Thursday, April 26, 2012

Is Your Attic (2)... and Lunch

Is Your Attic (2)... and Lunch

            A brushing off of crumbs?
            The estate inspection; a request for help referral from one attorney to another attorney… and then to us… lead to Portland, over the bridge to South Portland, out Ocean Ave. to Cape Elizabeth and then a “reach left and wander down to the water” (quoted from written directions) that found us in the driveway “of a new one”; a big recently built faux grand “ON THE WATER” “mansion”.  Two upper grade SUVs were already parked.  Two matching “goldies” stopped cavorting before the front door and prepared to charge us.  We waited in the car as they were corralled. Two… “late thirties” women postured to receive us at that cleared doorway.  We greeted and entered; the inspection began.
            Like a red carpet runner unrolling before us after a kick from “we are the owners” the estate became:  The contents (all still in place throughout the otherwise barren white wall and perfectionist clean …home…) was …all recently restored and refinished antique furniture of considerable variety… that had ALL been purchased within the last three years from coastal Maine antiques shop by the mother of the two …ball cap with blond ponytail poking out the hat back… daughters who admitted they “had helped some”.  Between us and that furniture they placed a loose leaf notebook containing the purchase receipts, notes, photographs, contact information and descriptions of ALL of “that”.  Further, we were well informed, “all of that” WITH the notebook had already been turned over to a “sale consultant” (a tag sale manager) requesting “she sell it and, at least, get our money back”.  The sale effort had failed.  Only one piece of furniture actually sold.  “Now what do we do?”
            “Now what do we do?” had become a hot potato passed from attorney… to attorney… to us?  Looking past the notebook off yonder to the furniture I… moved forward.  “May we walk through the house quickly and then I will make a quick verbal assessment”.
            “SURE”.  Then, as the doggies rose at that pronouncement, a “NO.”
            We toured the house.  There was no furniture on the… over looking the Atlantic Ocean… “deck”.  There was absolutely NOTHING in the attic.  It was white walled, empty and very vacuumed.  I took the photograph.  We had seen everything.
            Back downstairs with one sibling looking wistfully out to sea and the other  ratcheting down upon the notebook and I… I told her, to her face, that the furniture while all fine and well as antiques and household decorative purchases, would not find a market interest at the original purchase prices (as found in the notebook) for they were “retail” prices they paid from professional vendors.
            “What would be the market prices?”
            “You can expect to quickly realize about one quarter of what you paid, including the possible re-purchase of some of the furniture from the original vendors.  Don’t overlook THAT”.
            That’s not what they wanted to hear.  The sea gazing sibling was now gazing at me.  The doggies had their jowls on the carpeting.  “Do YOU want to buy…”
            “Well… how about the theorem?”
            “The what?”
            “That.” I said pointing to a “1993” watercolor on velvet basket of fruit with bird in new paint decorated frame …theorem… hanging beside us on the wall.
            “THAT’S NEW!” she said.
            “I know.  1993”.
            “And how about the fraktur?” I said point to a small framed watercolor just into the front hall.
            “THAT’S NEW TOO!” she said.
            “Yes, you can tell by the motto (and the later noted “1983” date)”.
            “Yes.  Are they for sale?”
            “Those?  You decide” she said turning to ocean gaze sibling.
            Without moving she looked at her sister, looked at the theorem, looked at the fraktur and said, in reverse order “ten for that, twenty-five for that”.
            I tactfully paused and then said “OK”.
            “Anything else?” said the first sister.
            “The two ducks?” I said pointing to the two painted wood decoys on the table top before the window viewing the deck.
            “Those are NEW.” said the first sibling.  It was clear to me… now… that the tag sale manager had resiliently informed the sisters of “these are NEW”… and therefore “NG” (no good) status of “select objects in the home”.  Quick study, I here reap the benefit of that woman’s “loose with dignity” pronouncements.
            “Fifty?” said the sea gazer without waiting for her sister’s guidance.
            “How about forty?” I said quickly.
            “ANYTHING else?” from the first sister?
            “The print? I said pointing to a very contemporary museum grade reproduction “on canvas” print of a Casco Bay; (? and of a view right… from where we were standing?) Luminist Fitz Hugh Lane (?) painting.
            “That’s NEW.  Mother bought that at the museum.”
            What museum I wondered.  “Its nice.” I said.
            “How about forty for that too?” said the sea gaze sister.
            Another calculated pause and then I said “OK.”

            I produced the cash laying the exact total on the notebook and lifted the theorem off the wall, then retrieved the fraktur.  My wife received the print from the first sister.  The sea gaze sister picked up the two decoys.  “NO.” was said again to the doggies.  We walked outside chatting lightly.  Nothing more was said about the furniture and its sale.  We loaded our plunder and left.  “THAT?” I said to my wife when she started to denote the wonder of our purchase experience.  “To them that was a brushing off of crumbs” (we included?). 

