Monday, September 6, 2010


Today was labor day and I drove up to Sebastopol with some people to pick apples, drink roadside milkshakes, eat some felafel and go antiquing. We went to two antique barns and the difference between them, though just 500 feet apart on the same road, seemed deliberate. The first barn was admirable enough-- a dapper man with bushy graying hair followed us around everywhere. Honestly, it sort of seemed to me like he thought we were going to rob him left and right if he didn't let us know that his bespectacled eyes were watching our every mood with acute discrepancy. The place had beautiful objects with blush-inducing price tags, and many many signs begging that you ask for assistance before handling things.

We drove down the road and pulled into the second 'antique barn,' quotations because most of the things to look at were outside, strewn about over a half acre of lawn. Boxes full of mildewing vinyl records, ceramic plates of all shapes and sizes, organizational wooden shelves filled with a chaos of once-hardware-now-rust, lamp-less lampshades, a disarray of amputated furniture and content-exploding cardboard boxes. I bought these things for eight dollars:

two old cabinet cards, one of twins, one of a family
a small wooden sewing box full of thread
two hand carved wooden collies with a metal chain connecting their collars
a ceramic dachshund and doe
a large white platter
a plastic shelf with about 50 teeny drawers, each with a metal charm glued to the front
a handmade piece of lace

The woman selling all this stuff was actually really sad about it-- apparently the strewn yard was a staged intervention by her daughter, who had emptied several storage containers of her hoarded belongings onto the yard for an impromptu weekend sale. The hoarder told us that the county of Sonoma was coming to pick up whatever wasn't taken by tomorrow morning. It was a weird kind of interaction, to buy something from someone who had no desire to sell it. But it made me think about desire and how the desire to preserve something is so easy to be compromised. The first gentleman had a barn full of cherished object for sale but the prices were too high for most people to be able to purchase them-- this preserves the barn as a museum but does not preserve the sustainability of a small business. The woman at the second barn was preserving objects by keeping them close, a keeping that failed to preserve them from mold, rot and rust. I'm wrapping up today wondering about my own sense of keeping and preservation and how I can sustain these practices without failing them. How will I keep? And what will I preserve?

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