Tag Archives: ideas

A Life

It was one of those fabulous old antebellum homes for which Madison is so well known. Off the main street, a couple of blocks back into the residential area. Academy Street.

In obvious need of exterior painting, and some roof repairs, it was nonetheless a grand old house. Twelve foot ceilings. Large rooms. Beautiful hardwood floors. And lot’s of quirks. Like the staircase with only a six foot clearance for heads.

But it wasn’t the outside of the house which had drawn me here. Or the others standing in line waiting to go inside. For me it was the things inside, treasures amassed over a lifetime by the last resident of the house. Now all for sale.

My understanding was that the last resident had, at age 98, slipped this mortal coil. Her family had sold the house, and was now parting with everything inside. Strange things you might find. Someone pointed out that there were hundreds of family photos. And even the guest book from the funeral. Small things can sometimes make big statements.

What I noticed was that there was a relatively small turnout for this sale. There were several people in the line that I recognized. Other estate sale junkies. Or antique dealers.   There were plenty of treasures here indeed. The owner had obviously been a collector, on a small scale, all her life. And she had treasures from every time period, and from around the world. She seemed to like Asian items. I mention this only because that is something I always look for, and am excited to find.

Most of the crowd seemed to be local people. People who knew this woman. They wanted to see the inside of the house. And perhaps to claim something that would remind them of her. One woman wanted the handwritten recipe cards from the kitchen. Zero monetary value, but tremendous sentimental value of some sort.

There was also at least one family member there. She identified herself as such when told that the item she wanted was already sold to someone else.

Maybe she was family. Maybe not. That one thing that she had always wanted was somehow not willed to her, or passed along by closer family members. She found something else and was satisfied.

I have no ties to this person. Or to any of the people whose estate sales I go. I’m a collector and reseller and that is my purpose and interest in these items from someone’s life. I do often wonder what kind of person this might have been, and usually end up creating my own story about them. Everyone is a hero.

One day my estate will be sold off. I’m glad I won’t be there for that. But I will at least know the story behind every single item sold.

That’s part of my story. What’s yours?

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A Minute

Commuting is an art form. Oh sure, anybody can hop into a car and drive off to work. But knowing exactly when to jump into that car, and which route to take, that’s the art.

When I was working a regular job I wanted to be sure that I was always on time. But at the same time, I didn’t want to get there any earlier than absolutely necessary. I didn’t get paid overtime, so I wasn’t giving any of my time away for free. So, I had to know exactly how much time I needed to get from home to office. Driving the truck meant one calculation. Riding the scooter called for another.

Of course variables like the weather and the local school calendar all had an Impact on these calculations. Even the day of the week could make a difference. It took years of practice and experimentation to get it all down. My brain did thousands of calculations each second. Never early. Never late.

When I quit working at the office I lost my touch. Only because I was out of the loop and wasn’t constantly monitoring new routes and changing traffic patterns. I didn’t have a need to be anywhere on time really. If I was a minute late, it didn’t matter. And I wasn’t going anywhere I didn’t want to be, so getting there early was ok now.

So this morning when I wanted to go somewhere, and needed to be there at an early hour of the morning, it didn’t occur to me that there would be heavy commuter traffic impeding my travel. It dawned on me when I was trying to make a left turn across what normally would have been a pretty lightly travelled road.

But this road is a direct feeder to the local high school a half mile down the road. Hundreds of kids either being dropped off by parents, or driving themselves to school. All trying to get there on time, but not too early. It was 7:45 AM, and being late was looking more and more likely to them. I waited to make my turn while an endless procession of cars went by.

And now my own travel plans were disrupted. This unexpected delay would make me late. Had I arrived at this intersection five minutes earlier, or five minutes later, there would have been no traffic. Make note of this newly discovered pattern.

I’ve already figured out that at 6:00 PM on a Friday, trying to merge onto the eastbound lanes of the highway from here to Atlanta is a lot harder than trying to make the same merge at 2:00 PM. Allow extra time when going late. A minute is sixty seconds, but it can make a much bigger difference. Something missed here, or another met there. Stay in the loop, or get into the slow lane.

That’s part of my story. What’s yours?

