Monday, October 29, 2012

Going, Going...

A couple of weeks ago, Larry and I went to an auction at the defunct Bark Eater B&B in Keene.  Auctions at places that have gone out of business are a bittersweet experience.  It’s a bit like pawing through someone’s dresser drawers.  You feel like you’re being nosy and seeing personal things that are really none of your business, yet it’s exciting.   I love checking out all the furniture, dishes, brick a brack, barn stuff, tools, jewelry, an amazing array of things that were once important to somebody.  The sadness of an estate auction hits you, though, when you realize that this is happening because a) somebody died, b) somebody went out of business, or c) a and b.  You’re essentially picking over the carrion.   

Augie testing the new rug
But to put a positive spin on it, not only is it often fascinating and a great chance to get something you need on the cheap, I think it’s good karma to recycle and reuse this way.  In the case of the auction at the Bark Eater, while it was sad to see yet another Adirondack business bite the dust (a long-established, family business at that), I hope there is some good mojo in two of their beautiful space rugs filling a long-desired need in our own house. 

Larry isn’t a big auction lover like I am.  He gets bored sitting in one spot watching things go up one at a time.  But the Bark Eater’s action was a roving event over the grounds and barns of the B&B, which had one of the most spectacular views in the Adirondacks, especially on Columbus Day weekend.  The auctioneer walked around the grounds chattering into his headset at the speed of sound, selling this lot and that grouping, as the crowd followed him around like some sort of pied piper.   

The nostalgia of an auction can be fun but can drag you into melancholy if you let it.  The best example of this was the Frontier Town auction some years back.  I went to the first day of the two-day event, which was all of the movable stuff (the second day was on the actual park grounds, which I kicked myself for not attending).  I got there early for the preview, and five minutes into it I was bawling my head off.  It was like looking at my childhood, dusty and waterstained and loaded into boxes.  But it was also great fun at the triggering of memories.  While I would have really liked to score a stagecoach or marquis sign, I was ridiculously happy with my arrow-shaped sign directing patrons to the stagecoach rides, in both English and French.  Nothing at that auction went cheap; it was a packed house, with many people like myself, wanting a piece of their own childhood memory. 

The Frontier Town auction tied with the Gaslight Village auction for bittersweet.  I wanted something – anything – to serve as a tangible reminder of those great days at a park I had adored.  The auction was a very long, tiring day, where I hoped fiercely for something to stay in my price range, but nothing even came close.  It was fun sitting in the square again, seeing the shadows of those days past and hearing echoes of the Keystone Cops and the Opera House.  Again, there were a lot of kindred spirits in attendance.  As the sun started to go down and I obviously wasn’t going to be able to get anything, I took one last quick walk around the grounds, knowing it would soon all be gone.  I went past the empty pavilion that had housed the bumper cars, and spied a small yellow, hand painted Exit sign, in that distinctive handwriting that was a signature of Gaslight Village and Storytown.  I looked around; not a soul to be seen, everyone was in the Cavalcade of Cars.  I gave the sign a quick twist and the ancient screw that held it on the post snapped.  I tucked it under my coat and walked through the rusted turnstiles with my prize.  A few years later, before the buildings were razed, I squeezed through the iron fence and grabbed another, bigger Exit sign (is there some meaning there?) from the main entranceway.  That sign, along with my Frontier Town sign, grace the inside of our barn.

Okay, so maybe I hang onto some childhood memories a little too fiercely.  Everyone should be so lucky to have such great times to look back on.  And I do like my tangible reminders of those days.  I have my touchstones throughout the house that remind me off my girls growing up.  I also know that I am making memories with Larry now, on our little farmstead, that I’ll be reminiscing about in a couple of decades. 

And if it sounds like I steal a lot of signage, well, I do.  It runs in the family.