Wednesday, September 19, 2012

A Goose has landed, let's celebrate it

Poking from the manicured colonial skyline of San Miguel, with its weathered domes and steeples, we now have a new, shiny and fairly gigantic goose.

At first it looks like one of those inflatable creatures car dealers rent to promote a sale, made of fabric and kept constantly wobbling by a fan underneath.

But from the high vantage point of the Libramiento, the bypass highway that girds San Miguel, you realize this goose, sitting contentedly on its own puddle of blue water, is not some makeshift creation.

Meet Señor Goose: Towering but kinda cute. 
It has that slight smirk geese always seem to have, but this one is not moving in the wind or going anywhere. In fact, from a certain spot in the Libramiento the goose seems as regal and towering as San Miguel's churches and other landmarks, as if had flown in overnight and decided to roost right in town.

According to one of the newspapers, lawsuits already have been filed by preservationist sourpusses and fussbudgets whose aesthetic sensibilities have been upset by the appearance of the goose, which admittedly is hard to miss.

Stew and I figured it to be about sixty feet high, from the sidewalk to the tip of its head. We also hope the suit is summarily dismissed by a judge with the proper sense of humor and perspective.

We're rooting for the San Miguel Goose.

Just give it time and it's bound to become another San Miguel landmark, certainly far more creative and unique than some of the cell phone towers and microwave antennas that surround the city, or the banal faux-colonial structures that keep popping up as if the last new architectural trend around here took place sometime in the mid-eighteenth century.

For sure the Goose is far more interesting than the condominium building, seven or eight stories high, that went up a couple of years ago and now towers over the town, clinging to the Libramiento like an overgrown barnacle.

Stew and I drove down to visit the Goose--it isn't that hard to find, you just keep your eye on its head rising above the surroundings--and the closer we got the more we were awed.

Howdy neighbor!
Standing at its foot, ours was a jaw-dropping, head-scratching reaction that usually goes along with "Geezus!," "What the hell?" or some other more colloquial expressions.

Unfortunately, the man responsible for this creation, reportedly an American last-named Kagan and who is a naturalized Mexican citizen, didn't want to talk to us even after a couple of visits and several phone calls. Too bad, because I would have congratulated him for his creativity and unmitigated  chutzpah, and his willingness to put his money behind his unorthodox idea.

From what we could gather from outside and from talks to a couple of workers, who didn't want to say much, the Goose is the centerpiece of a combination motel and shopping arcade built around a large parking lot that has been under construction for over a year.

A sign outside the permanently shut gate announces the Hotel Buenos Sueños, or "Good Dreams", which is not exactly the reaction of a woman who lives across the street, who calls the Goose una locura, or a "crazy stunt."

The entire project is called Plaza San Arvino, supposedly in honor of the patron saint of the shiftless--a bit of humor that for now remains a mystery.

The Goose is not by any means a shoddy piece of construction and it could fit nicely into a theme park, albeit one with Jurassic Park-size creatures.

The skeleton of the structure is made mostly of rebar, and various other metal reinforcements, carefully molded and assembled. The proportions are accurate and lifelike, reflective of a real goose's head, neck and body, though outsized in relation to the neighboring, and totally unremarkable, buildings.

The plumage, I was told by one of the workers, is made of fiberglass molded around the metal bones. Details simulate the plumage, and the wings supposedly lift slightly to provide ventilation on hot days or nights for the ballroom underneath. The eyes are made of stained glass and will be lit from inside. Several spotlights that surround the base will ensure no one misses the Goose at night.

Despite the careful detailing and workmanship, the Goose has become known as the Duck, "El Pato," to Mexicans in the neighborhood, even though one of the workers patiently explained that if you look at it carefully it's unmistakably a goose. Others think they see a swan.

I vote for a goose. Its neck is too long for duck and too short for a swan.

But why a goose? Why not an elephant or panda? Mr. Kagan is not talking but one of his workers said that "everyone loves a goose."

Not quite everyone: There's a yellowing "Obra Suspendida" ("Project Shut Down") sign on the gate from the city's building department. Judging from the age of the sign and the continuing construction, it's clear that Mr. Kagan is not worried about sanctions from the local design police.

Or maybe he knows something the rest of us don't about the workings of the municipal government.

Fact is that outside the Disneyfied central area of San Miguel, where strict restrictions abound not only about the design but also the color and height of the buildings, and what can be remodeled and how, much of the town is pretty much an architectural free-fire zone.

One of the most remarkable buildings on the Libramiento is a lime-green, two-story building decorated  with cement frogs and until recently a lively brothel, called "Las Ranas" or "The Frogs," the animal symbolism as enigmatic as the Goose.  It's now closed and for sale.

Indeed, most of the Libramiento is lined with half-finished buildings, slums, tire repair shops and other  eyesores that don't add anything to San Miguel's reputation as a World Heritage Site.

In the subdivision of Los Frailes, two monstrosities stand out: A full-size, Cinderella-style castle and a home with pieces of glass embedded on the mortar, trying to emulate a Gaudi-type design.

I'd rather have geese, ducks or swans any day.




23 comments:

  1. I love the goose. I noticed it on my last visit and thought I had simply missed it on past trips. Its quirkiness fits in well with what should be the underlying artistic spirit on San Miguel. And it is ten times more interesting than that silly cousin of the Albert Memorial -- La Parroquia.

