Thursday, October 31, 2013

Coy - Part Six - The Savage Fortune


Coy

Part Six

The Savage Fortune


            I set Aunt Minnie’s glassware down... on the floor by my left foot and... received a verbal shotgun blast of a family tale from Helen... that was actually more substantive, more revealing and ...proved over time... more accurate than I normally garner from this... rather frequent in my line of antiquarian work... ‘family saga told’.  Although not rehearsed, it was clear to my ear that Helen had pontificated the tale... many times before it reached my ears. 
            “MY great, great.... great... OH WHO CARES GRANDFATHER was JOHN Horatio SAVAGE.  ‘ONE John’ they called him.  Also ‘HICK’ or ‘Hickey’.  He was from Shapleigh (Maine).  The Savage family had a farm up there.  Maybe it’s OVER there.  Anyway.  He ran away from home.  Actually; he didn’t run away.  He just left.  He was only seventeen or something.  He went to Portland and got a job on a boat to BOSTON.  Then he went down to NEW LONDON.  ON a WHALE BOAT.  Maybe it was on a whale boat FROM New London.  Anyway.  It was a whale boat and he was on it.  Just this farm boy.  Went to sea on this WHALE BOAT.  They were gonna be gone FOUR YEARS or something.  So there he was.
            “FINALLY they found some whales and killed them.  They’d tie them to the side of the boat and cut them up to haul them up on to the boat to BOIL them into OIL.  WHALE OIL.  They’d put it in barrels.  ONE John didn’t know anything about this; he’s a FARM boy.  So they said to him to go down over the SIDE of the boat and stand on the whale and CUT IT UP.  Well what did he know about doing THAT.  NOTHING.  So he’s down there with these sharp cutters on poles and he starts cutting that WHALE up.  And no one says anything to him or how to do it or anything.  So he cuts that whale up just like he cut ICE on the POND at the FARM in Shapleigh.  He’d cut off this long square sheet and they haul it up onto the boat deck and BOIL IT into OIL over the FIRES on the deck.  He didn’t have anything to do with that; he was down STANDING on the WHALE.  SO he did that EVERYDAY for months; any time they killed a WHALE he stood on it and cut it up.
            “So one day after about a YEAR he goes to the side of the boat to go down and stand on the whale and cut it up.  But when he gets there; to side of the boat, the second MATE is standing there in his uniform.  He say ‘One John:  TAKE this uniform and go aft and take a bath and put this on and come back here’.  So Hickey don’t know what that’s about but does what he’s told; takes a bath and puts on this new BLACK WOOL uniform and goes back to the side of the boat.  The MATE then says to him to STAND THERE at the side of the boat and TELL THE MEN down on the WHALE how to cut it up like the way HE’S BEEN DOING IT.  ‘Oh ME?” said One John.  ‘Yes YOU’ says the mate and ‘when it’s dinner time you come back and eat with US’ he says too.  So Hickey don’t know what THAT means either so he stands there at the side of the boat and tells the men on the whale how to cut it up.  Then he goes back for dinner like he’s TOLD TO.  Well he’s sitting with the CAPTAIN and the MATES.  The carpenter TOO.  He eats with them and does from then on.  AND he SLEEPS BACK THERE TOO.  They tell him to bring his chest aft and STAY THERE.  So from THEN ON that’s what he does; stand by the side and tell them how to cut up the whales.  And stays back with the CAPTAIN.  For THREE YEARS.  Then they go back to New London.  And he’s PAID OUT.
