Saturday, September 24, 2011

Snapshots from NYC

The view from the Williamsburg flea which I watched from 7am until well past dark. Note to self, skip this flea, get a chair, fishin pole and a cooler of frosty beverages and eats..

I could jog home faster than this train (when you score a parking spot for a 15 passenger van, you leave it…until you get the $45 parking ticket, f--kers. Can't let my people go and don't get to bed before 2, yet up for school 7…not my best look. By 10am I'm lugging projects in from the car.

Restoring Italian beaded screen, God I may have to keep this one, the color combination is fantastic (and I'll never finish the work). Note to self: match paint and pantone chips for future use, that turquoise, brown and gold yum

Pile of hotel keys to separate, fish net to cut up and make scarves out of to sell this weekend at the Brooklyn flea markets. Love the keys with the holes in the middle, put your own little charm, picture or hotel medallion in there. OMG!! tie keys on scarf ends! I'm so pleased with myself, dork.

Cabin fever, brave the commute to see Nikki de Saint Phalle collection at Norma Haine gallery, 5th and 57th St. Oh crap, one of those behind gold doors galleries in a fancy building and you gotta sign in. Tourist filthy with backpack, I get the look but Checkpoint Charlie clears me. Here's some pictures I snuck. This crazy stuff as good in a small room as it is in the fountain in Paris. Play the game I made up with Wyatt, "if you could only have one thing, what would it be?" Golden Swiss cheese lady or giant skull with rotating fern head?…Duh, the skull with motor and softball-sized pewter teeth, "epic".

Breakdown at 23rd and the Flatiron building, laptop monkey on my sweaty back. I love that they have cafe tables and chairs in the middle of Broadway. Always a good time to people watch or sit and write. Speaking of people, I almost have an accident gawking at the Satmar in Brooklyn (Hassidic population). Crazy for the beaver hats, belted coats, wow that's a commitment to a look (it's 85deg). Shameless voyeurism, this image haunts me, how to get one of those hats.

Two fleas, two days, never again, but it's over and here are the booths. One in the beautiful Fort Greene neighborhood the other on the water in Williamsburg. Trend predictions: architectural is gonna rebound cause they're building even on the street where I live and well, I see all these great buildings and I miss these details so I'm gonna get some (details that is..right).

In my head see new spin on industrial softened with theatre and romance, gothic and medieval, muddy brown, oxblood, grey and lavender, textures like silk and velvet. Worn wood will continue to be hot, that and handyman's stuff. Seductive mood with tools for those dark hours ahead…oh behave!

Farmer's market at Union Square. I can't resist. A Yo Go frozen yogurt gets the whole $1 worth of bleeding raspberries, a peach. Picnic on the window sill of an ancient stone bank to watch the people pass, like molecules in a solid, there's not much wiggle room. Now dragging bag of bread and treats, have sugar need coffee...It's a haul, but it's Bubby's coffee in TriBeca. Roasted on site and ground before they make it for you, over ice. It doesn't get better than that!

Head east towards home with stop in the East Village to see Joel, the philosopher-genius who has a strange affinity for cast iron pans. Signed privacy agreement, so you'll have to imagine an ancient apartment with walls, ceilings and floors covered in cast iron cookery. I'm speechless, no really, and want to make a movie, write storie. Skip permission, beg forgiveness, here's another dealer's place. Beautiful, open, full of stories, just like Val. We share an obsession for things in quantity, but I'll let her do the 500 crates and 1000 folding chairs (like I'm 20 years older than her) Love these antique dealers, a field of the wildest brightest wildflowers.

Detroit, disassembled as it were and...

here's the world's fair, 1964 structure in Queens....

One last side trip, it's destiny. The Detroit Disassembled photos are right, I mean a 20 block walk, by the apartment at the Queens Museum on the grounds of the old world's fair. The ruins of the fair the perfect intro to the beautiful photos of Detroit ruins. Yeah, yeah the ruin porn. Don't hate me, I'm a walking talking Detroit ambassadress and I could fill a bus here with all the people who want to see what's happening in Detroit. It's all good news. Design Festival in Detroit in full swing as I type, I'm into it with barely a nap to catch up from the drive….

Monday, September 12, 2011

Magic and Madness in Every Nook and Cranny!!

Madness and magic in every nook and cranny…no, I did not write that precious quote. I read it in Country Living whilst stuck in my van. No foul language, the dead giveaway and if you watched 6 inches of rain fall on your show, I'd like to know what you'd have to say about it. WTF!! comes to mind. It's now the infamous Brimfield of September 2011.

I felt like I was in a barrel under the Niagara Falls. The rain came and wouldn't leave. By thursday morning they'd closed May's show, the first time in history. The water was 6 inches deep around my van. I open the door, climb on top of the hood and jump to the embankment. By the time I reach my booth, I'm soaked and muddy anyway. Atleast the booth is on high ground and dry, but there's a pond a foot deep at the entrance to the field. This day's a wash. Of course I have to be there for this record-setting nightmare. I'm the embedded reporter, the Lakshmi Singh of Brimfield.

Thankfully team Tommy Hilfiger came by the day before and found magic in this madness. I'm paying close attention to what they're putting together, their advertising is free marketing for me and the time in to designing a booth pays off in sales here and at the new space in the antiques mall in Saugatuck,MI proves. This is how I justify that late night OCD episode the night before the show opened. Really, where to put that jar of sock cuttings is critical, maybe it wasn't such a great idea to start this undertaking after cocktails. Naturally, I'm jolted out of my sleeping bag at 4am by the sounds of arriving dualies and their diesels. It's the eager beavers who curl their hair rain or no, and want that pot pourri goo burning for an hour so that it's in the air, like napalm for everyone to enjoy. I slog through the mud for a timed 6-minute shower. Oh the fun of camping, the thrill of opening day!

Actually, I am remarkably upbeat and into the shopping. I must say, I scored some of the coolest shit. In this nook theater props, army gear, industrial furniture, oddities, science charts, letters, 60's and in that cranny, funerary…dying to know what this choice pick might be?…a large collection of Victorian era casket blankets and pillows in their own suitcases. Top quality rouched silk, crushed velvet and exquisite tassels, European to be sure.

I could lie to people and then secretly smirk to think of them placing it t in those happy homes completely oblivious… but, then I'd miss the look of joy on their faces when they read my tags. How I live for these blessed moments in my day, "They laid people out on these and did portraits in their own homes," I say all delighted with my magical, mad self.

Monday, August 29, 2011


Another rainy, not great beach weekend. This is completely irrelevant to 12 and 13 year-old boys. Wyatt and his cousin Trevor have built a fort with the weeds growing on the bluff at Lake Huron and the talk is serious about survival on "the island". Wyatt is making fishing spears and Trevor is collecting wood for the fire (Never mind that they'd sooner starve than eat fish and the wet conditions mean mom is the one getting the fire going).

Listening to the news, you can't train early enough for survival skills. Besides if Armageddon is coming (drought, hurricane, earthquake, scary leadership…) I say have fun with survival, be creative and stay ahead of the creepy "Lord of the Flies" types.

