A year into this, I’ve been thinking a LOT about everything. What I’ve done right, what I need to improve on, what I just outright suck at. The ever pressing question of course is how to stay afloat, grow the shop, and not go totally bonkers in the process. I’m still learning, every day. So, I wanted to take a second and verbally mumble in typed words (possible?) some thoughts on this past year, small business ownership, and the crazy and crazy wonderful people who I’ve met.
Of course there are no words to really describe- I mean how could I possibly explain the things I’ve witnessed? I have seen it all, from the rich and lonely treasure hunters always pushing for a lop sided deal though they can afford the sticker price- to the lowest fallen of society, still picking their way along the totem pole- always making enough to make the next score, or pick up the next pack of shit smokes. It’s a never ending circle, and as much as it wears me out, there have been the highlights. I’ve had shirtless, stolen bike riding bottom feeders trying to make me a killer deal on satchels full of stolen Bic lighter covers- to dumpster divers with keen eyes that respect that sometimes treasure and another man’s trash are kissing cousins.
I’ve met some absolute whack jobs, and although I need to get better at asking the real tweakers to leave, I can’t help but stay silent, thinking that is actually something kind of special that they come to stare and obsessively comment about every-effing-thing-imaginable-and-some-things-unimaginable. Hey, I might just have a new shop tag line: ‘Kenton Antiques: Even Tweakers Need a Place to Feel If Not Necessarily Welcome, At Least Not Immediately Rejected.’ Some of them really are sad, the nostalgia that inevitably hits at some point in an antique store is particularly hard on them- you can almost see the cracks all over their ‘trying to erase it all’ lives. I can’t understand where they are or why they got there, but I can empathize with the unsolicited raw emotion that occasionally peaks through.
My most recent visitor, and one of the most notable highlights was Bob. He came in about an hour after I closed. Probably about 75, he was teetering rather shakily across the street, so I didn’t hesitate to let him in. He mainly wanted to sit. Sitting turned to chatting, which turned to an incredible tale of secrets, aliens, body guards, and the possibility of consigning some furniture. I don’t know what was true and what was the progressing onset of dementia, but it was the most fulfilling talk with a complete stranger that I have had in quite some time. We bonded over Tom Hartman and Air America, and the fact that we both have seen UFO – granted he’s seen far more than I have. It’s still just the one for me. But, I’ll be damned if that experience didn’t make me feel the true magnitude of how singularly tiny we are; how miniscule in the grand scheme of things. It was refreshing. Like my conversation with Bob. And, I’m fairly certain I may not ever see him again, and if on the off chance I do, he probably wont remember me or our conversation. Secretly, I hope he does remember…
I’ve met people and been able to connect on a level I think is fairly rare. Learning what compels people in this sort of tide pool of lost memories, what stirs connection, is like getting to know an amazing secret. I’ve seen a woman burst into tears over a Fisher Price toy, that triggered what she believed was her earliest memory- staring up from her crib as her mother sang the song while the little blue bird she was holding tentatively warbled along when you pulled the frayed cord. I’ve heard “I remember that” muttered, whispered, and joyfully intoned countless times. I’ve come to think of what I am doing when I go out “picking” is actually searching for lost connections, hidden meanings. Little postcards from the past that reach out from the shelves and isles of this dusty and always just shy of organized oasis and find just the person to trigger a reaction in. I’ve become much more careful in what I select. I am most connected to items that stir some distant recollection in me. I chase that feeling every day, the intake of breath, stirred by an object you didn’t remember a half second before, that now seen, is as beloved as your last recollection of it.
I also have gotten to meet some of the most interesting and wonderful people I’ve ever met. From the occasional stop-in who trades the awesome toys that he collected for years, for the credit to let his Ghostbusters collecting young son indulge in the same desire – to the charming, attention span lacking, always cheerful man (who brings me beer no less) who has two radical young daughters, who actually come in because they enjoy the experience they have, not just with the shop, but with me. There are all kinds of people that make me a regular stop, always looking for the thing they can’t live without, and even though they don’t find it every single time, it’s enough to keep them coming back, chasing their own feeling under my careful and hopefully satisfactory curator-ship.
This past year, I’ve truly felt what it is to live, and love something so all consuming that everything else seems to pale in comparison. The need to sleep disappears almost completely, though the beleaguering fatigue can drag here and there. The desire to work more than 10-18 hours a day is surprisingly high. There is a general ability to ignore the unpaid bills, the creeping hunger, the overwhelming anxiety and to still wake up wide awake and ready to get back to it. The unknown is constant and constantly invigorating in a way I never really felt was possible. I certainly imagine that this is what Parenthood is like. This shop is this child, this product of myself that I am trying to nurture into maturity, trying to give the momentum required to see it blossom into its own strange beauty- familiar, yet with a precious life all its own. Maybe it will even get good enough to turn a profit someday. ;P
This life is incredibly trying and wonderfully rewarding. I wouldn’t give it up for anything.