Posted by: Sk | February 8, 2009

Chapter 1: High security prison

On top of it, it is snowing. It’s not enough that everything is white around: the walls and the ceiling, the door and even the courtyard. The window looks white, too – as if, I would suspect, someone may have wanted to reduce costs on coloured painting by just using one and the same monotone white. It doesn’t matter. At least it looks fresh. And on top of it, it is snowing.

Now, here my long list of accusations given to me a few days ago, and which, at the beginning, I really didn’t know what to do with. I should defend myself, I was said, but honestly, I don’t trust lawyers. It’s really long, this list. Really, really long. It’s true that it is not uncomfortable here, and food is gracious. Expensive, your anger, dear Sask, but hope she doesn’t read it.

Let us see:

1. antiquity traffic 2. illegal gold export 3. false 100 euros notes traffic 3. fraud 4. spy work 5. transgression of national immigration laws 6. intervention in foreign affairs 7. defamation 8. something I can’t read

Hmm. Of course I’m not going to say, I’m innocent. With so many accusations and what will be seeming irreversible proofs, it would look stupid. It’s too long anyhow, and these people don’t listen to explanations. I’ll have to make up something, then. Luckily there is a computer in the whereabouts, although no internet. Must be afraid you finish by making some revolution through electronic waves. Everything is possible. They’re right. I mean, I’d do the same. And I must have my cd with me, where I registered all my more or less imaginary texts. I’ll have to make some selection, see the kind, do as if you were deeply meditating on your sins and guilt – there is no other way, anyhow, do at least as if you felt some little repent – and leave one or the other on the computer. For sure, Sask is going to pick my literature at the end of the afternoon. Well, this, I won’t leave. Hope she doesn’t go that far so as to go through the hard disk prints.

Silly, the whole situation. What. Am I going to teach them law? What are they accusing me here for things that have happened somewhere else. Well, let’s do as if we believed for a little you may innocently accuse someone of whatever anywhere.

First I have to go through the background. It’s for sure they’re aiming at something even worse, like some definite schizophrenia or psychopathia and if I say at once, everything is wrong, I see already some psychopathetic rejection of authorities with megalomaniac tendencies, pending on my head. To be avoided. So. What are the characteristics of a psychopath? Excessive order, rejection of authority, sexual obsession, somehow. Which we should then avoid carefully.

I swear, Sask, I’ve never watched a pornographic film – except once, but I was 18 and wanted just to pervert a young German who had been to school with me. To say, I didn’t pay a lot of attention. On top of that, it wasn’t interesting. Well, it’s true that if you consider my own evaluation table, I’ve seen quite a lot of them. See, I qualified as ‘intellectual pornography’ these Kim Basinger movies whose name I’ve forgotten, qualification which deeply shocked a psychologist of Colombia. I don’t like them very much either.

Luckily I’m not a maniac of order, either. For authorities, I don’t know. Perhaps it would be considered as irreverent, my whole disposition. But that’s one out of three and doesn’t give a perfect match. I’d say. I’ll have to be careful with my ghosts, too. Here, yes, it’s not the moment to talk too much about them, I’d say. Ah, no, that’s a literary character, Sir, are you really going to believe in that stuff? Really… Now that’s like the spanish joke: a madman in a psychiatric hospital is under treatment because he has a toothbrush he’s put on the lace, he talks to as if it were a dog. After many exercises and repetition, the psychiatrist asks once again: “Peter, what do you have on your lace?” “A toothbrush, doctor”, Peter answers and just waiting for him to turn around the corner, he says to the toothbrush: “See, Pixie, we’ve cheated them again.”

In any case, I’ll have to put those funny coloured cards in some disorder, in order not to awake suspicions.

Poor people, a life without ghosts.

