Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Summer Place - Part Five



Summer Place

Part Five

            Once Mr. Simon was “whiskeyed”… as my grandmother titled this …development of commercial venture on her part.  Once Mr. Simon was seated and whiskeyed… and plied with a story of slightly risk-kay local scandal… that always traveled back to a local history story… of the history of… a local sea captain’s home and …the inner web weave of that Captain’s family that always managed to have the ‘risk-kay’ party be several generation ahead of the old sea captain himself… so as to be conveniently lost as to ‘just who… screwed who… in what house… when’ “and then she moved to Boston and had the baby down there”… “I believe”.  It was not my grandmother who needed to ‘believe’.  It was Mr. Simon… and he DID believe.
            Whoosey with whiskey and tale, Mr. Simon did always hold on to his poise while my grandmother watched the cork on the …never getting empty ever… whiskey bottle.  After the second ‘corking’, Mr. Simon was “ready”.
            This formula of ‘summer people buying antiques’ is simple and classic.  They, in the course of their human events, usually did not buy… think about… look at… have… or even KNOW THEY EXISITED ‘to have’ ‘ANTIQUES’ before’ becoming a ‘summer people’… with a ‘summer place’.  This activity… beginning with the generic ‘cricket’ purchase… was ‘new’ and ‘fun’ traveling to ‘wonderful’ ESPECIALLY when the … rarely ever seen… ‘wife’ “LOVED IT… what was the woman’s name again?”
            “Patience Drinkwater; CAPTAIN Drinkwater’s wife, Mr. Simon”.
It was a new MAINE activity …for ‘summer people’ when at their ‘summer place’.  For my grandmother, it quickly became a serious economic boost… right in her living room.  The pivot key was …not the object… that …WAS ALWAYS without any slight slipping down… a classic and GOOD New England antique.  That is because that is what MY GRANDMOTHER, as a dealer, LIKED, sought out and ‘bought and sold’.  Classic quality and classic integrity ALWAYS remained ‘classic New England – Maine’ HIGH. Behind the first grounding of this imperative is the SECOND imperative to the dealer that… what they sold to a ‘summer person’ in their ‘summer home’ had to “HOLD UP”  to… other summer people and…. AND other dealers… AND “anyone who knows” (what good New England antiques “are”).
This was dead serious… and ‘assumed’.  It got rid of the biggest problem for a ‘summer people’ who ‘doesn’t know’:  IF Mr. Simon, for example, buys what my grandmother showed him exclusively HE WOULD… actually purchase ‘good’ antiques.  He would be paying ‘a little more’ but… quality was assured.  All he has to do is … ‘like it’… or be correctly instructed to ‘like it’… and GET THE WALLET OUT… and sip the whiskey.  Mr. Simon found all of this to be “Wonderful”.  More importantly, his wife did TOO for she was on the receiving end of both the antiques purchased AND the …always favorable compliments from ‘everyone’ including the other ‘summer people’ but EVEN “Mr. So and So HE’S an assistant CURATOR AT THE *****!”.  Mr. Simon quickly became a better buyer; he matured.
My grandmother took Mr. Simon along the trail of her own antiques acquisitions.  As this boost to her living room economy lifted off, she ‘found’ ‘more’.  Actually what was happening was that in addition to her own ‘set out’ ‘with her rubber banded roll of money’ antiques hunting, a new breed of antiquarian hunting Mainer slithered out of the shadows and into the warm sun of the ‘summer people’ antiques market… ‘too’.  My grandmother quickly denoted that if she could corral twelve Mr. Simon types, she could make a very tidy living.  She did this.  In order to increase her supply of ‘good’ antiques, the word traveled that ‘she’ ‘buys’ ‘good things’.  Whereby the breed of ‘pickers’ started to ‘stop by’ with ‘things to sell’.  Pickers were discerning that ‘these people’ ‘buy this stuff’ and that THEY could ‘find it’ ‘in old houses’.  “Picking” “antiques” in Maine quickly became a full time job that ‘somebody’ ‘can do’.  Using her ‘good eye’ buttressed with ‘knowledge’ of ‘antiques’, my grandmother’s supply of ‘antiques’ for ‘summer people’ in their ‘summer homes’ was assured.
By formula, Mr. Simon quickly became a very docile ‘client’.  Arriving, seated, whiskeyed, storied and second corked… that next thing Mr. Simon knew he would be… assisting my grandmother in ‘pulling’ the sofa away from the living room wall so she could ‘get at’ …a cupboard behind it that …Mr. Simon had never even noticed before but NOW had his ‘100%’.  Exposing the cupboard door slightly… to allow it to be opened slightly… to show ever very slightly… that it was more than SLIGHTLY ‘jammed full’ and that ever so …slightly… my grandmother’s hand slipped in just …slightly… to ever so slightly… remove for Mr. Simon’s inspection… a somehow worked into the conversation ever so slightly… of a he ‘must be aware of’ “aren’t you slightly?” a:


Sixteen inch “View of Pittsfield, Mass.” dark blue American historic scene decorated English Staffordshire earthenware transferware… platter… “in perfect condition” “Two hundred and fifty dollars (remind; 1962 prices), Mr. Simon.  It’s quite a FINE ONE.”
It was the trail… and the tale… with each antique that captivated Mr. Simon and his ‘summer people’ type.  Explaining “WHAT” that platter was …was very… third tier to my grandmother.  Mr. Simon did not need to know “THAT” “well”.  Just sort of vaguely AND that it is assured as ‘good’.  It helped if the antique LOOKS good to Mr. Simon ‘too’.  Usually, through the inherent quality of the antique… it did this; ‘look good’.  To Mr. Simon. 
What really counted to Mr. Simon was the adventure of traveling the trail of finding this “I THINK I remember I have” antique in the “NEVER BEEN IN A PLACE LIKE THIS BEFORE” wandering MAZE of my grandmother’s object stuffed ‘farm’:  “OLD MAINE FARM” “SHE LIVES IN”.  While befuddled by being whiskeyed.  Once found, usually Mr. Simon was allowed a single vague and distant searching gaze off toward a “there’s quite a bit MORE in there”.
            “Yes… I DO keep some BETTER THINGS back IN THERE.” my grandmother would say as SHE pushed the sofa back against the wall with… her butt.  Mr. Simon had never seen a woman push a sofa with her butt before.  That just added  a “little spice” my grandmother called it… to ‘the trail’.
As check out and payment of that day’s visit approached, my grandmother would, with courtesy, review the TALE of the platter; the old captain’s home. The wife “was from down that way I recall” , the “family’s china”.  The “mostly broken” over the years.  The “broken up” among the descendents over the years.  The “surprised I found any of it left at all” “in there”.  The “probably really shouldn’t sell”.  “But of course it IS going to a FINE HOME”.
Before Mr. Simon knew it, he was outside the front door of my grandmother’s home.  He blinked in the sunlight, found he had a blue china platter under his arm and… could still very slightly taste “that whiskey”.  On every visit Mr. Simon ALWAYS took time to examine the old label on the dirty old whiskey bottle.



Monday, March 25, 2013

Summer Place - Part Four


Summer Place

Part Four

            Restating and reminding… while holding a glass of sherry… the source purpose to this tale is to capture “the very subtle trademark traditions of this whole… Maine… romance” and that is of… antiques… summer places and… summer people… as viewed… from whence these people… do not know of.  From that imperative of story we are upon a stated… “we will step aside and follow the chest of drawers for a few months… in 1962”.  This is part of the whole tale but, as I have shown, diverges to bring in other iota.  The other iota shows that this iota has more to do with the summer people than the local Maine coastal village …old Maine families… people… except that these summer people with their iota are… ‘buying up’ the old Maine family’s farms to make summer places.  In doing this a new (in 1962) prescribed etiquette is developing that is creating “the very subtle trademark traditions of this whole… Maine… romance”.  I am still holding my glass of sherry and now, with this restating and reminding, presume you are too.  Touching the sherry to the lips, we rejoin the tale.
            The local minister visited my grandmother and sipped sherry for years.  Eventually the New York minister appeared, was brought to visit and …sipped sherry… too.  SOON… “too” became… coming ALONE to visit my grandmother …to sip sherry AND:  “I find her stories very entertaining”.  They were.
            My grandmother “knows a lot about local history” the local minister responds to the New York Minister’s “I find…”.  HERE is the foundation utterance of “the very subtle trademark traditions of this whole… Maine… romance”.  THIS third party LOCAL stated qualifier; “knows a lot about local history” coming from a recognized as qualified to state such LOCAL …is the first skeleton key that unlocks the …first romance.  When qualified by the local minister to the New York minister… my grandmother become a qualified yarn spinner of… “subtle trademarks of… romance”.  She knows this and acts on this… within the “subtle” boundaries.  IF… Captain Merritt Kimball’s wife… Sophia… “watched the sea for her husband’s return”… it was from…quite a bit of time spent alone above the et al of the village in the … ‘beautiful’ … ‘widow’s walk’ upon the very top of the ‘Kimball mansion’.  I will let the reader unwind the ‘subtle’ string of skillfully deployed verbiage… for there.
            Delighting in the complex weave of local stories fabricated and told by this ‘local historian’ the New York minister becomes ever more spellbound and …sherry slurred… awed.  He leaves a visit beyond the boundary of ‘befuddled’ with ‘local history’ and …does not keep this treasure to himself.  In HIS WORLD of the summer people he espouses and they listen and THEY … “the very subtle trademark traditions of this whole… Maine… romance” …too.
            “She sells antiques you know.”
            “No, no, no; not THAT KIND”.  (Not ‘tea room antiques’).  “She BUYS them FROM ‘the old families’ all the time.  She gets WONDERFUL things!”
            From these small dry sticks of subtle romance a flame appears; the New York minister bring a ‘summer people’ from his new ‘summer place’ to ‘see her’ and… sip sherry too.  Mr. Simon visits.