Survival mode is no time to play it safe. Salvage slave says experiment, try different ideas, maybe be a bit outlandish. A flame-retardant suit is a must when the heat is on. But then again, having desirable currency (for the time being) handed to you is a definite yes. Ok so the suit wasn't a money-maker, but that attention getter did bring in business (and left with 9 other items, which added up to real green stuff). You might need to make a quick getaway off the island, but that new sailboat in the driveway now makes two and there's another "fort" that needs work right now. Bartering works as currency in the new world order. Trade sailboat for kitchen remodel help (then maybe we can sell that not-so-small fort).

Who knows what survival will require in this ever-changing atmosphere? The salvage slave is looking to see what's at selling at antique shows now, and if it's lights made out bed springs and rusty wire baskets then why not ratty lampshades? We're stocking all this material-of-the-moment. These put-together lights do make ceilings so much more interesting.

I keep saying reclaimed lumber is in the design magazines, now my Midwestern clients are asking about it. Plenty of that around here. Someone wants to clad their wall. It looks great with industrial furniture as table tops to steel bases. I've started a pile of it. Scarves cut from vintage fishing nets? Can't we be fashionable while dodging spear attacks? Sold the first one I put out in New York, am gonna have a dress made out of it to inch the idea along.

If weird isn't the way, then you might be living under a rock. Stranger ideas than these have been advanced, some stuff works some doesn't. You gotta keep trying. I just had to run an errand at the dreaded mall. Looking around at the people and piles of stuff, I sure can see what won't be needed on this island. There's nothing you can make anything useful out of! There's nothing that inspires creativity, well unless you count Wyatt and Trevor running around like wild indians. Definite thumbs down. Now back to the studio, I hear drums beating….Brimfield, New York next week!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Same Script Different Day

The rain is falling gently outside the bedroom's old rickety windows in the quiet of an early morning. The view is panoramic, romantic, a painting in muted shades of white, grey and putty juxtaposed with the wildflowers and lush greenery of Michigan's summer splendor…"cut! what's that in the corner?! Stylist! That bright red and white-striped sail does not belong in this picture!" My sail, like a loud drunk crashing this perfectly serene impressionistic moment, it's the prescient warning, the tension builds.

It's English country charm throughout and what you'd expect of this 40's stone cottage. But, is this my story? I stayed the course, ten years, I did, until a pile of signal flags (that Ellsworth Kelly clearly co-opted) showed up at the 100 mile Garage Sale this weekend. The sign of signs, you can't make this stuff up. And now there's four of us reviewing flags, lively discussing the whole idea of a period change, for the living room. It's epic. I'm fairly crazy about the prophetic nautical warnings like, "this vessel in distress and not moving (for sure)" and "this vessel altering it's course to port (that's right..and wrong)."

Will she divest herself of all those carefully collected nudes? Period quilts, rugs and fishing lures? The graphic pow of these modern masterpieces fills the screen, she can resist anything but temptation…Addiction. Intervention...What a front, the whole shop gig, that's why they're called "dealers," duh! All that country cottage crap, so much gateway drug to the modern minimalism hard stuff. Again with the signs and now the innocent child obviously experiencing advanced stages of fetal collecting syndrome, "Mom! Can I have one for my loft (packed to the rafters with stuff)!" It's epidemic, the buddy George is eyeing one for his bedroom too (probably hanging in there now). Is it true? Hot, sunny and blue waters scream beach day, yet these two 12 year-old boys choose the 100 mile yard sale in a blink, no prompting...

It's nobodies first rodeo here, the boys get the bikes, baskets and backpacks and we're off. Idling on the highway is for amateurs. We cover the distance, while all those poor folks are still trying to park. We know exactly where we're going and it's no more than two miles, skip the buzz kill of endless miles of consumer garbage and bad homegrown craft. Garage saling on this level requires one be in the zone, hyper focused. It's A LOT to plow through this much stuff, and man are the discard piles high these days. I am mostly not a garage sale shopper, but these too were such a hoot, they made it fun. The young pros already have the scan down pat, they know what they're after and not easily distracted (girls aren't on the radar yet). Everybody got a good laugh when they politely, but shamelessly, bargained for prices, it's sick! Call the authorities!

And this jaded picker found the ever elusive, "I haven't seen it before," early, folding, tin lunch box with the owner's name scratched in it, boat benches to make tables out of in weathered teak, a crate of yellow marquis lights will make a great sign (enough already) a hand-painted soda pop sign (stop her), a life ring in great colors (a little past saving, it and mine) and all those vintage cotton flags, you know how I love multiples. I also saw some longtime colleagues and got the local dealer news. It's good stuff. All your friends are doing it. Don't judge, you closet junkies.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Virality, It's not just for kids anymore

I've just finished the July 17th newspaper. Hoarding red flag? I'll have you know some 14 year-old girls are quitting school to run blogging empires. 10-12 year olds in the know can't get enough make-up and fashion tips and everybody loves to make fun of the dumb girl in the embarrassing dance videos. She's building a brand, so who's dumb? Everybody! What a blast! Luckily nobody grows up, so even though my demographic trends a little older, I've got savvy style tips and near total lack of inhibition. It's a sure fire formula for attracting an audience. With my marketing moxie and just a little technical know how (not me silly, I'll get a 14 year-old for that ) I'll have them flocking to the blog, the store and the endorsements will be rolling in!

Look here, I just bought this terrific pair of 40's secretary pumps for $10 at the Royal Oak Flea Market (that earlybird shopping fee of $5 could be money in my pocket). These are sexy because they're not, get it? Pair them sockless with my sister Lia's hand-embroidered 70's denim skirt (on loan, guilt trip "the doctor" into buying first ad, get ball rolling). I can't decide between the crochet tank top (Garage Annex Antiques $10, ah crap they close in 3 weeks, make that Brooklyn Flea, hipster city) or the linen men's vest (Detroit estate sale $7, poor dear is probably dead…check probate records, those lawyers are always mugging for some ad, cha-ching).

I'll model the options and post them for your vote, tell everybody so my "virality" is assured. Be sure to call me as I don't reliably check either email account and won't know I'm "infecting" people positively. You mention my blog and website (Yuen Advertising-work tiger tag team bit, play down my asian light) and when everybody realizes there's no online shopping, they'll run to the store. The "exclusivity" of being open only two days a week will "create the sense of urgency." They'll be throwing money at me when they finally get in! (To think of all that hand-wringing about Ebay opportunities passed. Ebay will be paying me and I still won't be selling anything there, love it).

I was wearing my ripped-up jeans from Neiman Marcus (J-Brand $217, ok. it was the outlet and I paid $33, they'll never know!) with the aforementioned tank top and strapless bra (TJ Maxx $15, Target owns this, bonus!) when I attended the uber outsider performance of "Manifest Destiny" in Detroit the other night. I mention this intimate apparel item because crisis or no ladies, unless you pre-purchased enhancements before the credit crunch, mid-life is no time to go rogue (hmmm Eurasian Palin, publicity stunts? I like. I like a lot). When you are the oldest person in the room, perky matters! (don't forget plastic surgeons-top of the list!).

