Charlottesville's Indiana Jones:|
The life and times of tribal rug trader Saul Borodofsky
Albermarle Magazine, June-July, 1991
By David Schulman
The carpet merchant sits examining a recently arrived gossip mag. This is not the sort of thing
a man of such virility and elegance would normally be reading, but friends from
the city have sent it to him. Prominently on the front spread is his picture, in color - and not
"CARPET MILLIONARE!" the headline clamors in Turkish. The merchant translates the blurb aloud: "'...been
coming to Turkey 15 years...spends $250,000 a year on carpets!'
"All lies - I don't spend anywhere near that much."
Shaking his head, he continues reading, now with an accent as exaggerated as the reporting: "'...Konya...billions!..
The air fills with resonant laughter.
"Well!" he says, "they did get my name right: Saul Yale Barodofsky."
When I enter the Fourth Street textile shop for my first encounter with the carpet merchant,
a youthful assistant brings tea, served in slender, shapely cups of cut glass. On a Turkish carpet lies
an enourmous - faced mastif, slumbering for now. And all around are the fruits of trade expeditions to
Turkey, Pakistan, Morocco, the Soviet Caucasus, and elswhere: Wall are hung with geometric carpets and
kilims; elsewhere are silks and velvets, colonial British rifles inlaid with mother-of-pearl, figures of
Moorih musicians, embroidered bags, and camel decorations - intended, as I later learn, to ward off the
Perhaps an exotic scent hangs in the air, but that, likely as not, is only imagination.
We speak of Turkey.Barodofsky has made 40-odd trip there.
"My banker" - he grins broadly - "says I commute."
How, I wonder aloud, does a man named Barodofsky come to trade in the nomadic textiles of the Orient?
My wit, however, is not that of Scheherazade, who kept a murderous king at bay by telling stories
for some thousand and one nights.The merchant instantly sees through my simplistic tactics.
"Whaddaya want?" he chides me, "a quick sharp lead line? 'I-bought-a-pillow-once-and-it-got-lonely-so
"Is that what you want?"
The interview is not going as I had planned.
"We were raising peacocks," he assured me. "More tea?"
I stammer, swallow, consult my notes. Fortunately, I - unlike Scheherazade - am allowed the luxury of
a second chance. The carpet merchant graciously suggests that I visit again, another day.
"I," he says expansively, "I have a thousand stories..."