Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Water, water everywhere

All this serious business about life and death matters has to be put aside once in a while and a little whimsy thrown about. I was leaving a coffee shop today and glanced over at the liquor store across the street (I still love the word “off-license”, it has a sort of old-worldy feel about it and Americans have no clue what you are talking about) and noticed that its awning advertised various items carried therein. Liquor, of course, tobacco, wine and “BEER KEG CHAMPAGNE”. I’ve tasted all sorts of bubbly, from the depths of Kobel to the heights of Moet Chandon but I have to admit to a real hankering for some Beer Keg Champagne. This simple lack of commas reminded me of my favorite sign on a store. It was – and may still be – in deepest Hollywood. Those who do not know Hollywood and associate it with glamour and glitz should be aware that it’s mostly a down at heel neighborhood with specific streets dedicated to specific types of prostitution. If you will recall, Eddie Murphy was picked up, so to speak, after he had negotiated with a transvestite prostitute and claimed he was giving her/him a ride home out of the goodness of his heart. Los Angelenos snickered at this story because the stop was made on Santa Monica Boulevard in Hollywood and that means only one thing – tranny whores. I was hanging about outside a theatre one evening (yes, on Santa Monica Boulevard) during intermission and I glanced at a strip mall across the street and saw a banner outside a store that read “Nothing Exists Except Pure Water”. I don’t know if Los Angeles is odd in having numerous stores dedicated to the sale of water. There are hundreds of dispensing machines for water. This strikes the child of Irish immigrants as quite odd since the fetching and carrying of water, while a bit of a lark for visiting urban English cousins, was the bane of Irish existence until quite recently. The endless trips to the well or the pump were a dreadful burden and the rain barrels were handy places for snails. However, in the land of Fear of Germs and Dread of Dirt, so-called pure water is big business. People fetch and carry water all the time. Personally I’d rather die a slightly early death from water borne foulness than break my back humping water.

I looked at the sign to make sure I was reading it correctly. I was. Nothing exists except pure water. I made sure that the store was indeed a purveyor of water and not the run down headquarters of some aquatic messianic cult – I was quite close to the headquarters of Scientology and a short bus ride from the clutches of the Catholic cathedral, after all. It’s astonishing how many cults and crazies this city throws up. I got the feeling from watching the people tending the store that they were not trying to change the existential underpinnings of American life or convince us that, in fact, nothing exists except pure water. I believe they had translated badly something along the lines of “We carry only pure water” or, “There is nothing in this store but pure water.” However, had their sign read something as dull as that I wouldn’t have ventured anywhere near it. Though I am perfectly happy to drink LA tap water, had I been the sort of misguided lunatic who thinks that the water in bottles or from dispensers is cleaner than the stuff from the tap, that store is the one I would have used. It also strikes me when I calculate the cost of bottled water that it is really expensive. Gasoline/petrol is cheaper. Which brings me to the funniest thing I have seen today, unconnected to water or signage in any way. Chester Football Club is up for sale for one pound. That’s cheaper than a bottle of water. They could actually sell Chester Football Club in a Pound Store. This fact has almost made me think that nothing exists except pure water.

1 comment:

Gordon Taylor said...

Hi, I saw this note on Facebook. I'm a friend of Mary Fields and John Aylward in Seattle. I think I can explain this sign, and thus forever destroy its charm and mystery. I think the shop owner is a Turk. Honestly. In Turkish, our verb 'to have' is rendered as one of two words: var and yok. Var means literally 'existent' and yok means 'non-existent'--the ultimate in negatives. This, combined with a possessive, yields 'have' and 'have not.' Thus, in Turkish 'suyumuz yok' means, literally, 'our water does not exist'; or, 'We don't have water.' And, when going into a shop in search of coffee one says, 'Kahve var mi?'--'Do you have coffee?' If the owner says 'yok,' you're out of luck. Thus, this Hollywood sign is, I think, a literal translation by a Turk (or Turkish-speaking Armenian) who doesn't know English very well. As you surmise, it probably means to say something like, 'We have nothing but pure water.' That's my guess. The next time you're in Hollywood, check it out. Of course I'm probably wrong, and he's Cambodian, but it was a good theory.

Gordon Taylor