This carefully calibrated clothing choice contributed to a cool factor I felt on the hot set of this production. The hosts/new building owners/20-something cuties from another state, recognized me (ooh, joint video in that stunning, newly gutted former Jam Handy film studio on East Grand Madonna's people, we grew up together, practically bff!). Doll, look it's not that I think I'm all that, really, it's the jeans! Turns out those darling young men were my guests at the Steampunk Exhibition (get mailing list, that dungeons and dragons groupie fest isn't free) and that pivotal wardrobe item worn with saucy top hat ($40 Royal Oak Flea Market-is this privately held?) and faux velvet stretch bustier (Lori Karbal, Birmingham-she'll be top tier) left a lasting impression!

The play was hilarious and bawdy and Detroit is the mecca for clever young upstarts from more viable places (so who's bankrolling these moves? check Hamptons et al for parent support groups, shake the trees). The play was an old timey Westward Ho theme suggesting that Detroit is the new frontier. The whole thing totally fired me up to buy my own behemoth, heck I'm gonna need it. Deconstruct it and they will come! I hashed the whole plan out on the pick-up tailgate (Chevy Silverado...can you see it? My dad, the GM reitree and me, the grandson, total home town heart-warmer, could be the new Eminem/Chrysler thing) while sucking on Parks BBQ ribs post show (hmmm colorful neighborhood, might have to bus 'em down on a food tour). Man that's good pig, and did I eat like one. Had to lean over cowboy style, if you get my drift. This isn't some come on, the jeans are money, and haven't we learned some investments are more important than others?

And lastly, when the heat index was at 110, that $12 tent dress I bought new at HM (am I the only mature shopper in this joint?) was the only choice for the Swedish jugglers' performance at TANK 425 (W. 9 Mile Rd., Hazel Park, isn't it in the contract that your husband has to endorse you? Kind of a drag it's the same kitty though). Wow is that a Cirque du Soleil try out? Totally mesmerizing and poetic, we were all stunned and it wasn't just heat exhaustion. As the dew turned to full-on perspiration, I said with complete sincerity, "this is pure joy," and hogged the fan to myself. I said the same thing moments later inhaling the berry vodka infusion in air-conditioned bliss (Valentine Vodka, Ferndale) Old broads love a stiff one... Joy is also being of the age where having fun in comfort matters more than the sure knowledge that a "tent" is the most unflattering thing you could wear. It's also not giving a shit, now that's sexy…soon to be viral, catch it.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Coasting into Shore, Great Lakes Style

I say the drive home from New York doesn't bother me, though it's long and boring. Pennsylvania thinks it's Texas and won't get off of it until after a 450 mile-long argument. But, the weather's easy and Wyatt's keeping me company with compelling facts like, "Did you know you can dilute lime juice with water and clean a teapot? And, more mangoes are eaten than any other fruit in the world?"

We get in at midnight, not horrible. You know you are crossing into Southwest Detroit when you see the steam rising and the twinkling of lights low on the horizon. It's the Marathon Oil refinery which spans both sides of I-75. I think of all those christmas lights turned on and lying on the floor, waiting to be put up and high into the tree. It makes me smile everytime I come home this way. OK so the steam is also the smoke of noxious off-gassing and daytime here lacks some romance. I am trying not to think about lights high up, that would remind me of a magnificent canyon of architecture. I am trying to come home and not feel a hard uphill climb ahead of me.

That comes the next day and sweet Jesus do I need a vacation before I do another single thing. I feel the intense strain of a very long paddle out and the pulling of my whole self up, trying to get any part of that big East Coast wave. My own bed is like a resort that I never want to leave… oh, actually I can't. I make it to the front seat of the car for the first nap, crabby as could be. We are heading to the lake, pulling a sailboat, am I relaxing yet? The wind is coming out of the Northeast, steady, gentle wave maker, it's a sure cure if I can get there. Ahh the first dive into Lake Huron, man it's so good. I'm just gonna enjoy the sun for a spell....

Salvaging? Right, I forgot why you came. Of course I hit two flea markets in between naps and a sunburn. You didn't think I'd emancipate? Brimfield is four weeks away (breath), and maybe the Brooklyn Flea Market this time (please weather and fortune gods). I gotta represent (as my friend Mark likes to say.) You know that! Seriously, I did score in the most unlikely of places and no I am not telling you where! I got good stuff and making more of it with just this and that together all in my mind (so as to push out those scary banking thoughts) Good finds all along the way. The huge bus I'm driving is unloaded and the boxes are everywhere. I'll be yanking it out and not arranging it, a mess again, naturally. Dig in (that's Fridays and Saturdays for sure! With Mark that is, I'll pop in but I'm not done with that lake yet).

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Manhattan Maneuvers

Why am I standing on this late night, Forest Hills street corner smoking a cigarette after that 2-day marathon in the garage flea sauna? It's a necessary and disgusting habit, like schlepping antiques all over hell for two weeks that's why. I'm working out the remaining adrenalin while awaiting further instructions from my superiors. I shouldn't be telling you this, in fact your life is endanger knowing this much…I'm special forces. I know, I know, mild- (never mind) mannered midwestern mom-type with the requisite antiques hobby as cover (taxonomically speaking "job" might be over-reaching acceptable measure for this classification). But that's really why I was in that filthy Manhattan garage in 3-digit temps for the last two days of the East Coast tour. All I am at liberty to say is that strategic goals were mostly achieved, as best we can tell from command's grumbling, and I am on furlough so to speak, until Friday 0500 hours (when I reboard for new york, collect my progeny from camp and that full truck to make the fun drive home).

You can sleep nights knowing enemy combatants have been subdued (put down those fine ionic capitals dude, the password is NOT "are you gonna let me walk over $10?) and we've infiltrated by way of underground networks (they'd NEVER think to look for live people in this breathless box of death…by the way did we burn that stinking uniform?…oops, left it in the truck, note to self, pack hazmat bags and military strength orange-all spray). Hah! it only looks like a gross men's bathroom but actually it's a top secret command station where I quick-changed after 11 hours of duty (touching nary a surface mind you) and "showered" in the sink (remember this is the woman who gave you roadside cornfield latrine maneuver…I say suck it up, this is no time for prissy prudery and frankly we are beyond the term "shvits") and pulled that kinda short little black dress disguise on (really at her age…) Leave it to the female officers to convoy through manhattan and reconnoiter with the rest of our unit at headquarters (Bel Aire Diner, one billion other places to eat in New York, but there's the all night factor, free parking of large vehicles and complimentary mini muffins to consider).