            “He goes home to Shapleigh to the farm and SEES everyone.  He has more money then they’ve ever seen.  He brings them GIFTS.  But he’s going back to sea with the whale boat to work just the SAME so LEAVES again.  And does it again just the same with this captain and mates.  He does that for eighteen YEARS with them.  THEN the WHALES are getting hard to FIND and also the other boats are STEAMBOATS now.  SO after all of those years they STOP hunting WHALES.  But NOW he’s PARTNERS with these men on the boat AND has saved his MONEY.  So these men are OLDER now TOO; older than One John.  So they say to him they have money and he does too so we are going to stick together and you can stick with us too and they get an OFFICE in a building right down town here and ....I’VE BEEN THERE SEVERAL TIMES to LOOK AT IT.  It’s FOUR FLOORS up in a building with FIVE floors.  Right on COMMERCIAL STREET.  There’s nothing there anymore.  IT’S EMPTY.  I just wanted to see it.  So I went there.
            “Anyway.  These five men with Hickey stick together in this office and bet their money on business deals.  BOAT CARGO, SEA VOYAGES and even WHOLE BOATS.  They buy and SELL BOATS.  All five of them at this table in that office.  All day except when they all went out for lunch together.  For YEARS.  And they did well.  REALLY WELL because they’d all been to SEA and understood the RISKS and KNEW ALL the CAPTAINS.  When the Civil War came they speculated on TOOLS and RAILROADS.  So One John sat there for rest of his life making money doing this.  He died in 1871.  Most of the others had already died.  He built this HOUSE for his WIFE MOLLY.  He made a fortune.  They even had their own BANK in Boston.  They MADE a BANK to put their MONEY IN.  That’s how come that idiot bank is in BOSTON NOW; they got their hands on One John’s BANK somehow.  I don’t about THAT.  I don’t’ know how they did it.  I’ve BEEN to the bank but it’s... you’d never know that it was STARTED on a WHALE BOAT.
            “One John and those first generations were different.  FROM the WAY I was raised.  I had to find out about Hickey.  I didn’t know anything about him.  THAT’S because after the money was MADE the family just kept it in that BANK.  There was always lots of MONEY.  THAT’S what Aunt Minnie would always say; ‘there’s lots of money’.  SHE knew how to SPEND it.  I known now... and Mama knew...where the money came from.  Hickey would never spend any money.  Only Aunt Winnie spent money.  SHOPPING in NEW YORK.  They’d take the train to NEW YORK.  And go shopping.  When I was young I went too.  It was fascinating; to be in New York.  And go shopping.  NOW things are different.  And THAT was different TOO.  I just don’t do it the way Aunt Minnie did.  I’d rather go to Florida and be with my friends.  I don’t really care about shopping.  This house is already full anyway.
            “I’m gonna tell you one more thing.  You already know about this.  It’s OVER here.  “This; this house, the clutter.  It’s not clutter.  You know that.  Eileen (the first appraiser, Part Two):  She didn’t know.  She didn’t know I have a bank in Boston.  She doesn’t know.  This; this is ALL CLUTTER to her.  Well... you know it isn’t.  And I’m gonna say right now that there’s a real lot of it.  I even got One John’s old BOOTS.  This family never threw ANYTHING out.  Well I WILL.  Some of it; it can’t be any good.  But BEHIND THAT; all that clutter.  THAT’S WHAT REAL.  That chair (she said gesturing at the chair I was sitting in).  That came from MOLLY’S FAMILY.  How do I know that?  Because Aunt Minnie told me it did.  EVEN SHE liked that chair the way it is.  Molly’s daughter made the upholstery.  You see; this is real here.  Not pretend.  NOT ARRANGED like Eileen does.  She’d put SEA lavender in that compote.  She wouldn’t know STEW-Ben from HAS-BEEN.  But if you told her... SHE’D TAKE IT.  Try to make it hers.  Special.  You can’t.  I know it.  YOU know it.  You can’t fake this.  That’s what makes this... even if you take it all to the DUMP...:  This is real.  You can’t go shopping and BUY IT!”