It was just after eleven and… time for lunch.
Following Ocean Ave back to its intersection with Broadway in South Portland we went straight through that intersection and one and one half blocks more (with the park on our right for the first block) to …delightedly spy the unknown jewel of Portland area Vietnamese restaurants… Pho Hanoi… at mid block on the left, “open”.  We are regulars for lunch.  This is due to their qualities and our “a lot of work in the area”.  Always only lightly filled… because “no body knows about this place”… seating is assured as is easy parking right in front.  Forgetting the estate inspection and plunder in the car, we eat.  Lunch at Pho Hanoi is quick, clean, inexpensive, ample and delicious.

Today we first shared a Goi Tom (#13) shrimp salad.  Theirs is a singular preparation on a bed of shredded iceburg lettuce with an also singular tangy & sweet dressing.  In addition to “great” the word is “singular”; one will not find Goi Tom made the same elsewhere.  This day… with us both being slightly cooled from standing by the Atlantic Ocean AND having that clean, crisp, moist, salty and PURE sea air still upon us… we both ordered “medium” “Hu Tieu Mi Tom Muc Va Heo (#35D) a pho type SEAFOOD broth soup having shrimp, squid and sliced pork with yellow and white noodles.  This is coastal Maine and this seafood soup is a hardy “the pure sea at it’s best”.  If I am “really starving” I’ll get the large but a medium is “way enough” for most.
Keeping to practical and… great opportunity, we order “to go” for our arriving-home-late-due-to-a-long-day supper… two medium Mi Hoanh Thanh (dumpling wonton soup) that is an enhanced version of ANY wonton soup for it includes beyond the usual dumplings sliced pork, yellow noodles, basil and bean sprouts making it, including the singular flavored dumplings an “always fondly remembered”.  Two orders of shrimp spring rolls (#2) always seem to sneak into the take out order too.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Is Your Attic?

Is Your Attic?

            Back in Maine this week we have been old rolodex A-Z style tending a back log of estate inspections.  Most have been of little interest and have been sent on their way toward “distribution”.  One call rang true to its telephone description by the supervising heir.  She stated “mother gathered a lot”.  “Mother” did “gather” “a lot”.
            We arrived, were escorted into the home and were eye dazzled at first steps by “her things” everywhere.  Clean, very carefully shelved, sensitively arranged and displayed with a collector’s eye, we quickly discovered a woman’s treasure trove left behind that showed that she, over at least fifty years, went out antiques hunting all the time. 
She brought home her plunder, cleaned it, displayed it and kept it.  Forever.  Sometimes she visited a local auction.  Another day a local tag sale.  Another weekend a  local antiques show.  A local flea market she was “always going there” for a quarter century.  And always “bringing home”.  Not a hoarder or clutter bug, every purchase seems to fit in addition to announcing her broad and roving eye of “what she liked”. 
A quick walking tour told us to get down to business.  “Our interest?  We would buy it all”. 
“Well… we do not know what we are going to do yet.
“Fine.  We would make an offer for all of it when you are ready”.
We “gathered” that a tag sale manager “wants to do a series of sales”.  We “gathered” that an auctioneer (or two) “are expressing interest”.  One of the heirs has spoken of “putting it all on eBay ourselves”.  The supervising heir was unsure of “who” was going to do “that” but said “it won’t be ME”.
We pointed out that the mother had truly “gathered” a great amount and keeping track of it all could be a problem.  Again stating that “when you are ready” we would buy all of it and remove it all promptly.  She thanked us and we went outside the house.  We had been there less than forty-five minutes; it was still before ten in the morning.  The supervising heir turned and looked back at the house.  “Mother DID gather a lot didn’t she”.
Yes she did.
The photograph shows a nook in one of the attics.  A small & well proportioned cherry wood 20th century “hutch” cupboard holds a… “gathering” of partially arranged 20th century pewter; a “work in progress” left behind by the gatherer.  The baskets, banister back chair and old red child’s chair are all “early”.  The hutch top holds an old school bell documented to a local one room school house two miles away.  There too is found an exceptionally large bail handled pantry box in an original teal blue paint.  This attic nook gathering is no accident. There is no clutter or trash in the space.  Everything was carefully gathered by the owner over decades.  All was brought to this space by her where she had many happy moments studying, working with and arranging “her things”.  Considering the size of the estate, the amount of the gatherings, the quality of the gatherings and the utter lack of “trash”, this estate is a model of collector “gathered” diligence.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Old China Hmart

