Wednesday, October 31, 2012
In case you didn't know, I grew up going to the Jersey shore and I still make an effort to take my kids there in the summertime. I want them to be feeling their inner Jersey girls, at least once in a while. Last night I realized I hadn't been taking them enough. Hopefully it's not too late to rectify that.
It was my turn to read bedtime stories to the five-year-old; per usual, she chose a book (The Zabajaba Jungle by William Steig) and I chose a book (Flotsam by David Wiesner). Per usual, she initially regarded my choice with skepticism, but when I explained to her that this was a sentimental choice, that this magical, wordless picture book was set in Long Beach Island, vacation mecca of my childhood and the same "down the shore" she'd visited a number of times, she relented. She loves LBI, of course. To the uninitiated it probably doesn't seem like much—a skinny, flat strip of sand in the Atlantic. Eighteen miles of laughing gulls and mole crabs and tartar sauce and ice cream parlors and cute lifeguards and the clink-clink of sailboats in the marina at night. Old Barney, big and benevolent like all old-school lighthouses, and some of the best heels-over-head, rough-and-tumbling, sand-in-every-orofice body-surfing around. Even Lindsay, who'd mutter darkly about Galveston or South Padre vs. LBI when I first forced him to go some 20-odd years ago, feels the love.
After we read Flotsam (naturally she loved that too), I told my daughter that Superstorm Sandy had wreaked some serious havoc on our beloved Jersey shore and I wasn't sure how LBI had fared. I did know that the Seaside Heights roller coaster and log flume had been washed out to sea, and that various boardwalks were in shambles. She looked confused. What's a boardwalk?
Omigod, have we never taken her to a boardwalk? Is it too late?
I am no fan of Governor Chris Christie but something he said at one of his many press conferences this week made me a little verklempt. He said that the boardwalks would be rebuilt but to folks of a certain age, they'd never be the same. He's so right. I guess I'm of that certain age. When did I get to be a certain age?
I realize that if you're not from NJ, you think that the Jersey shore is Jersey Shore. I've never watched the show; that might be what it's like now (or, well, that might've been what it was like a few days ago), but that's not how I see it. I see it as it's depicted on these vintage postcards (scored, mind you, at an antiques mall here in San Antonio): LBI was Eden (a mostly treeless Eden, but Eden nonetheless), and the boardwalks of Seaside Heights and Wildwood were a beckoning Babylon. My brother and I had to beg my parents to take us to that "honky-tonk" as they disparagingly referred to it, and that honky-tonk never disappointed. Please rebuild, Jersey. It won't be the same, but I've got some young Texans who need to feel the boardwalk beneath their feet.
Monday, October 29, 2012
I did not buy this amateur painting, despite my soft spot for amateur art, because it's obviously too creepy, even for me. Also, this is just a detail of the work—the canvas covered an entire wall. That's a big commitment.
At this sale, an entire room was given over to Coke collectibles. I was there on day 2 so most of the bottles containing the original formula of Coke (not Coke Classic) and the short-lived New Coke were sold out, not that I would've bought any since my Coke-drinking is confined to the occasional Diet Coke on an airplane when the sad airplane coffee has left me with caffeine-withdrawal symptoms. Coke collectibles always depress me—it seems like the sort of collecting that's forced on someone rather than voluntarily pursued. Take, for example, that family member (i.e., your dad) who is impossible to buy gifts for. One day someone's like, Hey, Dad drinks Coke! Let's get him a deluxe limited edition Coca-Cola Uno set and a nine-foot-tall stuffed Coca-Cola-quaffing Polar bear and then there's no turning back. How many collections start out this way, I wonder.
I did not buy this rad Magnavox turntable/radio/record cabinet because Lindsay bought a similar Telefunken stereo cabinet eight years ago—a Telefunken that doesn't actually work but makes a fine surface area for displaying tchotchkes.
Friday, October 26, 2012
Ah, if I had a nickel for every sauna postcard I've received par avion... This one was sent by my parents when they were in the motherland back in October 1993, if I'm reading the postmark correctly. Anyway. What can I say? The sauna is a beautiful thing. Let your birch branches and your freak flags fly, people, and have a nice weekend.
