Thursday, December 28, 2017

Teddy Squirrel 1946-2017

Teddy Squirrel 1946-2017

            “Teddy come in the shop the other day.  Noth’en:  Brought noth’en IN.  BOUGHT noth’en.  Took noth’en OUT.  WORTHLESS as the day I was BORN.  He’s in pretty bad shape you know.  Not just FAT but CAN’T DO noth’en.  Huff and puff over to his chair.  Biggest damn chair I got.  He don’t even know what THAT IS.”
            (The “chair” is a transitional New England Sheraton wingchair circa 1825.  It’s the last gasp of the true period; “of a design period”, wingchair.  ‘Heavy’; carrying these late lines, it is actually a rare New England form to find for the wingchair ‘died out’ as a design form with the Empire and then Victorian period styles ‘seating’ innovations.  Not that Teddy would know or care).
            “He sat in that damn chair eating Gingerbread Men.  Six of ‘em.  Offered one to me.  I said NO.  First he eats their feet.  Then one bite on their crotch.  Two bites for the arms.  Then one bite for the head just like that’s a fifty cent piece.  Always offers me one whatever it is.  Mostly molasses cookies.  Sometimes a Hermit.  He likes those you knows.  Says (local one of two Brunswick Maine area box store grocery bakeries) ‘MAKE A GOOD HERMIT’.  Sumpthin else he being a FAT ONE ain’t he!”

            “Teddy” eats cookies in front of me all the time too.  With his little cup of Styrofoam coffee.  Little cup he throws out in my trashcan.  Just like Pigpen he is; traveling trashcan filler.  Always eating a BAKE GOOD.  Brush the crumbs off his belly on to my rug.  Says doing that (brushing the crumbs) is his “exercises”.  All that with the huff and puff.  He won’t be able to get around much longer the way he’s headed.  Not much I can do about it:  I’m not a first responder.  When he’s down they’re gonna need a BUCKET.”

            “She’s wear’en THEM old PEARLS.” Teddy said to me.  “THAT’S HOW I know that she’s RICH.  OLD greasy PEARLS.  Been around her neck since she was BORN and her Grammy DIED.  Awful old pearls GREASY yellow from her neck.  That yellow comes from the STRESS on her NECK try’en to HOLD that family together.  Them new girls THINK pearls are WHITE just like their idiot TOO WHITE teeth.  Smile at me with noth’en BEHIND THAT all day long.  Just awful.  BE-LITTLE her old yellow neck they do her.”

            Teddy’s talking about Barbara; “Aunt Barbara” they call her.  Has more good taste than a bucket orchard of (Maple) sap pails.  Don’t they know nothing them Strip Mall Women Wasps.  Do.  Know nothing.  “You buy pearls and hang ‘em around your neck”.  That’s what they think that is; their CLASS.  But it run afoul don’t it.  And even Teddy know that.  Don’t he.
            Now Barbara’s yellow neck pearls match her teeth that she don’t ever show off.  They didn’t have cosmetic dentist work when her teeth were in combat.  Don’t think she don’t know it.  She knows what ‘tight lipped’ means.  That’s right above her pearls.

            “Teddy” they call him; “Teddy Squirrel”.  That’s not his front name.  It’s his behind the back name.  Stuck.  They call him “MISTER Squirrel” too:  That’s right; MISTER Squirrel with the MISTER being just what you think it is.  Even Barbara calls him that... right to his face too.  “What you eating today Mr. Squirrel?  Scottish Shortbread from my Grammy’s old Christmas tin?”  She says to him.  With her crooked yellow teeth and old dirty yellow pearls.  I don’t have to be there to ‘I suppose’.

            Barbara set me over a woman looking for glassware.  It took eight or nine months but she’s starting to buy some better things; American, New England ‘pressed glass.  Takes a while for them to understand the quality and the feel of that quality.  For example, one is not gonna feel the quality if you wear new shiny white pearls you just bought at a Women Wasp strip mall.  Barbara says that.  She was given her old dirty yellow pearls by her grandmother who wore them until the day she died.  Now don’t go saying Barbara didn’t take them off her dead neck herself.  Because she did.

