From a distance, it looked like an Alice in Wonderland playing card was looking in my direction. Lewis Carroll’s Wonderland was a bit unnerving, but I liked playing cards.
Before first grade, my Aunt Ann had taught me how to play Slap Jack and Crazy Eight. By first grade, I was dabbling in Rummy and dazzling with my Canasta winnings. Playing cards put me on an even footing with the adults and unlike playing the game of kick ball, I was good at it. Over the years, community pitch parties and whist parties, and occasional rounds of penny poker, continued my fondness for playing cards.
In one of my favorite books, Jostein Gaarder’s The Solitaire Mystery, a father and son journey is complimented by the father’s penchant for collecting jokers and the son’s daydreams of animated playing cards; each reminded me of the many ways in which to play the same hand. In my decades of traveling for work, I often played solitaire in the evenings to unwind. Perhaps it is no wonder I can see playing cards where others may not.
Back to the playing card looking at me from down the street…As I approached, I saw this inanimate card was a head taller than me and made of felt. He sported a downturned moustache. I wasn’t familiar with his suit; he must have been from a foreign deck. From his colorful attire, I guessed he was a minor royal card. His nondescript bowler hat and long, matching neck tie were likely his effort to fit in amongst the commoners, like me. His daytime job on the sidewalk was to invite people into a felt shop. He seemed to approach his job with a glum stoicism.
After watching me outside her door, a woman stepped out to greet me. Unlike most of the neighborhood women, who were plump and wore dresses, she was slim and wore blue jeans. That was enough to make me curious. She smiled and invited me in to look at the handcrafted items. We conversed and I learned she was originally from Argentina and then had lived in the USA. She explained how she and her Turkish husband had opened this shop to support the Turkish traditional art of making felt, a disappearing art in 2009.
I slowly wandered about the shop admiring the art. As she had been good natured in answering my many questions, I wanted to get something, but what? Finally, I selected a scarf of blue silk gauze, strewn with red leaves and white flowers of felt. I asked if she had made it; she had not. But she soon introduced me to its maker, a plump woman dressed in a long black robe with an azure blue scarf wrapped around her head and neck.
“It’s beautiful,” I exclaimed as I held up the scarf. The maker tilted her head and smiled. She didn’t speak much English but was agreeable to taking my photograph with the felt playing card.
The card remained silent, though I swear I could sense its smug conceit at having brought in another satisfied customer.
In Turkey, in the City of Konya, was this doorway to a keçagi (a felt-maker’s shop).
Buy it. Read it. (Or listen to it.) Let me know what you think. –TMLL