When I was a teenager I moved from the gardenia-blossoming, wisteria- and kudzu-covered American South, to an overwhelming city in South India. From that formative age, Asia seeped into me. Her bazaars and haggling banter run through my veins. Aside from a brief nine-month stint back in the States, Asia has been my home.
My Vintage: Betwixt and Between
Like many of the sons and daughters of the globalized era, I live in the betwixt and between. At first glance, I’m purely Western. But that’s a thin veneer glossing over a very complex reality. It pains me to walk inside a house while wearing shoes. I instinctively cringe – along with the locals – whenever tourists do something that offends local sensibilities. I believe that the best way to eat a South Asian curry is with your fingers, and I know the best food in Southeast Asia can always be found on the street.
Despite my white skin, I’ve been mistaken many times for a (quasi)local. In South India I was sometimes mistaken for a North Indian. In Thailand, I’ve occasionally been assumed (most often by taxi drivers) to be half-Thai, half-Westerner. Why else would this foreign-looking person speak what-they-over-reachingly-extrapolate-to-be-fluent Thai and give off subtle culturally Thai vibes…but do it in such an appallingly non-native accent?
Americans on the streets of Tokyo and elsewhere have wondered exactly what country I’m from. My accent has shifted a bit, and my English vocabulary pool has picked up so many British-isms and international-isms and pidgin phrases, that I can’t always remember which ones are alien to Americans.
In Praise of Materialism
Perhaps my own hybrid nature is why I’m so drawn to objects at the cultural intersections.
I love the decor and graphic design and fashions, film, music, food, furniture, fabric, sculptures, packaging, ceramics, painting, photography, et cetera, et cetera of yesteryear decades in Asia. Even though most of these creations were brought into being long before I was born, they provide a window on an aesthetic or lifestyle that is very often a twilight zone for me. Beehive hairdos on Asian faces. Bell bottoms and sideburns. Flapper dresses.
Just as frequently, maybe even more so, these objects are antiques born out of a heritage that is foreign to my childhood but that still has resonance for me. Some of the ‘things’ I’ve collected are meaningful to me in a deep-seated way. Others are merely eye candy. Which is not to dismiss them — beauty is a value that has gotten a bad rap. It’s not shallow to appreciate the beautiful. And materialism makes the world go round. The rosy-eyed saying is, Love Makes the World Go Round. But what is materialism if not a subset of that? Materialism is a love of things. Don’t knock happiness, whatever its form.
What Is To Come
The Vintage Asian website is a gallery of objects, sights and artistic creations that I trawl from my Asian wanderings and, from time to time, the interwebs. One of the pastimes that really sets my gears turning is to lose myself in out-of-the-way markets. That is where many of the pictured items will come from. Village bazaars, local secondhand markets, grungy night markets. These are where the best finds happen.
I’m a sucker for family photo albums and vintage studio portraits. The photo albums I flip through and leave politely in people’s living rooms. Vintage portraits however I sometimes find for sale and have a small but burgeoning collection. Hand-colored photographs make me ecstatic.
Magazines are fair game. Vintage packaging delights me. Lithographs and other prints – heaven on a sheet of paper. Original art – yep. Retro Asian music? Yes. Very yes.
Then there is that whole range of things that could maybe be summed up under the moniker of ‘decor’. The things that grace the tables, walls and floors of living rooms, bedrooms, dining areas, kitchens, hallways, bathrooms and all the particularly Asian rooms that inhabit the varied masterplans of oriental architecture.
En plus, there will be the random photos I snap whenever a detail or scene catches my eye. When the synapses start firing, the camera will follow.
I anticipate the only wordy post of Vintage Asian to be this origins essay. For the most part, the site will be photo driven. With accompanying anecdotes, short musings, or explanations of what your eyes behold. In essence – a virtual gallery.
Enjoy. And feel free to comment, question or share your love of any post that intrigues you. To share, just click on the little Facebook, Twitter or other motley web icons that hide greyed out near the title area of each post page.
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