            And my grandmother serves sherry and KNOWS EXACTLY who Mr. Simon is.  “He’s RICH from NEW YORK”.  She also notices that Mr. Simon cautiously sips his sherry… not as if there is something wrong with it but… as if he usually sips something “a little stronger”.  On Mr. Simon’s “in tow” second visit with the New York minister, my grandmother plops a glass down with two ice cubes in it and magically produces a very old and dust covered whiskey bottle from …somewhere in her dress.  Pulling out it’s cork she “dashes” the ice with the old whiskey from that bottle saying direct “Will you please tell me if THIS is any GOOD”.
            Mr. Simon… VERY cautiously… raises the glass to his lips, lets the whiskey touch those lips, pauses, carefully sips and then says “Oh my… what have we here.”.  My grandmother sets the old bottle down next to Mr. Simon and… retreats.  Mr. Simon, after sipping again, very carefully, sets the glass down, picks the bottle up, inspects it’s dirt covered state, looks at it harder, looks at my grandmother, looks at the minister, looks at the bottle again and finally looks at my grandmother again and says “WHERE… did you find THIS?”
            “It was in the CELLAR of the DRINKWATER place.” My grandmother says.  Mr. Simon does not know what that means.  My grandmother does.  The Drinkwaters and their place(s) come to that through the Grays and the Buxtons.  Or vice ah versa; versa vice ah or …somehow sort of.  The Grays built Mr. Simon’s summer house with (?) the Buxtons who afterward let the Drinkwaters in by marriage (?).  Or was it the Grays and the Drinkwaters who let the Buxtons in.  But the Buxtons were never in THAT house.  Were they?  Didn’t they BUILD the PURDY house?  No.  It was the Drinkwaters after the Grays… that ‘lived in’ Mr. Simon’s summer house… who had the …dust covered bottles (note plural) of whiskey … in the cellar… that my grandmother …found… there.
            “Oh.” says Mr. Simon not understanding a whit of that AND “knowing nothing” that it is HIS house being talked about AND becoming “fogged” by the two small sips of “Drinkwater whiskey”… “too”.  The New York Minister DOES know that “Mr. Simon… the Drinkwater house is YOUR summer house”.
            “Oh.  From there?  You FOUND this THERE?  In my cellar”.
            “It wasn’t YOUR cellar then Mr. Simon”.
            “Oh. …Right.  Now.  Its mine.  The cellar.  I don’t think I’ve been there yet.”
            As Mr. Simon takes his third sip of all of this the conversation changes topic for a moment but …is brought back to “my house” by Mr. Simon who changes topic with the outburst query of “WHAT else did you FIND in MY house?”
            “Well… I ….DID buy quite a bit but… it’s been QUITE A WHILE… since… well…:  It was BEFORE you BOUGHT the place.  I’ll have to think here a minute: WHAT I still have.”
            Mr. Simon doesn’t say anything.  The New York Minister returns to the first ‘changes topic’ of the coming soon…strawberry shortcake festival… “at the church”.
            My grandmother received the THREE bottles of ‘whiskey’ from the judge.  HE said he found them in the “cellar” of “his old (office) building in Portland”.  My grandmother never believed THAT for a minute… and doesn’t care… especially NOW that she possibly has, she believes, struck a vein of GOLD using them.  WHERE the judge actually gets, gots and goes in HIS skillful travels… would fill a whole BOOK, my grandmother believes, for HE is as adept as SHE “at all of this” “you know”.
            “I DO HAVE… the little CRICKET Patience Drinkwater used… by her BED.” injects my grandmother, following Mr. Simon’s lead of ‘changes topic with the outburst query’.
            “Cricket?” says Mr. Simon.
            “A cricket.  Yellow.  VERY OLD.  Nice.  I use it IN THE SHED” (summer kitchen actually but that’s ‘too advanced’ for Mr. Simon).
            “A cricket?” repeats Mr. Simon while the New York minister says nothing because …HE ‘knows nothing’ TOO.
            “A little step stool.  Patience used it to get into the BED.  Her bed.  BOTH used the bed until CAPTAIN Drinkwater DROWNED.
            “Drowned?”
            “At SEA”.
            “Oh.  In MY house?”
            “At SEA.  PATIENCE did DIE in your house.  IN the bed actually.  WITH the cricket.
            “Oh.  You have this CRICKET?”
            “Yes.  Right in the SHED.  I use it.  To step up.”
            “Oh how wonderful.”
            “Yes it is.  Wonderful.  It’s painted YELLOW.  Wonderful.
            “May I see it?”
            “Oh… forty-five.”
            “Forty-five?”
            “Dollars.”
            “Dollars?”
            “I’ll sell it for”.
            “It’s for sale?”
            “Oh yes.  Absolutely.  Its from there; the Drinkwater place.  Patience used it by her bed.”
            “Oh this is wonderful!” says Mr. Simon.
            My grandmother gets up and leaves the room heading off toward the kitchen.  Both Mr. Simon and the New York Minister take responsible sips and JUST BEFORE they can start to converse with each other a door shuts sound brings my grandmother BACK with ‘the cricket’.
            “OH this IS WONDERFUL!” says Mr. Simon when handed the cricket.  “My wife will LOVE this!  From MY house you SAY.  And what was the woman’s name again?
            “Patience Drinkwater, Mr. Simon”.
            And that is how the travel to the…baited trap… Sophia Kimball’s chest of drawers in the back bedroom began.  Except… I remind that the year is 1962 and thereby reflects a very high price for ‘a cricket’ ‘then’ AND that Mr. Simon “don’t have any CASH” so had to write a (local bank) check.
“That’s FINE, Mr. Simon, thank you.”