            She put them on that day and never took them off.  Hasn’t yet.  Even though she’s getting demented.  You okay with that?
            Anyway, this woman she sent is suddenly looking at the early English dark blue Staffordshire Transferware.  I have some on a shelf.  She called it “Flow Blue”.  I tried to correct her noting that this early dark blue came earlier; 1800-1825 and that (the) Flow Blue is Victorian 1850’s.  I know she didn’t get that yet.  But.
            She told me she wanted to buy a damaged creamer she looked at ($65.00).  Nothing has come of that yet.  But that’s a start.  I told her that this early blue ‘sends the right message.  To women like Barbara.  She knows what that means and wants to do that.  “We’ll see” won’t I.

            Teddy don’t ....ahhhh.... the ‘dark blue’ or its message anyway.  Oh he’s seen it on the shelf but never goes near that.  No... he’s always got some halfway antique commonly called collectable he’s in some state of ‘found out’ with and, well, wants me to help him ‘go from there’ with it.  For no money for me.  He’s Mister All for Me, None for You.  I can see him coming so, like, that’s that.

            “Those are Victorian pearls.  That’s why they are like that.  They are real ocean pearls.  Not today’s grown and harvest garden pearls.  This string are all old and all wild.  That’s why they look like that.  They are old and on their original wire.  That’s why they cost so much.  They are hard to find and when I find them many times they are not for sale.”
            That was a fair promotion I listened to a dealer puff.  Then she backed off.  The customer; a boyfriend – girlfriend team, ‘weren’t there yet’.  Takes a while.  Takes a long time to turn a pearl necklace yellow from an old neck.  But I said to her that it was a pleasure watching her puff that quality.  Stick to the classic but in their best state; best ‘how they got here’.  That’s what the antiques are you know.  They are something you can’t get anyway else.  They are old and are that way because they ARE old and have, too, the qualities of that age and this, too, makes them more singular.  Antiques are not found in strip mall stores with vanity labeled store bags having a stupid name printed on them.  They are found around the neck of a dead grandmother.  That’s where antiques come from. 

            Now Teddy, he don’t know any of that to act on.  He do know a little something from breeding, upbringing and ‘way its suppose to be’.  He likes that raspberry jam the Trappist Monks are suppose to make.  But that is hollow and we all know that.  What Teddy don’t know is the best raspberry jam is made in August by the old historical society ladies.  But even that’s second fiddle to just mashing the raspberries up and slopping them on top of vanilla  ice cream.  Teddy just don’t know how good that can be.  Everyone of them damn historical society women have an old pearl necklace around their old necks too.  And know it; know that too.
            Do they eat the raspberry ice cream with silver spoons?  Yes they do.  Do they spoon their homemade raspberry jam with a silver spoon?  Yes they do.  Does Teddy notice this.
            He’s over there with the Trappist Monk raspberry jam oration he repeats, without modification, each August.  You ever seen him with a smeared goo-gob of that jam on his tie?
            I have.
            He never notices it until it’s too late.

            But I do say this for him:  He wears his clothes; keeps himself UP.  He come out his door that way everyday; kept up.  I say that for him.
            ONE TIME, I remember, he took Michael’s old motor launch out on the lake.  Stepped right in behind the old steering wheel and took off.  He was the only captain on that lake that day wearing a tie.  When he come back into the dock the boys looked at him in his tie and sweater and tied him right up.  Teddy just stepped off that launch and walked up the dock.  No one said anything but didn’t he love it.
            That was all vanity.  His tie and sweater weren’t though.  He’s wearing those right now just like they’re his damn pearls.  He don’t know that though.

