Wednesday, April 01, 2009

seduce me

"I love this thing. Please tell me where it came from, how you acquired it, what you know of its history." I get these requests all the time. I sell antique furniture and while most transactions, most customers, are quick and easy, there are others who want to be courted.

It isn't that they want to know before they've purchased the piece. They always ask for the story after the fact. It's bought, it's paid for, and then they want more.

"Where did you find it," "tell me about its former home." I look back at my ad information and it's all there. French c. 1880s, art nouveau, oak, container purchase. It's there, but they need more than black and white words in a sales listing.

They prefer "French, from the late 1800s, purchased at an estate auction just outside of Paris. Hand picked by a lifelong collector who's only in business because he loves antiques. Packed snugly in a container for shipping before crossing the Atlantic and making its way up the wide Mississippi from the Port of New Orleans."

They don't want to hear of the stinking pollution of the shipyard at the Port of Houston, or the grubby nastiness of the containers arriving reeking of chemicals used to kill insects. They don't want to know that the furniture is bought in bulk by pickers in Europe, that the pickers have no more interest in a particular piece than I have in what shoes you're wearing. It's business, purely, but I'm not in the business of selling furniture as much as I'm in the business of selling romance.

Romance, that elusive, don't-look-at-me-or-I'll-vanish feeling that a certain type of person will experience in certain situations. I say "type of person" as if I'm detached from that, but I am one. I'm one of those seduced by the romance of living, the feeling I get watching the sun rise over the lake on a summer morning, or dancing in the moonlight on a crisp autumn night.

I am captivated by the romance of ordinary life, of my home and the things in it, of the way the sun comes through the stained glass and spills across the floor. Romance is going to sleep in my mother's mahogany four poster piled high with featherbeds and down comforters. Romance is sharing an early morning moment with my sweetheart in the garden as the seeds are sprouting tender green and that moist heavy feeling's in the air.

If you are like me, you can find yourself enchanted, bewitched by the scent of a cup of coffee, by the look of the cream swirling into the dark of it. You may stop your car on a city street in fall, jumping out to stand beneath the sublime crimson glow of a sugar maple in the afternoon sun. Maybe you are mesmerized by the foam wash of waves hitting the beach, by the smoky nightclub sound of a jazz saxophone.

Are you this way? I am, despite such desperate times. And from my customers, I'm getting these requests more often of late. I wonder if people are looking inward, to the small, splendid moments of life closer to home, to the seduction of the spirit which will invariably occur if we stop for just a moment and really pay attention to the world around us.

My people, my customers, they want to be seduced and so I tell them stories. Does it hurt anything in the end? I never tell tales about country of origin or age, that would be terrible and the romance of it isn't in the facts after all. But does it matter, when they want a little fantasy, if I spin an enchanting tale?

I reassure myself that it's okay because the world's dangerously short on romance these days. My story doesn't make the sale, it only adds a little after the fact, a little lagniappe, as my Louisiana friend used to say. It's like gift wrap and a ribbon: the gift is unchanged, but the experience is enriched just the same.

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Blogger Unknown said...

but I'm not in the business of selling furniture as much as I'm in the business of selling romance. ~ That you are dear woman..and your stories fill me with wonder and love and I crave more everytime I stop by here. ;)

April 01, 2009 9:37 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear BAB, How I love your writings and being a romantic and maybe not always practical ENOUGH, I suddenly felt it was o.k. to let myself be "seduced" by the sensual feelings I have , sometimes with small things like you mentioned. Early morning by myself, watchng the first birds come to the feeders and feeling akin to them as I sip my first cup of coffee. Keep up the mood for me, baby. Chris' Mom

April 01, 2009 9:55 PM  
Anonymous ewe said...

The image of whose moving those nasty crates at the port kinda turns me on big time. You just never know what moments are valuable. I do not think embellishing should be prohibited particularly if you see a smile and twinkle in the eyes of those that are listening to you. "Wink blink"

April 01, 2009 10:21 PM  
Blogger David said...

In the middle of my dining room table there's a heavy, white, footed porcelain bowl. You might notice it, you might not.

But if you did, I'd recount an early October morning Paris metro ride to Porte de Vanves, and the fog on the street at 7am. I'd tell you about the stalls lining the street chock-full of wonderful old things, the sweet lady at the food trailer who made me a free cafe while I waited for our toasted croissants, and the adorable Frenchman who sold me the bowl.

This thing of mine has a story, but most others don't. You're providing a much needed service, sometimes the real gift IS the wrapping.

April 01, 2009 10:37 PM  
Anonymous l ynette said...

Dusty, you're a sweetheart. Thank you honey. Are you really coming to Oklahoma? I would love to see you . . .