Well, let’s start with the antiquity traffic. Let’s say it differently, as basically my thoughts are the following. I have never been involved in antiquity traffic myself, and that’s for sure. It’s true that X admitted one day he had been accused of such a thing, but first of all he tended to boast a lot around, which means he could be telling lies, and on top, I’ve never had an irreversible proof of the fact, he was really doing so. So what. Shall the very fact of having coffee with someone who may be trafficking with antiquities necessarily imply I’m dealing with antiquities myself. Certainly not. I’ve never found anything that would help me doing so. I swear. And prove the contrary.

For the time being, I’m still innocent until you prove the contrary, and you have no proofs. On top, that would have been in Greece. Mean you thinking I’d have expanded the net to Ecuador just because I run into a furniture shop pretending to sell antiquities. It’s an evidence that it may have been antiquities but I’m no expert. On top of that, I took some legal measures in order to avoid any kind of accusation. So as to write to the Russian Embassy, for example. It’s not my fault if they never answered. Accusing people of making up everything may have as consequence those poor Russian loosing some vital historical pieces. But that, again, is none of my concern.

I’m not going to tell them that X had told me that the authenticity certificates were falsified in France. And if he had made up everything? That’s no verified information.

I’m not going to tell them everything, that’s for sure. So. I’ll just leave the story with the lamp with the imperial eagle. There is a picture there. The picture corresponds to a place that is recognizable. That’s an empirical evidence. The lamp with the imperial eagle was somewhere until it disappeared. I didn’t make it up, I just took the picture. You see, I’ll have to turn things that way: “You didn’t verify.” But in subliminal ways. Not too bluntly, for them not to feel aggressed. Just leave the story around here, until tomorrow.

The astonishing story of the lamp with the Russian Imperial Eagle

I’m nothing but a very curious web page maker. Not knowing exactly what do to with my life after a definite crash with the German School of Guayaquil, which provided me with sufficient proofs on the constant attempt of breaking national laws from the side of the German government, but had as side effect to bar my way back to Europe as, knowing them well, such evidence would easiest be refused by arguing some definite schizophrenia, papers and documents would be affected of as much as myself, I hid away in the peaceful town of Cuenca, Ecuador, waiting for the forlorn possibility some angel or miracle may show me the paths towards a most respectful change of nationality.


In the meantime I had to make an earning though, and the web world, I had studied already around 2003 in France, seemed fascinating enough so as to make a try, as it did allow the continuous exposure to the computer, most of my investigation were dealing with, and to learn quickly how the society around was built up by simply being obliged to walk around in order to search for some or the other client.

It’s not that you are almost always confronted to the most unbelievable stories and remarks, which you simply try not taking notice of, simply concentrated in the possibility of getting up the scale as quickly as possible in order to improve your financial situation. At the same time, your observations do confront you to the slow analysis of different financial organizations and structures, whose deeper nature does always interest my thought.

I had seen already many astonishing things, whose nature made me often laugh at night, and not knowing exactly whether they resulted of some peculiar legislation or of some strict incapability of control on given circumstances, I was just waiting some light be made by someone knowing exactly the body of law in order to take a definite perspective on the whole, light which did never come, on the other hand, so that I was still suspending the economical organization to some hypothetical conclusion when I ran into some furniture seller, who may have been interested by my page organization system through the need of exposing pictures to far away staying clients or even notifying of the arrival of new goods to the shop, thus reducing costs in phone calls and time in never ending e-mails containing in attached just one or two of the objects for sale.

It’s true that the horribly ambiguous title of ‘European furniture and antiquities’ did arise some obscure suspicions in the back of my mind, but seen the fact that the use of words in Ecuador is never the same than in Spain and that they adore brilliantly shining titles that may attract clients, whose use does not seem to be forbidden, as in Spain, I simply guessed it was some imitations or reproductions or left for nothing stuff eventually attracting attention here through the fact they were not known, while quite common beyond the oceans.

My knowledge on furniture is not excessively deep nor large, and recognizing some Spanish and French style with some problems or even some quality wood after inspection, I would certainly never have dared locating specifically any reality as such: authentic, imitation, copy, inspired by, older, younger, for me, it was a field that was not explored enough so as to allow any judgment.

