Archive for November, 2009

Old to you, new to me…

November 7, 2009

Lookingforbeauty and her friend Carole are doing a timely bit of business together. They are holding and Art and Antiques Sale at LFB’s house. They have been preparing for this sale for about two weeks, dusting, washing, polishing, displaying and pricing wares they have obtained by various means during the past 20 years and which they have been amassing and stockpiling due to their true nature as magpies. Magpies love shiny pretty bits of things, and true to their nature collect little caches of found treasure that attract and please their eyes. These two ladies are truly the magpie Sisters. And now, they plan to divest themselves of these treasures, and share them with others.
There is a lot of “stuff”, objects of desire, if not always of utility, circulating out in the world. Daily more and more stuff is created to add to this mass of materal goods. There is always something new to seduce the eye, the desire for novelty and luxury and to stir a lust for acquisition or gifting.
Over my lifetime, I have successfully resisted the siren call of goods. It is not that I do not admire beauty, utility or clever and ingenious design, it is simply that I have not the need, want or desire to weigh myself down with things which give momentary stimulation or which must be stored, guarded or maintained. My possessions must not define me; I resist the pigeonholing one must submit to in order to allow possessions to signify who I am. This may be a form of perversity, of my constant need for rebellion.
One of my great pleasures is to go about looking at everything, considering the importance of things in the scheme of existence. Old stuff is fascinating; they give clues to ideas about what constitutes a good life as expressed through material accumulations, what is valued, at what level of valuation as signifiers they sit. Old stuff gets passed from generation to generation; their value being association and sentiment which have uncounted value and yet propel forward as weight which is carried and then added to with new stuff to create even more weight, impediments and preventers of a baggage free life. At once a blessing and a curse, we pass around compilations of goods to benight the next generation. I am not exempt from this behaviour.
Last evening, I braved blustery fall weather to nip over to LFB’s house to peruse the offerings she and Carole had displayed for today’s sale. I pored over the goods with the same zeal that I had demonstrated while digging in the backwoods middens of early BC settlement at Wells some 20 years ago. What treasures might beckon my magpie eyes? What wonderful objet would call out to me. “So, or so might enjoy having this for themselves?”
Well. A mold made glass plate, an example of Depression glass, caught my eye. Martha would enjoy serving pickles from this at one of her many buffet dinners with which she welcomes guests. Only $5.00. Done! I set it aside. Of! Look! there is a bisque porcelain pelican, the one I have been admiring, while it was sitting on top of LFB’s linen press for several years now. Barb loves birds and loves intricate and delicate detail and a lovely surface. This is perfect for her Christmas present this year. has Barb ever seen a live pelican? Maybe a well crafted stand-in would do, in case she never has set eyes on this wonderful bird, or may never, in her lifetime. Set it aside!
Oh, yes. YES! There is a set of beautiful etched drinking glasses, each one a different colour of glass, each one decorated with a lush exotic bloom. Lucky would enjoy handling these and serving sparkling mineral water from them to her family. Put these aside on the pile, also!
I meander around, looking, considering, wondering who had handled these during a life at which I can only guess.
There are baskets of silver, polished for presentation. Ah, but look – there is a pile of odds and ends sitting in a box. What stuff is in there, jumbled, ready to be discovered by the curious eye? What is this black and red square of about 1 inch proportions? I poke around and lift this up. It is an enamelled ear-ring, of 60’s beatnik vintage. Poke, stir, turn… aha! here is its pair.
I get a moment of flashback and nostalgia to the mid 60s, when my friends Myra, Terry and I used to go to artsy craft shops and admire goods for sale. We never had enough money for any more than our bus tickets to and from such places. But we handled and admired the hand-crafted offerings. These ear-rings might delight Our Lady of Perpetual Crisis. She loves hand-crafted ear-rings, especially arty ones. Place them in my pile of findings.
Poke around some more in the box from which these ear-rings came. Yes! A primitive looking fish pendant! It’s made of aluminum, I think and say so to LFB. “Nope!” she comments, “that is Pewter.” I scratch the back of the pendant with my fingernail, and announce to her that it is aluminum. We haggle; LFB being the friend she is lets me have it for a half-price reduction.
This one is perfect for Emma, my niece – she is a Pisces. I put the pendant in my growing bit of stuff. But I am not yet done.
Stacked by the fireplace are piles of old books. I kneel down and start to read the titles on the spines. There is a slim volume in a dustjacket. It is a 60s compilation of aphorisms on the French take on Love and Life. I open it and begin to peruse the contents. Some great stuff in here. I say to LFB, “Are you sure you want to sell this? There is a huge possibility for you to work up a Conceptual series of drawings from these. Wouldn’t those be fun to undertake?” LFB gives me a considering long look. “Okay,” she finally mutters, ” I guess, now I’ll have to keep this.” She sets the book aside on her kitchen counter, so she can give this idea more thought.