            I didn’t come back to see Helen for three weeks.  I thought it would be longer.  Actually... Helen was dead serious about... what she has continually called... “cleaning out”.  That was fifteen years ago and ...we... are “still cleaning out some more” (Helen’s words).  I have been ‘in there’ ever since this first audience (?) with Helen.  That day I took the olive dishes and pair of goblets home.  I told my wife the whole story.  “Maybe she IS crazy” my wife said.
            “I don’t think so.” I said.
            My wife is now used to my trips to Helen’s.  When I bought the teapots and green aperitifs (Part One), that was no surprise although she marveled appropriately at their ‘old sea captain stuff’ qualities.  Helen is also why she’d put the Eileen Fisher profile (Part One) at my place at the kitchen table.
            From this first meeting... to this day... as I write this, Helen has never pretended, teased or flaunted her estate to me.  She is not shy or reserved around me.  She makes decisions rapidly and follows through on them.  She bluntly speaks her mind on every subject.  I have never seen her act this way around anyone else.  To every other person Helen is the OPPOSITE in behavior.  No one but I, that I know of, has ever been inside Fort Helen and seen the... Savage fortune. The Savage fortune is NOT money or antiques.



Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Coy - Part Four - Great Aunt Winnie


Coy

Part Four

Great Aunt Winnie



            For the next few minutes Helen engaged a one sided chat:  She spoke... ‘with’ (at?) me.  Therein she introduced foundation characters that I still stand on to this day.  “That was Daddy’s”, “When Daddy was....”, “Mama’s, “Mama said” (or “told me”) and ...the one that proved the most influential to the Savage estate... though at the time a ‘slipping by me’... “Aunt Winnie”, “Aunt Winnie’s” and “WHEN Aunt Winnie”.  She also used “Great Aunt Winnie”.  Great Aunt Winnie applied for Helen’s children.  Winnie was Helen’s aunt. 
            Passing the Savage family estate ...contents... to Helen’s children, up to this... I remind... fifteen years ago first meeting... moment... had been a loosely considered and conducted one sided ‘crazy as a shit house rat’ effort by Helen that defaulted to what “your Great Aunt Winnie” had once... and of equally scattered organization and direction... (?)... “told me” (Helen).  “Good” of the contents of the Savage mansion was what “Aunt Winnie” had ...said (?)... was ‘good’.  Aunt Winnie’s ‘good’ was shown to me promptly... inclusive of showing me Aunt Winnie’s ‘bad’.  Too.  This last occurrence in a ‘cold - first visit’ estate setting is ...very unusual for me to encounter.  This became even MORE unusual when Helen ...slam dunked this showing in a way that became a Helen Savage trademark of our relationship.
            Helen started squirming in her chair and, bare footed, stood up.  She turned to her left and went through the doorway behind her and... disappeared.  I had not had time to consider this door way and its beyond.  I did now.
            I was seated so that I could see further to the left through the doorway while my view to the right was cut short due to my seating angle.  Past the door way I suddenly realized I was looking at... clutter.  Dim lighted... dark mounded... across the room’s floor... to the far wall... piled upon furniture and boxes... clutter.  Helen, I could hear, was rummaging out of my sight to the right.  She came back into our sitting room carrying two glass bowls.  I recognized the form.  She, standing barefoot in front of me, presented first one... then the other.  I took them one at a time and held them... one in each hand.  “JUST PUT THEM ON THE FLOOR” she said as I noticed she had a ...framed photograph wedged under her arm in her arm pit.  “THIS IS AUNT WINNIE” she said presenting that to me.  I put the glass bowls on the floor and took the photograph.  Helen sat back down.  I turned the framed photograph over and noted the in recent ink “Great Aunt Winnie” identification label taped... with blue tape... to the back of the frame.  I turned the frame back over and contemplated ‘Aunt Winnie’.  My mixed-minded internal evaluation report did not get enough time to... finish a report .  “I DON’T KNOW if you would KNOW what those ARE.” Helen said gesturing to the glass on the floor.
            “I believe I do.” I said.




            “OH... then.  WELL?”
            I reached down and retrieved one of the glass bowls.  I set the photograph on the floor when I did that.  I lifted it a foot off the floor, turned it upside down and refracted the bottom in the room light so as to ‘catch the signiture’ that I knew would be there.  It was there.  I set that small bowl ...with a heavy ‘snail’ handle... back down.  I picked up the second and repeated the action.  This time my refraction inspection showed no signiture.  It also showed me a different bottom side finish to this vessel; it ‘tapered’ to the bowl top as opposed to the fully round bowl shape of the first vessel.  It was also slightly larger than the first.  I, still holding this vessel, looked at Helen.  She was looking at me.
            “HOW MUCH?” she said.
            “Much?  I...”
            “WILL YOU PAY.”
            “I pay?”
            “Right now.  CASH.”
            “For me to ...BUY THESE... from you... right now?  Cash?”
            “Cash”.
            (OK ... this DOES HAPPEN... in this ‘demand’ format... often ...to I and most... antique hunters (pickers).  It’s an in-your-face ...face-off... mud wrestle... jump in the pit and duke it out... sort of ...aggressive... leap... THAT must NOT be a ...stammering lily livered... replied to and IS BEST... slammed right back.  I did this.)  “One hundred” I said ...choosing a ‘high but safe’ price for ...both... ‘of them’.
            Helen looked at me; dead eye to eye.  Then she looked at the bowls on the floor and in my hand.  Then at my eyes again.  “How much for just ONE.”
            I slammed right back; I saw the trick:  “Depends on which one.” I said.
            “Which one?” said Helen.  “Ok:  Which one”.
            “One hundred.”
            “For which one.”
            “The signed one.”