Old China Hmart

            Monday morning we had two house call appointments in Scarsdale and Bronxville, Westchester Co., NY.  Both were for “old china” “collections” “inherited”.  Scarsdale was much better than Bronxville.
            That home, in its attic, was littered with opened boxes of truly old “old family china” with that “old china” scattered all about the attic after having been poked, peeked and looked at over a twenty year time span. Nothing had left the attic or been sold “yet”.  We were stunned by the “old” quality and the abundant quantity of the “old china”.  Verbally querying we followed the trail back to Chicago, 1890 through the 1920’s including “summers in New England”.  The boxes came east in the 1950’s and “have been here” (the attic) ever since.  Quickly, to our eye, came the “somebody knew what they were doing” message AND the “LIKED old paste (English earthenware 1780 – 1840).  “She (“my grandmother”) gathered it on her trips I suppose”.  Looked like that to us inclusive of old antiques shops north of Boston labels, stickers and… original purchase bags (!).  “NICE old china” we said and explained, noting that there appears to be 150 to 200 lots… that the “collection” (for it IS one) will stand piece by piece as attractive to collectors even though many of the more singular and earlier “old paste” items “have old damage” including “staple repairs”.  They let me take a few photographs of what is a representative specimen of “old paste, old damage & old staple repairs”.  We recommended the collection was best kept out of the public eye until completely “market ready” “for sale”.
            Bronxville was lesser, newer, cleaner and had no trail to follow back beyond a “bought every year at the shows at the County Center.  Long ago “The White Plains Show” at the Westchester County Center was an antiques dealers “must” and “breath taken away”.  It declined.  Declined.  And declined… to be back filled with four decades, at least, of “not the way it used to be” shows.  It is from those later shows that “this stuff came from” (owner’s words).  We charitably explained our “no thank you”; too little (quantity), too late (age) so not enough to make Maine a profitable destination.  Condition was, actually, great.  Approaching high noon, our hunger was great too.

            We went up to the brand new just opened Korean Hmart on Central Ave. in Hartsdale.  We sashayed (senior style) the whole store comparing it with the “we like” Burlington, MA “it is super” Hmart.  This one is a notch below the Burlington “astonishing” rating.  At the food court there were three choices; Japanese, Chinese or Korean.  Stand in line to order and pay on one side while your order is put up… and then put up by number… for pickup… on the other side of the adequate tables & chairs dining area.  I had the rice cake & dumplings in broth with a ginger ale.  We were well fed, thoroughly pleased and out of there in twenty minutes and under twenty dollars.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Old China Dumplings

Old China Dumplings

            Yesterday… we were in New Canaan, Conn. early for an inspection appointment “early”.  Early was nine.  The appointment was at “the mother’s house”.  The inspection was of “old china collected by our grandparents” first and then continued “and by our mother”.  Most of the grandparent’s was packed in old boxes in the attic.  Much of the mother’s was the same.  A final piling of more recent boxing was “What she (the mother) displayed in the house” that “we packed up so it wouldn’t get broken” when one of the siblings moved into the house with her children and the mother was “she moved out”.  Nothing had been taken out of the attic or unpacked.  The gathering of the collector’s grandchildren thought we did that?  Evidently.
            Each taking a box and those boxes from different piles in the attic we carried them down to the living room where we …opened and unwrapped the contents of …SOME… of the boxes in the same manor families unwrap Christmas presents on Christmas morning.  Twenty-five minutes into this …quickly coming to include a show and tell for each treasure unwrapped… for I was turned to for a story about each gift… I put a stop to it.
            “What I am seeing is old china purchased from antiques shows, stores and dealers that although old, attractive and in good condition are NOT the gatherings of intense collectors so are not showing signs of harboring a great (and cash valuable) rarity”.  Period.  That’s not what they wanted to hear.  I suggested they get all this old china unpacked, take a few photographs of it all as a group, email it to me and I would be able to tell them IF “there was a great (CASH VALUABLE) piece”.  They didn’t want to hear that either.  They were sure the next unwrapped would be a golden egg.  “No, please.” I said.  “We are done our inspection and must move on before this becomes a full (and expensive) day” (OF NOTHING). “Certainly; sending the (same) photographs to (a nationally recognized television show that discovers great rarities) is fine”.  “Thank you”.  “Good Bye”.
            We drove into New Canaan, parked, sought lunch, looked at a counter top of greasy pizza for sale “by the slice” and found Ching’s Table.  Seated in the window we ordered:  My wife the Tom Yum soup and Thai chicken salad.  I the mushroom - scallion vegetarian dumplings and the grilled “lemongrass” shrimp salad.
            The dumplings came with the soup.  The photographs shows what happened to those.  The salads were freshiee-fresh delightful and included slivered mango.  My four grilled shrimp required four bites each.  “I wonder if they are going to unpack all that china today?” I said.  “I doubt it.” my wife said.

