Friday, January 2, 2015

My Antique Man

My Antique Man

            Yesterday morning I was called out by the secretarial staff of our antiquarian firm to be ‘needed’ to write an answer to a good and regular internet customer’s email query for a (price) “break” (“discount”) on his purchase of three items.  I have to do this sort of paddle-ball email-“price-for-me”-discount answering all the time.  I word processed, copied, pasted, clicked ‘send’ and... couldn’t stop thinking about ‘it’; what I tried to explain in the message.  Sort of.  My note is below:

“Thank you for your note.  We will not discount your three purchases.  Generally, our (internet sale service) listings are estate consignments of single items from single owners.  The sale proceeds, less shipping and our ten percent service charge, are returned to the consigning estate for distribution to the heirs.  For example, the funds from the (specific purchased item for $85.00), less shipping and our $8.50, are distributed from the estate to, in this case, four heirs.  Probably each heir will get about $15.00 from this sale.  Generally, we, acting for the estate, do not discount or accept an ‘offer’.  We do tell the estate about any ‘offer’. 
Further, and candidly, we add that a larger group of our consigners are older people; ‘seniors’, who we have professionally known and done business with often for over forty years.  Now aged and having moved to some status of senior living, their homes having been sold, their children caring for them but not caring about their ‘old things’ we broker items that they have clutched-to-the-end.  They have often smuggled their ‘old things’ to their new quarters and hide them away in boxes, etc.  For this growing group, we are often the ‘only people’ they can ‘trust’ or feel ‘care’.  Your purchase of the (specific purchased item #2) is a typical example.  It is from a woman in her eighties in senior living in Kennebunkport.  The proceeds of the sale, less our (often ‘flexible’ in these cases) commission and the shipping, will give her ‘a little money in her purse’ when she goes out with the other women at the living center.  We are confident you can sense the wholeness here.  We do add that we do garner truly ‘old estate’ items from ‘doing this.  The process is more light hearted than it sounds but ‘beating them down’ on price we do not do.  Thank you for your continuing interest and purchases.  Thank you.”  

            I first heard the words “the antique man” and “my antique man” before I was of any age.  Those utterances from my grandmother or mother referred to a man who came to the (farm) house in a pickup truck fairly often.  This was about 1960.  It was before that date and after that date.  In 1960 there still was an ‘antique man’ “around”.  Today they are called “DEALERS”.  This is short for ‘antiques dealer’.  Right here I require that the reader notice the title is ‘antique’ man,  It is not ‘antiques’ man.  It is crucial to understand this.  The former is an old New England occupational declaration.  The latter is its modern bastardization.  It is that simple.

            The expression ‘antique man’ with the personal attachment of ‘my’ or the title declaration of ‘the’ was a ‘once the way it was’.  I grew up to the title.  I became that title.  I remember it all very clearly.
            My first hearings were complicated by not being quite clear what an ‘antique’ man did and what was the ‘antique’ anyway.  The latter was defined soon; ‘antique’ means ‘old stuff’.  The former I did personally define after a while and still find it is ‘little known’ by “anyone” even though I have ‘gone on’ to be very,
            VERY clear about what an ‘antique man’ does.  This brings us back to the email above.  That email is a very brief sketch of what an ‘antique man’ does.  This means the ‘once the way it was’ ‘antique man’.  It does not mean the modern bastardization, the ‘antiques dealer’ or the “DEALER”.  It is that simple.

            When the antique man came to the house he and my grandmother and mother spent the whole time looking at, moving, looking at again and... moving again ‘old stuff’.  Again and again.  The one would sell to the other or the other would sell to the one or the preferred state of one ‘swapping’  to the other or so... or more... or “maybe” or “OH GO ON with ME; USE ME RIGHT”... transpired.  The preferred result at the house was a few newly acquired objects went INTO the house and were displayed while the ‘pile of old stuff’ in the BARN was ‘reduced’.  This space was never ‘empty’.  What I just wrote out happened every time the antique man came in his truck.  Because my grandmother and mother were ‘active’ in gathering ‘old stuff’, the antique man did come often too.  He too was ‘active’.

            One, in a community, did not ponder an ‘active’ antique man.  He was there if one needed him.  Everyone knew him, knew of him and knew of a ‘some sort of’ dealings’ related to ‘old stuff’ ‘he did’.  Where he was ‘now’ was known so one ‘asked around’ and found him ‘quick’.  He (the antique man) was quick.  Right over, right there, this-that-and another then... gone.  In his truck.  “Appears to be a busy fellow”.  “Always up to something with all that ‘old stuff’ ‘he likes’.

