Sunday, May 24, 2009
I couldn't have a steady diet of this. Or could I?
Old time tinted postcards, orange-crate art. I have a small collection (well, ok, maybe ten, and of those, two are missing). Sure, it's bland, but sometimes I like to picture myself in a scene such as this, under a pastel sky, sitting in a deco dining car, riding through the old California.
But bland would eventually make me misbehave. I'd have too much champagne and needle my traveling companion. Derail the train, steal the oranges.
But nevermind about that. Actually, this is about collections. You know, collections of orchids, teacups, Nancy Drew, fine old wine, ceramic frogs. I knew someone who knew someone who collected old doors. Not The Doors, doors.
I always wanted to be so captivated by some subject that a collection would naturally arise. As a child, I tried rocks once. Went out in the backyard and picked up a bunch and put them in a shoebox, then compared them to the pictures in a library book for identification purposes. All were granite.
Next came coins, but of course those were regularly plucked out of the cardboard display for juicy fruit gum and butterscotch lifesavers. (Speaking of which, who the hell stole my collection of two silver dollars?)
I have four first-edition books, generously given to me: The Prime of Miss Jean Brody, Nexus, and Dona Flor and Her Two Husbands, and As They Were.
They're no longer worth anything as collectibles because I've read and re-read them. Bent their spines, dog-eared some pages, lost the dust covers of two. But they're still valuable to me.
I don't know why, in collections of old things, the goal is pristine. I'd rather have a Bauer pitcher that actually saw some use; the patina from generations of human hands, a chip, a scratch.
Which brings to mind the hand-tinted postcards -- in terms of value, they're supposed to be innocent of stamp, postmark, or handwritten message. By god, those are the best parts! The really old ones might just be addressed to a name in a city. "Miss Caroline D. Barnes, Watkins, Ny." And the messages are poignant. "Dear Mother. I promise to write more soon. This is just to say I love you. Your son, Robert."
So I guess, I don't understand most collections at all. Or better yet, it means I can always get mine cheap.