Friday, March 22, 2013

Summer Place - Part Three


Summer Place

Part Three

            As the Captain Merritt Kimball …estate… prepares to abandon ship and the ‘summer people’ prepare to … ‘board her’, we will step aside and follow the chest of drawers for a few months… in 1962.
            Charles brought the chest to my grandmother’s barn.  He was paid for doing that.  No one would tell Rufus “how much”.
The next day my grandmother went up the street and around the corner to the home of John Winslow.  She left a message with John’s wife, Anna, to “please come by and move a chest of drawers upstairs for me”.  John, like Charles, was one of “the men” my grandmother always had at hand to “help her”.  John worked in the mill, had three young children, was still young himself… as was Anna and …needed any money for any work done he could get.  “Before work” at 5:47 in the morning John and my grandmother moved the chest of drawers “upstairs”.  Here it be understood that the chest is very small; a mere thirty five and one half inches wide.  With the drawers taken out for moving, John could easily carry the small empty …Indian red stained Maine made maple hardwood… circa 1780 Chippendale bracket base chest case… upstairs with one arm.  My grandmother assisted by carrying single drawers.  John carried two drawers on the second trip upstairs.  The job was done.  John was paid for his “help”.  He went off to the mill to work.
            The room that the chest was “put in” was an unused back bedroom on the second floor of the ell behind the main house.  This ell was the original ‘first’ house that had become the ell when the Victorian “new house” was built to front the …side street of the coastal Maine village… where my grandmother lived.  This room was not used as a bedroom.  Without ever naming it such, it was actually used as a store showroom by my grandmother to “sell antiques”.  It was a special room with a special use… and no one would ever have suspected that… unless, of course, one actually SOLD antiques from that room.
            The main fixtures of the room were an old brass and iron bed always neatly ‘made up’ AND the two blank walls of… old, age toned, browned, stained, peeling, seedy and faded… wall paper …above the head and far side of the bed.  ALL other things …of any kind… ‘came and went’.  The chest was ‘placed’ at the far wall of the room next to the window where, due to its small size, it “nestled in perfectly” including the obstructing glare from the window that “hides it good”.  After the ‘nestling in’ my grandmother filled the …VERY CLEAN… drawers with… her own sweaters.  And closed these drawers.
            One of the curious tricks of the antiques trade my grandmother taught me… is that most oil paintings on canvas in old frames are… “no good”.  This mean they are not worth very much money, no one who ‘knows’ paintings ‘likes them’, they are ‘hard to sell’ AND …they are abundant in the marketplace; in endless supply.  The trade trick taught to I is that these worthless paintings may be use… to sell another antique:  The bad painting is used as a red herring to bring forth a discovery of a ‘something else’.  Therefore …and searching around in a barn shed or two of her hoard, my grandmother found a “JUST RIGHT” old framed ‘oil painting’ that “LOOKS GOOD TO ME” (like a rare painting ha ha) and …nestled THAT on the wall above the bed… WITH a second ‘OLD PRINT’, ‘framed’, above the bed’s head… too.  The trap was set and baited.  My grandmother… waited.
            Mr. Simon, whom my grandmother always claimed was actually Mr. Simony, a name that HE shortened, was, to the world view of this small coastal Maine village… in 1962… a  “rich doctor from NEW YORK” to some locals.  A “rich lawyer from NEW YORK” to some locals.  A “rich from NEW YORK” to some locals.  And… a “rich stockbroker from NEW YORK” to a very small group of ‘some select’ locals.  My grandmother was in the ‘rich from NEW YORK’ group… and never gave it a thought further.
            “Simony” occurred to my grandmother from direct observation.  Mr. Simon came to my grandmother’s acquaintance through… a local minister.  This local minister knew a minister ‘from NEW YORK’.  THAT minister knew Mr. Simon.  HE also knew “Mr. Simon’s friend” who NEVER ‘came up’ from NEW YORK ever but was well known by the ‘some select’ locals to be a stockbroker “TOO”.  The local minister brought the New York minister to ‘visit’ my grandmother when …this New York minister… happened to be “in town”.  My grandmother served sherry.
            She always served sherry to the local minister.  He liked my grandmother’s sherry.  She purloined her sherry through a judge she sold antiques to who was from Portland (Maine).  This judge was a careful… judge… of sherry… and the sherry he allowed my grandmother to purloin.  ‘Good sherry’, the judge discerned, allowed my grandmother to pursue ‘good people’ who had ‘good antiques’.  Good people who either had or …in the case of the minister… ‘found to be available’… good antiques allowed the judge to buy good antiques from my grandmother after she plied the …local ministers and all other opportunities with ‘good sherry’.  The New York minister, after wetting his lips with the sherry… WITH my grandmother’s sly notice of that lip wetting… liked my grandmother’s sherry… too.
            Plied with sherry, the local minister repeatedly ‘delivered’ antiques, leads to antiques, homes full of antiques and even homes who had homes farther away that were full of antiques.  He himself, this minister, showed little evidence locally of this actually very profitable activity he ‘has his hand in’.  THIS activity was enhanced, so reported the ‘some select’ locals, by this local minister’s friendship with the New York minister.  This enhancement came in two forms.  The local minister told the New York minister about “properties” “that could be available” to be purchased to become a ‘summer place’ for a “people from New York”.  The New York minister dispensed these …hostile takeover opportunities to …well placed men he ‘knows’ in New York.  Gratitude, expressed by these New York men he knows came in many subtle forms AND trickled back to the… local minister too.
            The other form of enhancement was brought from New York to the local minister.  The New York minister always had lunch once a week with Mr. Simon, the stockbroker and ALSO in that same week… week after week… with Mr. Simon’s friend the stockbroker that …Mr. Simon never ever saw or talked to… ever.  At these lunches the minister handled verbal property from these two men that would be commonly called ‘insider trading stock tips’.  These… the minister passed back and forth between the two men over each lunch AND …could not avoid taking active actions about them himself AND often felt it best to refer the… opportunity… to his ‘dear friend’; the minister way off in the coast Maine village.  Of course the hunky-dory, duck-duck-goose and who’s-on-first may easily be surmised … and was especially surmised… by the ‘some select locals’ who …had something to do with the local banks (plural intended)
            Plural intended:  Banking was doing well and expanding in this small Maine coastal village as more ‘summer people’ bought ‘summer places’.  My grandmother had nothing to do with any of this AND did not even think of it BUT …did serve the sherry.


Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Summer Place - Part Two


Summer Place

Part Two

            My grandmother’s arrival at the Captain Merritt Kimball farm house on the early spring morning in 1962… involved her driving her Rambler American automobile ‘down the river’ on the dirt road known as ‘the river road’ to the… curves up to the farm’s front door… LONG dirt road ‘driveway’.  This driveway was across ‘the river road’ from two old barns that had a… private… dirt road between them that ‘runs down to the river’.  This driveway arched up to the front door of the ‘main house’ so placed that the old barns on ‘the river road’ did not block the view of ‘the river’ AND the view of the ‘Captain Merritt Kimball’s’ ‘DOCK’… from the front door… AND from… the house top… ‘widow’s walk’.  This ‘DOCK’ was actually a ‘two docks’ with a ‘slip’ in between them and a ‘building’ on the shore ‘at the head’.  These, like the barns, were ‘old’ ‘too’.
            My grandmother stopped her automobile at the crest top of the driveway before the front door.  She turned the auto off, exited the auto and… walked directly to a man removing pruned brush at the right corner of the … late American Federal style …light buff ochre with white trim and green shutters… painted ‘home’.  This man stopped working as my grandmother approached.
            “Charles.” My grandmother said to… Charlie… whom everyone called him THAT except my grandmother who ONLY ever called him Charles. “I am going to need you to help me MOVE a chest of drawers shortly so be on your lookout for me please.”
            “Yes Pearl.” Charles said.  “I will be right around here.”
            “Good.  Thank you Charles.” My grandmother said as she veered off toward the front door of the… Captain Merritt Kimball… home.
            Stepping up the front steps to the …large late Federal era… painted white doorway… she, using the old brass doorknocker at the upper center of the front door, rapped loudly on this ‘front door’.
            Mere seconds later this door opened inward to show a younger… but not that young… attractive… but not that attractive… woman who said immediately “DO come in PEARL SO NICE to see YOU this spring morning.” in one verbal gush.
            “I’ve come to see your father OR his brother if EITHER are at HOME.” my grandmother pronounced directly. 
This exchange begins …our return to ‘summer people’ for …it is not… the way… summer people talk at the front door… on an early spring morning at their ‘summer place’.  In fact, most ‘summer people’ are not even AT their summer place ‘yet’.  We must, as we progress, take note of the differences between ‘locals’ and ‘summer people’ if we are to understand… ‘the very subtle trademark traditions of this whole… Maine… romance’.
The woman disappears into the home leaving my grandmother at the front door.  My grandmother turns around and looks over the view to ‘the river’, the ‘Captain Merritt Kimball’s DOCK’ and …the hay and pasture fields between.  A man’s boot steps approach the doorway from inside.  She turns to greet these boot steps.  “PEARL DO STEP IN” came a gruff voice from a …small thin man… in ‘old attire’.
My grandmother steps inside saying “GOOD MORNING Rufus”.
Rufus is the younger of the two Kimball brothers.  Merritt, an eighth generation family namesake, is his older brother.  Both are direct descendants of the …patriot… sea captain… Captain Merritt Kimball”.
“WHAT, Pearl, BRINGS YOU here so EARLY this SPRING morning?” Rufus gruffly croaked.
Recognizing this to be ONLY Rufus’ NORMAL small talk inflection and NOT a hostile verbal broadside, my grandmother responded.
“I have come to BUY Sophia’s CHEST of DRAWERS, Rufus”.
“I HARDLY” says Rufus with pace “EXPECTED THAT TODAY PEARL”.
“Well it IS TODAY and WE need to get this DONE BEFORE YOU SELL OUT and I LOOSE IT to those FOOLS from NEW YORK”.
“They BE FOOLS I SAY TOO, Pearl BUT I BE SOUND STILL GOD WILLING.”
“YES Rufus but TIME and WEALTH are SHORT so I COME THIS MORNING to get THIS behind us while can WE STAND TOGETHER on it”.
“Be SURE I have THOUGHT OF YOU in the RECENT MONTHS, Pearl.  It is not unexpected or to be MY FEAR to see you AT MY DOOR.  MERRITT himself has said that same TOO.  BEFORE IT IS SOLD, he said, WE MUST SPEAK IT ALL THROUGH WITH PEARL.”
“Of course you must for AFTER you’ve SOLD there will BE NO GOING BACK.”
“That is my fate with GOD and GOLD, Pearl, and I STAND BEFORE YOU a rich man and a SINNER and your eyes see further to that SIN than GOD himself I am sure.
“Be it the MONEY or be it your SIN, Rufus?”
“It be not ONLY MYSELF who leaves the DOCK empty, who leaves the hay at SEED and who LEAVES ME CASTAWAY AT SEA from this LAND I must SELL.
“I have heard that story told TWICE without quandary.  It is the MONEY, Rufus and that alone.  It is NEW YORK bankers GOLD that has bought your SOUL”.
“Hardly that now Pearl.  It be that same that the old CAPTAIN himself would do for such a FAIR bargain GAINED for such a FORLORN holding as these.  I will castaway drift but not SO FAR as to DIE a wandering soul.  NO I WILL be TOO buried in the graveyard BEHIND THIS HILL.  Although I will not see the RIVER I WILL BE OF its SOIL.”
“You will only then be what you are NOT today; a DEAD PIRATE JUST like the old CAPTAIN himself.
“Now Pearl.  WE must stand with the living today all of us and YOU are a LIVING PIRATE yourself and STAND BEFORE ME with cutlass drawn and planning to BOARD.”
“And PLUNDER YOU, Rufus so STRIKE your flag and let me take Sophie’s CHEST.  YOU MAY KEEP all the GOLD you hide in it Rufus though I am SURE it is but an empty BOX that’s sitting UP THERE.” my grandmother said gesturing to the front stairs behind Rufus.
Rufus turned to his right and reviewed the stair.
“I HAVE NO NEED to CLIMB those ENTERNAL STAIRS.  I leave that to YOU SINNERS.  I shall only ascend a DEVINE STAIR when MY OWN EYES have CLOSED on the DECK below me of ye smuggling PIRATES whose BLOOD I SHARE by BIRTH ALONE GOD SAVE ME.  Be now QUICK WOMAN with your purse.  Don’t not creep BELOW in the DARK.  CASH IN YOUR OLD GOLD PEARL.  BEFORE MY DOORWAY speak me hard CASH”.
“Twenty.” My grandmother says.
“BY YOUR WICKED DARK SOUL.”
“BE YOUR PRICE THEN?”
“BY THE BLACK… one hundred FAIR.”
“NOT FROM a THEIF”.
“I steal NOTHING from you, PIRATE”
“YOUR SMUGGLER’S CAVE BE FULL OF GOLD.”
“You know BETTER Pearl”.
“Why scoundrel I KNOW your SCOW is SUNK”.
“And all be MUD and BONES.  Not a single COIN of gold.”
“Forty then and chop my fingers off in HELL.”
“NO Pearl; you will be but a STEP behind me.  I KNOW THAT RUNG you stand on.  SIN be SIN but you have NEVER HIDDEN YOURS.  You BITE each COIN but let them see you at it.  Biting is not hiding.  Sin is hidden.  I TOO STAND OPEN BEFORE HIM.  Eighty and be done this FINE MORNING is it NOT, Pearl.”
“I mustn’t SEE it (the chest) for those are FOOL’S dollars”.
“You may if you wish but I will wait here; below.”
“To hide your eyes?”
“MY EYES STILL SEE CLEARLY, Pearl, but cloud them with Sophia’s chest now TWO CENTERIES OLD be it AM I RIGHT?  To let you take off her chest at ANY PRICE?
“Empty BOX and you will leave it BEHIND when YOU GO.  The new GOLD makes you to never BOTHER with an old BOX.  It is I who RESCUE IT from the TRUCK that will HAUL all of Captain Merritt TO THE DUMP.  Be giving me my chest right now for forty.  Be you, sinner, standing proof of the Devil’s gold?  Repent, Rufus; my offer is fair.
This spin of the bartering checkerboard left Rufus flustered.  He found the board reversed from his demonic ascent?  Or was Pearl as thick booted a pirate as himself?  Or is it HE who must bite his coins in sight?
“Ye scoundrel Pearl. OH… .  Mother WOULD care that YOU care.  She would.  And you know that.
“How IS Sophia?”
“Be the same.  She will never be BACK.  Merritt keeps THAT paid he says.  I see nothing and hear even less.  NINE YEARS its been and not a whit returned they say.  HER NERVES BE GONE.  A rattling in her head they say.  Be nothing I EVER see.  Seems fine TO ME.  When we speak.  But never you mind.  The chest be as empty as you say.  Take it.  Take it away.
At this juncture, still standing in the doorway, my grandmother retrieves her rubber banded roll of money from the near pocket of her dress and… slowly so as to allow Rufus’ eyes to search that money roll to his satisfaction, releases two twenty dollar bills from that roll, hands those to Rufus and, re-banding the money roll, returns it to her dress pocket hiding hole.
As Rufus watched from the front doorway, my grandmother instructed Charles to “fetch off” and deliver the chest of drawers to her barn “at my expense”.  This last was stated loudly for Rufus to hear.  Even with that declaration Rufus mumbled and croaked a reaffirmation of her pay obligation to Charles including a scratched mark to “not give him dear to spoil him like that last time”.  Rufus completed the morning meeting by saying to my grandmother’s back as she walked to her automobile for her “to come back next week when Merritt is back”… to… “speak it all through” “before the sale”.
My grandmother certainly did go back the next week.  And ‘speak it all through’.  That was in the spring of …1962.



