Tuesday, October 25, 2016

They Vacuum the Alamo


Fifty-five years ago, I spent 13 days in a cardboard box in my backyard. I wore a coonskin cap and peered over the edge of the box. I clutched a treasured and venerable toy flintlock rifle I had convinced my parents to purchase for me at Gettysburg. I scanned the green yard, was shot at and returned fire. Periodically, at the height of battle, the box overturned and I fought hand to hand on the grass. I do not recall loosing the battle, being killed or becoming a captive to be eviscerated alive the next day. I defended the Alamo with all my honor and guts. Through the haze of discharged percussion caps and various dinner calls, it has become vague to me as to whether the time elapsed was exactly thirteen days. I do remain assured that MY re-enactment of the historic conflict was devastatingly accurate.


A decade later, my imagination had traveled to more restricted visions of the world and I became an antiques dealer, a rare books dealer. I retained a nagging habit of preferring American history in ancient print or curious artifact, but my commercial instincts kept my passion for Davy Crockett’s ANYTHING concealed. I became a very good antiques and rare books dealer for the next forty-five years and remain one today. I still fall deeply in love with American History and my ...imagination. Or what’s left of it.


In the course of the rare books business, I was offered an opportunity to travel to San Antonio to... buy and sell rare books. We specialize in Western American History known as “Western Americana”. We hate “old books” preferring to deal in “source documents”, the seemingly trivial slips of paper that historians prowl through to “write books”. We buy and sell the footnotes of American History.


“San Antonio is where the Alamo is, I can go there.” I thought to myself. I loaded my wife and daughter and we were soon eating Frijitas on the street. I had to “check-in” at the trade fair as well as contact the few experts with whom I deal that were anticipating my arrival. We find the “rare books” in old barns in Maine and sell them to the “higher calling”. We, I suppose, are at the bottom of the food chain of American Western History. I have altered this somewhat by attracting the attention of numerous individuals who... “know what they are doing”. This provides for the payment of the cost of bringing the family to see... “The Alamo”. It is “The Alamo”. My then five year old daughter will be glad to explain this to you if you don’t have enough... imagination.


After breakfast on the second day, I scheduled our visit. It was a cool morning and we approached from the far side, on foot, away from the tourist army’s route. The village is more run down in this direction. People sit huddled on park benches guarding shopping carts filled with worldly processions. There is a large and transposed post office with a Woolworth’s kitty-corner from it on this approach. We went in both. Both are upon bloody ground. The post office is where the bodies were burned.


We arrived ten minutes before the opening so wandered the streets peering at the exterior architecture and landscaping. Both are subtle and fine, having now lived sixty years in this format so that the little weeds and patina of time has blended the fortification into a charming whole. If you don’t like my use of “fortification”, you may substitute “church”. At the Alamo, one must remember these words are interchangeable. These past sixty years represent an extraordinary period of stability for the structure and landscape. I believe it is the longest time it has ever been the same... ever.


I wanted to be a little misty on my tour so was gratified that only the fewest others arrived. Several couples took photographs of each other, a Texas Lawman tended to the locks and gates. I read the sign requesting “men” remove hats. Shouldn’t that be “persons”? I crossed the worn brass line that Travis drew with his sword. I would stay until death.


When we were admitted, my daughter and I rushed to our right and peeked in the room where the surviving women and children hid. Then we peeked in every other room. Then every display case. The exhibition space in the Alamo has been cleaned up since the early days. They’ve removed all the curiosities that used to be mounded about. As an antiques dealer who hates clutter... I have mixed emotions about this clean, minimal display. My daughter and I both read the “DO NOT TOUCH THE WALLS” signs. We both looked at the walls.
Then we looked at Davy Crockett’s rifle, so inscribed, “presented 1822” at Nashville. The stock was not broken. He did not die clubbing anyone with that gun. After my battle in the cardboard box, my rifle had its stock broken. I mourned this for several days and then concluded that it was MORE authentic because... Davy’s was broken... too. It was several decades later that I finally realized that Crockett had more than one, in fact, many... “guns”. Periodically one of these is bought and sold out in antiques land.


Then we left the room, which it is; a room. We, as a family, walked the enclosed grounds. Sixty years has grown into a bewitching tour of Pecan trees, cactus, foot paths and very modest use. The visitor comes, peeks and splits. The local traffic bee-lines from one end to the other. An occasional young child touches a mounted cannon barrel or drinking fountain. The service systems are concealed from view.


There is no trash and everything has a sign explaining all. A Yucca growing in a drainage ditch was a major aberration. The wind had overturned a potted tree. Two women attendants surveyed the situation and called in a male to correct this promptly. Our family covered every foot path in detail. It was very refreshing. No one else seemed to care.


I carefully choreographed the excursion to conclude at the “museum - gift shop”, something most other visitors bee-line to directly through the side door. We approached along the deserted side with the Yucca in the drainage ditch. When we entered I was gratified to be greeted by cased curiosities and clutter. They’ve preserved some of that old style museum display and intermingled it with the trashy souvenirs. In the center is a stunning miniature diorama of the battle, also in a glass case. Meticulously constructed by an obvious freak who made my childhood imagination look like an empty cereal box, both my daughter and I concluded it would be “fun to make”, her words. It was also fun to view from all four sides but I kept being distracted by a higher calling; the trashy souvenirs.