Friday, December 22, 2017

“Most of What We Have Left”

“Most of What We Have Left”

Conversation did not “work well” past awkward and that awkward was elevated by my denial of access to the inside of the estate.  No... the heirs apparently wanted to interview my poise of interest in their dead grandparents estate (“THEIR HOME”) contents outside the actual buildings of the estate.  “Difficult to SEE.” I said.
I was ‘on property’ but certainly not “IN” anywhere....  No and they were very pleased that, for them, I was NOT ‘difficult to see’ out at the side of the driveway by the garden next to the side wall of the “OLD BARN”.
That was their title for that building.  I looked up and down the old shingled wall of the building but said nothing; I made no cover comment.  I’m good at doing that.

            We were all standing; “standing around”.  Normally the restlessness of standing proceeds to a ‘walk through’ of the ‘buildings’ and all their ‘rooms’ to (casually) ‘see’ all the ‘things’ here qualified as “most of what we have left”.  I looked along the base of the wall of the barn while the heirs said that.  It was a ‘said again’; they’d said that earlier when they came out on the porch from the front door they’d opened at my knock.  I was pushed back by them doing that and saying that.  I was pushed back up the ‘front walk’ onto the driveway and back toward my parked car.  I’d parked underneath an American Chestnut tree.  I noted that tree and parked there by preference for a ‘good luck place’.  American Chestnut trees are, in my realm (antiquarian senses), ‘good luck’ when encountered.  Nobody knows this.  It is a trade tip I pass on; old trees and old estates come together.  

            After passing the tree and my parked car we were quickly stuck on a grass patch just off the driveway, above the garden, off of the “OLD BARN” and opposite the large double sliding wooden doors (open) of the “shed” that lead into the ‘summer kitchen’ and onward to the door to the actual indoor kitchen.  “Maybe... we are going in that way” I considered.  Standing on the grass patch I was twenty five steps from that open double door.  I stood just in the shade from the Chestnut tree.  The shed doorway was a long passage in the open sunlight and
            I was not encouraged to go that way; “Over there” they titled it.
            No I was surrounded by five family people (heirs) and kept away.  Behind them a Barn Swallow flew low and then in through the shed doorway.  I noted that; ‘has a nest in there’.  That happens in old Maine estates.  Most people do not know this but I do.  It is too, a ‘good luck’ sign to an antiquarian eye.

            At this moment I had a fuzzy antiquarian sensation; a sort of mental brightness of the bright sun in the estate’s yard; a bright blurred vision of a much older doorway image apparition that took me mentally way back in time to a long lost moment when a woman stepped out of the shed doorway and stood while a man seated in a chair back in the doorway behind her was looking out.  That apparition took only two seconds of  time.
            And was gone.

            I wanted to follow that but I could not for the surrounding heirs were to fixed on their planned procedure to interview me as a person of interest in the interest of their persons in fielding me as a ‘possible’ who would “BUY” the titled ‘most of what we have left’ estate contents.  Well... I’d already seen enough from my limited access to be very sure that I was not only interested but was GOING TO BUY .... ALL... of the ‘most of what we have left’.
            Yes that was MY plan now that I had stood under the American Chestnut tree and before the open shed door with a Barn Swallow family nesting ‘in there’.  Of course there must be a few ‘other things’ to allow me to take the risk; the buy everything without ever even looking at it risk.  Yes, too, I know that:  That you do not do (“take”) that kind of risk.  You do not behave that way when it comes to your ‘taking risk’.
            Though... probably already you have a considered sense that “MAYBE” a “DOING THAT” is a possible probable “IF”... and I know well the hard focus you have on that word... all of the “IF” that can be is a ‘push through’ just the... same way as... the five heirs surrounding me intentionally intend to DO THAT SAME horse trade function (an ‘if push through’) THEMSELVES... for themselves.
            So if they are doing that it is not going to work for ME... is it.  But let’s us not get OUR bowels all bound up about all this like THEY HAVE.
            It is an easier ‘star cross’ (‘to cross the stars’) IF I let the them... and you... do the ‘if’ issues and I, now left alone... do the
            They (the heirs) do not expect that.
            And neither do you.