And then, I find the perfect treasure for myself. It is an olive coloured, leather bound book – its front cover loose and detached. It has a gold-embossed laurel wreath with ribbons swirling from the wreath. On the ribbons is engraved “Palmam Qui Meruit Ferat.” I hold it in my hands and feel the buttery soft binding. Turn it to look at the highly decorated spine – Land Surveying, the author, HJ Castle. On opening the book, a series of chapters on mathematical and trigonometry problems, introduction to the theodolite, leveling and surveying complete with illustrations appear, and at the end ofthe book a table of logarhythmic sines and tangents and traverse tables. For some reason, this book appeals to me – I must have this for myself. I have long been fascinated with geometry, topography and about these concepts. Illustrations explaining mechanics of breaking down information I have long considered an art form. So, this is the finding which I was happy to come uon for myself. LFB said that the book had been one of her Father’s text-books from Upper Canada College. Her dad had been a professor of Civil Engineering at UBC. His old textbook was new to me. I plan to reattach the cover and interleave its pages with appropriate diagrams I will most likely find in my peripatetic way of uncovering information – maps, graphs, photos having to do with terrain, the landscape.

It is my hope that the treasures I have obtained from LFBs magpie collecting will have the effect of novelty to the people to whom I plan to gift these.
Of course, they may not really like to be further burdened with additional stuff, however, if they so desire, they can pass these things forward. Old stuff can in this way remain new.

Yenta is “touched”, or has lost her “touch”…

November 3, 2009

Rumpole has ordered me to take down my matchmaking shingle. That latest foray into connecting single souls has been an utter failure. Sparks, Nada! Entertainment for all of the four of us… yes, in a queer sort of way. It has taken me four weeks to come to grips with horrible reality of it all.

Luck would have it, Our Lady of Perpetual Crisis still talks to me and visits chez nous. However, she has said that I am hapless and not very good at this matchmaking business. She did say that she enjoyed the evening dinner with us and Rob, and that the food was delicious and the conversation…surprisingly entertaining. But she made pointed comments about Rob’s sartorial elegance, comparing his attire a cross between Don Ho and one of the Darryl Brothers (as in, “Howdy, My name is Darryl, and this here is my other brother, Darryl”).

Picky, picky OLPC. What did she expect, someone out of Gentleman’s Quarterly Magazine? But then, should I take her comments about stylishness to heart? She, who breezed in looking a bit like a dominatrix, all form-fitting black with what looked like chains strong enough to restrain a 100 pound Rottweiler hefting up her lush triple-Ds and snaking around her shoulders? I had to keep kicking Rumpole under the table to prevent him from gazing at her prominent poitrine. Poor Rob, he with the quaint old-fashioned mannerisms and attitudes, didn’t seem to know where to look.

But mercifully, they did get along well enough to make fine conversation. Whilst choking back the schnitzel, the flatulence inducing cabbage, roast potatoes and pickled beets OLPC did manage to put questions to Rob about his life, his grown children, his confirmed and adamant solitary state. Oddly enough, Rob, shy generally and not a man of many words, opened up and went into considerable detail about his life and experiences. The torrent of interesting information had the effect of open-mouthed fascination on Rumpole. OLPC didn’t miss a trick.
She would be a smooth and clever interrogator in Gauntanamo. And all that without the aid of extremely bright lights and water-torture devices. Under her subtle questioning Ron revealed things about himself, as pertaining to his most recent relationship, that should not be even mentioned in a session with a relationship counsellor, let alone at a matchmaking dinner. I was aghast at what my well-intentioned soiree had unleashed.

During dinner, we discussed politics, religion, the arts, the new Conservativism, the environment, economics and yes, modern sexual behaviour. As a case study, OLPC, brought up her friend, Cowtown Donna’s difficulties at negotiating the relational quagmire prevailing among middle-aged divorced singles. As she asked all of our opinions as to what was proper etiquette among dating senior singles, Rob nervously wrapped the linen table napkin around his left hand, much like a bandage, and punctuated his comments by tugging the ends closed to choke his fist. That sure was an indication of his extreme discomfort with the conversational vein.

As hostess, I tried to steer the conversation to less discomforting topics – like Municipal shenanigans and “what about our dorky Mayor saying…”. Mercifully, the time passed quickly, although neither OLPC nor Rob showed the slightest indication of wanting to take their leave. Were they having that much fun? Certainly they laughed a lot. Rob tugged on his napkin bandage a lot… but was that in fun, or just out of sheer nervousness? It was really weird!

Because it was a Sunday evening, and everyone had to be up early the next morning, Rumpole did last call. He said. “All right all of you. Tomorrow is a workday. We have 15 minutes before I kick you guys out. Because I am 65 years old I need my sleep.”

I poured more tea for us all. OLPC and Rob left afterward, both at the same time. I looked out the back window and watched them exchange a few words before they hopped in their vehicles and drove off.

Rumpole’s comment to me as he went off to “dusterize” was. “Well, that was a bust as far as those two matching up. But by God! It was a most enjoyable evening.”

All I can say now, is that even though I am a failure at matching people up romantically, at least I have the wherewithal to pull disparate characters together for an evening of lively exchange and some stimulating conversation. And although OLPC and Rob did not form a firm friendship or demonstrate romantic chemistry toward each other, whenever they meet casually in our little town, they will at least have the basis for polite casual conversation with each other.
And, most amazingly, they both still are talking with me, even if it is to mention that I should give up trying to match them up with anyone, ever again. Yeah! I’m a failed Hungarian Yenta.