Friday, April 13, 2012

The Crow's Nest Epilogue Blood Farm 12

Epilogue Blood Farm 12

            The final venue for my personal and professional hunt for particles from the Blood Farm estate content’s… empty black hole domino down fall off the edge of the earth Alice stated “then it is gone”… has continued only in the choppy waters of chance at coastal Maine antiques shops.
            The actual farm buildings, 100 acre property and untouched Federal house were quickly and quietly sold through the “trusted” and its lawyer.  It sold to become a second “farm in the country” home an older “well established” couple from the Portland area residential coast (Cape Elizabeth) who have words like “Portland Symphony” ALWAYS associated with their name and… never were seen at Uncle’s auction.  They… “gutted the place” meaning they took out the old wood and piled it in the yard where it “DON’T WORRY:  WE’LL GET RID OF IT” disappeared.  Alice’s kitchen, the jewel of the first floor, was stripped to “the shell”.  The rest of the first floor, including the original “old red” painted woodwork and large fireplace WITH the original “1809 BLOOD” name in chalk on a board behind a ceiling beam… was covered over by commercial plaster boarding that was screwed into this original woodwork.  The upstairs “unfinished” “attic” was converted to “four bedrooms, a laundry and two bathrooms”.  A third floor “finished, lighted and insulated” attic was created above.  A bathroom was also “made” on the first floor.  A house that “NEVER HAD A TOILET” (Alice) now has three.  One old home buff I know said “there is not a quarter inch of original wood left in that house”.  The most highly spoken of loss was the removal of the built-in step back pewter cupboard in the kitchen that was removed whole, put out in the front yard leaning against a maple tree and … was gone the next day.  Therefore, the whole Blood Farm is now “then it is gone” including the removal of the car shed “too close to the road” AND the filling in with stone of the TWO original water wells in the yard.  Blood Farm, today, is… “beautifully restored”.
            I have never been there.  I, also, have never seen the seven, again.  They took their purchases, including …A… “grandfather’s clock”… back to Ohio (?) and have never been seen again.  I have not seen the fire chief again.  I have not seen or heard from the lawyer again.  Margaret’s and her mother’s house was converted to small rental apartments.  When passing through the village by chance, I glance at it.  I glance at the top window where the  Crow’s Nest was.
            Otherwise I hunt the choppy waters of chance in the coastal antique shops…. and a little bit inland flush with the latitude of Uncle’s Auctions.  The likelihood is very small that anything went NORTH of Uncle’s.  My most poignant example is that… on the same latitude with Uncle’s and just over the New Hampshire state line… in a locked case of a better quality long established and knowing antiques dealer’s store… I chanced upon a wooden ware tankard that “LOOKS LIKE THE ONE ON THE Blood Farm TABLE IN THE ATTIC”.  At $850 sticker priced I asked to “see it”.  “It MUST BE the one.” My mind spoke.  Turning it over I found a large and very original “B” carved in the bottom.  “BLOOD” my mind spoke.  “I NEVER LOOKED AT THE TANKARD’S BOTTOM!!!!!” my mind spoke again.  I was… too busy with the tea table and “never did”.  “YOU IDIOT!!!!!” my mind finalized.  The tankard was for sale for years.  “I’M SURE IT’S THE SAME ONE!” I remain to this day.  “Yeah right” is what my check book kept saying.  One day I went in the store and it was gone.  I asked.  She said “I sold it”.
            Like that tankard, I discovered a …small blue seaweed mocha decorated yellow ware mug… in a locked case of a better quality long established and knowing antiques dealer’s store… on the coast.  “THAT’S THE ONE FROM THE AUCTION!!!!  THE SEVEN DIDN’T BUY IT?????” my mind screamed.  I asked to see it.  The case was opened, I picked up the cup noting the $450 price tag and… discovered THE tiny sliver of blue mocha decorated yellow ware… inside the cup.  “I bought it at that auction” she said.  “I had to pay a lot.  Remember those people in front were buying EVERYTHING.”
            “I do” I said.  I did.  I had just assumed they bought this.  They hadn’t.  In this shop for sale… it was “too much”.  I rolled the sliver in my finger tips, put it back in the cup and watched the cup return to its shelf in the locked case and… the case locked.  After that I visited the cup when I was in the area.  I never handled it again.  One day I went in and it was gone.  I asked after it.  “I sold it.”  she said.
            “Remember how it had that little sliver of a decorated yellow ware piece in it?  I really liked that.” I said.
            “Oh.” she said.  “They didn’t want that.  It’s around here somewhere.” she continued and started searching in the clutter on her sales counter between us.  “HERE it is.” she said holding it up in her finger tips.  “Here.  You can have it”.