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    1. Now Steve, don't be bad-mouthing our Gothicky, rather-odd Parroquia or the local tourist police is going to put a contract on you.

      al

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    2. oh Al, what could be wrong with a house trying to be a bit "Gaudi"?
      Do you have a photo of THAT one?

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  2. I've known the father of the goose for about 11 years. He hails from NYC. Had a restaurant on Aurora at one time and still owns the building. He was a partner in Romano's on Hernandez Macias when it was opened. He's an investor in various other things here in town. Nice, nice guy who rides around on an ATV.
    I'm thrilled with the goose. In Houston in the area of lots of bars and restaurants about a 5 story clarinet was erected eons ago. The city went haywire over the fact that the creator hadn't gotten a sign permit. Just about the time the city was ready to dismantle it the citizens protested and circled the clarinet. To my knowledge its still there. LOVE that kinda stuff. Maybe I need to construct something on top of my tinaco overlooking the canyon......hmmmm, what could it be?

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    1. Well, what are you waiting for to introduce me to the creator? Love to meet him. I hope no one tries to tear down the goose, and that citizens protest if they do.

      al

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    2. Esteban de loco AmericanoDecember 4, 2016 at 8:49 PM

      Babs you are wrong. The owner of the goose was from a Chicago suburb. I went to grammar and high school with him and he never lived in NY. I visit him now and then in San Miguel and love his crazy stunt.

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    3. Esteban de loco AmericanoDecember 4, 2016 at 8:50 PM

      Senior Kaganavich never lived in NY

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    4. REV. LOCO AMERICANOJanuary 3, 2017 at 9:22 PM

      Babs where do you know him from? He never lived in NY or Houston. Why don't you erect a golden egg?

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  3. Reminds me of roadside attractions in the States from 40's and 50's, maybe something you'd have seen along Route 66. I remember seeing some of these structures on driving vacations as a kid. Cool. It wouldn't hurt SMA to loosen up a little.

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    1. The only one I can remember right off are huge tires advertising tires, garages, car dealers? Can't remember. Just last week we found the Oscar Meyer Wiener Mobile parked in downtown Chicago.

      al

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  4. When visiting in February I stayed a few blocks away, and found the goose to be one of the highlights of my visit. I was also intrigued, and poking around found a website about the project: http://plazasanarvino.com/homespn.html

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    1. Duh! Why didn't I think of looking for a website? I find the idea amazing and also the fact how well executed it is. I hope the city doesn't come after him and try to take it down.

      al

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  5. I love that goose too. Wish I can visit that place. :)

    Aileen C

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    1. Hope you get here too. It's pretty amazing.

      al

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  6. Nicely said, Al. I'd rather have ducks, geese, or swans as well...

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  7. After living in Berkeley, I think anything goes. Live and let live. There is a house in Berkeley, in a prim and proper area, that has at any one time 40 televisions on display with the potted plants. Some of the TVs are operating at nightfall. When this owner/artist began his exhibit, I remember the howls of protests that emerged from Berkeley home owners claiming their home values would plummet. Berkeley is used to protest. The TVs are there to stay. The house is a rendezvous site. "Meet me at the TV house" is commonly heard. In our town, why not "meet me at the Goose?" TV House: http://walkingberkeley.wordpress.com/2006/11/22/tv-house/ --Bill

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  8. Actually, the way the whole thing is planned, the goose could become a shopping center, dining and social center and generally a gathering place that could be a boost the neighborhood. I hope they let it stand.

    al

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  9. I found your article to be right on. Thank you for your clarity and perception. And thanks to the commenters and for their support. I could have had a Ferrari, but instead I used the money to create the world's largest Goose. I cannot explain my motivation except that I needed a roof. All other inspiration is beyond me. It seemed more like I was channeled then in command. Crazy, a giant Goose in the middle of San Miguel. As the loving creator, I look at the Goose and sometimes endearingly say "What The Fuck!" Thanks again.

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  10. "What the fuck!" Agree! I couldn't have put it better myself. As for the name of the complex, I just discovered that "San Arvino" is a made-up saint by the American-born owner, someone named "Arvin".

    al

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  11. Once again I enjoyed your sensitivity when you described me as American-born rather than American. As far as the persona San Arvino, Saint of the Lazy People, no one to date has chosen to capture the title from me or bestow it upon the defenseless dead. When I was young, may father told me that he had worked hard so his children would not have to. I have vowed never to disappoint that man. That is my first milagro, my dedication to my father by successfully avoiding work. My second milagro is creating the World's Largest Goose without ever once jeopardizing my first milagro. So to call San Arvino a made up saint is merely a premature judgment which I hope, remains premature for some time to come. Thank you.

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  12. Really creative and awesome ide. This goose is like a landmark of this area for visitors.

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  13. Why do people move to SMA and then try to change it?
    I know of a "gentlemen" who lives in centro that tried to silence the parroquia bells with money, also a group of "expats" is trying to abolish the use of firecrackers in SMA. WTF?

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  14. Why do people move to SMA and then try to change it?
    I know of a person living in Centro who tried to silence the parroquia bells with money; there's also a group of "expats" trying to abolish the use of firecrackers in traditional Mexican celebrations. WTF?

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