?
    Don't you worry about going back to 1949? Dorothy Gish was born then, and I've always been terrified of her.
    I knew a female magician, must have been 1960....I was sleeping in the backyard in the summer of that year....she woke me up after climbing the fence from nextdoor. "Want to see something interesting?" she asked. It was magical.

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    1. You're right, Mike --except perhaps with Cotton, whose unwillingness to face his own fears resulted in the deaths of Geo. Burroughs, Bridget Bishop, Susannah Martin and many more, and caused him agony and further delusion in later life. But re- Emeryville: it's as close as Amtrak gets to SF; you have to take a bus across the bridge to catch your train inland. And yes, I do worry about returning to 1949 --operative word here not so much Gish as Turtledove. Much that happened after the Ripple is too intense for analysis. However, like you, I found 1960 quite enjoyable!

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  2. It's a good thing you live with Norma, who can keep your straight (but no one can keep the ideas in your brain lined up like elementary school kids waiting for the water fountain.

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    1. No one can keep kids lined up very long either. And yes, Norma is my stabilizer!

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  3. The Audiffred building is wonderful. I was fascinated with the phantom on the roof. The more I examined it, the more I thought it looks like Chef Boyardee. Then I scrolled down and saw your doodle of the chef! If it's not Boyardee, then it's Julia Child in drag.

    I love the Ginger Rogers quote.

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    1. Thanks, Jon. One of the few arguments I would love to hear is Julia Child and Eleanor Roosevelt debating politics and souffles. It would be like opera. What the heck ever happened to beautifully distinctive voices?

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    1. I don't know who this "Geo." is but he seems to hit the wrong key a lot.

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  5. How nice to hear of someone else whose head is cluttered with what my father always referred to as 'ill-considered trifles'. Trifles which take up rather a lot of room.
    I love that building, and would happily haunt it. Later.

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    1. E.C.,I would happily haunt it with you, later, much much later on.

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  6. Seems a long way to walk for just a bit of exercise. Why didn't he just walk round the block?

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    1. Blocks weren't so clearly marked back then; might have just missed a turn.

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  7. What I really hate is those thoughts that are filed away to pull out later are so often lost. I know I put them in a safe place but to hide them from myself.... really!

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    1. Those are the ones that keep skidding under the lumber room door. I always check them carefully before making important decisions.

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  8. Yeah there is/was a female magician here in the 70's or was it 80's. Definitely female. Her name was.. I remember she was a magician and female. Oh what was her name? Unforgettable. Brown hair..no. A blonde woman. Yeah a young, attractive woman. Seemed wrong to me. Dressed like a bloke. Or was that David Nixon the magician who dressed like that? I think and I'm searching my memory here.. I think she wore an evening gown. Unforgettable she was.

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  9. You're right - definitely a male-dominated performance medium. My daughter has always loved magic tricks. Maybe she can be a trailblazer.

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    1. I sure hope so, Squid. If there is one thing I have learned from raising a daughter, it's that I never get her limits.

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    2. I'll raise my coffee mug to that!

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  10. I like your doodling Geo.
    Too tired to say much else as all packed for Moab and must get to bed as leaving very early in the morning
    It's a long drive!

    See 'ya

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    1. Good journey, Margie. Some of the most beautiful and unearthly-looking yardangs and wind-worn arches grace that land. Some are very delicately balanced. Promise me you won't lean on them and I won't worry. And do watch your speedometer in Utah --experience-- yikes, I'm already worrying! You guys have fun, ok?

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  11. Dear Geo., I thought a lot but couldn't find a female magician either. Might be that women do 'it 'every day, being wizzards in ordinary life, and thus nobody notices and think it 'natural'. (As it is a case when female occupations became taken over by men: then suddenly the salary rises...) I love the building with the cook on it - and of course your great drawings.

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    1. Dear Brigitta, Thank you. I believe you are correct about the true mechanism of stage magic, which relies upon misdirection and so must work away from where the audience's attention is fixed. Our eyes are drawn to the central figure in top hat and tails while the illusion is accomplished by assistants.

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  12. Now that I think of it, no female magicians come to mind. Strange. I suppose we prefer to use our magic in more organic ways.

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    1. Agreed! The true and progressive magic, predicated on observation and confluence with nature, is associated with women. The stage form, an ostentation of the unexpected, evokes a tuxedo and commanding gestures --the similarity to a circus ringmaster is not coincidental.

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  13. Yo, Geo. Tomorrow's Pi day, as I'm sure you know. You're going to a relevant post, yes? You better than me.

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    1. Ah Mike, I am so fond of mathematical surds and wish I could promise a post, but grandson's opening baseball game is tomorrow and I must go. Not that I won't think in circles, as per usual but it depends on how much brain remains after I'm released. Have at it, doc.

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  14. Too bad we can't sort and organize our minds as easily as we sort files on our computers, rather than have those stray musings jump up all willy nilly and hijack our trains of thought as they see fit. Then again, they DO keep life interesting, don't they?

    Enjoy your grandson's baseball game. It's super that you can be there to watch.

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    1. Thanks Susan. Watching baseball is what dudes do, right? I'm trying very hard to sustain dudehood.

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  15. Hi Geo - I had no idea of the word 'surd' - though understand its concept re vocalisation, but nth root ... I become defeated ... but I do enjoy Pi .. so onto your next post! Brain full of trifles is fun .. though I really should gather mine in!! Cheers Hilary

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    1. Hi, Hilary! Fun is hopefully the operative term in this blog.

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