The End.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

The Crow's Nest Epilogue Blood Farm 11

Epilogue Blood Farm 11

            Paying too much and/or “getting nothing” does not an antiquarian dealer’s living… make. Lying awake noting decades of professional and personal involvement in two estates harboring three old women and one cuckoo sea captain who all die only to have their affairs taken over by a lawyer with an iron financial grip on everything including the estate “rubbish” AND recognizing that… this includes me only if I pay… and preferably pay… even more.  To wind up in a rural Maine farm yard with a handyman fire chief who… purloins the antique cars from these estates and announces to the auction hall he’s “buying” this or that… assures I am wasting my time and money… should I actually spend any of that latter. 
            After repeatedly dressing myself down with these FACTS… I still obsessed over the whole of the two estates by including the irrational notion I would “find the tea table”, micro reading of auction listings endeavoring to identify “it’s from Blood Farm”, gossip mongering of ANY mention of ANY iota related to these estates among the local trade, driving futility north to “SEE” (preview) only to drive futility home… in the dark “with nothing” and vigilantly patrolling the better coastal antique shops hoping to find a “that came from the Blood Farm sale” RELIC to …stand before in a dream trance shock.  Two options divine.  They are …not rewarded for one’s efforts… or are rewarded.
            The sudden occurrence of the latter… and the absoluteness of that occurrence… nearly… “finally ends” this tale.  Continuing my preview vigilance of driving “futility north” I …after over two years… went robotically up, down and around the Uncle’s auction hall’s selection of “TONIGHT’S AUCTION” rubbish only to come upon, half way down a back hall wall table and half in the dark, a flat cardboard tray made from a cardboard box holding… an “of the period” (1810-1815) and completely original untouched and undisturbed New England patent timepiece (a “banjo clock”).  I looked down on the clock in the tray box.  The bottom glass was old, real and cracked at one corner.  The center glass was old, real, perfect and said “PATENT” at the bottom.  The decorative brass for the  sides of the case… were loose in the box under the clock.  The face was old, real and undisturbed as were the clock hands.  An old brass eagle top finial was loose in the tray box too.  I stared.  I stared harder without changing my “I wandered here” slouched inspecting position.  I moved on, with racing thoughts, to the front of the hall.  I stood before another table of rubbish and had an internal staff meeting.
            My mind raced:  “That’s the banjo clock from Blood Farm.  There WAS one in there.  I SAW it but I DIDN’T LOOK at it.  It was on a wall.  Hanging.  Downstairs.  WHERE?.  WHY DIDN’T I LOOK AT IT!  It has to be.  HOW COULD THESE IDIOTS GET A REAL BANJO CLOCK.  They don’t even know what one IS!  OH MY GOD IT’S THE REAL BLOOD FARM BANJO CLOCK WHAT AM I GOING TO DO!  DO SOMETHNG YOU IDIOT”.  My response was to slowly circle the auction hall and come back before the tray boxed clock.  I stared at it assuring myself “IT IS REAL”.  I reached down and slightly lifted the case bottom.  It was VERY heavy meaning… “IT HAS THE WEIGHT” my mind screamed.  I paused.  I did not look around.  I carefully opened the bottom door of painted glass within its fragile wood frame.  “IT’S REAL” came another metal scream.  There was a small and crumpled paper bag in the bottom right inner corner.  I picked that out.  THE REAL CLOCK KEY WAS UNDER THAT. “GREAT” my mind screamed.  The bag had something in it.  I opened it and took out a small handful of … old newspaper clipping about “banjo clocks” that were wrapped around eleven business cards of old …Boston and north… coastal antiques dealers… each carrying a hand written note of … how much that dealer would… PAY FOR THE CLOCK.  “ALICE” my mind screamed.  There is was right in my hand Alice’s very careful and methodically saved paper trail about hers and ANYONE’S interest in the clock beginning with her mother’s era and an offer of “$300” in “1929” from a “Beacon Street” dealer onward to a final $2500 from a well known, respected and DEAD coastal Maine dealer in “1965”.  “REAL” my mind screamed.  “ALICE” it screamed.  “BLOOD FARM” it screamed.  I acted.
            I floated slowly away from the “tray lot” of the “old broken clock”.  I floated around the hall watching.  NO ONE …AT ALL… “looked at it”.  NO ONE.  I continued to act.  I found a fellow “have known a very long time” coastal woman dealer who attends “ALL OF HIS” sales and:
            “Are you staying for the sale?”
            “Oh yes.”
            “Would you bid a lot for me”
            “What lot?”
            “The broken clock.  On the table in the back” I said gesturing to the back hall dimness.  She looked back there.  “I’ll pay you ten percent.  Start it at $150.”
            “Show me.” she said.
            We went back to the tray box with the clock on the table, stood before it for a half minute and walked back up front.  “Sure” she said.  “I hope they put it up early.  I don’t want to wait all night.”
            “Make ‘em put it up.” I said.  “If it goes over fifteen hundred I’ll take over.”
            “Fifteen hundred?  For that?”
            “You’ll get your commission.”
            “What is it?”
            “An old clock” I said.  What is it really?  It is a perfect undisturbed “WILLARD’S PATENT” New England banjo clock “timepiece” “UNTOUCHED” and descending in its single owner family estate known as Blood Farm from the DAY THEY BROUGHT it to the farm until THE DAY one of the clean out crew… what?
            The day one of the clean out crew took it off the wall, discovered it was very fragile and VERY heavy so… quickly set it down and most probably completely wrapped it in an old towel or blanket after never inspecting it and, eventually, carefully took it to “A TRUCK”.  That truck was evidently an Uncle’s truck that went to the auction barn where it was removed and “stored” after not being opened or inspected and… remained that way for TWO YEARS at least until chanced upon in the still towel wrapped barn stored state to be unwrapped, “looked at” by …people who wouldn’t know a real banjo clock from ANYTHING.  Then it was… “tray lot boxed” “for sale” and put “out on a table” to be “SOLD” in “TONIGHT’S AUCTION”.  To me.
            It was.  It was “put up” by my agent about an hour in.  The auctioneer offered it for fifty dollars.  No one bid.  He was about to pass it (not sell it due to no interest) when my agent bid the fifty dollars.  He sold it to her.  The clock was brought to her in her chair.  I waited five minutes then approached her, handed her sixty dollars in cash, picked up the tray lot holding the clock, walked out of the hall, put the clock in the passenger’s seat of my truck and drove home.  The next morning I took the clock out of the tray, reattached the brass, put the finial on its top and hung it up on the office wall. “It looks like it should be in a museum” my wife said.

