Sunday, May 28, 2006

A tank full of gas, a clean windshield and a shoe shine

Ok, so I didn't really get a shoe shine. But I wore my new Simple sneakers for three days in NY last week. The first day we went to the Metropolitan Museum of Art and saw a play. We walked every street of the Lower East Side and had a tour at the Tenement Museum (highly recommended) on Day 2. On the last day, we toured Kykuit, the Rockefeller estate in Tarrytown. So, we saw two very different sides of life in America in the early 20th century -- the cramped quarters and extreme poverty of the immigrants who lived at 97 Orchard Street and the lavish wealth and palatial digs of the Rockefellers. Many pix are now on my Flickr page. Take a look and let me know what you think of them.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Mad Rush to the PO

I was on a mission to get both of these items in the post today. First was this excellent, mint condition, vintage Kake-Toter by Everedy that I got for ST at the flea market. The top turns to attach to the bottom plate. Brilliant! And it's clearly been hanging around unused for 40-50 years. You just can't beat that. Second, I had a request from Spooner that I send Pepto Bismol tabs to him in the UK for him to take along on his upcoming trip to Mexico. He is hoping to avoid -- or at least lessen the impact of -- the bugs that distressed him on his last visit south of the border. I included some Immodium caplets as well. But what's wrong with this picture? I paid more than $6 to mail over-the-counter meds across the Atlantic Ocean so that he can fly back to this continent with them in his suitcase. I thought it was better to do as asked than to ask questions, but I'm curious to know if the UK is really a land without PB. What does the Queen carry with her when she travels abroad to visit her subjects? What does she do if she eats some bad fish in France?

Friday, May 19, 2006

Farewell, Gateway PC

These old components had been strewn all over the floor of my study for the past 9 months. Together, they probably weigh the same and occupy as much space as I do. My plan all along was to recycle them, but I hadn't quite figured out how to do that. Dell would take them, but I would have to pack them into the box that my new computer came in (one look told me they wouldn't fit, or if I could get them into the box, it certainly wouldn't fit in the Mini) and ship them back to Dell. I sent e-mail last fall to the Five College recycling coordinator, asking her how I could recycle computer components, but she never replied. The college where I work has a recycling program, but only for college-owned computers. The UMass recycling facility will accept personally-owned computers, but you need a UMass ID to get in (mine expired in 1988). I gave the old ink-guzzling Epson printer away last fall, sold the external CD drive (the best of the lot) for $20, and tried to no avail to find a buyer for the speakers and subwoofer (old, but still sound good).

Then this week I saw a post on Usenet -- someone wanted an old PC. I wrote back, he called, we arranged a place to meet, and the components shifted the next day from my car to his. His plan is to rebuild an old computer for his sister. He didn't ask any questions, so I didn't have to tell any lies. I did tell him in advance that the hard drive was about to die (true) and that I would be pulling it out (easier than trying to permanently delete -- if that's even possible -- all my personal stuff from it). So, there was no mention that the monster monitor spazzes out periodically and that the power switch is temperamental. Apparently he didn't need to know. He promised to recycle whatever bits he couldn't use, and that was all I needed to know. I'm thrilled that I can see my floor again.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

The Hand-Off (Gina, Part 2)

This part of the saga seems a bit anticlimactic, especially following last week's gripping tale of the acquisition of Gina's Fever Dream. I've watched enough episodes of Antiques Roadshow to know the importance of provenance and an unbroken chain of possession, so I provide this as documentation: The painting, wrapped in a black garbage bag to seal it from today's torrential rains, rode to Jamaica Plain in the Mini Cooper, from which it was transferred to Erin's Toyota Echo and transported to the home of Mike, MOBA's curator. As Mike wasn't home, we left it on his porch and left a message on his voice mail to tell him of the delivery and to caution him not to mistake the black plastic bag for trash and put it on the curb on collection day.

We also made a visit to MOBA's permanent home in the basement of the Community Theater in Dedham. In my mind's eye, I had pictured the gallery to be a bit bigger, brighter and cleaner. It's somewhat dim and dank, but endearingly so, despite the pooling water on the floor that emanated from somewhere near the men's room or perhaps from the week of precipitation. I've posted some pictures on the Flickr page. It will be a proud day when we see Gina's portrait hanging beside those of George, Lucy, Pablo Presley and the others in MOBA's fine collection.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

A Teaser to Gina, Part 2

We heard back from Mike at MOBA the other day:

Dear MJ,

We would like to open our next show "Hackneyed Portraits From Our Collection" sometime in May. It may not happen until June but it would be nice to have the painting earlier if possible. You and Erin would be honored guests at the Opening - whenever it does occur.

Michael Frank, Curator-in-Chief
Museum of Bad Art

I'll be taking the painting to Erin's house this weekend and she'll pass it off to Mike as it turns out they live quite near each other. We can't wait for the grand opening of Hackneyed Portraits, and I'll be sure to post pix and all the details when it ever does happen.

In the meantime, here's an article about MOBA for you all to read while you anxiously await the next installment of this tale: In Dedham, this museum is exhibiting 'bad' taste

Monday, May 08, 2006

Gina's Fever Dream, Part 1

This still-unfolding story had its origin last Sunday at the flea market. I was the first to see this painting, but it was Erin who voiced the question -- "Do you think the Museum of Bad Art would want it?" -- that was the true beginning of the saga. "It's bad," I replied. "But is it bad enough for MOBA?"