My taste is not as good as yours, nor are my sensibilities. Having spent fifty years buying and selling the material oblivion of our various civilizations on earth, usually found at the back of YOUR garage and bought for nothing except shrewd Yankee diction by ME... I really don’t have much patience for ...YOUR taste. The faux-pas of “The Alamo”… for many… would be this seeming disparity of intermingling charming historic site, grounds and artifact with... trashy souvenirs. Not for me. I looked at the display case housing a large blue historical Staffordshire “Texan Campaign” soup tureen. Why... I’d just sold a bigger and better platter to one of the “knowledgeable” at the trade fair. My glazed euphoria turned to the opportunity of …trashy souvenirs. Let the others dwell on historic object of virtue. I wanted a snowdome.


I reviewed everything, from one end to the other. Then I made a long purchasing mud run down the counter being serviced by a Texan College girl. She has taste and sensibilities so my selection of the most, most, trashy, trashy were... foul… until it cut-in that I was buying consistently. At that point I became a preferred client an she shooed other trivial sales away while attending to my “big” sale. The moment of the collapse of the Alamo came at the end of the counter when I requested a price and to inspect one of four ceramic tea pots “hand painted” in the shape of... The.


They weren’t priced. They weren’t on the computer sheet. I was the first person to inquire about them… in this century. The matronly lady in charge didn’t know. The ancient, in-house, aging duff, souvenir expert reviewed the crisis. They, as we say in the trade, “flipped” a price. I bought. They rearrange the remaining three specimens. They boxed mine. They muttered about the teapot, the price, then adjusted the arrangement again. Remember; I had already sold a better piece of historic Texan “china”. It was “antique”. For me to acquire this obvious rarity in the shape of The Alamo is all in a days work. They have three left (?).


Then we departed. I looked back at the structure. Looking forward, we watched a school bus disgorge a load of screaming children. “Good thing we got here early.” said my daughter. We crossed the street and walked down it, past the Woolworth’s. Half way down a street barker in Western wear extolled the “special effects” inside their ...store. A large cannon outside this store went off as we walked by. It scared the entrails out of my daughter and wife. My daughter started to cry. A few steps later… during this crisis… a gigantic dinosaur loomed in motion and growled from behind its window display. All of my daughter's systems broke down and we scurried out of danger, managing to calm her down on a tranquil street corner above the Riverwalk. “Never” go there again, I was instructed. We didn’t, for the rest of the day.


I had to go be a rare books dealer. I was more pleased with my teapot. I was greeted by the knowledgeable who wanted to know... “what” I “had”. Rare Western History, unlike rare Western Books, does not take up much space so I had “it” slung over my shoulder. A few commercial moments later, I no longer had “it” and had “a check”. That took up even less space. For the rest of the trade fair I “talked shop” with various “knowledgeable” and numerous not so knowledgeable whom I ...suffered. I read a guide to San Antonio, looked up places on my map and held a round table with any... “client”.


Back at the “museum - gift shop” I had discovered a display by the staff offering a folding cardboard mock-up of The Alamo filled with blue and brown plastic soldiers (the brown are the “Americans”) and a metal cannon that is also a pencil sharpener. It was so... accurate and… my daughter was so... that I purchase two “sets”; one for her and one for the cousin, a male. This required purchasing three separate productions to complete the each package. The cannon pencil sharpener came in its own box. The cardboard fort was a “for the Museum store” only production. The soldiers included “accurate” historic representation of Crockett, Bowie, Travis and the lone Mexican General, Santa Anna. My daughter began playing with hers in the hotel room as I departed for the rare books fair.


Since I had sold all but eight tid-bits of my travel stock of Western Americana, my booth (I prefer “stall”) was a little sparse for display. To counter this I purchased a TEXAS MONTHLY and a quart of seltzer that, along with “my card”, I filled out my display. As this residue would not entertain many for long, I spent my time in other floor trader’s more amply stocked booths. The “knowledgeable” to whom I sold the platter provided a clear view of my stall so I resided there. He entertained numerous “prominent collectors” of, principally, “Tex-iana”. At one point he offered one a fine and truly rare Texas map. The collector discussed the nuisance of framed display in his office. The Alamo WAS on the map, I observed. Sales pitches and superlatives were offered by the “Knowledgeable”. The collector’s wife appeared burdened with large, full shopping bags, collected from the surrounding stores. The “deal”, to no ones surprise, fell through. “I’ll get a call in a couple of days.” said my "knowledgeable" friend.


We both watched a women pick up the MONTHLY over in my booth. “I bought my daughter a plastic mock-up of the Alamo.” I said. “The cannon is a pencil sharpener”.
“Your incredible.” he replied. I’d already told him about the tureen but... not my teapot.
“Look, when you were that age you would have peed your pants for that set and today you sell fat Texas Boys fat Texas maps”.
“I like to think I’ve made progress.” he said, but this was annotated by a look indicating I had successfully stormed the walls of his inner Alamo and ... eviscerated him alive. He HAD once... once owned a... metal cannon. His was not a pencil sharper. But now he’s too “knowledgeable” for that.