            Helen paused.  She looked at me hard.  Then she smiled and said “SOLD!  You can have the other one.”
            “Ah... sure... OK.” I said.  I wasn’t ‘sure’ about any of this.  In hindsight I now know that I’d just ‘done’ my ‘first deal’ with Helen.  There have been many more similar this one.  This was my first introduction to what is Helen’s ...generosity.
            “PAY ME and I’m gonna tell you their story.”
            I took my ...folded cash clip... from my inside jacket pocket and took out a ...pre-folded... one hundred dollars; five twenties.  I stood up and reached the cash across the space between us above the vessels and handed it to Helen’s pink puffy little fingers.  She unfolded and counted the five twenty dollar bills and said “NICE”.
            “THE SIGNED ONE was AUNT WINNIES.” she continued.  “She bought it in NEW YORK at the FAIR (New York World’s Fair 1939-1940).  YOU know all that I gather.  But you SEE her good TASTE.  Always a PERFECT selection.  I GREW UP with THAT.”
            “The olive dish?”
            “WELL THAT TOO but with Aunt Winnie’s THINGS and HER TASTE.  She showed me that DISH years and years ago when I was a teenage girl.  I always saw it as Aunt Winnies DISH.  Why not?  Steuben WHO CARES.  So years ago now I showed it to MY daughter just like Aunt Winnie showed it to me.  WHO CARES was her response.  So I said nothing more.  THEN... a few years ago she comes here with THAT.” said Helen pointing to the other dish.  I tell her its not the same.  She says it is too.  I say it is NOT and that the FORM is different.  The size is bigger.  It’s NOT SIGNED.  She says it’s the way it’s SUPPOSE to be.  I say again ‘it is not’.  She doesn’t understand me at all.  She cannot see the difference.  Oh my God I say; it’s OVER.”
            “Well she’ll probably figure it out.” I said.
            “No.  I know that look.  I don’t wish upon a star anymore.  I can’t.  She gave me a cell phone.  That is what means something to her.  I don’t even know where it is.  They telephone it to FIND IT.  It rings.  It’s around here somewhere.  Anyway... THAT’S HOW all this STARTED.  I made the MISTAKE of mentioning my concern to that idiot bank and NOW YOU’RE HERE.  YOU... are APPEARING TO BE....; you could be... JUST WHAT I NEED; you know something and your QUICK.  That bank is full of the SLOWEST MINDS.  When I’m talking to them its like I’m walking around behind them KICKING THEM IN THEIR BUTTS.  They don’t even know it’s happening.  Anyway.  That’s where the APPRAISAL come from.  And you.  So... THIS is what we’re gonna DO.  I’m gonna tell them YOUR OK.  Then you’ll come back here and we’ll try to start to figure this whole thing out.  NOW:  You’ve got to understand that I don’t really have very much stuff MYSELF.  I didn’t get very much of what’s HERE myself.  This house was FULL when I was BORN.  So... it’s... EACH generation has ten people who either LIVE HERE or traveled through here.  And their THINGS are here too.  IF HE went to college and then went to Boston his college trunk is still UP THERE FULL just the way he sent it back here.  NO ONE ever opened even.  Well... now... I have... I suppose.  JUST trying to figure out what to DO with all of this.  It really IS over whelming.  So those idiots at the bank want a whole LIST of EVERYTHING.  I’m not going to do THAT.  WHO READS A GOD DAMN LIST I said.  So NOW I realize I’m gonna have to do this myself; CLEAN OUT this place MYSELF.  Do you understand THIS?”
            “Yes.  Certainly.  This is what I do.”
            “You do CLEAN OUT?  Or just appraise it?
            “Well... not even that; just look it all over and suggest.”
            “SUGGEST!  YOUR GONNA HAVE TO DO BETTER THAN THAT”.
            “Well I...”
            “SAY SELL IT.  Get rid of it.  What DO you do with all this clutter anyway?  That olive dish.  That was EASY.  You know what that is.  Do you KNOW... he* was only twenty-six when he created that?”
            “Are you sure you want to sell me that?”
            “SURE I’M SURE.  This place is FILLED with that kind of stuff.  SHOPPING.  Aunt Minnie was very good at SHOPPING.  Mama went along.  Aunt Minnie LOVED going SHOPPING.  TAKE HER PHOTOGRAPH TOO”.
            “Take her photograph?  But don’t you...”
            “OH GOD:  I’ve got at least a HUNDRED of those.  Oh... that reminds me.”  Helen stood up and left the room again.  Seconds later she returned with two 1950’s cut glass goblets.  “HERE.  Those are for you.” She said handing them to me.  Helen looked down at the photograph of Aunt Winnie.  “SHE’S ALWAYS PHOTGRAPHED like that.  What am I going to DO with all of those old photographs?.  I could make a BONFIRE of her PHOTOGRAPHS.  Same for these GLASSES.  I’ve been giving those away in pairs for DECADES now.  She must have bought THREE HUNDRED of them.  NOW LOOK HERE.  If we’re going to DO THIS... YOU ...have to DO THIS.  TOO.  THAT’S WHAT you’re HERE FOR.  YOU said this is WHAT YOU DO.  SO THERE.  I didn’t DO THIS.  I just INHERITED IT.  I understand it now; I HAVE TO DO THIS MYSELF.  But your gonna be here.  OK?”