We asked the vendor what the price was. "Somewhat less than $20," he said. "That's about $15." We continued our horrified viewing, debating the cost, while the vendor teased Erin that she looked a bit like the girl in the painting. I took a picture of it and we walked away, still mulling over the possibility of purchasing and making a donation of it.

For the next few days, the painting haunted me. I showed the picture to a few people who shared Erin and my simultaneous attraction and repulsion. I went to MOBA's website to find out about donations of art, and learned that they accept only about 10% of what people offer and that they encourage a letter of inquiry as the first step.


Dear MOBA -- Last weekend at the flea market in Hadley, I saw this untitled painting by Gina. The vendor was asking $15. I'm not sure how that compares to the going rate for such a unique original work, or whether MOBA would be interested in having this work in its collection. If the painting still available next weekend, should I buy it and donate it to MOBA? Please advise.

M. J.

The reply came back the next day:

Dear MJ,

I'm like "Hello"! You should run back to the flea market and scarf this piece ASAP and submit it to MOBA, where I will be awaiting its arrival at our loading dock.

As always I remain,
Michael Frank, Curator-in-Chief

Next came the period of anxious waiting. Would the painting be at the flea market the next Sunday, or would some other patron of the (bad) arts have scarfed it before me? I forwarded Mike's e-mail to Erin, who confirmed that she was earmarking $7.50 for her portion of the purchase price. I woke up early on Sunday. No rain -- a good sign. I thought about lighting the Powerful Elvis Prayer lucky candle for good fortune at the flea market, but decided that, as the candle's had a very successful run of luck on job offers for my friends and me, it is best used for Big Things. So I consulted the online Magic 8 Ball. "Will I score the painting?" I asked. "You can rely on it," said the 8 Ball.

It's amazing the number of people who get up at the crack of dawn on Sundays to worship at Our Lady of the Field of Trash and Treasures. The place was a sea of cars when I got there a little before 8 a.m. I went down three rows before spying the vendor. The painting was still there! "I was here last week," I started, as he interrupted me with, "Oh, no." I think he thought I wanted to return something. I went on to explain that my friend and I had looked at the painting and that I'd come back to purchase it. "The price is somewhat less than $25," he said. I reminded him of last week's $15 price tag. We exchanged money for art. He told me that he felt badly about teasing Erin about her hair. "Tell her the old guy says he's sorry," he told me. "No problem," I said. I asked where the painting came from. All he could tell me about it was that it came out of a house in Springfield and that his guess was that it was painted in the 1960s. Then I cautiously told him about our plan for it. "I've been coming to this flea market every Sunday for the past 25 years," he said, "and no one has told me anything as funny as that!" He called his son over and made me repeat the story of my contact with MOBA. I told them that they'd be able to visit the painting in the museum sometime in the near future. "See you in Boston," the son said as they waved me goodbye.

Dear Mike -- I returned to the Olde Hadley Flea Market yesterday and I'm happy to report to you that Gina's fever dream is now in my possession! My friend Erin and I would like to make the donation jointly to MOBA of this unique work. I'm thinking that we could deliver it to you on the loading dock one weekend in June. Please advise as to your availability for the hand off.

As I spend more time with this work, I'm haunted by the juxtapositions of innocence and menace, the waking and the dreaming, the dark and the light. I trust it will find a welcome place at MOBA.

Looking forward to meeting you and making the donation.

Your friend in bad art,
M. J.

The next chapter in this story promises to be just as gripping as the first.

To be continued.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Weekend Update

If I were a better activist, I'd have gone to NYC to the anti-war demo this past weekend. Instead, I cruised around the Tofu Valley where there were bargains galore and the weather was glorious.

Saturday started out with a stop at the Pioneer Valley Roller Derby's tag and bake sale at Sacred Heart
Church on King Street. As the team members skated around the wooden parish hall floor, Erin and I checked out the clothing. I passed up a pink handknit cropped cardigan with angora trim and went for a simple gray skirt that I can wear to work ($2). Erin got a vintage skort dress ($5).

Our next stop was Shelburne Falls, where the first thing we saw when we started walking around was a disconsolate Moose Boy sitting on the curb. A camera crew of teens was shooting (and reshooting) photos of a girl running down the sidewalk towards him. We couldn't figure out what it was all about. After looking at the crafts at Salmon Falls Artisans Showroom, crossing the Bridge of Flowers, noodling around in a bunch of shops and taking many pix of the glacial potholes, we had tapas and cocktails at Tusk 'n' Rattle, a great little subterranean restaurant recently purchased by my pal Yanina. The place is warm and cozy, the service was friendly, and the food was fab. (Erin had lentil cakes with a mango salsa and I had grilled shrimp with cilantro lime sauce -- yum!)

The day we'd long been awaiting was Sunday, the opening of the flea market season. It couldn't have been a nicer day for exploring the trash and treasures. And what a great haul: Erin got a cast iron skillet ($2), two mid-century shallow stainless steel serving bowls with wooden handles ($1 each), a plastic necklace ($1), and a ceramic floral wall plaque circa 1940 ($6). My flea market finds included four generous bags of vintage buttons ($1 each) and a lime green and blue necklace ($2). We ran into Amy and Baby G there, and had a swell time looking at the wares.

See my Flickr page for more pix of the weekend.