Day 3 – Part B – hat factory, minisuperlambanana, existentialist comedy


[June 18th]

The hat factory is one of the few ones left in Great Britain. Try & Lilly make special order uniform caps and hats for police, military, marching bands, catering workers, and is run by a friend of my brother’s girlfriend. It was quite lovely to see the complexity and the construction close-up.

I was full of praise and delight for this very colourful patchwork tweed walking hat, a traditional Irish treatment, which I was informed (with a slight derogatory sneer) ‘only American tourists wear’.

I might be being a little oversensitive here, but I realize yet again that most people I meet here believe I am American and have a tendency to make some unfair cultural extrapolations. I feel I have to explain myself, when there really is no need. I have that same creeping unease that I had fresh off of a plane from the USA going to a new school in the UK. Awareness of a distrust that many English people have of anything American. Its just assumed that all Americans are tasteless, unsubtle, crass, loud. That slight sneer that I liked something that only tasteless American tourists like. The thing is, I love that Americans can express their love and excitement, openly. I really like how (amongst the people I know at least) difference is celebrated, foreignness is romantic and cool and desirable.

Let us pray (in a non-religious way).
Oh Universe, may I always and forever remain openly enthusiastic about things.
May I never feel that taste and propriety overrides communication of enjoyment.
May English people also discover the joy of public expression of appreciation.
Ahhhhhhhh thennnnnnnn

If ya didn’t know, Liverpool is full of public art. It’s had an art Biennial since 1999, and many of the public art pieces are left in place on permanent display, and become part of the city landscape. Some odd little injections of surreality, disrupting somnambulic life. One particularly striking one is ‘Turning the Place Over’ by Richard Wilson (not the actor, the sculptor…), all very Gordon Matta-Clarkish. Amazing.

Another is the superlambanana. Now I never saw the ‘original’ one, that was designed by Taro Chiezo and and made by a local artist, and installed for the transpennine exhibition. Apparently it’s a cross between a lamb and a banana, both common cargo for ships coming in to dock in Liverpool, and thus combined becomes a symbol of the dangers of genetic engineering. Or something. There’s even some live footage of it in captivity!

The superlambanana has become a super popular symbol of Liverpool, and there are replicas everywhere. It is a repeatable and riffable motif like the pigs in Seattle. I came across this mini one, outside of a bar, just after admiration of the suitcases on Hope Street, on the way to the theatre.

We went to see a likable existential comedy called ‘Clunk’ by The Suitcase Ensemble at the Unity Theatre. The characters are performing a series of nonsensical tasks because of tradition, remembrance, and fear of change and the Outside World. It was really funny and sweet, and quite profound. Watch out for it at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and a city near you in the coming year!