Of Mice And Men


Karen and I have spent a lot of time looking around our house lately, because we have had lots of time to look around.

It was brand new when we moved in 24 years ago, a week before we got married, so we matured together, that is if we are indeed mature, which is questionable, at least in my case.

Put another way, I really did want to put a fiberglass backboard and basketball hoop in the double-height living room. In those days, Karen was adroit at keeping my lunacy in bay. Nowadays she just points out I am clinically insane.

Instead, Karen traveled upstate and came home with an antique dining room set that looks great, but no one is allowed to sit on the chairs because they’ll collapse, and you can’t put a wine glass on the table because it leaves rings on it, and we all know how Karen likes to drink. I suggested we get a fake wood table that may be made of cardboard but damn it, it looks like wood, and you can spill anything you want on it, even turpentine.

Once, at a yard sale, Karen became obsessed with buying a desk, stating it was Beidermeyer, obviously from the period directly before Wienerschitzel and right after Budweiser. “It’s worth $20,000!” she said, excited.

“That was when it was new,” I corrected.

Karen is into yard sales. Me? Not so much. This is probably because I know very little about antiques. Before I met Karen my idea of an “early American” piece was a clapboard cupboard I bought at W.T. Grant before it became Caldor.

Karen has a good eye for this sort of thing — she has always been able to spot a bargain, be it a yard sale, a thrift shop, or an auction. Over the years she’s acquired some “good” stuff, which to my mind means things that creak and have a lot of spider webs.

As far as I’m concerned, a Chippendale is a male dancer — not that I’ve ever seen one, though I’ve been asked to be one on several occasions.

I’m not much good at picking winners at auctions and yard sales, which I go to religiously because Karen mistakenly thinks laying around the house watching ball games is a waste of time.

So, I tag along, trying to get a grip on this fascination people have with all things old. Once, at an auction, I saw a frayed old rug but liked the color. Karen suggested I make a bid, which I did — 10 bucks. Everyone laughed: the thing sold for $1800. I was flabbergasted. It had more stains on it than my favorite shirt. It turns out it was Persian (the rug, not the shirt), from a country that doesn’t even exist anymore. Where would you return it if you decided you and King George didn’t like it? It’s too bad the value of people didn’t increase with age. I could sell Karen’s grandmother for a fortune. I’ll just say she’s Persian.

People age poorly. We know this because a significant amount dies. Though we chose to forget this minor detail, the coronavirus reminds us anew. “It can be fatal, particularly to older victims,” they warn. Beidermeyer and King George and them guys better be careful out there.

Furniture becomes more valuable the older it gets. It just doesn’t seem right. Hopefully I can reverse the trend and outlive all this old junk we have in the house.

Here’s what’s sad: all the Oriental rugs and tapestries Karen has are treasured artifacts of our life together and on display prominently, but my Hector Lopez-signed baseball card, cat’s eye marbles, and that jaw of tobacco Billy Martin spit out in 1977 have been relegated to the basement.

When we got married, we put in a swimming pool though we didn’t have any money.

In the end, though you realize it’s not about getting into the pool, it’s about getting out.

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