When I sell these... people; these wandering souls, my treasure, my tid-bits of Davy’s (et al) souls of American History, I must relinquish my hold on the object but I never give up MY wandering soul of acquisition. The Alamo and Davy have always alluded my search for history; I have never found a “rare book” about Crockett, except once.


Decades ago, when my wife and I were just married, my brother was on leave from a military college. Although out of uniform, his behavior continued per schooling. He suggested we, as a group, “4-wheel” into a remote hilltop farm in remote rural Maine to see if “there was anything left in it”. Anything left meant anything we, as antiques dealers, could discover and sell amongst the residue of this abandoned farm. Our odds were good that it “had something” for it was extremely remote and one had to be very much in the know TO know it existed. We were very much in the know because we knew why the farm was way out there in the first place.


Back when rural was wild and civilization was less accommodating to family crisis, a retarded child was not offered community support, particularly in rural Maine. Space was plentiful and it was not uncommon for a family to resolve the situation by constructing a very rural home for this retarded child. There, it could not hurt anyone and still live out existence in a direct ratio with space and time. The family would support this “farm” for the decades of life. Then abandon it, for, it was truly remote. In fact, it would be unlikely that one would even know about such secluded farms unless... one was an insider. In our case, my grandfather’s role in both birth and death of this child allowed us a historic overview of the farm. We had already purchased “the estate” years ago. Markets change and trash becomes treasure. Another visit to a farm frequented only by hunters and porcupines would not be amiss.


In we went. We got stuck half way in, a feature of 4-wheeling that is a must. My brother liked this the best but tagged along as we walked the last miles in crisp November air. The farm lay desolate. We wandered each building and gathered a small mound of detritus that was... “salable”. For those who prefer decorative arts, I was smitten with the Country Queen Anne drop-leaf table, lacking leaves and having its legs cut off at the knees to become a plant stand on the front porch. This artifact had been further embellished by the chewing of porcupines. Today, I am confident it is displayed as an “exceptional” coffee table, “totally original”, which... it is. May I observe that these “second homes” in rural Maine were never furnished “new”. They always brought all the “old” things there, so... for the antiques buff, they are an unmatched source. In many cases, particularly if the family supporting the farm was from the Victorian agrarian aristocracy, they used these farms as a giant attic.


As I stood in this home’s attic, I looked down at a torn pamphlet. It was torn nearly in half. “GO AHEAD. DAVY CROCKETT’S ALMANACK OF WILD SPORTS IN THE WEST AND LIFE IN THE BACKWOODS CIRCULATED IN ALL THE STATES OF THE UNION 1836”, this embellished with a woodcut of Crockett crossing a river on stilts, carry gun and having a steamboat in the background. I bent down, picked it up, folded it and put it in my pocket. It lay in my various mounds for numerous years. I looked at in sentimentally many times. It always made me recall the crisp November walk. I don’t become sentimental with material oblivion for... I’m a dealer.


Periodically someone would want to purchase this... artifact. I would offer it for ten dollars and they would “pass”. I discerned it was a... “rare book”; number 39 on the Grolier Club’s ONE HUNDRED INFLUENTIAL AMERICAN BOOKS. I would look at Davy every now and then. He would look back. He was Davy, I was a dealer. Eventually two “knowledgeable” from Vermont were “buying a load” one afternoon and asked about Davy. “A dollar” I said and away he went. We had finished our affair; our love for each other, for the moment, but we would meet again. My ageing and desperate antiquarian soul has always wandered with such love affairs on material earth.


Back at the trade fair, I left the booth of the “knowledgeable” and returned to mine. I, as one now may denote, hold my hallowed ground rather well in these circles for I have a certain background expertise that they... lack. A few visits to an abandoned farm in abandoned Maine and... they’ll get the idea, won’t they. When the fair ended, I packed up my residue and TEXAS MONTHLY then left. I wouldn’t read the magazine until I was on the plane. When I did I was very surprised to find the Alamo mock-up reviewed for a full page as very “authentic” as plastic soldiers go. And I mean a full page, including color illustrations.


I discovered upon return to the hotel that… my daughter was unwilling to leave the exploding cannon and growling dinosaur alone. We had to make repeated visits to be distant voyeurs of these atrocities. At each visit, we would position ourselves on a safe street corner and peer at the removed forces in action. The dinosaur never ate any children. The cannon never killed any bystanders. My daughter remained fearful of approach. I, on each visit, got to peek at the Alamo.


When we first went in the door on our visit and dashed from the first room to the opposite side of the main room, I was stunned as I observed promptly that... The Alamo had been vacuumed. I notice these things because I am always in very old buildings that HAVE NEVER BEEN VACUUMED. I said “The Alamo has been vacuumed” to no one in particular. It is immaculately vacuumed, a better job than I'VE ever done to anything. Every crack, every crevasse, every bit of coonskin cap fur has been sucked away. This, as the restoration goes, is a most impressive feature of ...human filth and its arbitration by other humans. The Alamo is always being arbitrated by humans.


During the trade fair, in the hotel room, my wife had said “They want to take the Alamo away from the Daughters. There’s an article about it in the paper. Do you want to read it?”.


