Identity and lost lists

Bombon, Murros, Silvestre, Chupa Chupa, Tita, and Monica

These are the names of the six cats at Casa Azul. There’s a story here.

When I went to Mexico City the first time, in 1995, I stopped by Casa Azul, Frida Kahlo’s house in the Coyoacan neighborhood. It’s a pleasant dwelling, with a copy of Inside Europe by John Gunther on the bookshelf (same as in my house!), and a pre-Columbian pyramid, scaled down and painted blue (not the same as in my house).

There were also several cats prowling around. I asked one of the groundskeepers what their names were, and I assiduously copied them down in my little pocket notebook. In the fourteen intervening years, the notebook has been lost, and with it this important historical record.

The fact of losing the list placed it front and center in one of my better literary efforts, “La liste de listes perdues.” I wrote this up as the last entry to date in La fièvre Madiaba, my French-language blog from earlier in the decade. For those of you who can’t read French, in 2006, while in Paris, I struck up an acquaintance with this French author who was putting together a book about lists. I thought for a couple of days on the subject, and then came up with my idea: a list of lost lists. There are 10 of them, some of which have since been found and others which remain in a state of latency.

So when the folks went to Mexico City and asked me for suggestions, I thought for a minute and said, “Hey! Here’s something that you can really help me out with. I lost my list of names of cats at the Casa Azul. Can you visit and get me the current list?”

Et voilà! Bombon, Murros, Silvestre, Chupa Chupa, Tita, and Monica.

But now, three years since “Liste de listes perdues” and 14 years since the visit to Casa Azul, I am reconsidering the whole list-making enterprise as something very dear to me and my identity. I was there, at the Casa Azul. I made an observation (cats!) and noted it down.

This is the same thing I’ve been doing with my cycling: I was there, out back of the airfield, riding fast (how fast?), and I noted it down.

But what is the identity-building part? Is it the object (the thing listed), the subject (my list-making habits), or the verb (the act of making the list) that makes me feel more thoroughly myself?

picture via flickr.com from Sophie Cunningham

2 thoughts on “Identity and lost lists

  1. Do you remember when we went to Rome in 1982 or so? It was many years before digital cameras, so we were parsimonious about taking pictures, not wanting to waste film. But one of our photos was actually of lots of alley cats. I guess we were impressed with the number of apparently wild cats out sunning themselves.On another note, in India you never see wild cats. They are too delicious to allow to live.

  2. Pingback: ‘I noted it down,’ discerning substance in a concrete-free phrase | Jonathan's Secret City

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