Monday, April 9, 2012

The Crow's Nest Epilogue Blood Farm 10

Epilogue Blood Farm 10

            Not all of the contents of Blood Farm went off the end of the earth “as slick as a platter of greasy bacon at a hunting camp breakfast”.  An older gentleman at the third Uncle’s auction I visited supplied the greasy bacon image when defining what HE was hearing little birds tell him “about some estate”.  I hadn’t seen him in a while but we re-acquainted as we both started coming to “every auction”.  Or the preview at least.  I rarely stayed at the auction past the first half hour.
            A year into my vigilant patronage I was surprised at the preview to discern, across the hall and in the shadow of the back wall, the fire chief comprehensively examining four boxes of old Maine license plates.  I didn’t do or say anything except to weigh that his concentration was deep.  After loosing myself in the preview crowd while poking through box lot rubbish that I HOPED would be from Blood Farm but was not, I was patted on the back by the fire chief who opened conversation with “WHAT ARE YOU DOING HERE?”
            Knowing that he’d never been here and I’d always been here since I last saw him I figured to play dumb was best so responded in aggressive jest that “I come up to BUY THE LICENCE PLATES.”
            A facial expression mix of rage, panic and disbelief froze the fire chiefs face and stuttered his voice. “I…”.
            I smiled at his face
            “CAME FOR THOSE” he finished.
            “I know.  I see you poking them over there.”
            “I CAME FOR THOSE.”
            “Yes, I see that”.
            “YOU DID TOO?”
            “NO.  You can have them.”
            “NO?  BUT YOU SAID I”
            “NO:  JUST… JOKING YOU”.
            “Forget it”.
            “REALLY.  OK?”.
            “I haven’t seen you since the Blood Farm sale.”
            “THOSE ARE FROM THERE TOO.  HERE.  They’re selling them HERE.  I know them.  That’s them.  I know them once I looked in the boxes.
            “You know the license plates are from Blood Farm?  You saw them there?”
            “They were always there.  In the car shed by the barn.  They kept the car there.  All their cars always.  Always saved the plates.  Nailed them on the rafters.  All of them in order.  Every year ever.  NICE!”
            “In a shed.  I didn’t see them”.
            “COURSE NOT.  They were in the car shed.  I seen them first with my MOTHER.  I was LITTLE.  EVER since then I wanted THAT SHED.  Told my wife.  She says what would I do with it.  I told her I’d put it in the back yard and go and sit in it. Just sit in it.  She said I’m crazy.  But she don’t know”.
            “You want the whole shed?”
            “BEAUTIFUL.  I’d put the car in it.  It’s just like my dream of my old car garage with everything OLD that’s in it.  You know:  EVERYTHING.  They kept ALL their car stuff EVER in there.  Oil cans gas cans every light tires broken rims iron junk paint fixes even BATTERIES.  All NEAT STACKED.  GONE NOW.  IT’S ALL GONE.  They took it” he said gesturing toward the front of the hall.  “They TOOK IT.  AND LOCKED IT.  Couldn’t even SEE in.  It was NEVER LOCKED before.
            “Alice had a car?”
            “OH…. an old one.
            “She drove it?”
            “It’s still there?”
            “Oh… she sort of SOLD it”. 
            “Sold it?”
            “It’s still around.  If you know what I mean.”  He smiled at me. 
            I think I knew.  “What was it?”
            “Sixty-three (Ford) Galaxy 500 silver with red trims.” He said and then surveyed the hall.  “I’m gonna buy those PLATES.” he said above me as a sort of broadcast.
            I left him alone.  He bought the plates.  They made him pay.  He had the car too.  That was two dominos that didn’t fall off the edge of the earth.  But even he knew and said it; “It’s all gone now.  What he really loved and wanted; the whole car shed as it had been when he saw it with his mother WITH the car in it…:  After Alice died… and as she said “Then it is gone”.
            Before this meeting and… it is always hard to admit this stuff… a couple of weeks after the big auction I went … “JUST PASSING BY”… to that coastal dealer’s shop who had bought the telescope.  I fussed around his store, saw the telescope behind his desk waiting to be put out and carrying no price tag and …I fussed around the store some more.  Then I said directly “How much is that telescope?”
            He said “How about two twenty-five?  I just bought it” and handed it to me.  I opened it.  It had a maker’s name above “LONDON 1802” engraved on the brass.  I pretended to look it over and then said “OK I’ll buy it”.  The dealer looked at me holding it.  I turned slightly from him, held the telescope to my eye and said “PIRATES!”.  Then I lowered the scope and smiled at the dealer.  I figure he thought I was crazy.  To this day every now and then I open the telescope, hold it to my eye and say “PIRATES!”.  The telescope is displayed in plain sight.  No one is ever going to buy it.  It doesn’t actually work and… I paid way too much for it.