“No.” I replied for I was not listening and was too busy planning how to squeeze the last dollar out of some last piece of Western History. I vaguely understood the issue. The Daughters of the Republic of Texas own the Alamo. THEY vacuum it. They let YOU in, sans hat. Various armies, either State or National “park” forces feel that a better job could be done, this defined in trivial points that fail to reach my lay interest. These forces want the small resistance band to surrender the property. They are in arbitration at ...The Alamo. The situation is historically correct. There is a siege at the Alamo, 185 humans are surrounded by superincumbent humans, at least 25,000 in number. The padlock on the display case of Davy’s rifle has been unlocked. The ancient cannon barrels have been positioned to point at the door. A cache has been dug to hide the gift shop stock. It, the coming battle, will be very bloody. No one will survive and in the end, the bodies will be burned at the deserted Post Office.


We could not get my daughter away from the Dinosaur and cannon. On the last evening, at dusk, we made our final visit. I insisted we take higher ground for observation, flanking the usual street corner for a centralize vista within the Plaza, directly opposite the two evils and, for my benefit, having the front lit Alamo to our rear. We stood holding our daughter’s hands. The Dinosaur reared, growled, menaced the passing crowds with it tiny hands, over and over. “I’m not afraid anymore because Dinosaurs are extinct” appraised my daughter. The cannon discharged with inconclusive results, apparently killing no one. A few were startled. My daughter remained unwilling to approach either. I turned to gather my last vista. The cannon smoke whist across the plaza. A Texas lawman checked the locked door. Couples took photographs of each other. The flash from their cameras reflected on Travis’ brass line. The reflection from this crossed the faces peering over the top rim of the Alamo. Women’s faces, many wearing bandannas around their heads. Wet bandannas soaked in water to keep off the grime of musket fire. They waved a small, hand sewn flag I did not recognize, its symbol undefined by history... yet. The arbitration would become a bloody battle on hallowed ground with eviscerated bodies burning afterward. Perhaps they’ll make a snowdome of it.


We returned home, to Maine. I was on the telephone acquiring more Western History at a nominal price. My daughter and a friend were in the other room playing with the mock-up Alamo. Occasional growling, loud and sustained came from their play. I could not see the battle. Eventually this growling defied my complacency and I peeked in. The blue Mexican army was intermingled with the brown “Americans” on the edges of the Alamo interior. Across a vista stood the pencil sharpener cannon and a large plastic dinosaur. Periodically this dinosaur would rush the fortification and devour a blue or brown human. The remaining army would drive him back until they, in turn, were driven back by the cannon. It was devastatingly accurate. This siege continues. It is in its eleventh day as I write.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Roughshod - Part Three - "Rancid"


Roughshod

Part Three

"Rancid"



            If the culture (Part Two, at the end) is (vague suggested framed) empty
            And the empty is rancid...
            And the rancid is the precious
            That defines the culture...
            Where is the old New England home?
            At the beach?
            “My flip-flops”.




            That is what it is:
            Your flips and your flops.  Baby sitted.  Needy.  As chairperson of your board of committee to decide the ‘could be I think I like’ as postulation lending to position and leading to an action that has no substance, heritage or foundation of anything at all in your new old New England home:  You are the dust buster sucking the dusts of soul out of the last cushion corners of the old New England home’s new “sofa”.  You have achieved ‘good riddance’.  Vanquish the rancid residue of the last of old New England and its homes.  Close them up and comeback
            Next summer.
            “The carpenters are redoing the WALLS this WINTER”.  The carpenters sold me the “TRASH” in the “ATTIC” you “THROW OUT THAT”.
            They are no fools.  Fiendishly empty they made sure of your house.  Not home; an empty house.  “We may want to retire here but we don’t know yet”.  I like that:  Appropriately vague.  A little roughshod.  But a declaration.  None the less.
            You are not in New England and you do not have an old New England home.  You do not have antiques... for yourself or for your house.  What you have are not antiques.  I told you before (Part One).  They are “I like”.




            When I first discovered for myself that old New England homes “were” and “stood” and... well... one such as I could walk by them on the street’s sidewalk and peek at them.  I thought.
            I did not feel... although all this was feeling.  I did think... I think; an “I think”?  No... not quite.  I did not say “I like”.  It was, the homes to me, “vague”.  And I knew they were rancid.  I knew that because I lived in one; an old New England home... and it was rancid.  Generations of rancid.  I grew up in that filth.  I learned to walk by those homes of filth.  I learned to peek at them.  Every day was a Halloween and every night was Witches.  In old New England homes.  But that was buried in the filth.
            What I grew up in no one ever mentioned “painting the (interior) walls” ever.  That was just never done; painting walls or mentioning doing that.  Once every one hundred years... and mostly so old that it was “wallpaper” anyway.  Old... brown... filthy... water stained, peeling... “wall paper” with the “trim” “last painted”... during World War One.  Actually... before... World War One.  The wall paper and painted trim were “always that way”.  And one couldn’t tell this or care because the rooms were “full”.  Anyway.





            The rooms were ‘full of antiques’.  I know now.  All kinds of old and... very old... and even ‘very old older’... rancid... filth.  The chair that my great grandmother died in was ‘still there exactly the same’... as like... “from the Civil War” the same.  The cat sat in it.  Sort of.  If I sat in it I was told to “stop rocking”.  That spoke... I moved on.  Every thing was piled up in corners and there was plenty of it:  Old rancid filth.  No one ever said they ‘like it’ and they were not even ‘vague’ about the antiques either.  It was rancid.  And filth.  That was “there” and that was
            It.