The owner of the shop, or appearing as to be the one, a woman called Patricia, told me that the one who was sending the furniture from Holland was to arrive in January, and that they would decide together whether they’d make a web page or not. After some missed appointments, I manage finally to talk to both of them in one of the shops, that stays in one of the distinguished areas of the town. In my understanding, the furniture was Dutch, as I was told that it came from there, and though slightly astonished of the fact that so well carved wood may have left European jurisdiction so easily to end up in the third biggest town of Ecuador, I just considered it would be the consequence of the lack of rarity of the same in those countries, although I’ve to admit, I’d never seen the kind in my life.

The Dutch contact, Federico, agreed quite easily to make the page, which included the deal of service of photography, as I can’t myself sell photography not being a photographer, and he in the material impossibility of paying 7000 USD for 700 pictures as prices go around here, in exchange for some or the other piece of furniture, kind of deal I often make in order to convince clients of expenses that are often beyond their material possibilities.

Quite happily I spend a few hours taking pictures in the before mentioned shop, and go the other day to the other shop I hadn’t explored, and which shows double the number of items than the first. As I’m just taking pictures, I take a series of a 100 in half an hour, not paying any attention whatsoever to the kind of articles there are. “This is a samovar”, I just say, very happy to fall back into the times where I was reading Dostoyevskij and Gorkij, without giving it a second thought. The day after, I spend another couple of hours taking pictures of the rest of items, as that day I had concentrated myself on lamps and watches.

Something strikes my mind while working out the pictures. How strange, I think, this piece of furniture looks so much in time location to a Louis XV, at most a Regence. And no problem to cross the borders? Carefully I start a slight investigation, thinking to stop the page, as it may involve me in something horribly illegal. “There are more people working in the antiquities department in Interpol than in the narcotic department”, I say half joking to Federico, “where the damn did you get this furniture from?” His explanations go from some ‘marché aux puces’ to Emmaus furniture selling web pages, which looks quite sound. It’s not unbelievable that people have kept some old furniture in a garage, whose value has staid undetermined and just decide a day or another to get rid of it. I though start calling the same a ‘kouloukithi’ (Greek word for zucchini, used for someone whose thought isn’t excessively bright) because I suspect that he may be used these ways to further stolen goods or forbidden antiquities out of the countries concerned, which may put him and Patricia in quite a trouble. That both are unaware of the danger or value becomes obvious through prices: if you sell a 5000 USD worth lamp at 500 USD, it’s obvious that you don’t know what it is about.

My suspicious mind stops the progress of thought while verifying that all goods have left legally Holland. All items are numbered and registered and have passed the Dutch border control, which is said is quite severe on these subjects. I’m not going to suspect that he’s paid the Dutch Police in order to get those items out of the country, nor that they’re too stupid not to recognize an object of value. Such an impossibility justifies the continuation of the page, because if Federico is a ‘kouloukithi’, I won’t certainly not say the same for the Dutch border control.

The fact that Patricia has the whole inside of completely legal frame, does further reassure me, as the shop registered, submitted to Ecuadorian law without fail, taxes paid, and customers written carefully down. Of course, I can’t but remarking that the whole structure would certainly surprise a European, but I’ve stated all over that Ecuadorian law seems to allow the sale of items bought up of a private or of a foreign company without import legislation. Thus, one of my greatest funs arose from the fact that private people went to the US to buy whatever, ship it, pay import taxes on arrival, and happily sell them in their shops, custom that had extended itself to internet providers without particular agreement. As I have encountered this quite often (Vaqueros, Pabikes, Audio Extremo, Hunting and Fishing, among other) I can’t think that, if it were illegal, it would have so easily cheated given authorities, which, by the way, are quite strict on the subject.

The legal situation is clear for me. Patricia has in her two shops a whole amount of legally acquired goods, that she may legally sell, and if there is any kind of irregularity, it corresponds to Dutch authorities, which may though not claim the good back anymore.