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Thanksgiving Theory

This one is a no brainer. On Thanksgiving we write about the things we are thankful for. And this year I have a long, long list. But I’m not gonna go into all of that for you, dear reader, because that’s not what you came here to read. Instead, I’ll just hit a few highlights, and a few concepts on things I’m thankful for.

This year, I’ve come to see things in a new light. I’m thankful for my mediocre health. It’s better than it could be. I’m thankful for being retired. Going out on disability wasn’t how I envisioned it, and I’d rather be working to tell you the truth, but my career has always taken it’s own twists and turns. It’s better than it could be.

I’m always thankful for my family. And how well they are doing. Not as well as some I know, but better than it could be all around. They are happy. And so am I.

I have a new house this year. New to me anyway. And I’m thankful that it is one story, and that I live in the country now. After a long stint in the suburbs, it’s better than it could be.

But mostly I’m thankful for a new way of looking at things. I’ve found a new way of thinking about the way the universe works. You can call it what you want, but it works for me. In this new vision, great spirits and ancestors inhabit the world around me, and if I ask for their wisdom, they will share it. The wisdom of centuries of being.

I don’t ask for money or power or objects. What I am searching for, and asking for help with, is finding my happiness. I’ve opened my ears and my soul to listening for the wisdom that is out there. Wisdom on how to find what makes me happy, to surround my self with people who make me happy, and to know when I’ve found the right path to that happiness. I’ve also asked that I have a kind thought for myself. Forget the negative thoughts of the past and concentrate on the possibilities of the future.

Life is too short to be miserable. I live with physical pain. And I’m still working to shake off many great mental burdens. But I’ve opened myself to hearing new wisdom, and I’m finding that with the right mindset, I hear the voices of the wise. Happy to share.

There is a lot to be thankful for. And with an open heart, I find more and more.

That’s part of my story. What’s yours?

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Which Boat For Me?

What a delightful dilemma! In planning for my financial future one of the exercises I undertook was an attempt to lay out major expenses I anticipate for the future. My kids have graduated for college so that’s out of the way. My house is nearly paid for. There will be a need for at least two new cars over the course of my remaining life. And I want to travel. A lot.

Then there is that one other thing that I have always longed for. A boat. The financial plan only looks at numbers. It doesn’t care what the numbers represent. The plan doesn’t say things like why the hell do you want to go to Pago Pago? Or, a boat is a lousy idea. But family and trusted advisors do say things like that. Then again, there are some who say follow your dreams, listen to your heart. Buy the boat. So I allocated a very small sum toward a boat. At some point in the future. Hopefully before I am too old and feeble to enjoy it.

With the modest budget I have set, and I mean not much more than a fancy bicycle, I have no choice but a used boat. Which is really what I want anyway. A fixer upper project. There are thousands of them out there. The choice I have to make is between three types of boat.

With my love for all things mid-century, I am fascinated by small speedboats from the late 1950’s to the late 1960’s. They are known as runabouts. What I love is the curved, single piece windshield. And the sleek lines. Something measuring fourteen to eighteen feet would be nice. The wooden Chris-Crafts are beautiful, but my budget is more along the lines of a fiberglass hull. Besides, I’d be afraid to scratch a Chris-Craft! Runabout boats have a certain look, and you know it as soon as you see it. They are getting harder to find, and even one requiring some work would be near the top of the budget. The positives are that they are beautiful. They zip about with style and grace. They attract attention. And they are fun. The drawback is that you have to step in and out and small engines require maintenance.

On the other hand, a pontoon boat has a lot of potential. Great for lakes. Perfect for parties. Easy to get in and out of. Get a bunch of friends together, load her up and have a blast. Engine still needs maintenance. But the aluminum body is easy to care for. And I can find a number of these within my budget.

And then there is the sailboat. The romance of the seas has always captured my heart. Call me Ishmael. And I’ve actually owned two small sailboats before. One was so small I couldn’t even fit into it. That was a fixer upper project and when I finished it I sold it. Without ever sailing it. The other was a sixteen foot Snipe. My wife hated it because in a calm wind it didn’t move very fast. Becalmed on the water in July in Georgia makes for a pretty hot day. I sold that one too.

I’m not a good sailor. Need more practice. But I love the idea. And I loved the reno project and would gladly take on another. Small fixer upper sailboats are easy to find. And within my budget.