Friday, March 15, 2013

Summer Place - Part One


Summer Place - Part One

            Once… in Maine and traditionally along the coast but now ever more “inland” and approaching “up country”… some “summer people” (people “from away”) purchased “an old place” and thereafter have their (the summer people as a population block) grip on it, with, in these times, often four or five generations of ownership by them (summer people but NOT necessarily the “same family” of “summer people). The  property…once of preferably patriotic merchant sea captain heritage… is… traded amongst themselves (“summer people”)… ever after. 
The antiques “in there; used to be FULL” are “gone” because the “summer people” either never got them because they (the original “sea captain’s family”) “had an auction there before they (the summer people) bought the place”, “they (the original family) sold all the antiques before they (the summer people) bought the place”, “they (the summer people) sold all the antiques AFTER they bought the place”, “they (the summer people) took all the antiques to the dump[1] when they fixed the place up” or… very rarely… “kept the good things” and “sold the rest” “I guess”.  This last is as rare as the antiques that were “in the place”.
            Growing up under the antiquarian tutelage of a grandmother who would “set off” from her kitchen table with a rubber banded “roll of money” at the slightest sign that a …takeover… by summer people of “an old place” or preferably “old sea captain  ****’s PLACE has “schooled me” in the very subtle trademark traditions of this whole… Maine… romance.
            If it were not for the perfection of the behavior of the summer people and their takeovers, the romance of the subtle trademarks traditions would have been lost through a simple fading away of local memory.  As it stands, the annual and ritualized annoyance OF the summer people and the… annoyances created BY… the summer people acts to “grind home” the trademark traditions and their romance.  Reduced in the same way that spring maple sap is evaporated over a wood fire in a shanty behind the farm house to produce …sweet syrup… the raw horror of a ‘summer people’s’ hostile takeover of an old sea captain’s property arks with each generation into a warmer, fuzzier and ever more …mystical… legend… presuming that the summer people …did not get… “the antiques from that place”.  IF… they “have” “the stuff”, that mystical legend is fuzzier BUT NOT WARM.  Then, of course, is the horrific middle grounds (note plural) where who has what and why and IF they know it …in both camps (the locals and the summer people) AND WHO of these is watching the flanks of all of this anyway.  (?).  THAT is from where and when my grandmother “set off”.
            With her rubber banded roll of money.





[1] Where the stuff was promptly retrieved and “taken home” by “everyone” (locals) within a ten mile radius of “the dump” and …is still being “shown as” “its an ANTIQUE” “from Captain ****’s HOUSE THEY TOOK IT TO THE DUMP CAN YOU BELIEVE IT”… to this day.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