The beauty of this assignment, which I will be repeating in September, is that there is no thinking. We know what they want (sorta kinda), we're well-prepared for the arm-wrestling, and they traffic in a currency we can trade in. Now if we can only keep Colonel Kurtz from losing it. That sleep deprivation and iced coffee defribillation makes the lips a little jiggy and voice a little loudish and with the "shoppers" wearing all manner of disguises beyond reasonable codes of decency (see-through lingerie, people on leashes, etc.), it's tough to concentrate on the the real operatives. Above all, we are there to keep our targets in the sight and to make the all-important trade. Ahh the smell of automotive grease and hot humans, the last minute deal-making by scavengers. I think I hear the flight of the valkyries playing and helicopters in the distance (so harmonic with new york accents and sirens). Re-entering familiar airspace in 14 hours and focused on destination my own mattress. Will face the tribunal and the missing documents later, the saloon calls for a cold one and then it's over and out for this soldier. Will report for duty at 0800, just enough time to have our story straight for the budget oversight committee on alleged abuses of funds.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Sleepless in Hot York

Siesta was created because you actually can't function in the heat of the day. Is that why I couldn't find the subway stop as I circled it from 30 feet away? Sweet Jesus but it's hot on fantasy island. Let's hope that doesn't deter the tourists from shopping in the oven on Saturday (Chelsea Garage Annex Flea 26th and 6th or so). That this venerable flea market will actually close after forever I am unable to accept but August 30th is the end kids, so if you are in the hood buy a bag of ice, stick it down your pants and shop...think sweat lodge meditation for antique natives, sauna for slaves of toxic cleanse with every purchase, doubles as a salt lick.. Secretly I love summer, bring it on (you weren't here when it was 2 and we were trying to load the I am NOT over it). Tomorrow I'm going to crawl into a storage unit then onto a salvage yard, let's see if that degree clinical strength antiperspirant is all that. I'm holding back some great stuff for the store and word has it that MarkyD is pulling it together upstairs at ye ole heritage co.2. (Don't get excited, we're keeping it to Friday and Saturday for now, there's a pawn shop to run and mark is the go to prince of pawn in pontiac people!) And you know? I'm kinda getting ready for a BIG SELL OFF too, I'll even turn the AC on, big splurge. Scored a primo primo spot at Brimfield and I want all new juicy stuff for the September show (weekend after labor day). Thanks for asking, yeah the new van is running fine (giant repair bill later..don't get me started) Have yet another car to sell when I get home i.e. the cargo van (did i mention i am indeed parting with my beloved '67 porsche 912 and rick's '76 convertible karmann ghia is also on the block?) But first I gotta get this one back, but that's on the next trip to New York, never mind it's stuff in the store first week of August, stay cool, RMA, shut up, love you mean it, go to bed, ok, shhh, ok, by, shit I forgot a photo, close your eyes, visualize the statue of liberty, scary dinner bills, good night from new york.

The Best Thing I Ever Found at Brimfield

Sitting in front of the fan under this little white oven tent and selling my wares, I am counting the minutes until I can pack it all in and head to my little oasis. A dealer I met through another dealer I met showed us this pristine spring-fed pond. To dive into that alternate universe after the all day heat, dirt, stuff and the selling of it, keeps me going. I can swim the entire perimeter and see the lilly pads and the path the water creatures make escaping my current. As my longtime dealer friend lulu says, the people still in this business despite all the economic woes are the heart and soul of the business. Despite the conditions and long hours, to sit amongst our tents and share wine and hors d'houevres, complete dinners and then watch old 8mm movies on the side of a white truck, I can't imagine a richer life. I actually gave up a hotel room and the 30 minute commute to sleep in my new old van and bathe in a pond. I couldn't be happier about it. The full moon and sparkling stars mark a path from the bathroom, a bag of toiletries slung over my shoulder. I rise early with enough time to read for an hour before I head for the showers, dress and head to the food tents for coffee and breakfast. I am reminded of the gypsy encampments outside the city limits of Paris. Dirty barefoot children ran between the adults whose loud laughter rose with the steam from pots. They were having fun and I felt sorry for them. I have since learned that simple trumps fussy and while it is glorious to stay at a posh hotel and eat at fine restaurants, it isn't any more fun than this. Tomorrow I gauge whether to stay all or part of the day knowing I have to pack it all up and load the van in the hot sun and head to New York City. Next weekend is the garage flea market and all the city gypsies will be there. I can't wait for them to see the cache of worn wonderment as it spills out from my traveling show.

Monday, July 4, 2011

A New Holiday Work/Play Plan You'll Love!!

Going on a trip should be fun and a good excuse to buy a new outfit. If you asked my mother and three sisters, a trip of unloading junk and selling it on the side of the highway is not fun nor would buying a 10-year-old, 1 ton, 5.4 liter V-8, 15-passenger van to do this next week, qualify as a chic outfit. What do they know? I know my 80 year-old, retired-engineer dad thought it was fun looking at used vans with me, not to mention it's his kind of outfit. It's complex, the son you didn't get, but didn't really want, that is still your daughter/child driving 1300 miles in an old van next week. He has that look on his face that says, I know cars and this one stinks, but for the right price? My daughter is crazy, thank God I'm here. This has made his day. But, the owning that spur of the moment decision-making and make-fun-work habit might by his genes? That's another story. He crossed an ocean with probably as much forethought and blind ambition. Did fun enter his mind? in between working like a dog? What if all he needed was the right manual?

My inner Martha Stewart says work and play is entrepreunerial, you just need a little multi-tasking manual to make it fun. The Fourth of July is ideal for this vacation. Your kid has to be collected from sailing camp and couch surfing in paradise, you have to find a van, pack it and do a show next week, just put the pieces in order. Simple engineering logic and plenty of time for fun! Just don't over do it! In a 48-hour plan, one needs two eight-hour stretches of sleeping time. You know two spots with queen pillow tops and 400-count cotton sheets that will cost you nothing. Suggest your company will make their holiday. Sound completely fried if they waffle.

Work up to the minute that the highways shut down on Friday. Grab bathing suit, toothbrush, vodka on the counter, don't forget old dog. Expect that one of the two last vans on the way to your first night's accommodation will be perfect. One just so happens to belong to an old client you liked, send plea out to the universe and to the ghost of the Big Three Gods. Your sister's spacious arts-and-crafts home in Kalamazoo is a sure thing, separate dogs, break out vodka, retire to the porch for cocktails, sleep. Her husband Rodger owns the original Heritage Co. store, shop there before you have to pick up your child. This feels like work, so make fun stop for berry picking on the way. Rodger knows mulberry tree 5 blocks away. With less than an hour, inspire genius. There's three of us, some kitchen bowls and a rain poncho in the car. Two people hold the poncho like a funnel, slip bowl in the poncho's neck, another shakes the branches, genius engineering. Laugh your way to a peck of free sweet berries, go to work.