Thursday, October 25, 2012
I believe I mentioned that last Friday I had to nip out for a voluntary girls' health movie and discussion at my 9-year-old daughter's elementary school. It was mostly sweet and funny and full of gasps, sighs, whimpers and giggles along with a few sage questions (well, how do you insert a tampon anyway?) and gruesome hypotheticals (what if you get your first period in the middle of the classroom and you're too embarrassed to raise your hand and tell the teacher who happens to be a man?). The school nurse led the discussion and she did a very entertaining job of tap-dancing away from the questions that led inevitably to sex, as in, if starting to menstruate means you can officially become pregnant...how do you get pregnant? And is it possible to become pregnant without knowing it??? Like I said, gruesome hypotheticals, which the nurse was not permitted to explain—that voluntary health talk (and movie, I can only hope) doesn't happen until middle school.
I was sort of surprised that we were already going down this road. Wasn't preschool just...just...five years ago? I've been collecting retro sex-ed books like Facts of Life and Love for Teenagers by Evelyn Millis Duvall (revised edition, 1957) because they are so quaint, so removed from reality (hello, chapter devoted to "That question of petting"!). I thought I might sell them or better still, give them to the parents of, you know, older children as a kind of gag gift. Funny how that doesn't seem so funny anymore... Gag.
What I really need now is to lay my hands on a copy of Peter Mayle's Where Did I Come From?—see it here on my friend Burgin's vintage kid book blog—which I recall fondly from my youth (I think a neighbor had it). I've seen several vintage copies on my estate-sale rounds but they tend to be grubby, stained, split at the spine. All signs of a well-loved, well-read book but—grody. Onward to amazon, where a brand-new soft-bound is $9.95. I think I still have time to continue my quest for the perfect first edition paperback of Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret. I think.
Wednesday, October 24, 2012
I did not buy any of these hundreds of vintage Playboy magazines, all from the 1960s and ’70s, because I was overwhelmed. Seriously, I'd pick up one issue and the one underneath was even better. I did not know what to do, so I did nothing. Much to Lindsay's chagrin.
I did not buy this unopened pack of oven-liners because I'm not really sure if we have a need for over-liners. I couldn't resist the packaging, though—the foxy hausfrau in ruffles slaving over a hot stove. Classic.
I did not buy these rocks or shells because I try to limit my rock-buying to sales I've dragged my children to. They always make me buy rocks.
Tuesday, October 23, 2012
I wasn't aware of Isaac Asimov's naughty side until I found this 1975 Fawcett paperback at an estate sale, its saucy cover a beacon amid piles of books about Christianity. But I'm not surprised since all the best sci-fi is at least a little bit tawdry, right? Asimov, it turns out, wrote five volumes of dirty limericks and at least one ribald humor book, The Sensuous Dirty Old Man. I consider this just one more credit earned toward my estate-sale continuing education degree—yet another arcane fact to tuck away till needed (e.g., crossword puzzle, Jeopardy appearance, nerd-cocktail-party fodder).
At some point in my adolescence I was also fond of writing limericks (innocent ones) but it's hard to see the genre ever making a comeback. Then again, haiku had its hipster-ironic moment (or am I making that up?), so I guess anything is possible. I gotta say, as much as I want to love this book, it's a stretch. A hundred limericks is a lot of limericks, even if some are "boldly illustrated." Here's a sampler:
"A Poor Example"
An Olympian lecher was Zeus,
Always playing around fast and loose,
With one hand in the bodice
Of some likely young goddess
And the other preparing to goose.
A stately giraffe, when he necks,
Or a hippo, when he's having sex,
Aren't worth a tut-tut
To the bellowing rut
Of the great Tyrannosaurus Rex.
"Reward of Industry"
A woman most gorgeously stacked
Thought screwing a glorious act.
So, for finding a niche
For those who were rich,
She was diamonded, minked, Cadillacked.
A luscious young student at Vassar
Was hailed as a top-of-the-classer.
But not in her studies
You old fuddy-duddies
For she shone as a great piece-of-asser.
That's just the tip of the iceberg—a phrase I'm sure Asimov could've double-entendred nicely—but you get the gist. His material is pretty dated, meaning there are more rape jokes than the average person who wasn't a Republican congressman of a certain age would find palatable. The coolest thing about this volume—apart from the blank pages in the back where you're invited to "write your own limericks"—is that on the page opposite each limerick, Asimov offers up a little critique and/or anecdote. Who could write a hundred limericks let alone remember the circumstance surrounding the writing of each? For the Vassar limerick, he recalls giving a lecture at Smith College and how excited he was to stay in the (all-girls, obviously) dormitory, till he saw his room, which had only one door—and it opened to the street. Buzzkill!
