Monday, May 31, 2010

Smooth Sailing

Three days off in a row, just in the nick of time. I'm on fumes. Thank god I don't have far to go. We have a little cottage near Lake Huron and it's a blessing that the cellular service is bad. It takes a while for me to stop flitting from activity to activity and worrying about what might be happening at the shop. I have an inner junk mogul that thinks we could be wildly successful if I could just control that bum who wants to have fun and relax, all that mamby pamby talk about balance, whatta wimp! It's when I start to lose everything, or break things and just plain fall apart from exhaustion that I will finally stop and take a break. Truth is I'm more effective if I would quit acting like everything is a crisis to solve immediately. That cottage was the best thing we ever invested in and it has saved my life. Instead of two new cars in the driveway, we have a small, old-fashioned stone cottage. Of course it's furnished with everything found, recycled and reclaimed and it couldn't be more charming, if I don't say so myself. I've learned to live with a certain amount of disrepair in the interest of a better family life. Our son runs free like we did as kids and Rick putters around on assorted ongoing projects. It's the first weekend we've been able to get away and since it's only a summer place, we have to open it up after the long winter. The weather is absolutely gorgeous and rather than embark on a major cleaning project, we unpack, turn the water on and I head out to round up manpower to get my little sailboat in the water. As the salvage slave is always trying to prove, you don't have to have a lot of money to live well. I bought that Sunfish knock-off years ago for $100 and it was rough looking then. I leave it on the beach all summer long and when it cracks somewhere, it gets the only fiberglass patch I have patience for i.e. full of sand from the get-it-back-in-the-water-now beach repair. It should have a paint job but I couldn't care less and it shows. I can carry my sail, rudder and centerboard down to the beach myself, drag it into the water and I'm sailing on Lake Huron like the big guys. I was absolutely thrilled to learn this weekend that I could sail lying on my back, feet steering the rudder and catching some rays. The lake is so big, there was no risk of running into anyone even on a holiday weekend, damn I shoulda' brought beer! Sheer heaven. To think we waste so much time and money on things that just don't matter. Neither Disneyland nor Club Med can hold a candle to the vacation we have every weekend and it costs nothing extra to share it with friends and family. Everyone pitches in and with the talented chefs in our social network, we have 5 star meals prepared in our 1940's kitchen complete with a 70 year-old stove. We pull an old 8' folding table out of the shed, some flea market bought bistro chairs and set the table with vintage enamelware, tablecloth and napkins and mismatched silverware and glasses. If I'm really feeling it, I light candles and cut some flowers from the yard or the wild ones growing on the lake bluff and make an arrangement. Save yourself an expensive trip, you can live like Europeans always have. Afterwords, we might head down to the beach to watch a spectacular moon rise off the lake, light some fireworks or throw a sheet over the clothesline, pop some popcorn and have an 8mm film festival from Rick's vast collection of old movies. It all packs up in an hour and we're home in 90 minutes. I slept more this weekend than I have in 2 months and I'm actually looking forward to an action-packed week with movies to supply, interiors to design and new ideas of stuff to make with the treasures I found at the country flea market this morning. You'll be happy and "get rich" real quick if you quit equating it with the pursuit of more money and start enjoying life's simpler pleasures.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Chasarai Continued