On the highway by noon, expect the unexpected accident/road shut down by two, take uncharted tree-lined road where your car stopped. Promise you'll get for GPS next time, turn left. Be delighted by a sparkling lake on the right and the antique store in the middle of no where. Turn around in the next parking lot where the local girl scouts happen to have a dog wash stand. Drop the old dog off in the hot lot with the darling girls and make donation, go to work, collect fresh dog, take pictures, that's fun, continue. Child pick-up delayed, stop for homemade burgers at roadside grill, disregard smell, enjoy burger. Arrive at friend's home in paradise, hug your child, join adults for cocktails on the deck. It's really hot in the late afternoon heat, put on suits, jump in Lake Michigan, leave as not-so-fun mosquito party starts. Retire to the aforementioned hotel-like accommodations, sleep. Wake up and leave by noon, buy van from old client, rekindle friendship. Have fun firing off business possibilities as you peel off your last dollar. Stop on the way home for family party, eat, always fun when your other sister is cooking, endure fireworks, go home, sleep is the new fun.

Stay tuned for next weeks productive and fun work/play retreat workout to the East Coast!

Sunday, June 26, 2011

The essence of imagination is a lack of focus

Braniac Danny Hillis said this and is making millions by flitting from idea to idea (fascinating story see Is it vindication or hope I feel? Would anyone go along with this statement that I'm working all the time even though it looks like I'm pub crawling or making cookies or reading the New York Times?

Washing down the calamari with those yummy margaritas at El Barzon ( reminds me I have to wash those big tuna nets so I can cut them up for drapes. It's the complex layering of many and sometimes disparate elements that creates this seductive moodiness that I'm convinced draws people to places like third stop Cafe d' Mongo's (

If it's now the secret to success to have several ideas firing at one time, the money should be rolling in anytime now. However, you might have to simplify some things to be fresh and productive, so Larry Mongo like yours truly, limits the hours of operation (the cafe is only open Friday nights). Me, I need some baking time. The other night while creaming the sugar and two sticks of butter, but before adding the eggs, a big decision was made to just go for it and do the red and putty-flecked, fabric-covered wiring with those black enamel shades. You don't add the flour until after all the wet ingredients are blended. It's a scientific procedure you have to follow. The washers and the bolts will attach the socket and shade together on a short length of eighth inch threaded rod and then that unexpected bit of colorful wire coming through and up to the canopy. Just right, don't overbake it.

The truth is it's all I can do to keep this entry to three ideas and the inventory to one truck load. It's about editing and I can't type too much longer, my shoulders are so sore from pulling the mass of grape vines off my building yesterday. I thought I was relaxing and being really efficient. You can really get into the zone gardening and I was making good progress editing the list of inventory. Plus the weather was gorgeous, Mark was outside playing beautiful music and I just lost track of time.

Speaking of time, I just read in the Times that they are covering trucks with artwork and glittery bits in Pakistan. I would love to do that, but I shudder to think how much extra gas you'd burn with the additional weight. Weight. Man am I feeling it across the top of my shoulders.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Ask Not What Your Garbage Can Do For You...Ask What You Can Do With Your Garbage

These are not garbage, these are the white ones... it's a complicated story, naturally

These are mine...and definitely not garbage nor I making this complicated?...Maybe

This is, or was, garbage, but someone bought it so it's not, here's the story...Breathe

Up early with the phone and now thinking...and drinking coffee...always a dangerous combination...and came up with this genius title while writing on facebook ( about some salvage I skimmed off the top of the bulldozer's bucket (true story) when an idea (or more) came on. And, that is: there's nothing new under the sun (not this idea anyway) and plenty of old crap lying around (which isn't new either but free.), It just requires cleverness, and now about the ringing phone...

Today's requests (three before 7am) First, I NEED THREE END TABLES FOR MY PARTY THS rush, just something cute, yet stubstantial, something "Detroit-y" for a big Detroit group...that can be outside and kicked over and not break cause we really just want to borrow it and actually not buy it...Of course I have the perfect thing, why else call me at 7am and the last minute? So, I'm gonna take some crates from the curbside mall and spray paint them (the crates not the people...hmmm) with...You guessed it.. " A BEAUTIFUL DETROIT BEGINS WITH YOU." Marketing savant that I am, I'm subtley selling the idea that this is now a cool thing that you need to BUY, AND, if not this exact thing, we'll whip up something else on what's lying around that you now want but need differently.

NEXT.... a set designer needs 1970's chic patio furniture for a pool scene of drug dealers, lots of them, dealers and chairs alike, but deco and groovy and they are in my backyard, well some and not white and not deco. There's a guy who said he knew of lots of them, but now can't find the guy with them, and would I want mine painted white? And why isn't the guy answering his phone? (that's the second guy) now that she needs them NEXT WEEK so she can have little yellow pads made for them. Maybe he's out of town, the second guy, she and he said, that's her and the first guy, and where's the concerta?... I guess they can be white, mine that is, if that guy fails to appear and/or changes his mind, are you with me? I forgot his number, oh yeah, he's two...sigh, getting paid is plenty clever in this business.

MOVING RIGHT ALONG (faster, it's after 10am now) the money is in from the last guy (which is a different guy than the first two, which makes three, of those who called before 7am, breathing). I gotta pick up the money from his bank and give it to another guy who is selling my guy, number three, a table, but not for the patio,...and now my other guy who never calls before 7am because he's a friend and isn't buying nor selling me anything, is coming to help me do my accounting, for free, which is nice and not clever nor garbage, but tiring so I'm making more coffee.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Designer Drug Dealer Digs and You

Making the rounds of my favorite haunts in the city with an Elmore Leonard movie set in mind, I found a few stylish items that transition from a 1974 era drug dealers' hideaway to your home or place of business.

While the deal can be done nicely on this vinyl sofa, it's the perfect place for your toddler to spill his juice while watching t.v. Nothing like vinyl for easy clean up of sticky blood or sugary beverages. It sure looks great here in my driveway, where I dragged it from the neighbors. Instant office, just add laptop and my daily drug of choice, black coffee. When my colleagues showed up, we commenced our meeting, brilliant isn't it?

And how about these candy-colored lounge chairs? That fresh poppy lime and kelly green, safety orange and cherry red brings a room to life while someone else's is getting taken. And whether your selling kilos of cocaine or car parts, they offer a crisp professional look. Equally smart in the family or living room, these are really versatile with a contemporary or mid-century white or black leather sofa and great with danish modern teak furniture. I wouldn't hesitate to use them as dining chairs, you could pair them with a classic white Saarinen tulip table, the popular 50's retro Heywood Wakefield table, an industrial steel table or contemporary chrome and glass table. Whether on the lam or the run, you'll dine in style. Super clean, comfortable and lots to choose from.

Now hear me out on the lowly commercial carpet square. I know your standard issue detective office does not say high design, but when I saw this sea of similar but different patterns in all these shades of office greys, beiges, mauves and blues, I saw creative possibilities. Endless patterns made with different patterns, I'd mix it up and make a rug of one and a border with another. Don't stop with two patterns, create an optical illusion and expand outward making every border different. You could do a checkerboard or diamond pattern, stripes, or...maybe you should sit down, relax and let me do it since I kind of have an idea anyway. Like Jack Foley says, "you'd be surprised what you can get when you ask for it the right way."