Pity the poor sensuous dirty old man, if you can.
Monday, October 22, 2012
Growing up in the chilliest corner of Northern New Jersey, I never once encountered a koozie or coozie or cosy, the snug little sleeve designed to keep one's beverage—generally, one's beer—nice and frosty. I'm not saying that they didn't exist, that there weren't all kinds of Jersey jokers floating down the Delaware with koozie-wrapped Yuenglings in hand, but I never laid eyes on one till I visited Texas for the first time back in 1989. I thought they were brilliant, and like Columbus bringing back parrots and pineapples from Hispaniola for Queen Isabella and her cronies to marvel over, Lindsay and I returned from our trips to Texas bearing all variations on the koozie theme (like the Freeze Sleeve) to wide-eyed New Yorkers. We even had custom koozies made to commemorate our wedding. Classy!
We're not big beer drinkers anymore, so most of our koozies collect dust atop the laundry-room refrigerator, and we've still got a cache of wedding koozies in the garage. But I've maintained a soft spot for the concept and was pretty thrilled to discover the Therma-Jac a few years ago at an estate sale. Manufactured in Fort Payne, Alabama, by a purveyor of terry-cloth coasters called the Hi-Jac Corp, the Therma-Jac was designed to keep your cocktail cool. The thing is, in all the time I've had my Therma-Jacs, I've never once stuck my glass in one. Cute as they are, they're a little unwieldy and if it's hot enough outside to boil my gin and tonic, I'm probably inside partaking of the AC.
That's why it was pretty easy for me to pass up the pile of Therma-Jacs in this photo, which I took a couple of weeks ago at an estate sale for a woman touted as having been San Antonio's "hostess of the year" (I'm not sure what year precisely but it had to have been 1950-something). The place had been pretty much picked clean by the time I arrived—the only things of interest were a peculiar cellulite-flattening device that resembled an abacus, and the Therma-Jacs shimmering behind the bar. (True fact: all the best estate sales have bars.) If I were in the business of reselling, which I should be, I probably would've bought them—they are a flashy bar accessory irresistible to Mad Men fetishists and other would-be Hostesses of the Year. Even if you never do end up using them, they look sweet.
Friday, October 19, 2012
I have to be at the elementary school in 15 minutes so I can escort my daughter to a film (animated, I hear) about puberty (she and her friends call it "the period movie"). Then I have exactly two hours to hit three promising estate sales, go to the grocery store to stock up on weekend wine and dog bones and hit the bakery for my iced coffee and weekly loaf of multigrain, because today is an early-release day and the bus will be at the corner at around noon. Why can't early release days be scheduled during the estate-sale-free first half of the week?
Tuesday, October 16, 2012
I did not buy this roadrunner print because every other sale I go to features some variation on the roadrunner theme so I can afford to be picky.
I kinda loved this thread-art (is that what this genre of craft is called?) cock-fighting portrait but the $29 pricetag seemed excessive.
This is a detail of a polyester muumuu that I didn't buy though I was sorely tempted because this bird-photo print was so beguiling. For a moment, I contemplated turning it into pillows but then remembered that would entail paying someone else to turn it into pillows so I restrained myself.
Friday, October 12, 2012
Today, in honor of my sainted spouse's birthday, we will forego Finnish Fridays and instead highlight one of Lindsay's favorite estate-sale finds—a near-pristine collection of mostly Spanish pop 45s dating from the late 1960s. He was rightly pleased with himself when he scored this eye candy for cheap at a great sale in a real armpit of a neighborhood. (Yes, I still remember this sale even though it was some seven years ago... I think I still smell this sale... Maybe I'm just smelling the records.) He was convinced that all of these 45s were highly collectible; some of them might be, I dunno. They've been sitting in a closet unlistened to and unresearched till I recently decided to dust them off and give them a listen. I can't say that I've made my way through the whole collection (nor did I photograph all of them). Some are kinda catchy and completely insane, the way you would expect a Eurovision runner-up to be. There's some smooth cocktail jazz suitable for Mad Men. There's some manic marching band music and some maudlin vocals suitable for Saturday Night Live parody. And that's the good stuff. I don't think any of the records live up to their fabulous sleeve art. Feast your eyes on these covers, folks! This was some San Antonio hepcat's lovingly curated collection—I don't see how we could ever break it up.