A Door Knock - Part Nine


A Door Knock

Part Nine

            When hunting objects that are rare… to curl up as a snake to strike cannot be done.  A flaccid slither, steady and slow, is my best preparation.  A divination of simple luck must transpire before one curls.  Before one strikes.  For an object rare… it may not need to be the divine of luck.  It may only need to be… logical destiny.
            The ‘next bedroom’ became ‘the bedroom’ as I entered.  “The old woman’s room” I noted to myself.  Against the wall… and on the floor… before the window… was an old mattress… with crumpled bedding on it… resting on a steel wire mesh spring set.  I had seen this estate fabricated human sculpture many times before.  It means:
            “THE BRASS BED” said Nathan as I walked toward it.
            “Brass and IRON” I said.
            “BRASS BED.” Nathan said again.
            “No.  Brass and iron.  I grew up sleeping on one.”
            “Sleeping on one?”
            “My bed.  My room.  I slept on that.” I said gesturing to the steel wire frame protruding from below the old mattress.
            “A BRASS BED?” Nathan said.
            “Brass and IRON” I retorted aggressively.  I was not in the mood to be professionally pummeled by an estate plundering neophyte over the …quintessentially… abysmal ‘brass bed / iron bed’ antiques-in-an-estate quandary …that leads to an… ‘estate fight’.  A brass bed is made of ALL brass tubing fitting OVER steel tubing.  A brass and iron bed, much more common… and commonly used in all bedrooms of old Maine estates… EXCEPT in the ‘master bedroom’, here found to have had a …CANNON BALL BED… but could just as well ‘had’ ‘a brass (master bedroom) bed’… has skimpy brass decoration here and there on the cast iron bed frame.  ‘Maine Children’ such as myself NEVER slept in a ‘brass bed’ and ALWAYS grew up sleeping in a brass and iron bed …that one never forgets …because it is ‘noisy’ from the iron grating and steel springs squeaking.  “WE” (Maine children) never knew a ‘BRASS’ bed existed until ‘we’ became… ‘antiques dealers’.
            “MACKEY TOOK IT.”
            “Good.”
            “Good?”
            “Yeah.  They’re a problem”.
            “Problem?”
            “Don’t sell.”
            “Brass beds don’t sell?”
            “Brass and IRON”.
            “It was a BRASS BED.  Mackey TOOK IT”.
            “Right.  He didn’t care.”
            “Care?”
            “WHAT you thought it was.  They’re hard to sell.”
            “Hard to sell?
            “Modern bedding doesn’t fit on ‘em”.
            “Fit on the bed?”
            “Right.”
            “Right?”
            “Can’t be USED; the BED can’t be USED.”
            “Used?
            “To SLEEP on.”
            “On.”
            “Modern bedding doesn’t FIT IT”.
            “Oh… Well… Mackey LIKED the BRASS bed.  He said so.”
            “He liked the whole estate is what he liked” I said… getting testy and failing to ‘slither along’.
            “Liked the estate?”
            “He’s not gonna say anything.”
            “Say anything?”
            “About the bed.”
            “The brass bed?”
            “Right.  Like the snuff bottle.  IT’S CRACKED.  He’ll tell you.  No money.”
            “No money?”
            “Right; it’s cracked.  Six bucks.  He’ll tell you.  He doesn’t care.  He got the estate.”
            “Got the estate?”
            “Cleaned out the estate.” I said gesturing to the whole room.
            “The auctioneer was here first”.
            “Right.  He liked it too.”
            “Too?”
            “This estate.”
            Nathan and I were starting to cross the ‘getting testy with each other over a “brass” “bed” classic inner-estate-dealing BRIDGE TO NOWHERE together and …that was not good… for me.  NOT that I cared for this estate ‘had been stripped’ so what do I care because ‘everything’ is ‘gone’ and I’m stuck buying bedroom floor JUNK SCRAPS for TWO DOLLARS from a greedy ‘piss-me-off’ know-it-all who just… pissed the greatest art he’s ever gonna get in his whole life away to two antiques dealers who “THANK YOU” and LEFT… forever.  I stepped away from the bed pile.  I turned to the …in this estate iconic… center of the room trash pile here consisting of …old woman’s clothing.  ?. 
            It was THAT (an old woman’s clothing) and I turned internally… to return to a … flaccid state of slow and slither… and… kicked the pile.
            “Clink”.
            I look down.  I see two little round flat black iron “pennies” before my boot toes and protruding from under the cloth pile and:
            I KNOW WHAT THEY ARE.


            Logical destiny cascaded through my mind UNDER the mental SCREAM of “THE PIPE TONGS”.  The logical destiny report mentally orated “Bedroom; her bedroom; dresser; her dresser; said; she said; kept pipe tongs; in bedroom; in dresser; in drawer; in clothes.  Mackey; clean out; didn’t clean out; boys cleaned out bedroom; move bed out; move DRESSER out; take drawers OUT; dump DRAWERS OUT; pile of clothing; TRASH PILE of CLOTHING; PIPE TONGS IN CLOTHING IN DRESSER DRAWER DUMPED OUT BY BOYS MACKEY DIDN’T SEE IT ON THE FLOOR IN CLOTHES RIGHT THERE RIGHT NOW”.
            Seconds past in extraordinary slowness.  Within the extraordinary slowness of those seconds I coiled and slowly bent forward and downward as I began to mentally watch my physical self from a disembodied above as I… bent and coiled.  And lifted the cloth edge covering the now exposing tong shaft to JUST SENSE the full …18th century wrought iron mechanism… above and:
            WATCH disembodied from above my coiled state retrieve the “WHAT DO I SAY THEY ARE?????” and pull myself erect too …turn in my coil and RELEASE in a full body STRIKE extension TOWARD Nathan saying “TWO BUCKS FOR THE ‘PICK UPS’.”
            “Pick ups?” Nathan says sounding distant, faint and slow.  Blurry to my eyes my hand extends them toward him as my hand fits the grip and squeezes the pennies apart at Nathan who… blurry and slowly to my eyes… faintly reaches to take the “What did you say these are?” he’s saying to me in a way that sounds very, very, very faint, slow and far away in my blurry, drifting view.


            I see myself from above and hear myself saying “Pick ups; old women use them to pick up things”.
            “Pick up things?” says Nathan now reversing the pipe tongs in his OWN hand himself and …fitting it to the grips …and squeezing the pennies apart AT ME as I:
            REBUTT very slowly and faintly “Like clothes and stuff they drop…like… BEHIND their DRESSER.  Don’t have to BEND OVER.” that I hear myself from above saying as Nathan squints downward AT THEM and I:
            PLUNGE INTO THE DARKNESS OF ALL TIME STOPS eternal quiet no sound slower slowness nothing can be deepest black as this deepest black is now time stopping air vanishing NO SENSE OF ANY FEELING desperate falling?  I DON’T KNOW!
            “OK” I hear a voice say in blackness and SEE an arm twisting WITH the pipe tongs before me PASSING THEM TOO ME and I from above hear my self say ‘ok’ very faintly and see from above my hand to pocket REACH and extend the pulled money wad to PEEL the two dollars as I FALL back into my body from above with a ROAR OF SOUND coming from BLOOD RUSHING THROUGH ALL OF MY BODY as I give over the two dollars and pull in the offered pipe tongs to only reach them BEHIND my back and put them in my back pocket with one hand assuredly putting the mechanism DOWNWARD leaving only the pennies on their shaft ‘sticking out’.  Starting to coil again I CATCH myself and return… to a slow flaccid slithering state that:
            Steps PAST Nathan and OUT of the bedroom and AWAY …to the next bedroom.  To the next room after that.  And then DOWN a ‘back stairs’.  And to more rooms.  A shed.  The barn.  ALL THREE FLOORS OF THE BARN.  Buying “a dollar” JUNK.  In a dream.  With the tongs in my back pocket.  Always and I never touch them.  Until… I’m done.  I’ve paid.  I am outside by the truck cab ‘loading’ the first ‘stuff’.  I open the driver’s door, pull the tongs from the pocket, toss them on the passenger’s seat, toss a jacket over them and:
            Go back to ‘load out’ with engaged fake stupid verbal banter with Nathan who… wants me out of there now anyway so:  That goes smoothly and quickly and …he makes the final point of “keeping” the “did you say this is a SNUFF bottle?”.  And I get in the truck.  I close the door, start the engine, put my seat belt on.  I DRIVE AWAY.
            The house is still for sale as I write.  I have never gone back.