            And that... was culture:  That was the culture of the old New England home.  NOT the “a new kitchen”.  NOT the “paint the walls”.  NOT... the “sanding the floors”.  It was dense ‘put away’ rancid filth “everywhere in there” culture.  When I went to the tool bench in the shed off of the summer kitchen, I easily found my great-grandfather’s crooked knife set there as he had ‘always did’.  I used it (for a task at hand) and put it back.  It, therefore, was always there.  The ...CULTURE... of that crooked was always there TOO.  It’s history, heritage, design, social standing, purpose, place and ...memories... were there:  Its CULTURE.  That formula was understood as an ‘applied’ to everything; all the ‘filth’ and ‘rancid’ “in there”; the ‘this old New England home.  No one had ‘cleaned it out’.




            I quickly learned to do that; clean out old New England homes.  There was just that:  “So much stuff”.  “In there”.  Each of them.  Old New England Homes.  And there were lots of them too; the ‘homes’.  So I did that and having actually “LIVED IN” one “TOO” helped me to naturally understand all the rancid filth:  Understand the... culture.  And that made me even better “AT IT”.  And I still am.... “damn good”  “at it”.  I would take a crooked knife off of a tool bench where it “WAS” and take it outside and put it in my truck cab; take that tool away ‘forever’... in my work of ‘clean it out’ (the old New England home) to... well... get that old home ready to be a “NEW” “HOUSE”.  For you to “I LIKE”... and vague... too.
            Did I know what I was doing?
            Yes.
            I already said:  “Every day was a Halloween and every night was Witches.  In old New England homes.  But that was buried in the filth.” (from above).  I knew that when I noticed the crooked knife...; before I ever even touched it.  I destroyed the rancid filth of old New England home culture... with devastating precision.  I had great, great, great-grandfather’s father’s Colonial New England chair “outside” and “in the truck” before and without an any “YOU”... “knowing it”.  And I never said a word either.  Old New England culture... lock, stock and barrel. 




            What does that mean?  What.  Does.  That.  Mean.  It means “assemblage” and that... in this context; the old New England home and its culture, means that this “THAT” is an assemblage... and that... I know that.
            Lock:  The mechanism that ‘fires’ the old gun; an “old musket”.  The lock is fitted into the wood on the side of the gun.  It is often ‘signed’ with the mark of the ‘lock maker’.  A lock maker, most probably English (“London”), made gun locks and sold them preferably in bulk to ‘traders’... who traded them in smaller lots to smaller traders who... traded them to...
            Stock:  The wooden rifle stocks were hand carved from local cured hard wood (maple, walnut) to receive (“mounted”) the lock and ‘support’ a ‘the barrel’.  These stocks were made one at a time by hand often by ‘smaller traders’ or ...even... actual ‘stock makers’ who ‘supplied’ them to ‘local (smaller) traders’.  Or a just... ‘made one at a time’.
            Barrel:  Gun barrels were made by gun barrel makers, preferably in “London” with these barrels usually maker marked, sort of.  They were sold in bulk, shipped to and then purchased by the... trader who assembled the “lock, stock and barrel” into a “trade rifle” who put his assembled rifles in a wagon and... traveled farm to farm endeavoring to “trade” his assembled rifles with small farmers for ...pretty much anything that could get a deal done...  One “gun”, one swap, one trade... of an ‘assembled’ trade rifle.  This assembled fabrication ‘went into the (old New England) home and never came out.
            Until I “cleaned it (these homes) out”.  That is how I know that it is ‘not there’ anymore:  I cleaned it out.






            The home was full of rancid filth that I cleaned out.  Once so fundamentally disturbed there was no “going back” or “fixing that”.  No.  The walls were painted. The floors sanded.  And new things “I like” ‘put in there’.  The once old New England home that is now only a new New England house became a “closed up for the winter”, etc.
            This “etc.” is the bricks and mortar of the phrasing “This essay is about antiques and the roughshod directives of discerning them.  It is about old New England antiques and the effect of roughshod lines in the sand with protruding nail heads that have gained traction to...
            To what?
            To destroy them (old New England antiques).”  (From Part One).  Do you see (understand) that a ‘something’ has been destroyed?  That this ‘destroyed’ is not a “I fix” by “I like”?  Roughshod riding over (“trample”) old New England home antiques... has created an “I like” that is not what the old New England home... and their assemblage of antiques... actually ever were... or are... or may be “restored” to be.  The broken and trampled old New England home’s antiques may not be put back together again...:
            Or may it?
            Is there a severe discipline with a support body of solid information that allows a lifetime ‘study’ of the actual assemblage of ‘the antiques’ in an old New England home... and that this may too be ‘collected’ “at an affordable prince”... too?








Roughshod - Part Three - "Rancid"


Roughshod

Part Three

"Rancid"



            If the culture (Part Two, at the end) is (vague suggested framed) empty
            And the empty is rancid...
            And the rancid is the precious
            That defines the culture...
            Where is the old New England home?
            At the beach?
            “My flip-flops”.