Friday, April 6, 2012

The Crow's Nest Epilogue Blood Farm 9

Epilogue Blood Farm 9

            The finality of THIS Blood Farm auction… took three hours longer.  This included eating my lunch by fetching a sandwich from the lunch box in the truck and standing at my post gobbling it.  It included the fire chief eating, eating and eating from his found food source including his gobbling of a large bowl of homemade chili.  It also included engaging small talk with a smattering of information burdened fellow dealers mulling about the sale (“They found a pair of portraits in a bedroom but they’re not here that I see”, etc.).  “I never went in the bedrooms” I reminded myself.  “Who would have the portraits?”  “Who ever found them first… and took action”.  That there could have been a pair of portraits of Alice’s ancestors; the true Captain Blood, that she slept beneath as they hung on her bedroom wall… was more than a “probable”.  Those notions joined the long line of falling dominoes and… enhanced the fall off at the edge of the earth to include a realization of just how LITTLE of the estate I had actually seen.
            The seven bid.  And bid.  Upon objects they should have.  And shouldn’t have.  They bought what they LIKED and did NOT buy as a comprehensive conquest of their ancestor’s heritage.  I didn’t care.  I didn’t even follow their bidder paddle waving floor fights with the hostile dealers.  I did see the desk “go”.  $3,500. plus premium.  It took about forty-five seconds.  Eventually lot 421 was purchased by the seven.  The purchase was enhanced, as I watched after the thirty- five dollar hammer drop, by the auctioneer glaring up to his rear-of-the-hall right with an expression that I translated as a “WHY DID YOU STOP BIDDING!!!?” grimace.  Maybe THEY ate the chili TOO?
            Soon after that lot the sister in charge began roaming the hall.  I watched, waited and engaged. 
            “You’ve done very well today.” I opened.
            “OH YES.  Everything.  Well.  Except a FEW.  They bid so HIGH”.
            “I saw the highboy and the desk.  Also the clock parts.  Hold on to those.  In fact you should get them out of here before they disappear.”
            “Ah… get lost.  You don’t want to loose them”.  I realized as I spoke that they COULD get lost; the seven had bought many lots and there was … a lot of stuff loose on the floor… little of which I had seen anyone grimace over.
            “I think my husband has it” she said.  I said nothing more.  She looked directly at me.  “What do you thing of the desk?” she asked.
            “It’s very nice.” I said while going “Didn’t we already do this?” to myself.  She kept looking at me.
            “Do you know it has a secret hiding place in a drawer?”
            I looked at her face.  “Yes.” I said.
            “YOU DO?” she said.
            “Yes.  The center drawer”
            “Do you know there’s a PIRATE PAPER in there?” she asked
            “Oh yes; a slip”
            “You do NOT.” She said.
            “It has a drawing of a schooner and says Captain Blood this is wrote with my blood your old master”. I said clearly.
            “YOU DO!” she said and touched my arm.  “What do you think it MEANS?”
            “Means?  Really means?” I said.  “I’m sure… that is, I BELIEVE, it is the front leaf from a log or day book that Captain Blood’s old master wrote that on as a jest one day when visiting and finding only the Captain’s book and no captain at home.  The Captain tore it out and saved it in the secret cubby”.
            The sister was looking hard at me.  I sensed that she didn’t fully understand AND agree with my explanation.  “But he was a pirate.” She said.
            I took my queue.  “Of course.  They were ALL pirates along the coast.  But you shouldn’t say that to people.  They saw themselves as respectable merchants”.
            She looked at me and smiled.  “We’re going to have it FRAMED”.
            “Framed?  I’d just leave it in the desk.  It ties the desk to the Bloods.”
            She gave me a blank look.
            “Of course… it will look very nice framed.” I said as I mentally pushed the Blood Farm desk… of the edge of the earth.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