            Our antique man always ‘come right along’.  For example, he ‘knew’ that my grandmother ‘had dealings’ with the local ministers who, too, I learned, were ‘active’ in ‘gathering’ ‘old stuff’.  But, I LATER configured from ...actual work experience... that these fellows had ‘difficulty’ bringing their ‘pig to market’... so to speak.  My grandmother was both friendly and understanding about ‘their difficulty’ so would ‘help them’.  Our antique man understood this never, ever, ever mentioned... source... of ‘old stuff’ and ‘helped’ my grandmother with her helping the ministers.  HE (the antique man) added the nuance that he always seemed to have a ...very large very old pewter ‘plate’ (charger; a serving plate or patter) tucked behind the seat of his truck.  When he ‘happened by’.
            “It IS a wonderful one (old pewter charger)”.  “See the London (English) hallmarks”.  Smitten, my grandmother ‘hauled that away’ to her ‘kitchen’.  The antique man would, too, ‘haul away’.  That always worked ‘fine’ ‘for everyone’.

            Occasionally an ‘old stuff’ was so old and so ‘therefore good’ that my grandmother and the antique man would make a pack that he’d “take it down to the coast and see what they say”.  The two of them would be sure to have a concise ‘plan’ before departure.  There was no text messaging... ‘back then’.  This ‘trade’ always seemed to work well for often times after the antique man left from his return visit to our house... from the coast... and finished the relation of the ...always more than just ‘interesting’ to ME... story of his travel tale to the coast AND... finished  the commercial settlement and distribution of the proceeds from... that trip to the coast... my grandmother would say something like ‘Can you BELIEVE he SOLD THAT (old what ever she ‘took off’ of ‘that old so and so’) (‘old crow bait of a minister’) for THAT!’.
            Later on I got to know
            A lot
            Of ‘old so and so old crow bait of a minister’

            That’s where I first heard the ‘antique man’ being used about me... to me.  These women... in their farm house kitchens, would say as to “HOW” “YOU  are”  “MARY’S BOY’ and are ‘becoming quite the ANTIQUE MAN”.  It may not seem so, but one DOES remember having these women stay that to  That up-graded to “YOU” ‘be a ANTIQUE MAN’.  That up-graded to “HEAR YOU’RE A PRETTY FAIR antique man”.  This is in the THEIR farm kitchen.  Farm yard.  Shed doorway.  Front doorway.  Front parlor.  Attic.  Barn loft.  Shed chamber.  Down cellar or... a... the whole... “my mother’s place she died you know’.
            “JUST WANT YOU TO LOOK at that FOR ME (a tall clock)
           Of course today I have the cell phone.  The computer.  And.  They do too.
            “THAT’S ALL BUY-IT-NOW; they have to PAY that PRICE.  THEY PAY BY COMPUTER.”
            “Imagine that”.
            “I’ll bring the money by.”
            “Oh thank you.”

            I am, actually, sort of like the old milkman with my truck and the metal cage filled with glass milk bottles that I am about set outside the farm house door until just as I get to that door it opens and I am greeted with robust “WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN WE HAVE TO TALK COME IN”.  Someone’s
            Been looking for a little money up in their attic?”
            “I’ll TAKE YOU UP THERE TO SEE IT.”
            “What about that CHEST we were SPEAKING ABOUT THE LAST TIME; the one UP ABOVE in the SHED.
            “HOW DO YOU remember THAT’S UP THERE”.
            “That’s my job.”

            Some days it’s Camden.
            Some days it’s Kittery.
            (“YOU ever go over to PORTMOUTH?”)
            (“Well... sometimes I SNEAK across the BORDER” [into New Hampshire]).
            Some days it’s Deering.
            Some days its Standish
            Some days it’s BOOTHBAY.
            (“Pretty closed up down there now?”)
            (“No.  It’s not like it used to be down there.  Plenty of people around.”)
            Some days it’s South Paris.
            Some days it’s “way up there you know” Milo.
            Some days it’s....:
            “When it gets a little warmer I want you to take me down (to her old house) and I want us to look around together.  Just the two of us.  I still have my KEY so I can let you IN THERE.  I know there are THINGS you want.  You’ve been in before I know.  But now.  Well.  They’ve moved me HERE and none of THAT’S gonna FIT.  Might as well let you SELL IT.  Be the BEST.  I guess.  Not that I WANT to sell it.”

            I look into a lot of eyes
            And those eyes look into my eyes
            An antique man does not wear eyes on a cuff.  They are worn eye to eye.
            With all of the old in-town stops, the old farm kitchens stops and... the ‘please sign in at the desk’
            Senior living.
            There really is not a day that I, the antique man, am not ‘right out straight’.

1 comment:

  1. Over years, learn, inquire and study, operate as a BUSINESS, show consistency, have a mode (not code)of conduct and ethical behavior, be forthright yet professionally polite, have good appearance, identify what you do and plan to do, bring out MR. WALLET as applicable, continue being the ANTIQUE MAN. Don't be the yuppyesque, antiques lifestyler, smart-ass, fast talking, know nothing, who only exists because his/her spouse is a school administrator carrying the financial ball for the failing (failed) antique"S" business.