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Friday, September 21, 2012

Events (Not So) Far Off

I went down to GA Sunday a week ago, and after I'd washed a little over half of the trunkful of laundry that I hauled down with me, Mums and I drove to Dublin to visit Grandmommy.  Physically, she is in great shape, but it's an emotionally rough time of year for her because of the second anniversary of Granddaddy's death September 10.  Mums and I reflected that it seems simultaneously ages since the sad summer of 2010, and like it all happened just months ago.  Despite my coming down with a migraine (the first in a very long time) the three of us women played two games of Scrabble, and Mums won both times, with Grandmommy and I switching off for second and third spots.  Mums is a brain.

After breakfast the next morning, we decided that we'd head for Fernandina Beach again this year (we stopped in St. Simon's Island for lunch), and we stayed at the same hotel, and, towards the end of our visit (which we extended by a couple of days), in the very same room!  This year, instead of the rest of the rooms being rented by a dieter's convention, there was an old soldier's reunion--a field artillery unit from Vietnam. 

We walked for an hour on the beach the first night there, racing a quartet of kite-surfers down to the southen pier--watching them fly over some waves and ride other breakers into shore...it looked like so much fun!  And plenty of exercise for the arms--I could see their shoulder muscles straining under their wet tshirts.

We walked on the beach again the next morning, north this time, and then went into town to antique, and I bought a lovely vintage dress and a couple of new hand-embellished hairbands, while Mums searched for odd garden ornaments to sneak into the overgrown foliage around the house of her erstwhile fiance (she wanted to see how long it would take him to notice it).  But by mid-morning, I'd evidenced a severe strain at the back of my left knee--possibly from the beachwalking, that I ended up having to sit down at almost every store we entered, and looked like a Crimean War veteran the way I hobbled around.  We started to have lunch outside, but a tropical deluge ensued, and we grabbed our iced tea and hustled indoors to drier seating.  Of course, the rain stopped and the sun came back out just a few minutes after we retreated from the courtyard, but the food was delicious anyway.  At the urging of a local artist, we went on a sunset cruise around the bay, and got to glimpse, from afar, the wild horses on Cumberland Island, and the nuclear submarine base at Kings Bay (the captain recommended we offer a "one finger salute" to the overhead Chinese and Russian spy satellites), and the old brick fort on Amelia Island (where apparently the in-character male volunteers follow around shorts-wearing female tourists, muttering, "Hussy, wouldn't even hire her as a washer-woman!").  It was lovely, and a whole new perspective on the area, with lots of dolphin-sightings.

Friday we explored some more and antiqued some more, as my leg was back to normal, and then had a posh dinner on the porch at a restaurant we enjoyed last year.  I had a pear cider, which was delicious.  I was back at the hotel, watching an episode of the Korean serial "Playful Kiss" (the plot would ver much have appealed to an 18-year-old me--I am glad I am long disabused of the notion of putting up with crap from emotionally-abusive guys in the hope that they will finally be won over by my sweetness and fall in love with me) when my girlfriend who just moved to Seoul pinged me on Skype.  We ended up talking for half an hour, half-way around the world from one another--she gave me a virtual tour of her apartment by carrying her laptop around so I could see everything.  It was so cool!  And I tried out some of my baby Korean vocabulary on her.  She said the alphabet is pretty easy to learn--like Russian, you'll quickly learn to pronounce most words, even if you have no clue what they actually mean!  I know all this is online, but I'll go to the library to see if there's a print version I can borrow to teach myself.

Saturday we went kayaking in the intracoastal waterway south of Amelia.  Perfect weather, fish doing stone-skipping jumps--apparently a single leap into the air was insufficient to express their piscine joie de vivre, and they bounced along the surface twice or thrice before disappearing back into the water.  A treeful of great egrets, march grasses thick over razor-edges of thousands of oysters (unfortunately contaminated by runoff from the seven golf courses on the nearby island), tiny crabs darting sideways along the mud, a clear blue sky, cool breeze from the ocean, and no bugs!  We rowed to the ocean (1.5 hours) and pulled up our boats on an inviting sandbar, walking around protected dunes to see the sea, and an enormous mixed flock of seabirds on the seaward side.  After just a little while (it was low tide, and I didn't want to disturb the birds, so I didn't get into the water), Mums and I returned to our kayaks and started the paddle back.  These kayaks had a much larger hole in the tops than the ones she and I used back home (possibly so even larger-sized renters "wouldn't feel trapped"), and they had little adjustable blocks down on either side of the elongated cockpit to rest ones toes.  So I ended up sitting in a sort of squat the whole trip, the bottom inside of my calves exposed to the gently shining sun.  Which, as I found out that night, was quietly, sweetly giving me the worst sunburn of my life.

I'd slathered high-octane sunscreen all over my face, arms and upper body, and I'd worn a t-shirt and capri pants, but I didn't even think about my legs getting much sun exposure.  But by Saturday evening, I observed a 3x8" scarlet welt on each lower leg, horribly painful and growing more so by the hour.  Pain killer got me through the night, and as we dressed for church (we went to a tiny PCA congregation that meets in a middle-school gym) I was so grateful that I'd brought a long, soft, ankle-length dress for the occasion.  I slept more than half of the way home, popping ibuprofen like candy and applying lidocaine-laced aloe to the burns.  Neither seemed to help much--my ankles had swollen, too, so it was excruciating to walk.