            “I hope so.”
            “GOOD.  Enough.  For NOW.  ....   NOW:  I have to tell you how all this got started HERE.  Where all this comes from
            “Where this comes from?”
            “THE SAVAGES.  OLD captain SAVAGE; the WHALE man.  HE WASN’T even a CAPTAIN.
            “Oh?”
            “I’m gonna TELL you.  Set those down.” Helen said gesturing to the wine goblets.






*:  John Dreves, designer for Steuben Glass.  This is his classic ‘olive bowl’ he designed for the New York World’s Fair, 1939-1940.  They are still being made today; one may ‘buy one new’.


Saturday, October 26, 2013

Coy - Part Three - Breaking Through


Coy

Part Three

"I'm Breaking Through"

            “Now.” continued Helen, “Listen to me.”
            I look directly into her face.
            “Over there...” she said gesturing to the far left wall ...that had a dark wood (mahogany) rope leg late Sheraton (transitional late Sheraton-Empire;1840’s) ...medium sized drop leaf table centered against the wall.  (These, to be found in Maine sea captain’s homes, are a ‘nothing’.)  Centered on the top of the table was a... in striking contrast to the dark wood... large pedestal based opaque white ‘milk glass’ sawtooth patterned ‘early American pressed glass’ New England (Boston area) compote.  Both were below an English Sheraton mahogany looking glass (mirror) with a reverse glass painting of Mount Vernon at the top.  “... you can SEE my ANTIQUES.  I presume YOU know what those things are....”
            I nodded, after turning my head toward them and then back to face Helen.  “I do.” I said.
            “Do YOU understand that ...I... know what those objects are?”
            “I can understand that.”
            “Of course you can.  NOW... does that look CLUTTERED to you?”
            “No.”
            “It doesn’t to ME either.  Those; that TABLE and the compote ...below the mirror... were all put there by my great, great..., great, great; I think that’s right... GRANDMOTHER.  They have never been MOVED by anyone since she put them there.  THAT CHAIR your sitting in... has never been out of this room ever that I know of.  The old upholstery ...that EVERYONE sneers at me about... was put on there by that same woman.  WHY would I take it OFF I tell them.  GO take your great-great grandmother’s upholstery off YOUR OWN CHAIRS I tell them.  Do you understand me?”
            “Certainly I do.  This is a fine chair with a great Victorian upholstery.  That’s obvious to me.  Even the old (Victorian style attached) skirt is great.”
            “EXACTLY!  And it’s not for sale.  EVERYONE who comes IN HERE wants to BUY that you know.  It’s NOT to be thrown out either.  They think that compote is UGLY.  HOW do you think you know what UGLY IS I say.” Helen said continuing to gesture with her coffee mug across herself and toward the wall.
            We both had our eyes alight on a modest mound of small dark wood and old (19th century) stiff paper boxes on the floor to the left of the table.  “THAT IS CLUTTER?” Helen said.  “Those are my great GRANDMOTHR’S letters.  That’s not CLUTTER.  GO GET you own CLUTTER of your GRANDMOTHER’S LETTERS.  What’s the matter with these people?”
            “They don’t have that... this; the whole estate thing.  They don’t know it exists.”
            “Your not kidding”.
            “They think of only modern; in their modern view.  They’ve never seen this.  Even if its in a museum they don’t get it; they look at it for a few seconds and walk away.  They never live this.  I do.  I have.  All my life.”
            “THERE we are aren’t WE.  I could tell that RIGHT AWAY:  YOU KNOW.  They said that anyway.  But:  PROVE IT I say.  You LIKE the chair?”
            “Of course.  I’d buy it I a heartbeat.”
            “And you wouldn’t strip the upholstery off?”
            “No.  It’s one in a million; you’d never find that again.”
            “EXACTLY!  And you know that.  How did they FIND YOU?”
            “Ah...”
            “I don’t care.  So tell me what that is.” She said gesturing to the compote.