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Third Round Draftpick Team Steampunk

Somehow I got it backwards. Aren't you suppose to start out living the gypsy life and then becoming conservative by the time you're crowding 50? Me in a suit, coiffed hair, heels at 25... that was an interesting role. Now I'm wearing 1900's french peasant clothes, enthusiastically describing an antique dealer's life on the road, adventures in foreign lands, the glitz the glamour, to a group of renaissance/goth/comicons on the steampunk tour.

I've just been told by the insiders that I'm now one of them. Seems like just yesterday I was with the green party, draft-picked from the shabbily chic having been picked up from the strictly architectural farm team. The making new things out of old things keeps me in rotation. I'm gonna have to sit out sword fighting and dungeons and dragons games and hope they overlook the ripped jeans and workbooks under the tophat and tails. I like costumes but I don't think I can play in a cinched corset. My longevity depends on adapting my market strategy but still be brand heritage co2. It's still about finding cool stuff, in this case gadgets and old machines, figure out what to do with them and get it built.

I am intrigued by the intricate fabrications and the engineering of this stuff. You gotta check it out ( The tricked out wheel chair, computer desk on a victorian printer's stand, old typewriter parts and an armature holding a skull with glasses…provide a much needed new way of looking at antiques and design. And boy do we ever need to find a fresh market. Our hosts, The Charles River Museum of Industry and Innovation, is promoting preservation of America's manufacturing heritage which fits right in with my message. The Steampunk City event in their hometown of Waltham, Mass. drew 10,000 aforementioned costumed steampunks..and curious locals. The movement is building momentum and a following all in less than two years, pretty impressive.

The 1950's folk art tractor and the floor lamp put together with an adjustable 1920's automotive headlight and a fine wooden surveyors tripod I brought got a lot of attention. So here I am wearing what amounts to old cotton undergarments and telling stories about how this all came to be. It's in the gypsy job description, that and wearing lots of hats, changing costumes and personas, keeping the act fresh and selling the new show from town to town. It's an interesting life and somehow there's always money to keep the show on the road. Best of all, you don't have to wear pantyhose. But for Godsake, don't tell the parents who put yours truly through university thinking I'd be an engineer, you know the regular corporate kind.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Exile at the World's End

I committed myself to this steampunk convention, have a thousand things to do at the ninth hour to get ready and here I am with two 12 year-olds, wearing 3D glasses and watching a cheesy kid's movie. Mom kept her promise. Did they have to pick a two hour one? It's so riveting. Thor has been stripped of his power and exiled to earth. I'm trying to relate. Thor is working his program and fighting the good fight. I'm with him on that. It dawns on me; this may be a two-hour experimental therapy: have I been willed here by Thor's power? Oh Blonde God, with the seriously ripped body, I'm trying to keep up the fight!! Share with me the mysteries of your workout! Wait! there's the labyrinth left by the light beam that teleported him. Is he trying to show me we're caught in the same trap? I sure could have used him in Oriskany, New York when I was facing down that Minotaur. Ah ha! it's all a test! Wyatt and his cousin Trevor are my spirit guides. Numb mother senseless with deafening surround sound, violence in three dimensions and make her sick on popcorn! And yet, this is the best I've felt all day. Genius!

The dumb story is really just a front for complete mind retraining. I suddenly reminded of the grace in my exile. There's last Monday's dinner, the underground Clandesdine supper. Is this tied in with the whole end-of-the-world crowd? Detroit has been chosen to show the way! The just-another-empty Detroit space reborn as edgy and beautiful high design. Those giant concrete pillars like the centurions in Thor's kingdom, the spare brick and broken windows beautiful in the unexpected sunlight. It must have been sent by Thor's guard. The temple-like tented long tables, white linens, old 2x4 centerpieces adorned with kitchen towel-wrapped bread loves. The whole place lit only with votives. It's Thor's triumphant feast man! Flowing wines, a coffee bar and the finest foods from Detroit's best cooking talent, complex and all done makeshift on camping stoves as you'd expect at the end of the world, in an exiled city. Wyatt, Trevor, Thor thank you! I've made it to the holy land!! Hey wait! what does the Steampunk thing mean? It looks like Star Trek fused to some Dungeons and Dragons goth flick. I'm confused, Is this another test? Wait, don't leave me!!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Apocalypse Now: The Brimfield Sequel

Scratch Vortex, make that a black hole. This trip to Brimfield is the trip from hell (and I totaled a van here once) but little salvage slave who could is a verb remember? Yeah, the van needs a computer part and the shop takes their sweet time telling me. It's 1:00pm Monday, still 3 1/2 hours to Brimfield, hot and I have to unload and reload a U-haul truck. Do you think I could pay one of those mechanics who are soooo busy? Not so much, well maybe after we watch you sweat it out and get all but the 2-ton cabinet and the 10' windmill....WTF!

I get to the show at 7:00pm and it opens at daybreak. My neighbors take one look at me and the back of this truck and unload everything. This my friends is what keeps me going, dealer camaraderie. No time to fuss, well just a little..I'm eating pizza at 10:00 pm and drinking smuggled beer with my New York pals Adam and Andrea.

It's complete mayhem at dawn and the deals are fast…good thing, I feel like I've been dragged through the mud. I'm stressed about the car repair and U-haul rental add-ons. The U-haul guy, my hero, took pity on me and gave me extra days and mileage. I have a few days before I have to think about driving back to Utica and returning in my van. Oh joy. The part should be in tomorrow, the mechanic says it's a quick job...

My neighbors at the show are like characters out of the movie Big Fish. Harry is the showman, a Greek Kramer who roams the field and talks in a shout. Then there's Mark and Mark, "We're from Kent, Ohio, you know where we shot the students." The Marks are sportin' camo, and Sr. talks like this is war and we're gonna see action. He's talks through teeth clinched on a short cigar (that isn't actually a cigar). Keith is our musician and d.j., a cool customer with jazzy selections I love and a sly sense of humor. He's got the back story on everybody, like the time Harry slept through an entire show day after a little self-medicating…I laugh till it hurts. Last but not least, Skeeter,the kid with the sweet disposition and ready to help. He watches my booth when I run off shopping and sells my stuff left and right…He's hired.

Yeah the van…promises promises until there's no returning of my phone calls. It's now 5 days on that quick repair. I'm overtime on the U-haul and freaking out…Except there's this little wrinkle. You see I was towed off a state toll road and only their licensed facilities can tow. My genius husband, who used to sell used car parts and knows all the sleazy mechanics' tricks, gets wise and calls the New York Transit Authority. Within the hour the mechanic is calling me having miraculously just fixed my van! Only now it's Friday at 5pm, too late to pick up the van until Monday am. Good thing I got Skeeter on the payroll (I keep him fueled with sugar) and the U-haul prince working every angle for me.

Time for a cocktail. I take one of Harry's bikes down to find my pals Matthew and Richard who have set up a full cocktail and hors d'ouevres bar at their deluxe truck encampment. I'm talking a portable bar, full-size grill, gourmet foodstuffs. Chef Richard has whipped up some delightful guacamole and Matthew is slicing artisanal cheeses, charcuterie, breads and crackers. I'm bumming cigarettes and pouring myself a stiff black russian and finally exhaling after the van drama...that is until the rain comes. It's the mad dash to haul all that light weight oak furniture under cover.

