Old buildings tell story of our heritage

One of the things that drives me crazy when I go home to Guatemala City, is seeing the signs of retailers that have English-language names. This has been true for years, but the proliferation of these names in the last decade has been impressive.

It is yet another indication, in my mind, that it’s largely a society ashamed of its heritage. The Spanish-language has plenty of words (and then some) to describe services, clothing, housewares. But English sounds more contemporary, cooler, hipper – but perhaps more important, it evokes a culture that is more desirable than the European or indigenous cultures that make up the fabric of that country.

I was reminded of this today while reading Robert Wilonsky’s recent column about endangered buildings in Dallas. Both cities share the same ethos, described succinctly by Mark Doty, the city’s historic preservation officer:

“We want it to be something else rather than appreciate it for what it is.”

I’ve made Dallas my home for almost 15 years and take joy in learning about the “the commonplace buildings” sprinkled all over the city. Because those office buildings, warehouses, gas stations and homes tell the story of people who left their mark in Dallas in big and small ways.

A few years ago, after selling our home in North Dallas, my husband and I moved into South Side on Lamar, known to many generations here as the old Sears building. We relish living in this grand, old warehouse that may be more solid (and is certainly more interesting) than the shiny luxury skyscrapers going up just north of us. One of my favorite things to do during our annual cookie party is taking the children around the building and telling them about its history.

Here’s to hoping Dallas will do what Guatemala City hasn’t done: honor its past and take pride in its heritage.

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Ballpoints, rollerballs and fountain pens

Today, over breakfast, I read the recent The New York Times story about fountain pen enthusiasts. The opening scene in the story is at a Lamy boutique in Manhattan, and later, we learn more about the history of the pen maker that for more than half a century has been the cool-kids pen maker.

Cool kids who love pens, anyway.

The Lamy reference brought a smile to my face.  Decades before the store opened in SoHo, Guatemala City boasted a Lamy boutique.

I remember going there often with my dad when I was a teenager, if nothing else to look at the pens. He didn’t need a new one, but maybe he did? Mostly, he delighted in looking at well-designed pens. And so did I. (That’s when my appreciation for Lamy pens was born. I still have a broken red Safari ballpoint that I’ve kept for sentimental reasons.)

I love a well-designed pen, whether it’s a ballpoint, a rollerball or a fountain pen. As any pen aficionado will know, you need a variety of pens to satisfy your mood. For instance, you never know when you want to write with a Retro 51 or a Faber-Castell.

My fountain pens range from inexpensive to fancy. My mother gave me one of my father’s DuPont fountain pens after he died. I also have an antique fountain pen I bought from a local reporter at a pen show and a Pelikan.

But, frankly, my favorite are my plastic Safari fountain pens, which are among my everyday pens. I own three: one for black ink, one for blue ink, and one for green ink. Because, you know, you never know when you may need green ink.

Now, I’m going to have to get a TWSBI.