Having elevated the chasarai (Yiddish for juuk, say the ch like you got something lodged deep in your throat kah-zer-eye) to a higher purpose, I speed-dialed those 20-something men Sunday and sent them to wrap the installation from yesterday's MOCAD ( fundraiser and shove it back into the store. It's like those jeans you saved from high school... as if you'd be wearing them again. And I haven't picked up the load from Brimfield yet! I pick up first thing Monday up in Bay City. I manage to wedge everything into the van still leaving a nice nest for Trooper my trusty Scottie dog. Can't unload until Tuesday, I am meeting my new intern as soon as I return and our first job together is to look at a new interiors project. She has no idea what kinda meshuggeneh (don't you love Yiddish?) she's gonna be working with all summer. If you aren't crazy when you start your own business, you'll surely be there soon enough. My designer pal ( Charles Dunlap's assistant Emily saved my life hooking me up with CMU's (central michigan university) interior design program and I soon learn my intern Erika Shrauger can roll with the punches. She has to drive since my van had become a storage pod and off we go to see the loft of Supino Pizzeria owner Dave Mancini. I don't care what you say, the suburban wannabes don't hold a candle to a real urban loft. Dave inherited the last owner's taste however and furniture from his family. This won't do for the reigning pizza king ( Our bachelor needs to chillax, he needs a kitchen for a serious chef who entertains and if I may speak frankly, a bed that fits his 6'5" frame. It's a long way up to those green eyes, but I looked deeply into them and it comes to me: "Austin Powers, " ...with a motor city back drop. Erika measures, dave and I drink wine and I say, you know this intern thing is workin for me....3 hours later, she sure was...can you say designated driver? One wants an intern with absolute discretion, a valid driver's license and street smarts. She's on time the next morning (youngsters this is critical to job security) and ready (well except for the flip flops, she'll learn). The chasarai is everywhere. Designing with a few hundred objects lying around requires a special skill ( A.D.D.) and the willingness to move something until it feels right (O.C.D). I will move things so many times that I will lose them (and my mind), but it's key to the sale. It's a series of stage sets. This round we have Louis XIV in the industrial age, 60's boudoir gone to seed, Medieval dungeon and the madonna, 50's modern and Americana. And that's just the front room. I send Erika home with drawings to do and I prep for Wednesday shopping. We have tile selection for our actor client Ed Kelly, the voice of Lincoln Mercury and he's found an antique English washstand he wants to feature in a tiny bathroom. Lynne Moran at Virginia Tile ( is my go-to girl and she and her staff help us nail a fantastic design, including a dead-on match to this unique blue tile in the c.1900's piece. We also score a deal on tile for Dave's kitchen and eyeball some beautiful tiles for a little bath in our Grosse Pointe Park project. A quick trip to order window treatments and pick up drapes takes longer than expected. I gotta reschedule the graphic design meeting for later. We get some extra time and since it will be a longer day, I decide we deserve a little treat. Bath products at Lush, make-up at Macy' gotta set a good example, work hard, play hard and then pamper, pamper, pamper!

Sunday, May 16, 2010

When it rains it pours, I need an ark

Remember that cult movie Afterhours, when all the guy wanted to do was go home but kept getting pulled into weird situations? He's taken over my body or I fell into his movie and I can't get out. Slave that I am, of course I scheduled to work all weekend, naturally I signed up for the wine stroll so I'd have 700 people to entertain. I'll just really take that Friday off and catch up on my sleep....right after I follow up with that producer and our long shot on some american pickers show. She's waiting for the lisa/marisa blog and it has to be perfect. I'll spend all morning obsessing over it. Gee how much money did I just spend? I owe people, they know I'm home. A few rounds of the shell game, I cover it barely. I'll just pop into the shop to make sure we're ready for the onslaught of wine drinkers. I'm only moving furniture...2 hours later. I'm so grateful for that solid 3 1/2 hours of sleep. Then I get the call. You know that big break to do something completely creative of my choosing for a prominent client and their fundraiser for the MOCAD ( museum contemporary art detroit)? Only it's 6pm and it's a 30' space and we have 21 hours to conceive, hire, amass, transport, design and install it at said community leader's home. I'm on fumes, I call in the big guns (my husband and his 20 year olds We spend that relaxing evening together wracking our brains, mentally inventorying what's lying around at our shops and what kind of magic we can make. Would have been handy if those goods from Brimfield were in but noooo... I start with this chicken wire man, and those bed springs. Rick has a burn basket, the 12' grain auger. I bank 5 more hours of sleep and we head to our shops. Oh yeah wyatt, what are we doing with him? It's peasant day care, you know pickin' potatoes with the baby on your back? Wyatt's been on the crew since he was born. At 4 months he was in the sling while I set up a show in Ann Arbor, so packed was my van I had to thread him through the window. He's good for 2 hours of running small jobs. Luckily the client has kids. Wyatt's like the pied piper with the kids, the nannies want his number, he's better than nintendo. Moving right along, we start the artistic know stand around and argue over minutiae, assemble this, make the crew break it down and assemble that...Wait!! I have a new brilliant idea. We do that 50 more times. We're having a blast but I'm gonna pass out if I don't eat something. We get food from "the chef" but no silverware and we are filthy. The 20 year olds don't care if they eat with dirty hands, the perfectly plated tenderloin on a bed of bitter greens with a feta and herb pesto. These guys are into this 5 star plate. "I thought we smelled hamburgers. What's arugula? It tastes weird. The "steak" isn't cooked and what's that stuff all over it?" I'm punchy now. I gotta come up with an invoice and get to the wine stroll. I'm two hours late and my phone is ringing off the hook this whole time cause nothing is priced. I follow the designer to find out how to get the check...nothing more nerve wracking than the money part. I mean how much is a junk sculpture of wire and scrap? The clients come outside to see our work, they love it!! She wants us to come back tonight for the festivities, I'm gonna say no? We have dinner plans ( of the calls that came in, of course I can cram that in) We settle up and I race back to the shop. David King is my hero, running interference at the shop. I grease his palm, send him for more wine, start the shuck and jive for my 700 new prospects. Out at 5:30pm, a good day of business, I lie down for 10 minutes, shower and get into costume. This crowd will be dressed to the nines. I pull out the vintage lace number from the opera singer's estate, my pawn indian jewelry, a leather jacket, cowboy boots, war paint, we're off for dinner. Dinner is at Ross Yedinak's house. His cooking is the real deal, there's always room in the schedule for a Ross meal ( --he's also an artist). The food is like that off the chart stuff we ate in Brooklyn. Wyatt is having no part of it, well except the dessert. He wants to play badminton outside. He's been good all day, I'm diving for the shots, lace dress and all. We head out for the event. Oh my god, what you can do with an unlimited budget and imagination. They have guys on dirt bikes creating "art" on their front lawn (it gets re-sodded on Monday). They have a live death goth band in full regalia and a smoke machine going, it's ear-splitting. All the big name Detroit art supporters are on hand, it's like fashion week. The people watching is superlative. Wyatt is sneaking around snagging cookies off the tables. We are seen by some of our best clients, this was a good move. Rick carries a sleepy wyatt to the car, I'm in bed by 11:30. I've got until noon to rest and then I have to open the shop....So heads I getta call at 6:00am, tails I sleep in, wanna call it?

