by: Tim Gorichanaz
The memories of life’s journeys — scents, tastes, feelings — trapped in the compact offering of a business card…
With the salesman in the back room, I found myself hypnotized. Never in my rural-Wisconsin upbringing did I dream of being in such a place, finding self-actualization at a luxury boutique in the understated 3rd arrondissement of Paris. There were only a few items on the sales floor, this season’s styles and colors arrayed spaciously and purposefully against the boutique’s white shelving. When I spotted the black business card holder besides the register, I quickly stooped and swiped up one of the cards.
My hand was still in my pocket when the salesman reemerged with a menagerie of messenger bags, crafted from horse, deer, and calf hides. He held them up, one by one, and invited me to feel them. I chose the calf bag I’d seen online, rich in caramel hues and almost liquid to the touch. It was the most expensive thing I’d ever bought.
I tucked the smart-looking business card away in a wallet that held my passport and social security card, as well as my old student ID’s and transit passes from places I used to live. I keep the wallet in the calf-skinned bag, which I use every day. Years later, the bag still has that 3rd arrondissement smell, and with time and use the bag has become worn and all the better for it. Often, I remove the business card from my wallet and gaze at it, soaking it in. I caress its features and examine its layout. The business card reads vertical and white, bright like the boutique, with six spare lines of black text displayed, sans-serif, in its center. ISAAC REINA, the text reads. Edition de sacs, with the boutique’s address, telephone number, Email, and website crisply emblazoned upon it. I cherish this card. And it’s not the only one in my possession I treasure.
It was pouring rain when I ran along the gates of Le Jardin du Luxembourg during my return visit to France. I didn’t have an umbrella and so I tried to shield beloved leather bag, but it was no use. There goes a thousand dollars, I thought. It’s ruined forever. A few more blocks of running and I found my intended destination, Pâtisserie Sadaharu Aoki. Inside, I tried to forget what had just happened to my calfskin bag. Once I had wiped my face, my worries slipped away easily. The colors throughout the sumptuous room were stirring. Aoki was known for making French pastries with traditional Japanese flavors. I was there for the macarons, those round little raptures of flavor. My favorite was the iridescent green-colored matcha macaron.
Aoki’s business cards are white with mostly gray text. Some of the letters were black, like raindrops appearing on the ground. The macarons are long gone, but the card remains to remind me of those wondrous flavors.
Years later, I took a trip to Japan, where I collected yet another business card I hold dear. It’s from a knife maker, Aritsugu, that I collected when I purchased a kitchen knife at their shop in Tokyo’s Tsukiji Fish Market. The place was tiny and its floors were creaky, and the atmosphere felt every bit as old as its six-hundred year existence. The shop had been there since 1560 when Aritsugu was founded. Originally they had made hand-crafted swords, but by the 19th century sword-carrying was illegal, so like most bladesmiths in the country, Aritsugu now made kitchen knives. With my brother and his Japanese roommate, I picked out a gyūtou — a versatile chef’s knife. The young man seated at the shop’s grindstone sharpened it, and an old woman with deep wrinkles around her mouth wrapped it, boxed it and bagged it, and then handed it to me gracefully with both hands.
“Oh!” I exclaimed. I had almost forgotten. “Ato…meishi wa arimasen ka?” Do you have a business card?
I use the knife with reverence, but there’s still something about Aritsugu’s business card that strikes me. One side is written in Japanese, and the other side is in English. HONYAKI is Cooking Knife for pro use, its text reads. The company’s name and contact information appear in various type treatments, large enough to occupy the card’s full length.
The business card’s Japanese side is much more enjoyable to behold. The text is like falling rain, each of the kanji characters a prismatic drop. The eye is first drawn to the center of the card, where the large character for Ari sits, and then down the silent gap to Tsugu. The eye skips around as it tracks the script’s rainfall. Aritsugu’s address, phone number, fax and Email info fall in a torrent of artful characters.
Rippling through memories of my various travels, I can recall one other business card I revere. It hails from Sanford, an upscale restaurant in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. I dined there once with my fraternity brothers, a few years after I received my undergrad. We used to reunite for “family dinners” once a month or so, and spend the evenings catching up and reminiscing on our college days. On the way out of Sanford’s I plucked a business card from the host’s station. The card is white and devoid of text on its back. Its front is printed in a gray so light that the letters, like the memories of my travels, seem to be fading away as you look at them.
Tim Gorichanaz is a writer and poet from Wisconsin. His poetry, fiction and essays have appeared in literary magazines including Chantwood Magazine, Alexandria Quarterly and The Smart Set. He is currently a doctoral candidate at Drexel University in Philadelphia, where he is researching the philosophy of information and documents and the question of meaning in our technological world. When he is not reading or writing, he enjoys running very long distances and learning classical guitar.