ANTICS: Passionate Stories About Folks in the Antiques Trade
PASSIONATE STORIES online*
*published in WOOD COIN: a Magazine of 18 Issues
PRAISE for Carol Bergé
“These complex and often brilliant stories can stand up to the best that appear today.” Kirkus Reviews
“Her fables – dry, acerbic, dreamlike – overwhelm with quotidian detail which gradually turns surreal…” Village Voice
“The pages fairly zing with the electricity generated by a fine writer.” National Observer
“A many-edged skepticism, gossipy and satiric, makes a book of hers more worth buying, and reading, than ever.” For Now
“Brilliant filet mignon of prose.” Dialog Magazine
“Intelligence, sensitivity, a good eye… The writing contains twists and quirks that bring readers back for a second look.” Taos News
“As a recovering collectibles dealer, I couldn't resist this title. And I was truly gratified for my effort. Ms. Bergé... creates characters with feeling and substance, and a passion for the trade and the rewards it can bring.” Rainbo Electronic Reviews
Excerpts from ANTICS
Look around you – you will see Caroline. She is alive in my shop even as we speak. Her spirit is invoked in that beautiful Loetz vase in the showcase – the swirled green, violet, and “Caroline Blue” of it. I am once again at that farmhouse where she was gathering treasures one summer, decades ago. A rocking-horse, made long ago by a loving grandparent. A trade sign for a glove-maker, from Gloversville, New York. A cast-iron rooster windmill weight. A crazy-quilt of men’s-wear patches, with the softest flannel on its underside – that one is a keeper, it’s on my narrow “handyman bed” here, which is just like one she had at that farmhouse, that day my parents and I visited her…
Aunt-tiques, or, How We Become
Most traders dislike or resist The System and want to create a more individualistic way to earn and survive. Politics are a ridiculous development, taxation has little to do with them, and the idea of commerce on any conventional level is anathema. It’s a rebellious position, with a long tradition behind it and its own culture heroes, most of them in the arts. The idea is to not take anything for granted – who was it that said, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” There is a philosophical aspect to perceiving and then actively participating in one’s own life, in making defined choices as to what one believes in or what one rejects. This kind of perspective is not come by easily. Some of it is the luck of the draw… but withal, living the life of a trader still has to mean meeting certain obligations of participation in The System – not everything can be used in barter, so coin of the realm is an imperative – unless, that is, the trader is so determined to get back to basics that living in a cave and subsisting on roots and berries, with a long beard hanging and a pikestaff in hand for the climb (see: Han Shan), is the lifestyle of choice. Some traders get as close as they can to the edge of that particular fog-trailed cliff, with as few compromises as possible.
It’s a lovely night in early July. The tourist season is burgeoning. Earth’s moon is in the mid-heaven. I’m in a painted iron turn-of-last-century single bed, lonely for the time when life was simpler, or so I would like to believe. I leave two lights on – one next to my bed and one in the long hallway to the kitchen. This custom began when I rushed to my firstborn, so that I could lift him, hold him while I got ready to nurse him, by fixing a cold drink to keep by my side to renew my milk fluids as they left me and went into him. Thirty years later, I still keep the lights on… It’s the intensity of the tourist season. All of us have had an arduous day in our shops. We relax slowly. The hotels and inns in our city are already filled with visitors, bringing their own dreams. The night is chilly even in July at this altitude, and I pull an old flannel Beacon blanket up over my shoulders. We each believe we are immortal until time proves us mortal. That is what I see in the tree outside my bedroom window. Almost asleep, I saw the tree shake its head and heard the leaves laugh at the space where the moon had been. Then I slept, deep in dreamscape…
Michael was away for the weekend, at a cabin in the wilderness a few hundred miles from here, and he’d taken my story with him. I expected some reaction or response, so I phoned him there. To my utter amazement, Mikey thanked me and was very enthusiastic about my writing about him. Well, it turned out that Mike was not exactly your intellectual giant. Where I had written “erratic,” he read as “erotic,” and he was very flattered and delighted. I went into shock. Sure, you often hear of the Prince and the Showgirl, or the Pygmalion kind of relationship, but this was a whole other matter. I was in a reverse chauvinist position. I had made love with a man who couldn’t even read. A moment after he said that, all the fire went out of my view of him. As the old joke goes, after the sex, you have to be able to have a conversation, right? and that applies to men as well as women. Mike was simply limited and I’d ignored that obvious fact from the git. So that was the End of the Affair.
The Man in Question
“Anything with eagles on it,” he would say. “Anything blue will sell. And anything with the flag on it.” And we would listen to his wisdom and take his advice. It was 1980; we were pioneers; our teacher had set up the first group shop or mini-mall in a large thriving southwest city, and for sure he knew what he was doing, and we did not. “Tables and chairs,” he said, “people always need tables and chairs. And they sell best around Thanksgiving and Christmas. Anything that people can use to sit at and eat their food will sell then.” Oh, we listened, and we believed him, and he was right.
Now, about those tea-cups and coffee-mugs with pictures of dogs on them. The motto every antiques merchant knows is, Anything will sell. It's only a matter of time, before the right buyer comes along for any object. No matter how ugly, or how blatantly kitsch, somebody will eventually fall in love with it. Someone will come along and say, “Great for Aunt Nellie's birthday!” and pay good coin of the realm for it. Take it to the bank. So, to the amazement of other merchants, Syl’s awful cups sell and sell. Therefore she considers herself an “artist,” and preens, and uses this as a partial excuse for her eccentricities and depressions…
Side Effects May Include…
Ellie’s place wasn’t your typical lady’s shop; she loved old metal, always had old stoves and stove-parts, wheelbarrows, a harrow that was pure sculpture, architecturals, weathervanes – things most people thought of as Boy-Toys. Signs from long-gone farms and shops (Farrier, Saddles, Bootmaker). In furniture, she went for the tailored look of Mission Oak, schoolmaster’s desks, the simplicity of Shaker pine. She spent no space on Victoriana, or rococo, neither did she on stock coins, tools or models of boats or cars; it was an unexpected and fascinating array.
- The Search for a Perfect Love
$25 AWAREing Press/ Regent Press, 2005–2007