            “It’s a New England milk glass pedestal based compote in sawtooth pattern.  As early as 1840 but probably Civil War.  Classic”.
            “How much?”
            “Not that much.  No one knows what they are and they’re not around.”
            “Not around?”
            “Not around for sale; no one offering them.  They’re actually scarce but since no one knows what they are they don’t sell for much.”
            “REALLY”.
            “Really”.
            “Well I like it even if all of my friends tell me it’s ugly.”
            “That’s part of it too.  See... that they actually notice it AND comment on it shows, subliminally, that they DO take it in; that the compote’s positive art qualities attracts even those that think it’s ugly.  And they don’t know what they’re looking at either.  That’s all part of this... of what I do.  People think THEY have good taste when really... they don’t know anything at all about what they’re looking at.  I see it all the time.”
            “So you know what the table is too?”
            “Oh yeah.  And the looking glass.”
            “Looking glass.  My grandmother used to say that.  Well Mr. Pedestal Base... do you READ old letters too?”
            “That’s archival; documents... rare books.  Really a whole separate thing.  NOT that the pile of boxes over there isn’t attractive to me as an object.  But it’s the content; the archive is what that’s all about.”
            “You do that too?”
            “Of course.”
            “You read them?”
            “No... that’s for professionals... scholars... I just feel my way in... get a sense of the history content... of the historical importance... of an archive.  I’m sure there’s content in there.  Has to be.  And I’m sure you have more?  Family letters?”
            “Boxes and boxes of them.  MORE CLUTTER.  HA, ha, ha.”
            I was feeling more comfortable; feeling more in my element.  This IS what I do and the objects and query were easy; light pops of a tennis ball over a net that I could... lightly... and definitively... pop back.  “Pop, pop, pop” I could hear the ball.  I do this all the time.
            “How much IS that old chair worth?  HOW OLD IS IT ANYWAY?”
            Trick question?  On my guard... I should be?  “OK I’m not gonna buy it” went off inside my head. “PROMPTLY (respond) with cool-casual” were the internal instructions:  “Twenty-five hundred.”
            Twenty-five ....HUNDRED?”
            “Yes... right.”
            “Oh...  Well...”
            (Does this mean I’m too low... or too high?  A quandary within micro-second silence).
            “No one has ever said THAT much.  ONE said FIVE HUNDRED.  Eileen wouldn’t even SIT DOWN in that chair.  SO:  ...I will say ...PROVE IT.  Bet you don’t get THAT much!”
            (‘That much’?  Does she mean... not that much money for the chair... or the ‘prove it’ rebuttal coming from a client when I state an actual ‘high’ ‘price’?)  I didn’t address an answer but jumped tracks over to:
            “It’s 1780’s at the earliest and could have carried to 1810.  New England.  Maple.  Old finish.  Classic Marlboro (English influence decorated straight front leg).  Possibly Maine made.  Probably coastal New Hampshire; Portsmouth.  But... here I find it IN its original setting; original home; estate... with full family history of ownership... no problem right?   And the old upholstery.  FROM the family.  Done BY the family with an original Victorian covering... it appears... (I look down at the worn left arm rest to view old-older-oldest (?) upholstery UNDER ...and peeking through the Victorian fabric... as I speak) to be the original upholstery?  Or at least a much earlier upholstery.  Or both; TWO OLDER layers.  ...They’d love that.  Have a whole lecture-seminar on just THAT; the layers of cloth.  Won’t even MENTION the chair.  Just the fabric. I...”
            Stopped because Helen was looking at me as I looked up from the chair arm  “It’s over... I’m in.” my little inside voice said:  “I’m breaking through”.


