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.

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