So, that delightful dilemma remains unsolved. The romance of sailing the seas. The exhilaration of the zippy runabout. Or the party on the pontoon. In a perfect world I would buy all three. I have no idea how I will decide. But when I get the boat, I’ll let you know.

That’s part of my story. What’s yours?

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The Desk That Didn’t Sell

Well, it wasn’t a desk at all. That was the whole issue. It’s a beautiful piece of solid walnut furniture. A fabulous looking mid century modern desk. Flat top, tapered legs, several drawers and really cool hardware. But it’s actually a sewing machine cabinet. Without the sewing machine.

I have it in my antique store. Can’t remember where I found it, or how much I paid for it, but when I saw it I knew I loved it and could sell it in the store.

It’s been sitting there, waiting patiently for a new home, for nearly a year now. So you can imagine how excited I was when the sales clerk called me to tell me that someone was interested, but wanted a better price. What could I do for them?

Under the circumstances I might normally slash the price. Half off! Give the damn thing away! But I knew it was still a very nice piece and was worth more than I was asking for it. Nonetheless, customers in antique stores always like to feel like they are negotiating themselves a great deal, and I’m happy to help with that perception. I told the clerk to give them 25 per cent off. Nice piece. Good for them.

As I reviewed the daily sales I noticed that the “desk” was not listed as sold. Hmmm I thought. Had they wanted me to give them the desk for free? What kind of people were these? The next morning I rode up to the store.

There sat the desk. Unsold.   But every item that had been displayed on it was removed, and scattered randomly throughout the store. What in the world?!!!

Approaching the sales counter, the clerk smiled at me and laughed. She said they had agreed to take the desk at the offered price, but changed their mind when they realized that it was a sewing machine cabinet. The clerk thought it was still a nice piece of furniture that could be used as a desk and didn’t understand the big deal. Obviously the customer didn’t see it that way. And didn’t read the clearly marked tag.

What fascinates me however is not the customer’s change of heart, or their desire to get exactly what they wanted. No, it’s the idea that they removed every item from on top of the piece, set each and every one down somewhere else, and then walked out and left it that way. They must of thought the sales staff had noting better to do than clean up their mess. I know, it’s retail and that’s how customers are.

On other occasions I’ve noticed that people will pick things up and put them down somewhere completely different. Could they have forgotten while they stood there admiring the object, where they had found it?

And why do they bring me their trash? I find stuff all over the store. And yes, we do have a trashcan at the desk. Candy wrappers , soda cans, coffee cups. All left among the antiques. Like I’m not going to notice. More stuff for my staff to clean up. I know, it’s retail and that’s how customers are.

This morning as I scoured the scene, I noticed a grape on the floor. We don’t sell food in the antique store. And we don’t have a lunch counter. The grape came from outside. And one of my treasured retail customers left it for me on the floor.

I spent an hour or so replacing all of the objects which had been on the desk, cleaning up the grape, and tidying up in general. And I can’t wait to see what I find next time.

That’s part of my story, what’s yours?

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Infinity

Is infinity a quantum physics concept? Something that rocket scientists sit around discussing as they peer into their telescopes and the heavens? Or is it just an idea that is really hard for most of us to wrap our heads around? It’s a big place.

I once has a conversatioin with a customer service representative regarding some issue I was hgavinf, and a s well trained CSR, the person on the other end of the hone line tried to end our conversation by asking if I had any other question.   Of course I have lots of questions, and I asked two: where is the end of the universe? And what is on the other side? After an awkward silence, I heard a very faintly whispered “thank you sir.” Click.

For me, infinity isn’t just a concept. It’s a tangible place.

No, I don’t travel at the speed of light. Nor do I have access to a wormhole to take me to the edge of the universe. I have what some would call a man cave.

This isn’t like any man cave you have ever seen before though. On the door is a sign, written in Chinese, that says “Captain Matt’s Magical World of Infinite Fantasy.” For short, I call it Infinity. I love Buzz Lightyear you see. And his motto is “to Infinity…and beyond!!!” When I go to my man cave, I say I’m going to infinity.

There is no television. No recliner. No sports memorabilia. It’s filled with the stuff that defines me. Stuff I’ve collected over the years and like to have around me. And the entrance is guarded by two very small, but fierce, Chinese dragons.