Friday, October 25, 2013

Coy - Part Two - "My Feet Are Killing Me"


Coy

Part Two

"My Feet Are Killing Me"

            To my right ...was a closed door; the traditional... to these old sea captain’s mansions on the coast of Maine... door to the front parlor.  In the Savage estate, I learned soon enough, left handedness “carried”.  The door on the LEFT front of the front hall was wide open and a... thermal radiance flowed upon me from that room although the traditional solar radiance one found in the morning in the RIGHT front parlor was lacking.  Most of the room was in the shadow of the modest reach of sunlight found way to upper front... again... LEFT of the room.  A pair of large ‘over stuffed’... mangy... sun faded... front arms worn threadbare... olive green colored... upholstered nineteen thirties ‘wing chairs’ I could see ahead in the room and... greeted me ‘in there’.  Two steps to the doorway and a lightest of peeks within revealed a third... behind the doorway TO THE LEFT... straight legged... ‘Marlboro’... ‘ratty’... ‘old’ ...old finish on light (maple) hardwood ...Chippendale...; NEW ENGLAND Chippendale, ‘wing chair’ that was... about to become a ‘my chair’; the ‘chair I always sit in’ ‘when I come here’.  I am relating occurrence within a time lapse of fifteen to twenty seconds.
            That time lapse ended ...and ended any quandary I had yet to occasion... with a voice-off-in-the-distance boom of “I’M COMING SIT DOWN”.  I took that to mean ‘in there’; in the left front parlor... where the chairs that I could see were.  I entered.  I stood... and admit to furtively gazing in total review of the ‘good’ ‘antique’ ‘wing chair’ as ...dainty... foot steps brought a ...short, fat, summer fat person dressed... in a summer fat person dress... of floral pattern all-over-the-place... AND pearl necklace (real) into the room from its rear doorway (open).  This woman, wearing an old and crushed ‘old-lady-goes-to-church style hat on a wispy and combed FINE lightest brown hair above nerdy glasses, was waving a coffee mug sloppy full of “YOU DON’T WANT ANY I MADE IT MYSELF...INSTANT.”  She said.  She took a sip, looked at me and said “YUCK”.  And kept looking at me... as she scooted herself sideways and truly collapsed into the far-from-I ‘wing chair’... holding... in a waving around joust... the coffee as she... raised first one foot then the other and poked off her ...red leather old “healed” (her title) shoes with her opposite foot and said:
            “MY FEET ARE KILLING ME”.
            This is how I met Helen Savage Roth.
            “SIT DOWN” she said.
            I... did... by... without knowing it yet... appropriately... sliding to MY left ...and too... ‘collapsed’ into the old Chippendale wing chair.  I was... already... exhausted... by this ‘house call’?
            Maybe it was the hot air in the room mixing with the darkness of room shadow blinded by the upper left sunlight... or... maybe Helen’s aura haze... that included a variety of smells that ranged from nutmeg to cat box, lavender to arm pit, bleach to attic and ...I just couldn’t stop my nose from sniffing ‘it all’.  My nose conclusion?  “VICTORIAN” ... “ESTATE”... “RICH PEOPLE”.  My nose calls a smell a spade.  Faster than I can... so I, the man behind this nose... was woozy.
            Helen was not woozy and did not let go of her grip on me.  I’d been flanked... both personally and professionally.  She over ran my me, my myself, my position and ...ransacked my camp.  I knew as this happened ‘why’ the ‘other appraiser’ had been thrown out.  It was perfectly obvious and there was nothing at all I could muster to fight back against... smells of ‘lavender to cat box’, the instant coffee, her shoes, her ...puffy pink toes that poked out of her pink puffy foot fat AT ME... in an... erotic overture?
            I’m used to being ‘hammered’ on ‘cold’ ‘first meetings’ but... this woman knew her way around the deck of that boat... like I had no idea and FIFTEEN YEARS LATER I am STILL ‘learning’ of her ‘marked ability’.
            Where is Eileen Fisher in all of this?  She’s about to arrive.  FIFTEEN YEARS LATER ... as I returned from Helen’s ... ‘that morning’ with the teapots and glasses... finding that New Yorker article at my place... was no accident... or ‘light read’.
            “Stand up again please I want to LOOK at you.” Helen said.
            I did... upright in front of the Chippendale ‘wing chair’.
            UP... went her eyes... then DOWN went her eyes... with the coffee mug ...in her left hand... hanging in the air. “What... GYM do you go too?” she asked
            “Gym?”
            “You ...EXERCISE ...like I’m SUPPOSE TO.”
            “Exercise?”
            “YOUR FIT:  WHAT DO YOU DO?”
            “I ah... well...”
            “EXERCISE.  WHAT?”
            “I ah... cut down trees?  With a chain saw.  And haul the wood out.”
            “You cut down trees?  WHERE?
            “On our farm”.
            “FARM:  NOW we’re getting somewhere.  NOBODY told me THAT.”
            “That.”
            “That your FIT.  I thought you’d be one of those SOFT men:  YOU KNOW:  a GLASS AND CHINA man.  They all said you were SO GOOD with all that.  I didn’t figure you’d cut down TREES. AND THAT’S what I’m looking for.”
            “Looking for?”
            “YOU WERE SENT HERE.  What do I know what’s gonna TURN UP from THOSE IDIOTS at the bank.  WHO IS THIS I SAID.  “VERY GOOD” they all said about you.  BUT REALLY:  I don’t WANT YOU HERE.”
            “Then I should leave?”
            “NO:  Your just getting INTERESTING.  Sit down.  NICELY DRESSED.  It’s not brand new either.  YOU ALWAYS WEAR THAT?”
            “Today?  This?.  Pretty much... always.”
            “GOOD.  I like that.”
            I went way off my defensive status and flashed back to earlier that morning when I was ironing the shirt I was wearing.  It is (for it still be) a veteran-to-I Brooks Bros. Oxford button down... that had its collar so worn in usage life round one... that I had the collar reversed and... while ironing it that morning... I had gone over a ‘well ok but maybe this is the last time for this one I think you can see the fraying but I’m wearing a jacket so you can’t I can get away with this one but probably gonna have to give it up don’t forget that cuff button’s sewn on with red thread’... ‘wardrobe discussion’.  I still wear this shirt... and wear it to attend Helen... fifteen years later.