Of course it's the biblical kinda rain. It's now pack-out day and I'm standing in a pond. So much for last day business. Nothin' to do but tarp what you can and wait it out. What's this? The diehards are trickling in, taking cover and frantically trying to find something to buy before it gets packed up. Hooray! I count my blessings and take my time packing out. It's only 3 1/2 hours back to the scary hotel. I'm starved and tired, I'm not eating road food now. I invite Eddie from Brooklyn. The guy has 1000 stories and that accent, it's like he's reading lines. He accepts the invitation, "shoo-err, yor-uh not the soar-t of broh-awd ya walk away from (you're not the sort of broad you walk away spell it). Thanks for the compliment Eddie and the memories, right, well it makes a good story now that it's over.

Monday, May 9, 2011

There's a Vortex in Brimfield

I am now certain Brimfield and a surrounding radius of 300 miles is in a powerful vortex. Crazy stuff keeps happening here and the story I'm about to tell you absolutely proves it.

I'm down to the last 2 hours of the 12 hour drive and all of a sudden, the van loses engine power, I barely make it to the median as the cars are barreling through a construction zone with no shoulders. I've just had this thing tuned up to the tune of $850. A quick look under the hood reveals nothing easy like a loose wire. They send out the big tow truck and the drivers eyes get big when he sees the strain on the winch, "you got something heavy in there." Yeah, and I gotta sell it like tomorrow. It's Sunday, there's nothing doing. I gotta roll with it.

I buy the nice tow driver dinner at McDonalds and listen sympathetically to his oral surgery pain, the bipolar girlfriend who hasn't moved out yet and the leg that got crushed in a farm accident 30 years ago. He finds a penny in the parking lot and gives it to me for luck. My vans gonna be serviced at 8am when they open, I'll be set up and drinking a cocktail by tomorrow night.

Back in Brimfield my gal pal has found a nice man on to buy her dinner, true story, but he's wearing a lounge lizard neckline and his hair is slicked back. She thanks him and fortified with a few cocktails, my happy pal heads back to the tents to find our drinking buddies.

The driver drops me off at a Ramada Hotel near the airport in Oriskany, New York. I am in the middle of nowhere, at a hotel with 3 people in it. It's the perfect setting for a remake of The Shining. I take a walk and find the main road. The tiny brick control tower at the airport is from the 50's. There are construction vehicles and piles of sand all around it. No planes are flying in or out of here.

The party in Brimfield just keeps getting better. My pal is having the kind of day that you never want to end. She heads back to the hotel bar for a night cap and it's full of fun people. She meets a darling 28 yr-old man, he says he's a professional Vegas gambler, they hit off.

It's pitch black here at the airport hotel and deathly quiet. I've managed to forget reading material and borrow a cheesy romance novel from the Shelly Duval understudy at the front desk. It's about a marine who finds a picture of a pretty girl in the Kuwait desert and believes it's a good luck charm. When he comes home, he walks across the country to find the girl who saved his life. I break for some vending machine food. No sign of Jack Nicholson, but I know where the main road is and I've got running shoes, Shelly Duval is on her own.

There's a lucky charm all right and and my gal pal has it. Though she' has a hangover and only three hours of sleep, love has prevailed. The lucky charm worked for the marine too, the evil ex-husband is vanquished and the marine finds true love with the pretty girl.

So far all my lucky penny got me through was the night in Oriskany, It's noon and I am still waiting to hear what's wrong with my van. I'm holding onto my penny and patience, now if I they could only get my van running…

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Brimfield Time Again, Let the Dice Roll

I have a thing about finding the next new thing. That means something more" graphically explosive" than the last thing (read stupidly large, heavy and unsaleable) or the unexplored regions of a cavernous warehouse (darker, wetter, creepier). Less dramatically, something truly compells me to look beyond what I know, what I've already bought and sold, and now, to venture beyond the confines of my store, retail, and Metro Detroit to find a new way of working or being. Is it a gene inherited from the Gaggino shipping captains of Genoa perpetually sailing into the unknown? Or more like I got bored with all the things I've seen or said, the same four walls year after year and the same news stories day after day. I see it's the same thing with selling at Brimfield. I have never set up at the same show twice. Who knows if this show is better than that, but I have to say, this time I have somehow miraculously landed what looks to be a sweet spot. My pal Carter put in the good word at the barn and instead of being 1000 feet from the road, I'm 20. Instead of being stuck in back on the fence that became a pond when it rained, or loading and unloading at that "hot, moneymaking" show that only lasts 4 hours (hot indeed...106 degrees, and heavy? Pockets, no..the load? You know me... quick weightloss program). I'm somehow in with Big Daddy's from LA and the people who look like their regular clients are moviestars that have people who follow behind and write their checks. Is it a good omen? I'm too practical to think like that. My overwhelming concern is are they gonna be fun? Will the weather be good for a change? Can I back my trailer up (no)? After another harrowing year in Detroit, don't look to me to set sales goals or chart what it is that's selling, how would I know? "Wow, the giant foam hammer sold, should I order more? That lucite toilet seat with the rattlesnakes embedded in this a trend?" Come on, I'm saddled with the destiny of being into increasingly weirder stuff in an ever shrinking niche, year after year. I'm gonna be that old crone with thin silver hair and dressed in black, back in some corner of a flea market, invisible amongst the vaguely spooky collection of odd and giant things, startling the curious when I move or speak Gee maybe I'm just in it for the theater afterall, there's a shock for you.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Week in Review

When big just isn't big enough. Or, when dumb isn't dumb enough

Me and my cool mother in our matching t-shirts, cool, so my idea

Inside the front page of the Sunday New York Times' section Week in Review, they give you the highlights from the week with punchy one-word headings. Wyatt says I would be "a lot cooler" if I could just stop talking so much. Maybe this format will have desired effect and up my cool factor with this oh so important demographic.

Bump: Out of the prime booth in Brimfield and the shared 24' truck and assorted expenses. Driving the ghetto rig meant overhaul, that was cheap. Time to work the phones to find a booth, preferably not in East Jesus. Good week to find a saviour. Did I mention the "BIG" scores like that 10' windmill, boat frame, neon beer sign and steel shelving units I'd already bought...guess I'm pulling a trailer, and that serious trucker Amy if I'm lucky.

Thump: That's the sound a solid oak dresser makes when you drop it. That's why I plan on having Amy on the other end. There's two straight women in this town who know how to move heavy items. What an accomplishment. Only 10 more things to pull together before the client's birthday party, which is the week before Brimfield. Ritalin darts please, note to medical. Meanwhile the one film job I have in the hopper is renting more stuff which is great, I just need to get those 10 big pieces ready for pick up Wednesday while that photo shoot gets underway upstairs today.