            Now....:  I’ve parked under the tree and noted that.  I’ve seen the Barn Swallow swoop at the shed doorway and noted that.  You’ve been told... so accomplish a ‘know, now’ of that.  They (the five heirs) (airs?)... are in fact airs for they note nothing but, evidently, the keeping me ‘out’ of their ‘it’ (the estate).  Their reason(s), of course, are responsible:  They do not want me seeing the ‘mess’, ‘filth’, ‘trash’, ‘dirty... ness’ and foul residues of old New England generational existence PACKED into this dark old creepy space that, well, is called by them “GRANDMOTHER’S HOUSE”.  No.  To their eyes the whole, including the grass patch of yard we are standing on... is a ‘how may we’... ‘get rid of this’.
            “We have taken their good things and all of what we want.” They tell me and then again say the “Most of What We Have Left”... “is trash”... “in there”.  The last two words were highlighted by a left arm gesture by one of the heirs toward her rear left evidently denoting ‘in there’ to mean the large Greek Revival (1830’s) main house and ell.  The gesture did not include the summer kitchen, shed, barn and attached outbuildings behind (chicken house, buggy storage shed, etcetera [old outhouse]).  The arm gesture just conveyed that the “Most of what we have left” that was “good” (?) was in the main house and ‘but the other building must be
            Cleaned out

            I was alright with the subliminal arm gesture and had already moved on from there.  Brutally, for those tracing risk, I directly asked “HOW MUCH ARE YOU THINKING FOR ALL OF IT?”
            “CLEANED OUT BY NEXT TUESDAY.” I forcefully added.
            THAT stopped them:  Did they or did they not have ‘a number’?  WELL let us just see... :
            Well no... they do not.  THAT took twenty seconds.  And their wagons are circled.
            I... am just coming back from another visual trip down the side of the barn.  That didn’t take long; only fourteen seconds.  And... just think of all that risk that may be taken in fourteen seconds... too.  I was coming BACK from the side of the barn to the grass spot across from the shed doors with a full bore ‘risk assessment’ qualifier that
            Well... It is all on me; that sort of risk leap; the leaps of risk.  Antiquarian risk.  One does not just do that.  No.  I pick up every little bit anything about me to... vaguely... assess my risk... assessment.  Then I step into the burning.

            Here-at... a round robin of the five heirs suddenly caucuses before me and I am told that they ‘need a moment’ and then they rapidly dish (serve) their number; a ‘their asking (?) price’ “TWO THOUSAND DOLLARS”.
            “Okay.” I say... promptly and assertively.  I am in the burning house now.  Am I not?  Their wagons stay circled.  “By Tuesday” is addressed and assured followed by the ‘Your check is fine.’ ‘Here is a key.’  The end statement from I is “Starting (early) tomorrow morning”.  With  “Sure.  It is fine for you to stop by”.  It is never fine but they never don’t do that; drop (stop) by and... “bother”.  But that is part of the risk management.  Let me go over that again to be sure you saw how it was done.

            The American Chestnut tree and the Barn Swallow in the shed are understood in their roles of showing ‘old New England (Maine) (estate) undisturbed’.  That is carried directly to I taking the risk that all of the buildings.... all of them... are undisturbed to the criteria purveyed by the chestnut tree and nesting swallows.  Therefore:  What are these people going to do after they have gained the “Most of What We Have Left” plateau in the... distribution of the things in... “Grandmother’s House”?
            They are not going to do anything... except huddle as a group of five OUTSIDE the buildings and, well... praying (in curious forms) for the requisite (required in order to sell the property; the ‘put on the market’)‘clean out’ to be done?  Done? No:  “THIS BE OVER”.  That IS what they want.
            So my risk of entering the burning may be so easily done simply because that is exactly what they want to happen as soon as possible.  All I did was follow the trail and give it (the ‘clean out’ purchase) a ‘little push at the end’.  I went with their most desired “IF”.
            And now am alone with my ‘risk’... within ‘the burning’.  But there is just a touch more to affirm my ‘safe bet’ risk.  Did you see it?  No.  No one did but I (eye).
            When I looked down the side of the barn in the old garden before the old barn’s wall I noted two old grindstones being used as garden decorations.  Anyone who cared (have antiquarian tastes) would have ‘spirited them away’.  But there they sat in plain sight.
            Further... and back along the old barn’s wall... were a row of handmade; hand hewn by axe, fence posts consciously gathered and leaned up in that row along the old barn’s wall.  No one just happens to do that.  One must know, care and do... that.  And no one notices these antiquarian woodenware treasures
            Except eye (I).
            I of course say nothing but... understand...:  If that is that way ...there... the “IF” of the estate is that it is LOADED with  “most of what we have left”... like the fence posts... treasure and...
            “Worth the risk (to purchase the contents sight unseen.  Actually... I do see the estate very clearly, don’t I... in addition to ‘not letting on’ and ‘not raising suspicions.  No:  I paid them and started the next morning.  I didn’t take the grindstones and fence posts until Monday afternoon.  By then all had stopped dropping by and nobody cared a hoot what “most of what we have left” was anyway...
            Except me.  I took it all.

