Sunday, April 03, 2005

Oriental Carpets

I was married for a long time – 16 years, from age 21 to 37 – to a guy from a good Berlin family that appreciated oriental art. And that’s how I got interested in oriental carpets. The problem with that kind of interest is that it spoils you for cheap rugs. You see a few nice, new, inexpensive ones, and then you see an old tribal rug, costing ten or one hundred times as much, and that’s the one you want… You suddenly feel as though you wouldn’t be able to face looking at the cheap one day in and day out. So you skip it all.

In Istanbul I got an overdose of oriental carpets. Not the boring standard Turkoman rugs you see in the U.S., but truly gorgeous Caucasian rugs, Shirvan, Kirman, tribal Turkoman…

Walking around the Blue Mosque, my mother and I were accosted by a really cute young Turkish guy (Istanbul is full of them…), good English, History student, studying to be a guide… He told us it was prayer time at the mosque so we couldn’t enter, in any case, as non-muslims we had to enter by the side door, but in the meantime, he’d really like to show us the store where he works… After a couple of days in Istanbul I had let down my guard. The first few times something like this had happened, a little voice in my head kept telling me to be careful, and as soon as I could, without being totally obnoxious, I’d clarify to the guy that he wasn’t welcome. But this one wouldn’t let go, we were in a crowded public place, so it didn’t seem dangerous, my bag was zipped shut – no way to get in there without a struggle - and besides, what else did we have to do for the next hour?

So we went with him, through the bazaar and to a high-end carpet store. It was heaven.

Prices – well, a lovely new, Heriz style carpet, with a free floating airy design - $1,500. A Shirvan, 80 years old, amazing colors, great design, maybe 4’X7’, $3,500. An antique Shirvan – 150 years old, 3’X4’, bluish colors, a classic - $65,000. And a silk prayer rug, made for one of the wealthiest families in Istanbul, also 150 years old, worn down in many places (they must have had it on the floor!), something like $150,000… That’s the one I want. But the $3,500 one, I do like that one too. Next time I’m in Istanbul, it will be on a carpet buying expedition.

“Who buys these carpets?” my mother asks me, enraged.

“Well, they’re art.” I say. “What do you mean, who buys them? Wealthy people furnishing their pads. Wouldn’t you buy them if you could?”

During my married carpet-buying period, I was told that these Caucasian carpets were particularly favored by Europeans. Germans, Belgians, Swiss, they bought them, and they had bid up their prices in the early 80’s to exorbitant levels. “So who buys these carpets?” I asked the owner.

He claimed it wasn’t the Europeans. The Europeans don’t have money. The Europeans are too stressed about their economies. They’re worried about unemployment. Even those that do have money don’t want to spend it. He sells almost all his carpets to NYC dealers. Some to L.A. dealers. There’s a lot of money in NYC. The dollar may be down, but those that have money have even more money… Even the wealthy Germans don’t buy their carpets in Germany, they buy them in NYC…

Then he started on the subject of the Jews. He’s not Jewish, but his mother died when he was 6 years old, and their Jewish neighbours took it on themselves to care for him. They would give him gifts to make him happy, they would give him good food… It was a sweet story. Next he started on The Jewish Influence:

The reason Americans spend money? Because the Jews taught them how to do it. The Americans are basically Puritans, they believe in saving. The Jews don’t believe in saving. They live in the present. That’s why they don’t make steel. Do you know of any Jew that has a steel factory? No, they make clothes, they make products for immediate consumption…

I’d never heard this argument. And this kind of stuff makes me squirm. I couldn’t figure out if it was negative or positive. Should we stay? Should we bolt for the door? I asked for his card, thanked him, and we left.


At 1:20 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Watch subject. Bush goes ballistic about other countries being evil and dangerous, because they have weapons of mass destruction. But, he insists on building up even a more deadly supply of nuclear arms right here in the US. What do you think? What is he doing to us, and what is he doing to the world?
If ever there was ever a time in our nation's history that called for a change, this is it!
We have lost friends and influenced no one. No wonder most of the world thinks we suck. Thanks to what george bush has done to our country during the past three years, we do!

At 9:09 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bush is forever saying that democracies do not invade other countries and start wars. Well, he did just that. He invaded Iraq, started a war, and killed people. What do you think? What is he doing to us, and what is he doing to the world?
What happened to us, people? When did we become such lemmings?
We have lost friends and influenced no one. No wonder most of the world thinks we suck. Thanks to what george bush has done to our country during the past three years, we do!


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