The Crow's Nest Epilogue Blood Farm 8

Epilogue Blood Farm 8

            Uncle’s Auctions is …northeast out of Mechanic Falls (Maine) toward West Minot but one turns left halfway up then bares right after a bit and …keeps going to just when one is sure one is lost… to come upon a farm on the left with a hand-painted-in-white on an old board SIGN… on a stick by the road reading “UNCLE’S”.  The farm consists of an old Civil War era farm house connecting through an attached shed labyrinth to an equally old barn that has a companion but newer 1900’s barn to the left of it.  THIS barn is the “auction hall”.  A larger than usual dirt and mud parking area is before these barns.  On auction days a folding sign, again hand painted in white, is set up below the “UNCLE’S” sign and reads “AUCTION TODAY”.
            On those days not only is “someone there” but the farm yard is active with trucks, men, a few women and a local catering van.  On other days there is nothing in sight and no one… excepting the auctioneer’s wife inside the farm house watching television… is there.  “I CAN HAVE HIM CALL YOU LATER IF YOU WANT.” stated by the wife is what one gets if inquiring at the farm house on a non-auction day.  Uncle’s is, in short, a very, very low key, low profile, rural Maine family run auction company that has …weekly – bi-weekly – monthly “when we FEEL like it” auctions.  Locals follow Uncle’s.  A few out of area dealers do too.  That’s about it.
            ON an auction day beginning “after lunch” and before the 3:00 PM “pre-auction” preceding the 5:00 PM “auction”… local trucks with local men arrive and line up politely with their truck beds exposing the …treasure (read rubbish) they “HAVE BROUGHT TO SELL”… in the pre-auction WITH THE HOPE that Uncle himself will select a few “better” items to fill out his “auction” at five.  Rain or snow on the day of the auction diminishes “turn out” for the pre-auction.  Otherwise it’s a “GO” especially if by some FLUKE a rubbish load actually DOES HAVE “something good” and that sets of an ever growing crowd for the five o’clock auction AND at the catering van.  The following day, after a “something good” turned up at Uncle’s auction, Maine antiquarian gossip churns out “a hum in the trade” for the WHOLE WEEK.  Otherwise, one never hears ANYTHING about “Uncle’s”.
            I know of and about Uncle’s.  I have attended… or at least “pre-viewed”… the main auctions… sometimes.  I am in contact with dealers who “know all about it” (Uncle’s current or latest auction).  It is one of many similar auction companies in the state.  Do not under estimate them.  I do not.
            For the contents of Blood Farm… and its disappearance… Uncle’s is the key.  The contents of Blood Farm falls off the edge of the earth at Uncle’s.  It is the bottom rung on the ladder of Alice’s “then it is gone”.  It is a ladder of thievery.  The top rung is Mr. Lawyer.  He “HAS” Blood Farm through the mother’s estate (“trusted”) and it is retuned back to him after the trust expires… to be part of all of the rest of the funds in the estate… under his watch.  The second rung is Mr. Lawyer’s brought in pet auctioneer who… knows in seconds exactly the treasure trove he sees but says nothing and …down plays it all; “DON’T WORRY I’LL GET this rubbish filled fire trap ALL CLEANED OUT”.  HE begins a mental dance of musical chairs right away for there is simply too much there to “fail” meaning “to abscond with”.  His thievery is careful and selective.  He has his own crew to do the clean out.  They do their work unsupervised and their thievery is opportunist.  But the estate is SO big and SO full, he needs …trusted… help to cover ALL of the possible selective thievery.  Uncle’s uncle is… trusted.  HE is careful and selective TOO.  HE has a crew too.  THEY are opportunists TOO.  Little is said.  EVERYTHING… EVERY THING… is “cleaned out”.
            Two trucks before lunch everyday go into Uncle’s barns full and… one comes out empty and “goes back”.  That is filled and “goes to the coast”.  Meanwhile the crews …working alone and separated… “have opportunities” they take.  Uncle is there watching for opportunities himself and those go “into the truck”.  HE watches the unloading of the trucks in the barns …as best he can.  The pet auctioneer is “trusted” with Uncle’s to “sell that stuff” they truck to his barns.  But:  There is soooo much stuff… it’s hard to watch all of it…  all the time… especially if … anyone of them didn’t “see it” to begin with.  The auctioneer has his hands full, Uncle has his handful and… the crew has THEIR HANDS, pockets, pants, boots and hats FULL TOO.  Just like rows of dominos falling down toward the edge of the earth, the contents of Blood Farm… vanishes.  Oh… there are piles of Blood Farm stuff here, there and all over… should anyone ask anyone.  But no one does and it wouldn’t amount to anything anyway because …no one actually knows what was actually in Blood Farm except Alice and… she didn’t write anything down (that anyone has ever seen) AND …is dead.
            I did start previewing Uncle’s auctions right away.  I continued that for two years and now have slacked off.  They sold plenty from Blood Farm slowly, steadily and quietly.  I slacked off because they slacked off.  It’s over.  These days Blood Farm contents is scattered all over the state “for sale” in “antiques shops”.  It just doesn’t say “Blood Farm” on it.  As I stood with the fire chief… who was chewing down his last donut… all of the above and its probability passes through my mind.  I understood what the fire chief had just told me …very well.