I spent the next two days in bed.  My ankle bones reappeared on the third day, and I drove back to DC--the welt on my left leg blistered on the nine-hour trip up.  The blisters went away yesterday. Today, the first layer of skin peeled off both legs, and they again look like raw hamburger, and ache, but they are slowly getting better.  I now know that when the sticker on my medication bottle says "avoid prolonged sunlight" they are not fooling around. 

Friday, September 07, 2012

Local Events

Mr. B got married this evening.  As I am wont to do, I was napping at ceremony time, and so missed the wedding itself, though I made it to the after party.  I felt considerably handicapped by my lack of Spanish (pretty much everybody there, including the bride, was Chilean), but managed for a bit in English and then went back to my building to intercede between Mr. B's cat and a new resident's feline, who were exchanging swear words on the stoop.  I petted both of them and advised peaceful coexistence, but since when has a cat listened to a human?

I did my first home visit for the estate sale company.  I'd never actually been on one before, so this was throwing me into the deep end with a command to sink or swim.  I swum. The house was in Alexandria. Superb location, exquisitely clean. But there were only eight pieces of furniture in the entire house that she wanted us to sell for her, and a decidedly modest number of smalls, including a set of Lenox china, some odd cups and saucers, and some pressed glass chilled shrimp servers.  Most of the furniture was "country" style and pine, neither of which does well in DC.   I did mental math as I was perusing the house.  Bookcase --$100 (if we're lucky--they haven't been moving at all lately). Pine cabinet--ditto.  Drafting table/desk--$200.  Baskets--$50. Painted breakfront--$400 (again, if lucky--it was country style). Contents of breakfront--$400. Oak side table--$250 (it was really cute). Antique oak cabinet--$400.  Dark Victorian wood table--$300 (what we'd ask for it--what we'd be likely to get was closer to $150).  Battered pine box--$200 (sometimes people really go for the "distressed" look).  Large glazed ceramic planters--$150. Clothes/shoes--$300.  More baskets--$75. Puzzles--$50.  Artwork: $400.  Four lamps, one hideous and another not working: $250. Other miscellaneous office and kitchen items: $400.  Tot all those numbers, and you've got a figure that's way below $5000, much more so below the minimum $15,000 estimated sales we need to justify taking on a house.  And she didn't want anything brought in, and she didn't want to pay for moving the items off-site. So there we were.  I turned down the sale. 

On the way to the appointment, I passed a high school with the usual bulletin board advertisement of a fundraiser.  Selling mattresses.  I've heard of schools selling candy, baked goods, wrapping paper and plants, but I'd never seen a mattress sale fundraiser before.

Saturday, September 01, 2012

The Label Doth Protest Too Much, Methinks

Notwithstanding that I carry a Coach purse (albeit the same one for the last nine years, winter and summer for all occasions, and it bought second-hand) I've never been one for designer labels (in the realm of clothing and accessories, at least), so working in estate sales has been an enlightening experience.  I now know, for example, that Hermes is pronounced "Uhr-MEZ", that St. John's is an insanely overpriced suitmaker for the over-fifty set, and that even a mostly-used bottle of perfume with a Paris label will tempt a shoptlifter.  Of course, people also steal bobbins out of sewing machines, as I discovered to my disgust at a sale last summer, so there's no remarkable exclusivity there.

Although the things we sell are not ours, or perhaps precisely because they are not ours (and to tell truth we're all OCD sufferers to one degree or another), we feel compelled to do "due diligence" in researching pieces that may have some special value.  Chief among these items are those bearing designer labels, particularly those prominently printed all over with initials, like LV.  The question is, are they the real thing? 

In DC, there are a lot of people with more money than sense.  Ostentation is the order of the day, and Chanel this, Gucci that, Jimmy Choo and Fendi are just a few amongst the names that are de rigeur for your "normal" well-accoutered Washingtonian.  I confess I'd never even heard of Tod's before I came here, and thought Givenchy was something exclusive to Audrey Hepburn films.  Country come to town, I was.  I've been caught, and humiliated, not knowing what a pot de creme was, nor tole.  Never again will I forget. 

But even those who are willing to spend on the real brand-name have occasionally sunk to purchasing knock-offs, albeit at prices that most reasonable people would laugh at--what, $450 for a fake designer bag?  Most of us wouldn't spend that kind of cash on the real thing.  But if the real thing costs $2000, and image is everything?  Maybe someone rationalized it that way.  One way or the other, the re-sale value depends on whether they are real or not, and recently we had several of these good-looking purses that had a lot of paperwork with them claiming they were genuine.  But something just didn't smell right, and it was up to us to discover the truth.

We have a good team, our company does.  Amongst us are a former window-dresser, two perfume representatives, a former jewelry-store employee, a fabrics specialist, a new mother, a book collector, a women's clothing retailer, and several artists and artisans.  If we don't know about something ourselves, we know whom to ask.  My Yugoslavian coworker sidled up to a Louis Vuitton representative and showed him the bags, paperwork and all.  He declared them fakes--no real Louis would be allowed to leave the factory with a zipper that made a sound as it opened, or a medallion with the edges not machined to polished perfection.  As my art dealer boss once told me, "If it comes with a Certificate of Authenticity, it's certifiably worth nothing". 

Even with the open and repeated declaration that we had been assured by experts that they were fakes, the LV bags still went for 200 bucks each at the sale.

I paid $40 for my real Coach purse almost a decade ago, and wouldn't pay much more than that for it now. 

People are nuts.