Friday, May 14, 2010

Double Feature: Road Warriors followed by Thelma and Louise

I’m on the homeward stretch from Brimfield and lounging on the bit of floor not packed with antiques in the back of Brandon’s van. I’m down to about 2 dollars and completely worn out. I won't be in bed until 3am. My husband's a saint to drive an hour to come get my sorry ass. This life is scarily like that of a carnie or a drug dealer cross bred with truck drivers. The people drawn to this business are some of the smartest and craziest people I've ever met. Oh the stories I could tell, the book I should write! We are all road warriors. In fact I quite literally built my business buying stuff on the side of a highway and I am compelled to tell you about the best friend and sidekick I made in the process. I found Lisa McQueen 16 years ago at the Ann Arbor show selling this outrageous architectural stuff, a baby at her breast. She lives in Indiana 7 1/2 hours from me and agreed to meet halfway on I-69 whenever there were goods to be had. For years we’d meet at some exit or other, park at a random lot and proceed to unload her packed truck of wares. I figured any woman that no nonsense that thinks nothing of unloading 10 times her weight in iron is my kinda woman. We’ve been best friends ever since. Despite our many similarities, it’s our differences that crack us up. I’m the shop girl who hates to do shows, she’s the show girl who won't have a shop. And yet I’m the one who talks like a truck driver and she’s the one with hair and makeup done. She shakes her head at the dirty industrial stuff I lug in, I roll my eyes at the crystals and bows. The tie that binds is our unrelenting energy and drive, a raunchy sense of humor and the ability and desire to stir up dangerous trouble. Dealing in antiques is a physical business. Doin' a show can mean 14 hour days starting before sunrise and schlepping heavy stuff until sunset, selling to people all the while. You gotta be on your game, ready to wheel and deal in a fast gambler's game involving a lot of cash. We do it because we think being adrenalin junkies in love with stuff is a good way to make a living (hmmmmmm). Well it sure can be a lot of fun. It's easy to have fun when you do what you love, but there's fun and then there's Lisa and Marisa's idea of fun... We think we're Thelma and Louise. We think we are hilariously funny. (It get's worse)We think we're 25...(ok now that we are collectively 50, make that 30ish). Got the picture? Start cringing; it's been known to draw a crowd. I know you know what this crowd looks like. Any sensible adult knows to step away. Sooo not how we roll. All it takes for us is a pocket full of money and a decent night's sleep and we are ready to start the party. Take that one night in Atlanta, a town Lisa knows well, well sort of. We step out dress to kill and to hear this healthy lookin' African American woman belt out some seriously get down and dirty blues. Can we help it if the 25 year old cuties want to dance with the two shameless middle-aged broads? Hell no! Here's where you should really look away. Now it's 2am and we've been asked nicely to leave. This round I'm Louise and I gotta pull Brad PItt off Thelma. We dump the drunk baby Brad and his car at his house and now we gotta find our hotel, "I know exactly where we are..." Thelma can't find her you know what with both hands and guess what? We are out of gas and I got the surprise "visitor" and no provisions. Naturally it's 3am and of course our trusty navigator has managed to find the only gas station open with 2 squad cars at the pump. While, we're no liquor boxes, we're sure not looking like angels. Is Lisa worried? Heck no! She's laughing her head off cause I'm the one who has to stare down the cops all standing inside at the counter. Are the unmentionables on the shelf like any other convenience store? Nooooooo...they've got 'em like playboys behind the bullet proof glass and I get to ask for them... I swear to God, you can't make this shit up. No we did not drive over a cliff, like a couple of movie stars. No, this is the movie where we'd wish you'd leave now. These stars are gonna have to get up in 3 hours and face another day of selling and as usual, neither one of them can find their sunglasses...