Wednesday, March 6, 2013

A Door Knock - Part Eight


A Door Knock

Part Eight

            The smelling salts… of an old house, with an old attic, back ell, shed, carriage house, cellar now lacking its snuff bottle, front room talking table AND … empty upstairs bedroom number one… jolted my foggy view mind… BACK to my ‘being sucked down the bathtub drain’ of this estate ‘crash and burn’… so that I came to …to focus on Nathan as if in a bold ammonia sniffed peeling away… of that misty vision of an old secretary LOST and I… stepped past him, back out the door, across the hall and into… bedroom number two.  He followed.
            There was nothing?  “Wait a minute”.  I plucked the odd rectangular ‘tray’ from the pile of old fabric ish trash piled …again at the center of the room.  “Two bucks” I mechanically said and held the tray firm.
            “That?  Two?” said Nathan.  “What is it?’
            “Trunk tray.”
            “Trunk tray?
            “Went in a trunk.”
            “Trunk?”
            “Two bucks.  You want to sell it?”
            “Ah… Well…  SURE.”
            Although I’d spied ‘something else’, I hold the tray between my knees and fetch-flip two dollars cash from my pocket to Nathan.  Then I re-hold-it-firm the tray and step to an “old board?” leaning up against the far wall.  Nearly two feet wide and about a short seven feet tall it was ‘obviously old’ with a fine deep age toned surface, old smoothing plane marks on one side and ‘up and down’ early saw mill marks on the back side. I… “three bucks”
            “For the board?  Well.  I was going to use it.”
            “Use it?”
            “Yeah like not here but home.”
            “Use it for what?” I said.
            ‘TO WALL PAPER.  It’s a wall papering board.”
            “Wall papering?  It’s a little SHORT for that.” I say leaning the board away from the wall, peeking at its back side then leaning it back.”
            “Short?”
            “It’s not for wall paper.”
            “Not?”
            “No.”
            “What is it?”
            “A laying out board.”
            “Laying out?”
            “When people died.  They laid ‘em out on it?”
            “That board?”
            “Yup.  I always find ‘em in old places.  They all had ‘em.”
            “Laying out board?”
            “See the length.  A little short for anything else.  Always wide like that too.  Probably they used it for a century.”
            “You SELL those?
            “NO.  It just old lumber; too short old lumber.  I sell ‘em but don’t say what they are.  There’s not enough wood to do anything with it.  It just a nice old board.”
            “Oh.”
            “Want to sell it?”  I could see Nathan churning this new information input and NOT getting a ‘favorable response’ internally.
            “Ah.  How about ten?”
            “Five.”
            “Five?”
            “Five.”
            “Oh ok.”
            I repeat the trunk tray to knees poise and speedily deploy five dollars to him …for a ‘laying out board’.
            Presuming a phobia opportunity denoted here I inform that …yes… it is a fine phobia and should one be an old house contents hunter… one will… ‘find one’.  So often ‘left behind’ during ‘clean outs’… or actually ‘kept out’ ‘by the owners’ ‘who don’t know’ but “like it” (the “that old board”).  So often found in a ‘there’ of a… household INTERIOR upstairs room and stored there to preserve it.  So often in ‘splendid original surface’ condition.  So often the “what a NICE old BOARD” to the unknowing feel and eye.  So often always the same CLEAN, SMOOTH, HAND FINISHED and occasionally …tombstone… rounded at the ‘top’.  So often the a “little too WIDE for an IRONING BOARD” “I guess it was”.  No.  They were “set up”… in a downstairs front room for a ‘laying out’ and then… very carefully “put back”.  I find them all the time.  Most ‘old places’ ‘have one’.  They do not haunt me.
            The board haunted Nathan.  I could tell that by the way he soaked in his view of me… with the board tucked under my arm.  I, lightly stepping, took advantage of his quandary moment, skipped past him out of the room, went down the hall, set the… laying out board… against the wall at the top of the stairs and… went into the next bedroom.
            Nathan followed.  He’d miss a trail sign in the last room.  I hadn’t.  But:  “A lot of good it’ll do me” for “the place has been stripped”.  Trail sign?  THAT TRAY in the trash pile would ‘never happen’ if  a REAL antiques dealer… had cleaned out and then ‘final checked’ that room.  It’s a small thing but the denominator is that the trunk tray is a “too good” to leave behind for “EVERYONE” “ALWAYS” has a trunk that is “MISSING ONE” so to have a “found one” that can be “dropped in” to virtually ANY old trunk with NO EFFORT at all to enhance its value… is…:  “Wouldn’t leave it behind”.
            THAT MEANS that whoever cleaned out the room ‘didn’t know’ and … nobody checked THAT room; a ‘final walk through’ that I do perpetually on all clean outs… .  THAT means… ‘something could be left behind’ LIKE THE SNUFF BOTTLE WAS.  And now this trunk tray.  That …aspect… of THIS ESTATE… NOW… I… “KEEP YOUR EYES ROVING”.  It paid off ‘in spades’.