Chris' Mom . . . who needs practical? The world is chock full of practical and it is oh so tiresome. All of the gasbags blathering away on the news about such big, important things, and we can't do a thing about them but listen and wring our hands. So why not let go and surrender to the magic of our own lives? Birds and a cup of coffee (one of my favorites too, the red of cardinals on snow in winter, the irridescent blue bars on the wings of the mourning doves), finding the quiet in each day to appreciate the small gifts of being alive. Oh, I sound like one of those inspirational calendars, but I'm trying to inspire myself to do less hand wringing, more coffee sniffing ;-) Thank you for visiting me here . . .

Ewe, when I first moved to Houston, I worked for a shipping agency processing the bills for services provided to ships in the port. You. Have. No. Idea. what diseases those sailors were carrying. I was only 18 and innocent, but I think I'd be shocked even now in my jaded near-dotage. ;-) But honey, if you want down and dirty nasty, just head on down there. There's no nasty like the Houston port.

David ~ That's it, the story attached to the object is a bigger blessing, I think, than the treasure. Hell, I'm seduced by your description of the Paris flea market . . . luscious. Thank you.

April 02, 2009 11:18 AM  
Blogger Chris said...

When I look around at my 'things', I get a little comfort because each one has a story, evokes a memory...that's what keeps them from being just things! So it is a gift...keep it up!
I loved the paragraph about the romance of wonderful, everyday things...I guess my Mom did too!

April 02, 2009 11:28 AM  
Blogger LzyMom said...

I've never thought of myself as a romantic but I am guilty of some of the behaviors in the post. I don't know why I love my morning cup of coffee. I can quite often go right back to sleep after it, so it's not the caffeine. I think it's the ritual.

When I go into antique stores I make up my own stories about the items. I have a lot of my dead parents' things and it drives my husband crazy. But it provides this link to the past. I can't really describe what I mean.

But I also have a 1930s art deco solid walnut dresser that I bought when I was 19 and absolutely adore. The warmth of the wood. The gentle curves. *sigh* My husband keeps on telling me to get rid of it and I'm not sure he understands that he'll be gone long before I get rid of that dresser....

April 02, 2009 6:17 PM  
Blogger Joe said...

I am so GLAD that you are still able to be enchanted and bewitched by the small daily pleasures. Indeed, that is what LIFE is about... regardless of what's happening in "these times" or any other. Please, please, please, I implore you to remember that and find several small pleasures every day. Stressing out over the news (or anything) will kill you; I believe that.

And for the meat of the matter: So... you "tell stories." I love it in concept, but are you saying you make up things about the former owners, what kind of house it was in, etc.? Hmm. Hey, if that's part of your trade and you're selling romance, fine; it's just one of the reasons I could not be in certain types of sales or any job that really involved stretching the truth or stroking someone's ego in ways that required "embellishing" their assets. I have a huge intolerance for bullsh*t -- bullsh*tters and obviously insincere schmoozers make me f*cking CRAZY -- and I guess that's why I don't like to be that way myself.

One person's "insincere" is another person's "honey that makes the day more smooth"... but it's one of the things I have a huge problem with. That's just me.

Thanks for sharing this. Lovely and insightful, as always.

April 03, 2009 1:56 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You have such a gift, and it's always a welcome surprise to come here and you sharing it with us.
Thank you


April 04, 2009 8:02 PM  
Blogger BigAssBelle said...

Chris, I hear ya. Little treasures and I remember where each one came from, how I found it. They're almost like anchors to the years of my life. I got the carved shell snuff box when I lived in the apartment downtown, the first opera glasses on Cincinnati. Oh! And it was lovely to see your mommy here!

Lily's Mommy . . . I hope you're feeling better, honey. Some people want those links to the past and others, like your husband, not at all. I have a sister that way. Her house is sparse and there's nothing of the past in it. Those folks are very odd to me :-)

Joe, I'm finding it easier to pay attention to the little joys of daily life. I know stressing out will kill me, but I can't stop it. Crazy.

As for telling stories, it's just business. Only. I learned the honest thing in the process of those 12 steps. I couldn't do it if it came before the sale and those few folks who've asked beforehand get the basics: container, French, English, whatever, don't know much about it. It's just the longing in the voices of the folks who press me for the details. It feels wrong to deny them something lovely when I've already got their money and they want it so.

As a child of the south, I am convinced that a little honey, a little extra, makes life a lot more fun. I never thought of it as schmoozing or insincere. That sounds so car lot lounge lizard sleezy. It feels like tucking a child in bed and stroking her head, then planting a kiss on her cheek before turning out the light. I could tuck that baby in bed and turn away. The touch and the kiss makes it better.

Whatev. Maybe I'm just an insincere car lottish lounge lizardey schmoozing Okie ;-)

Tex! Thanks for dropping by cupcake . . . :-)

April 06, 2009 10:40 AM  

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