            “NOW HOW can I get RID OF YOU?” said Helen.
            That smacked me back from my red cuff button thread trepidation.
            “Do you know HOW you got here?” she continued.
            “I drove.”
            A silent pause followed... with Helen’s scowl shooting straight at me.
            “LOOK SHARP TACK; they say your that.  DO YOU KNOW WHY you’re here?  NO.  You don’t.  That’s because NOBODY knows why you’re here.
            Another pause with Helen holding her coffee cup up and off to the left with her head slightly down and looking over the top of her glasses.  At me.
            “I... USUALLY... am hired for estate contents ...inspections.”
            “APPRAISALS.  I don’t WANT an appraisal.  I don’t NEED an appraisal.  I TOLD THAT BANK THAT.  They said OK.  SO HOW... HOW... did you GET HERE?
            “Your lawyer I...”
            “THEIR lawyer... FOR ME... they say; that IDIOT BANK.  WHOSE BANK ARE YOU I say.  IDIOTS.  In suits.  STAND UP AGAIN!”
            I did.
            “I LIKE THAT.”
            I remained standing.
            “PLEASE... sit down” she said.
            I didn’t know this at the time but I was now immersed in the character of Helen’s most ...usual... and normal... way of managing her relations with, well... everyone.  Helen would say or do ‘one thing’ and then jump to say or do the exact opposite... with both... being DIRECTED at the current ‘you’ in front of her; banks, lawyers, neighbors, local women, appraisers from town, people’s dogs and ...I.  It is a defensive fa├žade?  It is too real for that.  It is a fortification; Fort Helen... with Helen... a very “sharp tack” Helen, living within ...Fort Helen.  She looks over her ramparts... down at you.  I sat back down.
            “YOU HUNT DEER don’t YOU.”
            “I... ah”
            “DO.  MEN HUNT DEER.”
            “Ah... OK.”
            “NOW... I’m a DEER being HUNTED by that IDIOT BANK.  I’m not a stupid deer.  I can SEE the HUNTERS COMING.  They see me here off in the distance.  They can’t REALLY SEE ME because all they can see is some PAPERS with my BALANCE on it and MY BIRTH DATE.  They think I’m gonna DIE.  They look at those papers.  They sit down there in BOSTON smacking their lips and rubbing their hands together.  THEY WOULDN’T EVEN be SITTING THERE if it weren’t for my great, great, GREATER GREAT GRANDFATHER.  GET AWAY FROM ME I say; I’m NOT GONNA DIE.  YET.”
            I said nothing and looked directly at the nerd glasses covering Helen’s eyes.  She was looking directly at my eyes.  Is she mad as a hornet?  Or ‘as crazy as a... shit house rat’?  This last would become a foundation-to-my-ears expression from Helen... generally applied to ...everyone and every situation:  “CRAZY AS A SHIT HOUSE RAT” was here first delivered to me prefixed with “THEY” (her bank in Boston) “THINK I’M AS”.
            I said nothing.
            “THEY SENT EILEEN FISHER UP HERE to APPRAISE ME.  Do you know WHO Eileen Fisher is?”
            “Ah... the designer; women’s clothes?”
            “RIGHT!  They send this woman from that SEA LAVENDER STORE up here.  THAT WOMAN; she’s SUPPOSE to be an APPRAISER.  COMES UP HERE.  SENT FROM THAT BANK.  She comes in here DRESSED in Eileen Fisher.  You know; little nothing ass next to my BIG ASS.  Won’t sit down.  STANDS HERE.  Starts saying I’m a CLUTTER BUG.  TOO MUCH CLUTTER she says.  I HAVE too much clutter she says.  I tell her that its not even MY stuff so shut-up Eileen.  She says her name’s not Eileen and it is TOO my stuff.  I say look here EILEEN this is FAMILY stuff.  From MY FAMILY.  What kind of FAMILY do YOU HAVE Eileen I say.  She just looks at me.  Where’d you come from Eileen I say.  She says NEW YORK.  OH I say; NEW YORK CITY?  NO she says.  WHERE I SAY.  Westchester she says.  WHERE in WESTCHESTER I SAY ...Eileen.  Greenacres Eileen says smug as uncut cantaloupe.  Oh I say; isn’t that NICE... your from the NORHT END of SCARSDALE... next to WHITE PLAINS.  HOW’D you get up HERE from THERE I say.  OH don’t she just STAND THERE.  THINKS I’ve NEVER BEEN to SCARSDALE did she.  TAKE OFF Partridge BEFORE I SHOOT YOU I tell her.  That’s the last I’ve seen of Eileen.  She told that lawyer I’m as crazy as a shit house rat."