Grump: Best to give the keys to the photo shoot clients and let them handle the 6 models, their 10 handlers , the photographer and his assistant. Did I mention the models were toddlers? Medical not available until tomorrow, put the grump in the pool first, then let her pop in when they are finishing up with all those adorable (and they were) toddlers. They left the place clean as a whistle, best location clients ever. The photo shoot gig is the new marketing angle, tell marketing.

Hrrumph: Didn't meet goal for the webathon fundraiser (trying to finance ads to fight the governor's attempts to snuff out the state's film industry investment). Still have two days, check my facebook page for info. Just 5 bucks by Tuesday could do it, wouldya couldya? On a more positive note, Gleaners and Detroit Waldorf raised some serious dough. Our Beautiful Detroit Begins with You art piece sold for $25 over estimate. I'm gonna start producing more, and give $25 to various area charities of your choosing.

Stay tuned, already day two of this week, it's fully-loaded. Keeping my cool. Done talking.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Death, Taxes, Life!

It's always darkest before tax day. I have to remind myself of that every year. The continuous loop plays on of funding gaps, gray days and crummy weather. The pickings are slim. While the call from American Pickers sparked some provocative discourse, it isn't paying my bills and filing an extension means no refund. A bright spot is that all my calling around for the show unearthed some interesting leads (and entertainment), it's always hunting season, especially when you're lean. Opening the store on Saturdays is getting to be a pretty good gig. And the people showing up on the weekdays are finding the door open now that David King's back from LA and working in the studio. It's a pleasant surprise and we're all grateful.

I forgot what a difference it makes to have someone else in the studio, talking about art and making it with salvage. Our conversation circulates to familiar places, Detroit, the people we know and what we're going to do next (get coffee, surf the internet, have a show…). Then we hear voices downstairs, people are drawn to a faint thump, gee there is a pulse. There's also the high pitch squeal of the chop saw again, the smell of saw dust and wet paint, the energy of creation.

We are talking about having a show upstairs, really. David painted the walls, and framed panels of scrapped lumber. I've looked at lumber lying all over Detroit, I was stunned how beautiful he made it look when he framed sections of it. Put the mask over your face and breathe normally. That display I've been wanting to do of washed up sports balls and crushed metal now has context. He talks about the culture of LA and sunshine, I respond with New York and snowstorms. He paints over old paintings and cuts them apart, I am spray painting sidewalks, my car, a wood panel, a mirror, with the Beautiful Detroit stencil. We restart our dialogue from last fall and salvage whatever is lying around in the ugly days leading up to spring.

The gray walls of the upstair's front room has completely faded beneath a wash of fresh paint, the vacant spaces starts to fill in. It actually looks like something is coming to life around here.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Detroit Gladiators, Stay Tuned!

Detroit gladiator first round draft pick Jon, does animal rescue in Detroit, HOT!

Cass Tech High, well that's what it looked like a few months ago.

What are we like the Charlie Sheen of cities now? It's an episode of Survivor, "Look they're down to 700,000 people! Let's watch them demolish their city (see Cass Tech High, now you don't) and fight over the scrap!" From the ringside seats, all eyes are on the media show that looks like it's Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome here. Bring on the gladiators!

We've got the attention of American Pickers anyhow. They're calling probably looking for an escort to that place in the city packed with motorcycles and Civil War rifles, do I sound cynical? Heck no, where there's fame, there must be fortune, let's cash in! On the one hand it feels like feeding on carrion with the vultures, on the other isn't it the job of the salvage slave to boldly go where treasure is buried, help a brother out who needs to sell something, and along the way spin the story that Detroit still has great people and energy? I feel the stump speech coming on.

Yeah, about Cass Tech, 3 million to tear it all down so we could get that much needed vacant land...How about some intelligent thought on saving iconic architecture unique to Detroit? Or restoring the leadership that nurtured successes like Peter Karmanos, John DeLorean, Lily Tomlin and Jack White (all Cass alum)?Believe it or not, there's still creative thinkers on the streets making life better in the D. It's just not as sexy as say gladiator sport to the masses. Seems to me the only sane solution for those of us invested here is to strengthen the network we already have and build momentum in a positive direction. Here pickers, is the great American story.

The salvage slave is consulting with the A-team, doing the background work, oh there's hidden treasures and good television here. Who knows? maybe this will uncover great merchandise for a few of us, put money in some pockets, maybe there's a t.v./film industry in our future, maybe we'll learn how to capitalizes on our assets without vaporizing them, and keep the things that make Detrot, well, Detroit. When the spotlight is on is the best time to tell your story. How about the one where the underdogs dig deep for that personal strength and come together to save the game, and themselves. I got my first round draft pick, you know he's got game.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Collected Stories

I don't know, the headless puppet body, a 1900's maiden stamped on tin ceiling, toy gun parts and a workman's tool belt etc. that I bought in New York last weekend kept teasing with life stories. I was glad to shut them up in a box and ship them back to Detroit. You know I love the stuff, the stories and the people animating history from the beyond, but...there's a few things and a few people in New York to love…good thing I got information bypass (straight to laptop) so the vital needs get met and overload's averted. A blog and a roundtrip ticket to the Midwest are just what the doctor ordered.

I came to look at a collection, one animator, Maria, and 40 years worth of great stuff and stories as fun and creative as she is. Maria's inner artist has explored the sculpture in the classic carvings of Victorian architecture to folk art (dolls, spool furniture, collectibles et al), the painterly aspects of 19th century tole (painted metal) to peely painted furniture, and graphic modernity in primitives to vintage advertising. I scan a collection like I scan an antique show or market; searching for form, material, color and anything especially odd. As they add up in my head, I'm concurrently styling a booth or vignette to tell a story. In the boxes, cupboards and places I search, it is a narrative thread I am looking for. It's in the last place I look where I find the storyline for this collection. Turns out it begins with Maria's occupation..she sells jewelry..and an unusual connection back to me.

It's late in the day and up in the attic is our last stop. There it all is, a glittering tangle of 1960's silver from the southwest piled on a card table. The two of us can't stop ourselves from pawing through the treasure, what fun! The Native American jewelry is like a magnet and a door to my past. When my family moved from Arizona where I was born, my parents (probably my mom) had this groovy idea that we should take the proceeds of our modest bank accounts and buy Indian jewelry. I was 9 years old. I still have my little girl bracelets from the $200 investments I made that day. Southwestern stuff has always been part of my own collection and I love to mix it with antiques.

The story writes itself. Maria's jewelry will pull them into the booth I can now see in my head. It will be displayed in small cases, on rocks and hanging from cut branches, on top of her spool furniture. Architectural fragments will provide solid background to the furnitures' delicate shapes. Larger primitive cabinets with worn paint surfaces will anchor the collection. Rugs, quilts, dolls and other textiles will soften the solid forms and add color. I edit the pieces in my minds eye: this in, that out. The more the story develops, the more it stays the same. I natter over just the right effect like I natter over just the right word. Honing my craft, designing the booth, my store, your place and writing the best story I can so you will want to take it with you and be inspired to add your own to it.