Friday, December 15, 2017



            Layers, in this essay, are not about egg laying poultry production.
            Layers, in this essay, are not about the clothing worn in Maine during the winters.
            Layers, in this essay, are about the ‘things’ (“the stuff”) in old houses and the role the
            Layers of that “the stuff” play in my interest in pursuing an active excavation within the ‘things’ found in the layers of the stuff within an old house.  And:  How I make very rapid intuitive decisions about the state of the layers and their potential to harbor “good” antiques and rare books.
            Layers is about the behind my eyes walk through of what I see when I
            Walk through.

            To begin with, I am looking for layers.  Once I see them (sense them), I look at them “very hard”.  I am told.  Of course I never let on that I am doing
            I don’t even ever tell anyone at all about layers.
            And very few people ever figure that out
            That pretty much leaves me alone... in an old house... looking at the layers.
            “If you don’t know... you don’t know” with this including the what... you... don’t know.
            Yes:  There is that much of a bottom drag on all this that the mire of that usually wins.  ‘Winning’ is that the ‘the stuff’ in the ‘the layers’ is protected and preserved for the ‘few people ever figure that out’ give up, cease actions and... go away.  Presuming I have been “let in”... I then am ‘left alone’ with the layers and... well...
            That is that.
            What does that mean?  It means that the next time any ‘few people’ go into the old house it is empty; it has been ‘cleaned out’.  I did that.  I don’t talk about that.  I just do it.  I take away everything including all the layers.  I take away every... thing.  That is what I do.

            I have to take away every thing so I may be sure that all ‘the stuff’ in the layers of household contents is... “complete”.  For example, I do not want to have you suddenly latching on to, and keeping (taking out of the estate contents), your grandmother’s teaspoon that she
            Administered her medicines to her self in addition to stirring her tea with it for
;            SEVENTY-FIVE YEARS.
            It is MY SPOON NOW; part of the LAYERS.
            IN SHORT... I want it all; all ‘the stuff’ and all the layers, complete.  Nothing is left out or left behind.

            Of course there are stupid people meddling with this by, well, “wanting”... stupid things.  A good example is a “FAMILY” “PAINTING”.  The house contents “HAS ONE”; an ‘old’ ‘oil’ painting and it is too... an “I WANT”.
            “Yes.  Okay.  Here we go.”
            I say that and finalize with “Take it:  It is all yours.”  Delighted, they scurry away clutching the “PAINTING”... too.  Occasionally I am asked “what do I think” of the “PAINTING”.  For these sorts of paintings I do not have to think and... carefully sidestep what I actually ...feel... about the “PAINTING”.  No reason to spoil such fun.  Right?
            What am I conveying here exactly?  I am assuring that most all cases... old “PAINTINGS” found in old New England layered home contents are of little merit or value.  The big feature is that they are “FREE” when found in an estate so... continue the heritage of the painting as being ‘good’ because it
            Allows folks who have never owned a painting... who would never buy a painting (Yankee Wasp characteristic)... who know nothing about “PAINTINGS”... have barely ever looked at a “PAINTING” and... etcetera.... to ‘smug up’ about a truly crummy ‘thing’ that they found in the bedroom of long dead great-uncle George. “WHERE” (what, how, why) “DID HE GET THAT!”
            Great Uncle George was a quasi trash picker later examination of his layer reveals.  But I never say anything about that fine old cheapskate Yankee bugaboo.  I, too, certainly do not stop the purloinment of the old painting “within the estate” (private family distribution).  A problem with this last is that the purloin does not have an ‘appraised value’.  I ‘don’t do those things’ (appraisals) I say when queried.  And... they DO ‘love’ “IT” (that painting) still:  “It is valuable”.  What ever that means.