            That is what it is:
            Your flips and your flops.  Baby sitted.  Needy.  As chairperson of your board of committee to decide the ‘could be I think I like’ as postulation lending to position and leading to an action that has no substance, heritage or foundation of anything at all in your new old New England home:  You are the dust buster sucking the dusts of soul out of the last cushion corners of the old New England home’s new “sofa”.  You have achieved ‘good riddance’.  Vanquish the rancid residue of the last of old New England and its homes.  Close them up and comeback
            Next summer.
            “The carpenters are redoing the WALLS this WINTER”.  The carpenters sold me the “TRASH” in the “ATTIC” you “THROW OUT THAT”.
            They are no fools.  Fiendishly empty they made sure of your house.  Not home; an empty house.  “We may want to retire here but we don’t know yet”.  I like that:  Appropriately vague.  A little roughshod.  But a declaration.  None the less.
            You are not in New England and you do not have an old New England home.  You do not have antiques... for yourself or for your house.  What you have are not antiques.  I told you before (Part One).  They are “I like”.




            When I first discovered for myself that old New England homes “were” and “stood” and... well... one such as I could walk by them on the street’s sidewalk and peek at them.  I thought.
            I did not feel... although all this was feeling.  I did think... I think; an “I think”?  No... not quite.  I did not say “I like”.  It was, the homes to me, “vague”.  And I knew they were rancid.  I knew that because I lived in one; an old New England home... and it was rancid.  Generations of rancid.  I grew up in that filth.  I learned to walk by those homes of filth.  I learned to peek at them.  Every day was a Halloween and every night was Witches.  In old New England homes.  But that was buried in the filth.
            What I grew up in no one ever mentioned “painting the (interior) walls” ever.  That was just never done; painting walls or mentioning doing that.  Once every one hundred years... and mostly so old that it was “wallpaper” anyway.  Old... brown... filthy... water stained, peeling... “wall paper” with the “trim” “last painted”... during World War One.  Actually... before... World War One.  The wall paper and painted trim were “always that way”.  And one couldn’t tell this or care because the rooms were “full”.  Anyway.





            The rooms were ‘full of antiques’.  I know now.  All kinds of old and... very old... and even ‘very old older’... rancid... filth.  The chair that my great grandmother died in was ‘still there exactly the same’... as like... “from the Civil War” the same.  The cat sat in it.  Sort of.  If I sat in it I was told to “stop rocking”.  That spoke... I moved on.  Every thing was piled up in corners and there was plenty of it:  Old rancid filth.  No one ever said they ‘like it’ and they were not even ‘vague’ about the antiques either.  It was rancid.  And filth.  That was “there” and that was
            It.




            And that... was culture:  That was the culture of the old New England home.  NOT the “a new kitchen”.  NOT the “paint the walls”.  NOT... the “sanding the floors”.  It was dense ‘put away’ rancid filth “everywhere in there” culture.  When I went to the tool bench in the shed off of the summer kitchen, I easily found my great-grandfather’s crooked knife set there as he had ‘always did’.  I used it (for a task at hand) and put it back.  It, therefore, was always there.  The ...CULTURE... of that crooked was always there TOO.  It’s history, heritage, design, social standing, purpose, place and ...memories... were there:  Its CULTURE.  That formula was understood as an ‘applied’ to everything; all the ‘filth’ and ‘rancid’ “in there”; the ‘this old New England home.  No one had ‘cleaned it out’.




            I quickly learned to do that; clean out old New England homes.  There was just that:  “So much stuff”.  “In there”.  Each of them.  Old New England Homes.  And there were lots of them too; the ‘homes’.  So I did that and having actually “LIVED IN” one “TOO” helped me to naturally understand all the rancid filth:  Understand the... culture.  And that made me even better “AT IT”.  And I still am.... “damn good”  “at it”.  I would take a crooked knife off of a tool bench where it “WAS” and take it outside and put it in my truck cab; take that tool away ‘forever’... in my work of ‘clean it out’ (the old New England home) to... well... get that old home ready to be a “NEW” “HOUSE”.  For you to “I LIKE”... and vague... too.
            Did I know what I was doing?
            Yes.
            I already said:  “Every day was a Halloween and every night was Witches.  In old New England homes.  But that was buried in the filth.” (from above).  I knew that when I noticed the crooked knife...; before I ever even touched it.  I destroyed the rancid filth of old New England home culture... with devastating precision.  I had great, great, great-grandfather’s father’s Colonial New England chair “outside” and “in the truck” before and without an any “YOU”... “knowing it”.  And I never said a word either.  Old New England culture... lock, stock and barrel. 




            What does that mean?  What.  Does.  That.  Mean.  It means “assemblage” and that... in this context; the old New England home and its culture, means that this “THAT” is an assemblage... and that... I know that.
            Lock:  The mechanism that ‘fires’ the old gun; an “old musket”.  The lock is fitted into the wood on the side of the gun.  It is often ‘signed’ with the mark of the ‘lock maker’.  A lock maker, most probably English (“London”), made gun locks and sold them preferably in bulk to ‘traders’... who traded them in smaller lots to smaller traders who... traded them to...
            Stock:  The wooden rifle stocks were hand carved from local cured hard wood (maple, walnut) to receive (“mounted”) the lock and ‘support’ a ‘the barrel’.  These stocks were made one at a time by hand often by ‘smaller traders’ or ...even... actual ‘stock makers’ who ‘supplied’ them to ‘local (smaller) traders’.  Or a just... ‘made one at a time’.
            Barrel:  Gun barrels were made by gun barrel makers, preferably in “London” with these barrels usually maker marked, sort of.  They were sold in bulk, shipped to and then purchased by the... trader who assembled the “lock, stock and barrel” into a “trade rifle” who put his assembled rifles in a wagon and... traveled farm to farm endeavoring to “trade” his assembled rifles with small farmers for ...pretty much anything that could get a deal done...  One “gun”, one swap, one trade... of an ‘assembled’ trade rifle.  This assembled fabrication ‘went into the (old New England) home and never came out.
            Until I “cleaned it (these homes) out”.  That is how I know that it is ‘not there’ anymore:  I cleaned it out.