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The Grand Daddy Show, Not for Wimps

With the burst of Spring energy in the shop, I finally have some money in my pocket. The grand daddy of all shows is on the horizon, I wanna go. That's slave not master, I don't have enough money to take my own rig or fly in and send for the goods. Last minute as usual, I start working the phones. First my pal Lisa for the hotel room. I'm scrappy, but sleeping in the back of a truck when it's 30 at night? (you'd be surprised how many people actually do it) Every room within 50 miles is booked; Lisa graciously invites me to bunk.. in the tiny double bed...we're like sisters, we think nothing of this. Then there's hauling the bootie. Rick Klass, my dealer buddy from Saginaw is driving the big truck. Big truck, big gas tank, he's only too happy to haul my things plus those of my clients, I'm lookin' like a hero. Now the hard part, the ride in. I talk to everybody in a 100 mile radius, everyone is travelling with someone. I shamelessly beg to ride in the back of Brandon Nelson's van coming in from West Michigan Of course he travels an hour south of me, so I gotta meet him at I-75 and 80-90. He's like the nicest, easiest going guy, just don't be late. We roll into Tim Horton's like it's a professional heist. Slave yes, martyr no, that's me in a folding chair for a 12 hour ride. As soon we arrive and I return to a fully upright position, I book a massage for when I get home. I wake Lisa up at 9:30pm. We gotta 4am call, we can't shut up. It's gonna be a long day. The first group of shows opens at 6am, then over to the 9am shows, then the 11am and finally the 1pm. It's fast and furious and you are on foot. 5,000+ dealers on acres of field, all on a two lane country road. A million people on the shoulders, semis and cars, bikes and carts. It's a zoo. Rick loans me his bike...bonus!! I cover twice the ground. The shopping is killer, a million objects. I gotta good load by 2:30pm. I call in for reinforcements (honey, can you put more money in my account?) Then the pick up...NIGHTMARE...I got stuff in 10 locations, everything is giant and heavy...3 hours later.... feelin' the glamour? It's like an iron man event, I'm spent but on high. Despite all that hard work, I laugh and kibbitz all day. Ran into dealers I haven't seen in ages, everybody helps each other out...and oh the merchandise here...after 18 years it still blows my mind....gotta crash wait til I get pics of the goods uploaded!

Friday, May 7, 2010

Back to School

For my 46th birthday bought myself a mac laptop. For a woman who has driven used vans for decades, it's like I bought myself a Maserati. Man she's fast!! Just had my guru Jim over (I promised him anonymity for now, but the entrepreneur in me couldn't resist pitching an idea of having in-home project sessions with all my friends who use macs and need help launching their business/personal projects). I'm going to the Apple store (FYI: before it opens, miss A.D.D. cannot do the zoo in there) to have lessons because at this age, let's face it, I'm obsolete (but of course with an in-home guru, that having to go to the store nuisance, embarrassment of ignorance and sharing with strangers ick will be eliminated...I know you are saying sign me up, who doesn't want this? Help me badger him) Once we get, , , and this blog all jiving together, it's just a matter of time before you can actually shop on . With all this linking, syncing and time saving, it's just quite possible that the fledgling "Found in Detroit" kind of "American Pickers" show I envisioned 5 years ago could be a reality. Now aren't you ready to watch the salvage slaves of Detroit, diggin' into some really outrageous finds? I mean that show, enough with the good 'ole boys and the farmers already. You wanna see some weird urban locales and gorilla action...