I have a mid century swivel rocker. And a rattan chair like Morticia Addams had. And a really cool mid century barber’s chair – so sleek. And it swivels and goes up and down! These chairs surround a large white marble tulip table my mother bought in 1968. And of course there is a bar made of an old mid century record player cabinet.

That’s the seating area. There is also a work area. My office. Here resides a mid century desk, and its chair. There is an old school stereo system with turntable. And old records to play on it.

Here and there you will find book shelves and display shelves filled with the books I enjoy. And the things that remind me of something from my past. Modern sculpture. Asian art. Colored glass items. Movie memorabilia. Ship models. Jars of marbles, because it’s obvious that I’ve lost mine. There are native American artifacts. Nautical treasures. And some fabulous mid century lights – including a red spaghetti lamp. Even a few things that glow in the dark! And of course, Buzz Lightyear.

There is also a workshop area. It’s filled with projects that need to be worked on. And several storage areas. You might guess that these are filled with items awaiting a better place for display or use. And you would be right.

I don’t allow people into infinity. I’m afraid it would blow their mind. But if you ever did get a chance to go inside, you would have a much better understanding of me. And that I really haven’t lost my marbles.

That’s part of my story. What’s yours?

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A Moving Idea

Sometimes an idea will simmer in your mind for a long time before you get the details worked out. Or even begin to take it seriously. Then some sort of trigger gets pulled and you feel compelled to act. Even obsessed with bringing this idea to fruition.

When I was a child my father’s employer transferred his job to another city. Another state. He loved his job, so he was going. And so were we. He was moving from the sprawl of Northern New Jersey to a manufacturing town in Pennsylvania. Not far from the Amish Country. He wanted to live in a rural area.

He and my mother looked at houses to make their new home. One of them was a farmhouse on a large hunk of acreage. In the middle of nowhere as farmhouses with vast expanses of land tend to be. He liked it. My mom, not so much. She was afraid that she would be isolated from the rest of humanity. And that her two young children would be stranded far from friends. Eventually they built a house in an upcoming new subdivision. Close to town, and shopping. The best schools in the state. A one-quarter acre lot.

This particular area was still considered to be in the country, and there were vast cornfields behind the house. And across the street, in the still undeveloped portion of the neighborhood, there were open fields. Up the road was the farmhouse and red barn to which all of this land had once belonged. So my father got a little of what he wanted, and my mother got everything she wanted.

That’s where I grew up. From age five until I graduated from high school. The day after I graduated, my parents moved out. They had bought my father’s dream home. An old stone farmhouse on ten acres of land. With a barn. They lived there for the next thirty-eight years and although I had grown up in suburbia, I have ever since considered this second home, Shadowlawn Farm, to be my real home. Like my father, I too loved the country life.

Fast forward to twenty years ago. My life takes many turns similar to my fathers. My wife and I had started a family and were living in an urban subdivision. The schools were failing and we wanted more for our children. We started to look in the neighboring county. Which happened to have the best schools in the state.

We looked at existing subdivision homes. We looked in the country. Every Sunday we would drive out to the country and ride around looking. One neighborhood had particular appeal to my wife. Best one in the county. We had always heard that you should buy the worst house in the best neighborhood you could afford. That was her plan. I was still holding out for the farm.

Finally it was my father-in-law who caused me to take action. He shamed me into it. What he said to me one day was that my kids needed to move. They needed to be near other kids. And I should get off my wallet and do right by my family. Of course I was going to take care of my family, but I didn’t have to do it at the expense of my life. But I did.

Time was passing and a new school year was approaching. If we bought a new house, or piece of property in the next county we could enroll the girls in the best schools available. There was a vacant lot for sale in that best neighborhood. So I bought it. And my wife and I got together with a builder and proceeded to construct a new house. It was exciting, but a story for another time and blog post.

Fast forward once again. This time to 2016. For the past twenty years I have been poring over real estate books looking at houses. Moving has never been a consideration. The kids were still in school. Then college. My wife was content. I was antsy. Then my back failed. Two surgeries later and I was having real difficulty with the stairs in our three story house. And walking. Moving suddenly became a consideration. But where?

To be continued…

That’s part of my story. What’s yours?

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