            The home was full of rancid filth that I cleaned out.  Once so fundamentally disturbed there was no “going back” or “fixing that”.  No.  The walls were painted. The floors sanded.  And new things “I like” ‘put in there’.  The once old New England home that is now only a new New England house became a “closed up for the winter”, etc.
            This “etc.” is the bricks and mortar of the phrasing “This essay is about antiques and the roughshod directives of discerning them.  It is about old New England antiques and the effect of roughshod lines in the sand with protruding nail heads that have gained traction to...
            To what?
            To destroy them (old New England antiques).”  (From Part One).  Do you see (understand) that a ‘something’ has been destroyed?  That this ‘destroyed’ is not a “I fix” by “I like”?  Roughshod riding over (“trample”) old New England home antiques... has created an “I like” that is not what the old New England home... and their assemblage of antiques... actually ever were... or are... or may be “restored” to be.  The broken and trampled old New England home’s antiques may not be put back together again...:
            Or may it?
            Is there a severe discipline with a support body of solid information that allows a lifetime ‘study’ of the actual assemblage of ‘the antiques’ in an old New England home... and that this may too be ‘collected’ “at an affordable prince”... too?








Thursday, October 6, 2016

Fall Harvest; The Vanishing Corn Bundle























Each fall, in the middle of the fall season, I catch a glimpse of a classic northern New England decorative antique, the corn bundle in the corn field. The corn bundle is the vertical stack of dry corn stalks …with the drying corn ears still attached… that have been cut, gathered in approximately ten stalk clumps, raised upon each other to form the bundle and tied two-thirds of the way up with corn stalks that synch the bundle in and give it classic form. A field of cut corn is bundled and becomes, as the photographs show, a classic icon of the New England fall harvest.
So classic be these bundles in the corn field that… to even the romantic New England eye… they are hardly noticed. One's car goes by them at sixty-five. This chance notice is difficult too for, these days, a field of bundled corn is quite scarce to encounter, even at sixty-five. Furthering this viewing scarcity is that the bundle progression is done only as a brief step in the process of the corn harvest. 


The corn is cut the first day, stacked and bundled the next and then… these whole bundles are intended to be moved to the barn the third day ("before they get wet"). Weather permitting. This is the quick plan and process is often delayed by weather BUT STILL is done quickly. The bundle stage, the most picturesque, is designed to shed any water AND keep the inner corn fresh dried; a light green. We were lucky to find and photograph a bundle torn open by the wind that shows the dried green corn stalks inside. The whole point of this harvest style is to process the corn to be a winter feed; a sort of original form of silage, for cows. For the romantic New England eye, the moment of bundles of corn in the field is very short.


There is very scant reference to corn bundles in the field. One may find abundant pictorial usage, nearly formulaic, but discussion is very scant. Even Eric Sloane, who includes a superior color print of his painted view of the corn bundle harvest as the frontis for his "Autumn" chapter in his THE SEASONS OF AMERICA PAST (Funk, New York, 1958, after page 82) (see our photographs) gives no written commentary on the bundle or bundle process.
Once one understands that one is looking at a… classic… fleeting moment of a …classic… New England harvest, slowing down and gazing fondly becomes one's norm. Then one may chance to see the bundles being made and tied, usually by several men accompanied by small children and dogs (just as Sloan portrayed). Savor this view. The whole process will be gone in a few days; the field will be bare stubble ready for the winter snows… flocks of geese… and crows. As the corn bundle harvest practice continues to wane, I personally view each field as if it's my last contact with this classic northern New England antique.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Roughshod - Part Two - "Vague"


Roughshod

Part Two

"Vague"



            In our moment of the ‘our now’...
            When fine domestic material culture is suggested to be
            Gold spray painted (faux) interiors
            And PENTHOUSE magazine in the library
            As literature...
            Isn’t that old New England
            Home...
            Of you?

            Yes that does give one ‘exceptional licensee’ to ah...
            “DO THAT” and show it off too.
            As “so you”.
            It is easier; tacky, tawdry and crass.
            It is easy to burn the eggs in the “FRYING PAN”.
            And show you’ve “DONE THAT” too.
            You are genius.





            It is a peculiar genius; this new New England decorum.  I stated it in Part One; the  ‘framed hanging’ your emptiness on the walls.... with this...
Shown to
            All.
            After that... there is just the (gold) spray paint on the chairs.
            And the books
In the library.