Thursday, October 11, 2012
This week we nominate the 1953 Mentor Paperback edition of The Universe and Dr. Einstein by Lincoln Barnett (retail price Back in the Day: 35¢). Mr. Barnett's explanation of Einstein's theories is purportedly clear and simple enough for a high school chemistry to understand. Alas, I am no longer a high school chemistry student, so me no understand. Content is not the issue here anyway; it's the delightful cover, which I am certain must've spawned many an Omni magazine cover.
Wednesday, October 10, 2012
I did not buy this vintage Sperti Sunlamp because it seemed silly and a waste of money but definitely worth a quick snap of the iPhone. Maybe I should've bought this vintage Sperti Sunlamp because it turns out there's a market for old sunlamps, especially when they come with the original goggles, like this one did. Here in San Antonio, there's a Tanfastic (or similarly, awesomely named) tanning salon in every strip mall, so it's hard for me to imagine what one does with an old-school face-fryer.
I did not buy this Northern Untangler Comb, despite the ecstatic expression of the Carol Alt-meets-Rita Hayworth model on the box, because my hair isn't long enough to tangle, and my tangly-tressed daughter swears by the Remington Tangle Tamer.
I did not buy this 1960s Oster Scientific Junior Massage Instrument because I need at least a Senior Massage Instrument to achieve "that feeling of well being."
Friday, October 5, 2012
A belated Happy Finnish Friday to one and all. Been a little busy today because my (Finnish) mother is here and there's no better excuse for going to five estate sales in one day. I was hoping to hit seven, which might have been a personal record, but the AC died in the guest room last night so we had to wait on the AC repairman for half the morning (Finns like their rooms just-under-the-arctic-circle cold for optimal sleep, so choices had to be made).
In honor of the day, I give you one of two vintage teapots made by the incomparable Finnish ceramics company Arabia. They're not marked because they're "seconds," which my mother bought at the Arabia factory outlet store in 1960. Gives you shopping chills, right? Why can't there be an Arabia outlet store at my outlet mall instead of all that cut-rate DKNY and Michael Kors?
Wednesday, October 3, 2012
This week's links for vintage hoarders and estate-sale stalkers...
Somebody please buy this amazing Frank Lloyd Wright by tomorrow or it's going to be bulldozed! Damn you, Arizona!
A history of Seventeen magazine—lots of eye candy.
Wasn't I ragging on CDs just yesterday? Well, it turns out that this week marks the 30th anniversary of the not quite obsolete technology.
An accounting of Brooke Astor's estate sale at Sotheby's—oddly, I didn't see much that I wanted.
Tuesday, October 2, 2012
I used to be a pretty avid collector of LPs and 45s, but now I tend to steer clear of the record boxes at estate sales. For one, they're overpriced. For two, I have everything I need on vinyl. There was a time when I didn't have all the vintage children's records in the universe, but now I've pretty much got that covered as well. Still, it's hard to resist an adorable case specially designed to hold one's 45 collection. Totes, kits—they're as cute as they sound, and you can easily imagine Archie, Betty and the gang toting them to a platter party at the Lodges' mansion. And, damn, when you compare them to those depressing black nylon Caselogic CD cases or those ugly-ass CD towers...bleh. (I find it hard to believe that there will ever be a retro-nostalgist market for CDs.) I realize plenty of people still listen to CDs, but does anyone actually tote them around anymore? All you need is your iPhone/iPod/equivalent, and while you can deck that in a pretty smart case, it's never going to be as darling as the 45 kit.
The only downside to collecting these kits is that they often come stocked with Betty or Veronica's original collection and even though I don't necessarily want all those Pat Boone 45s, it pains me to bust it up. I discussed this conundrum previously when I shared my best record score ever, which is still sitting in my office, intact and unlistened to. What to do, what to do.
Monday, October 1, 2012
Last week I watched the mostly terrible, mildly misogynist body-switching comedy The Change-Up. I had to remind myself that there are some sterling examples of the body-switcheroo genre and not all of them star Judge Reinhold. For example, I loved Freaky Friday—the Jodie Foster one that came out in ’76, that is. The Lindsay Lohan one isn't half bad, but—ugh. It's depressing to contemplate Lindsay Lohan. Better to focus on the great Jodie Foster. Better still to focus on Edward Gorey. His cover for the 1972 hardcover edition of Mary Rodgers' Freaky Friday novel is da bomb. (Remember when people used to say da bomb? I never used that term whenever it was popular but suddenly it's just feeling right.) One day I will read this book and report back on how true the movie adaptation was to the original. In the meantime, it features prominently in my Edward Gorey book-cover collection.