Tuesday, September 3, 2013
Antiques, the cautionary tale
I went with my wife to a pretty river town and looked through many huge stores crammed with antiques. Yes, crammed. I really liked them and could see a bit of a path not traveled in myself. Some part of me could have become obsessively absorbed with all this stuff, with its light touches of rareness and history and time travel, with all the collecting and treasure hunting and value. But, as a career, for me, I think it would have failed hard. I am not good at sales, never mastering that essential emotional remove that is required for it. I am far too inclined to go all Daffy Duck and have vivid, feverish dreams of swimming in gold coins as any sale is negotiated. I'm not sure people would really like buying some Victorian doctor's case from a person who starts exulting flamboyantly about being a fabulously wealthy millionaire the second their $175 sale is completed. And besides that problem I suspect I would have formed deep emotional attachments to all my collections that no money exchange could adequately compensate for or reflect on my real valuing of the object. So if I went that route I probably would have ended up more on the hoarder end of the spectrum, which, I imagine, is where most antique dabblers end up anyway. A man at our recent garage sale (here, if you want to hear a small bit about it) told us about how he had to get a second house to store all his stuff. He has a 21 room mansion, he said, to keep it all. He said it could be in a museum, it should be in a museum. It should be a museum.
But it shouldn't, really. It should be in an antique store somewhere, and he shouldn't have so much money that he can have a spare mansion just to store stuff he buys. Of course, I might not feel this way if he had bought something at my garage sale, and made me a millionaire. A millionaire! But he didn't buy a thing. I guess he just came to tell his Rime of the Ancient Mariner story. Every weekend he leaves behind his multiple houses that have no room for him anyway. He travels up and down the alleys of my city, seeking garage and yard sales at which he can tell his lonely story. It is his ritual and all he has left, if you don't count all the houses and stuff. But also it is his curse, to tell that story over and over throughout the city, and, perhaps, it is his gift, too, not buying, rather telling, telling us garage salers we have chosen the right path. And so we have.