            Many of the new decorum old New England homes have no printing in them at all.  That is correct (what I stated):  There is no print ‘in there’ ...at all.  Not even a box of magazines being “to recycle”.  Old books are never read so “WHY?” unless of course they LOOK like “I READ THEM”.  That is the cure of cancer?  The “look”?
            That (look) is certified by “I LIKE” (Part One).  Right?
            And no one knows the difference anymore?  Right?.  It is not vague.  The new wholeness IS vague.  “Leave it to the imagination” and my imagination notices that the ‘vague’ is just as stupid as I
            Imagine it is.




            I leave.  I don’t stick around any of that at all.  I leave.  You should too.
            But why would you listen to me.  It is easier to buy an old New England home and “I LIKE” décor with roughshod culture... hanging empty “IN THERE”.  The (old) library:  “IS THAT WHAT THAT ROOM IS?” 
            The title page of that room is residue; a leaving.  A ‘left over’.  A “study”.  A “den”.  A “TV room”.  Wonderfully “DONE”?  No.  Skip that room and use it as “storage”.  “WE TOOK THE BOOKCASES OUT”.
            That was smart.
            When publishing-of-book became a dominant GLOBAL New England industry (1830 forward to 1880)... putting them on shelves in a room in a... home... in New England was the ‘became’ a “right thing” to... do.   After the shelves were ‘built in’.  Of course.  And the books on those shelves were...
            Ah....
            “READ”.  They (the books) were “KEPT” in the library.  Along with other “things” “like” “old”
            “Letters”.
            “Hand written in ink”.
            Well I’ll be damned.  And have been for most of my life.






            That is what to do; write a letter using ink.  To no one.  That IS who reads them.  In the library.  If you have some ‘in there’ then by all means show them to someone who “KNOWS” ‘about old letters’.  They (the letters) are sufferable.
            YOU are insufferable.
            One old letter states.
            “These are the old papers.  The books are in boxes in the garage.  We didn’t
            Have room for them.”
            “Your papers?”
            “No.  The books”.
            “But the papers are your papers”.
            “In the boxes?  No.  The books are those boxes there.  These boxes are our papers.  The old papers are in the boxes still in the room.”
            “Those papers are not your papers?”
            “No.  Those are the old letters.  Those papers are written in ink.  The letters are written in ink.  I don’t know what those papers are but they are our papers.  Some are college papers.  And then bills.
            I think”.





            I always like it when they think.  About papers.  Their papers.  Old papers.  Old letters.  “In the boxes.  Over there”.  It’s easy enough that way:  Vague.  “As long as you don’t take any of those papers.”
            “In the library”.
            “No.  The boxes in the garage.  Of our papers.  The books in the boxes.  There.  Take those.  You want those.  Right?”
            “Oh yes.  All of those.  The old books in the boxes.  In the garage”.
            “That (garage bay) door doesn’t open.  You’ll have to go around the car.  Take the boxes out that way”.
            “I’ll take the boxes of papers (letters) out of the room (library) fist”.
            “Do you ever think the old letters say anything?”




            “No.  Most people’s papers never say anything.  They’re like your papers in the (boxes in the) garage.  People put their papers in boxes and... that’s it.  Pieces of paper about pieces of paper... in boxes.  Usually stacked up like yours are.  Not very interesting.  Do you ever read your papers?”
            “Ha!  No.  Never.”
            “That’s it.”
            From my vantage of the culture of the roughshod vague in the old New England home... it is a wonder that the old room that was a ‘library’ ever was that and made it so far; lasted so long (over one and one-half centuries)...:  Why should anyone keep an old library in an old New England home
            Anyway.






            Once that room; the old library, is “cleaned out”, then comes the gold spray paint and PENTHOUSE magazine décor?  Actually not. That... ah... decorative treatise... is still in the ‘suggested’ state.  This new décor is just like speed ‘limit’ signs on the highway:  “Those are just suggestions.”  That IS perfectly obvious isn’t it; now that this (“a suggestion”) is pointed out.  That explains why no one...:
            So gold spray painted décor with PENTHOUSE magazine as the literature ARE now being ‘suggested’ to be a...
            Vague
            Roughshod
            “I like”.







            Sometimes I don’t look at (into) the old boxes of letters and books I “buy” for ten years or longer.  Obeying the new décor suggestions... prove ‘why should eye (I)’.  If I told you I read old letters (“written in ink”) that would be what you call “too boring”.  So.  Like.  What’s the hurry and... What’s the point...
            Anyway?








            The point is that I have left the vague “I like” and took the old books and letters with me.  I abandoned the room that was once a library in your old-new New England home and you use it for storage anyway.  “NOW THE OLD COMPUTER IS IN THERE”.  That’s a suggestion?  Suggested décor?  Works for me.





            This is roughshod... in the New England home... these days.  Very few ‘old libraries’ in old New England homes... survive the superficial of ‘easier; tacky, tawdry and crass’ (noted above).  The actual empty of books and paper library room... is just as empty as the framed ‘art’ hung on the walls... once you get done ‘doing that’.  You don’t have shelves and you don’t have books.
            You don’t read books
            You don’t.
            You paint the walls of an empty room in a ‘my color’ new New England home.  I sell the old books to collector’s collections and sell the old papers to ...archival (research) collections.  It’s all very vague.  And just a suggestion.
            This new New England decor is a little roughshod... but has gained traction.
            As culture.