I’ve to admit that I was very tired. 600 pictures of singular objects are not easy to take and work out while structuring a page at the same time. It’s true that some deep melancholy invaded my mind while working with the pictures and my mind started bathing in some XIXth century German castle mood for a while. Then I forgot. As Federico did not esteem my work good enough, I cut down the number of pictures from 600 to 170. Even worked out pictures are not good enough, so that I keep the whole for my property in one of my eternal cd’s. A nice souvenir, I think.

Federico leaves for Holland. In exchange for the original furniture we had talked about, I take a lamp I like for 70 USD and a nice carved box, whose smelling wood reminds me of the Indian elephant Cornelia von Berczely had offered to me at school, and which had gone lost, although I did never forget the scent, for 25 USD. I leave 55 USD advance for a small piece of furniture that seems to fit well my progressing Prince Vladimir’s house project and leave things as they’re.

Days pass. My tiredness is doubled by some ugly flue which stops me from working. One day, horribly curious about the origin of my lamp, Federico had qualified of ‘Moroccan’, I start some researches in internet. The samovars had put me on the Russian path, and without any kind of knowledge on the subject, I try as well all sorts of Moroccan lamps as Russian ones, without finding anything conclusive were it in French, German, Spanish or English.

I will have to try the Russian, I think, but I don’t speak a word of Russian. Luckily though, I had learned out of sheer curiosity the Cyrillic alphabet when I was about 13, which makes the reading at least possible, and as I know that some words do often touch others that may be known to me, I find the word ‘lampa’ in Russian quite satisfying as well as another which says ‘antikvariat’. Some page seems to present a large exposition of lamps with prices, style, and age. Having a detailed look at them leads quickly to the conclusion that those I’ve pictured are all Russian because they show up to 90% similarity. All of them? Except of mine, which is quite peculiar, but that does certainly not arrive from anywhere else in such a context. Prices do shock me. 4000 USD, 6000 USD, 2000 USD. Dis donc.

Well, if Russian confirm origin I may buy the whole lot from Patricia and sell them as a private to Russia for a reasonable price and have some dollar for myself left over. I write an e-mail.

Next day I go through the whole lot again. Why should I need a foreign expertise, I ask myself, if I may find something that’d warrant for the origin by itself. One by one I go through the lamps until my eyes stop at a symbol. Ah. The imperial eagle. Shit. They’re thus definitely Russian, but probably now even national patrimony. Poor Federico, I think, wait for your 10 years in prison. Where the damn did these lamps come from?

Of course I think immediately of Russian of aristocratic origins leaving the country in 1917. Furniture left as warrant? Something stolen on its way down to France or other? But the imperial eagle? Fantastic ideas cross my mind implying the possibility the imperial family may have left Russia secretly and some furniture confiscated because of the implications of some symbols. But where was it all the time? And how did it manage to arrive in Federico’s hands, cross controls and borders and arrive to a third world country to a town in the middle of Andes?

I start getting aware of the fact that the whole may be serious. My non chalance of my first e-mail to Russia is followed by a most serious request to buy the whole for a ridiculous price and get back some common property, probably, avoiding further trouble and even worse, that the whole may not completely disappear in the unawareness of its value.

For the time being, things have staid like that. I don’t know whether Russian will be interested in getting back their lamps, although I deeply suspect Natasha of wanting to get everything for free by just accusing poor Federico of antiquity traffic. To want to get it for free is already some sign of interest, which may further my business and avoid Patricia’s bankruptcy if all of sudden obliged by foreign forces to give back all the lamps under the pressure of frightening guns.

It’s an evidence that Natasha may start some investigation on the whole which may even throw some light, eventually, on historical events. In the meantime, and even without it (no, Natasha, I promise I won’t keep it for myself), I remain the final discoverer of a treasure that managed to arrive through an eternally long field of kouloukithis to the other end of the world, honor which I won’t reject and title which I do humbly accept, as it finishes by showing that little reminders of culture are always worth something.

In the meantime, while hoping Natasha will not make me end up in some Gulag in Siberia, you may admire the extraordinary collection of lamps in slide.

Just verify. I have all the papers at home. It’s no lies, that’s for sure.






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