I did not buy it and I left. But this bottle did not leave me. All who trespass in art and antiquities (inclusive of the printed antiquity) know well the haunting and lingering of a confrontation one has with a “something good” “I didn’t buy”. Usually this involves the lonely vigil of personal reflection, private “research”, a futile effort to “tell” “the story” to “someone” and the tossing and turning in one’s mind of “what to do”. Sometimes this goes on for YEARS, particularly if one REALLY “screwed up”. I haunted the bottle on the counter. It was there for months. I held the bottle in my mind. For months. I told my mother about it once; on the way home that day. She said “That’s nice dear”. NICE! THE GUY FOUND IT IN THE ALLEY!
I would visit the store and the bottle all the time “researching it” which was a procedure of trying to figure out how I could buy it and sell it. In actual fact what I wanted was to “own it”; that is to touch with possession the object that enjoyed the extraordinary mystic of “being found” “on the path” “that I walk on”. I wanted THAT. It is only forty years later, as I write, that I can concisely identify this particular interest in this PARTICULAR “old bottle”. My youthful research proved this: I could “own” any number of exactly identical bottles for “forty” (dollars) for the trade abounded in them offered at “FIFTY”. Presuming a discount and “beating down”, one “could have it” for forty, perhaps ...thirty-five “anytime you want one”. But THAT was not my intrigue although at the time I acted as if it was.
My eyes haunted the ground. Could I find that bottle? My eyes haunted spaces between. Is there that bottle? There never was. The bottle was always on the counter. It NEVER moved. Actually, it did move, slowly, backward and toward the rear side of the counter space gathering ever more junk around it. It was slowly covered with a light dust so that IF someone had recently “handled it” one could “tell” by the finger marks in this dust... . The price tag I turned away from the customer’s view. It became old and faded. Months past. The dirty fat man was regularly “asleep” beside the store. I scrutinized him more then ever.
I didn’t know what he did back then but NOW I know that he “was” “a picker”. Not a very good one for alcohol was his obsession. Anyone in the trade does not grant that as a “problem” but more as a “lifestyle” “choice”. We may all swim to that island at anytime... right? In any case, that was HIS collection. To support his acquisitions he “found stuff” and “sold it” in a direct ratio, daily: Find it, sell it, buy it, drink it. I could deal with it then and have no problem with it now. But then my eyes began to scrutinize for DETAILS.
What could a dirty fat drunk do that would interest me? FIND STUFF that was “GOOD” is what. “GOSH”: HE DID! And this is what I learned and have NEVER forgotten. Foremost: HE WALKED, every where. He walked in spaces... between. HA! Go park the car, lock it and leave. TAKE THE ELEVATOR to the office. AND GO TO A FANCY ANTIQUE SHOW TO BUY fine art “trash” for …your… COLLECTION if one cannot see the power this man gained in “walking” “between”.
Well, I was already walking so I didn’t have much trouble “adding that”. BUT: These days? It takes more skill then one realizes FORTY YEARS LATER. Secondly, he didn’t seem all that selective about what he “found” and “sold”. This is a by far more difficult “skill” to “learn”. The bottom line on this skill is: “There is junk; people buy junk”. What this means is that most of what there is to find is “no good” BUT most of the people who “buy” “stuff” DON’T..., I repeat; DON’T know what “good” “is” for, well, how would they so... THEY BUY JUNK. Swallow hard and repeat that to yourself even if your working your way up to be executive director of the most proper of proper antiquarian society. The tragic truth to trade in trash is that total trade transpires terribly tirelessly in TRASH. Trash paintings, trash furniture, trash rare books, trash baubles, trash decorative accessories and trash “good stuff”. Don’t believe me. Simply listen to the ceaseless whine and moan of the trade about “that piece of crap” “sold for” “that”. LEARNING THIS, is hard... and rarely accomplished. Unless one has “no choice”.
I had “no choice”. The easiest way to have no choice is to have no money to “buy” “anything” “good”. If one has capital and is “interested”, one tends to “BUY” a… what they “THINK” “is good”. Beside the adage “a fool and his money are parted” this allows that person to ...choose... what they “buy”. A true picker, I learned from this dirty fat drunk, “BUYS” (finds) what “there is”. AND SELLS THAT! Mumbling and stumbling in spaces between, one “finds” “things”. These are mostly “no good”. But “they sell”. NOT for much but... they sell. Ceaselessly they sell.
I was already “doing that”; dragging home everything and trying to sell it. I had a mound. I had “people” who were actually “dealers” who came to my mound and “bought”. Wow. But here at the intersection with the dirty fat man and his bottle I observed that HE was by far more “diverse” in what he sold then I was for, when I examined his “stuff” IT WAS AWFUL. BUT IT SOLD! “I mean: HE’S GETTING MONEY FOR IT!”. Trying to explain my sudden diversification and expansion of “stock” in my mound in the family barn (“YOU CAN’T BRING IT INSIDE!”) took “a little doing” principally because I was learning as I went along and so had a hard time verbalizing the “experience”. Fortunately no one seemed “to care” that much except... . EXCEPT my “customers” who started to come “more often”. “WASN’T HE JUST HERE?” my mother asked. And the woman who has the antiques shop that is filled with electric lights? “She’s BACK?”.
“But Mom, I found a whole bunch of lights. She WANTS them!”. At a buck a piece YOU’D want ‘em. She knew what she was doing. So did I. I still can sell you... “those” to this day (drop by when you have chance). I “got” “money” because of a dirty fat drunk.
: What’s a good “screw up”? How about arriving at a very rural “dealer’s” home to see a Queen Anne (1760) highboy in “totally original condition. surface and hardware” being “loaded” by another dealer who has “just bought it” for $3000. (worth $15,000 - $20,000.) after the first dealer “got it” “at a yard sale”. True, there is no ACTUAL screw up on my part except the ACTUAL “act of God” but, trust me, “you never forget”.