Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Gulessarian the Rug Guy

I had to visit Gulessarian's Oriental Rugs this morning; a client from a recent move had a filthy oriental rug, claiming $2300 if it can't be restored.
This is Gulessarian, son. The original Gulessarian was Really Original but is no longer living: he looked like that traditional description of St. Paul: short, bow-legged, big nosed, pot-bellied, short-sighted. Jewish. Gulessarian Son--now the father-- is taller, a gentler, kinder man. Knowledgeable about rugs, but also willing to spin the tale, so to speak. He is attended by three adult daughters. These three are the craftspeople. Father schmoozes, greets, oversees, instructs.
One daughter greeted me, and took the order. A few minutes later Gulessarian himself wandered out. I greeted him, and mentioned Thailand. He vacations there--paining to tell me he prefers the rustic north to the sex-for-sale south. My older son had been vacationing "in the north" of Thailand in January, and is headed back that way in August. So. Exchange of Thai stories; mine second-hand.
Finally, I turned to the carpet I'd brought in, and asked about its background.
"The rug is from India," said the daughter.
"The rug is from India, Pakistan, or Iran," said the father.
"The rug is from India." Said the daughter again.
Ah. THIS is what I'd come for! The Debate. Instead, I got The Lecture.
There is a large wall map behind the counter, showing the Near East and Asia. It is well-fingered; it serves as the stage upon which The Lecture will take place.
The father carefully inspected the rug. Fine weave; soft wool (not a good sign); some compression; too much vinework for northern Iran; strangely coarse detail for so fine a weave. The tassels told him something or other. The finished edges told him something else. He had to touch it. He knew the weaving pattern; he knew the village in Iran where the tradition originated from. Value between $800 and $1400; pay more than that you've been ripped off. Cleanable; no problem.
Where was it made? Hmm, some huffing and puffing. Finally, The Lecture: Before Khomeini took over in Iran, a moderate (forget the name, but Father knew) opened the borders, and out streamed a host of weavers. Where did they go? Gulessarian's finger is now on the map, ranging northeast. "They couldn't go there--the Turks were out to get them." His finger wandered to the northwest of Iran: "The hardest, most unwelcome, poverty-stricken place in the world--can't go there!" Ditto the Transcaucasus. Ditto Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Russia. Ditto Afghanistan. What's left? "India. Northwest India". So, maybe the daughter was right.
A visit to Gullesarian's is always an event. At the door stood a sandwich board, lettered in chalk: "Time To Get the Dirt Out!". I asked if this was supposed to be on the sidewalk outdoors. Gullesarian shrugged. "I've got to change the wording. Around here everyone thinks I'm making a political statement!"

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