            Turning from an example of stupid people meddling and ‘wanting’ to the actual layer-e (a plural), I advise from the get-go that that is where one should ‘seek’ layers.  Most all of those layer-e... who were any good at it... are
But look for “fondly remembered family” trails and you’ll start to notice, for example, old but recent photographs of the short past generation’s grand old bitch matron who ‘rode herd’ over the house, the family, the things, the stuff and... their layers.  Spot that woman and you are way ahead of great-uncle-George (Dartmouth 1928)’s old painting that I assure the Matron dismissed too.
            Now I with her, eye to eye including she KNEW what I KNOW... lets me tie off with clothes line rope “HER” “DESK”.  That is, I tie the whole Grand Old Bitch Matron’s desk up like it’s a crate full of “stuff” packed by the “FAMILY” in its drawers and... never looked at...:  If the Matron was alive she would spend TWO WEEKS showing me EACH iota in the drawers ‘from her family’ but... as it is I am the best game in town so her ghost lets me tie it off and carry it out... unchallenged.  Yes and that cubby is full of ‘all about the family’ including great uncle George at Dartmouth in twenty-eight.  She, bless her ghost soul, gives me the maelstrom center of her layer whole.  It proves to be the skeleton key to ALL the home’s layers.

            Traveling from crummy old painting to tied off desk holding the family’s preserved archive... are one sensing the meaning of layers?  Who is doing better at this?  Once I locate and purloin the master vault box I simply pile the rest of all of the layers “in there” on top of this golden treasure chest and... I don’t, once I remove all the layers undisturbed and intact... have to touch them for years... should I choose. “Storage” is a big feature of my antiquarian dealer side.  And of course... am I in some sort of hurry doing this?
            That (hurry) is too... a fatal mistake.  Not in a hurry allows one to absorb the layers better (mentally and physically).  Six layers are like reading a six volume family history (as if they are old books in dust jackets).  I enjoy studying the souls of the layers for... as long as their intrigue lasts... preferring them with a strong “dash”, that they are characters and too... “did something”.

            May I review?
            Layers are a multitude of ‘things’ (“the stuff”) that make them up.  They are not ‘a thing’ or single things or great things or fine things.  No.  They are not an actual old painting.  But they are part of a layer’s painting.  They are the gathered material residue of old dead souls; the stuff they ‘left behind’.  They are little things in abundance that ‘don’t matter at all’ until noticed that they are part of a layer.  Perhaps even a very notable layer... that is surrounded by other related layers of related layer-e dead souls.  It (layers) do become quite rich and reaching “very fast”... should one learn to look.  For example the OLD SHAVING equipment for eight different men of a time passage of one hundred and ten years...  Each shaver was young, then old, then dead ‘in there’; in THEIR layers.  The shaving equipage is “worthless” without the association; its role in the layer.  The layer is worthless without its soul.  The soul is found in “the stuff”.  The more stuff in a layer...  It (an estate and its layers) may become vivid beyond words and last for decades.  By 1969 I had become familiar with and knowing of layered estates.  In 1973 I acquired my first full bore layers estate that “lasted for decades”.  There are still bits, pieces and smidgens of that one around to this day.
            “You may not want to wipe the old pigeon dung off the chair when you get one (a layered estate)” an old dealer advised me early.