Last weekend was mostly lived without the boys around – they were camping – so in their absence I did things like extended my exercise time (fun!), watched a Fellini film, went to Mass on a Saturday during college football season and ate at a restaurant that doesn’t have chicken fingers or pizza on the menu.
I also hit an estate sale. Now, the boys don’t mind going to estate sales. Most of the time, in fact, when I offer, they choose to come along. Joseph is always on the lookout for sports cards and Michael for…anything, Mexican themes preferred.
But this one – one of the few this weekend (estate sales really slow down around here during college football season – see #1) was kind of far out of town, and not one that I’d have dragged them to.
About 2/3 of the estate sales I go to are in homes that have been fairly well kept up, some spectacularly so. The other 1/3 are thought-provoking, sad and sometimes horrible. This was one of those.
It was in a fairly large Tudor in what was one of the “better” neighborhoods of this outlying community. The area was probably fairly sharp in the 80’s, but, well, it’s not the 80’s. And this home was a wreck. No serious cleaning in probably 30 years, threadbare, filthy carpet, piles of stuff everywhere, general decrepitude and worse, really. The house was for sale, but honestly, you’d have to gut it to even begin to make it livable.
It only took a quick look to see that there wasn’t anything I’d be interested in (often even in those situations I can find a small bookshelf or table that’s great for a quick, cheap, colorful redo – not here), and then lingered at the top of the stairs to the basement,listening to the fellow running the sale relate the late owner’s story – a 95-year old woman who’d fallen outside while taking down her flag. Broke her hip, complications ensued, and she died.
I always wonder..she was living in this? Was she so stubborn that she wouldn’t allow anyone to help her? Did she have children, grandchildren or other relations? Were they all awful people, had she alienated them, had they just drifted apart?
And just as the estate sales are reminders to me about where my real treasure lies, they’re also reminders to…try very hard not to be that 95-year old woman living in squalor. Five kids…my chances are decent that one of them will still like me enough in forty years, right?
Anyway, after I finished
eavesdropping looking upstairs, I headed to the basement and was stopped short by what greeted me on the stairway. Papering the walls of the stairway, one side even backlit somehow, were pinups from no later than the 60’s – torn and cut out from magazines and calendars, I suppose, most very demure – and at the bottom of the stairs a basement full of what you would find in a basement workshop, much of piled up, some surprisingly organized.
What a sight, from top to bottom.
After that, I went church-hunting. I wanted to find the original St. Mark’s Catholic Church – one of the first Catholic churches built in Birmingham after the (now) Cathedral of St. Paul. It was constructed for the Italian immigrants who peopled the area, immigrants who have long since moved to other sections of the city. There is a new St. Mark’s now, built twenty miles south of this, in a well-off section of the county.
It’s now a Protestant church of some type.
Unfortunately, we’re missing the St. George Melkite Catholic Middle Eastern Food Festival this weekend – maybe we’ll catch the Greek Festival the following weekend...and the Jewish Food Festival later in October or the Russian/Slavic Festival in November….
The week has proceeded as normal – school(s), music classes, science center class (no boxing this week), and an outing to Moss Rock Preserve, just about 20 minutes from our house when the traffic cooperates.
It seems as if “Book Week” is turning into “Book Month” as I post about my books at this surprisingly glacial rate. This week, I got to my books for teens and young adults – here.
(Also earlier this week, in case you missed it, I wrote about my first solo trip to New York City, when I was 18.)
Since In Our Time is still on its summer hiatus, I’ve had to fill the gap mostly with science documentaries and what other history I can find over there. One series that has caught my interest has been Great Lives, in which the host is joined by one enthusiast who has chosen the “great life” to discuss, and then an academic expert on said great life.
I particularly enjoyed this episode – punk poet John Cooper Clarke on Salvador Dali, whom, he says, “entered my life as a Catholic mystic.”
There’s an audio excerpt of that section here – less than 2 minutes. And an interview with Clarke here. Amidst all the drug and punk culture talk, there’s this:
Clarke grew up a Catholic and still has faith. “People who believe in God are happier than those who don’t. I’ve never met a happy atheist.”
I was intrigued in a different way by this episode with the almost always irritating and pretentious Naomi Wolf on her pick, Edith Wharton. What was interesting to me about the program, the picture of Wharton that had evolved was of a not-very likable person whose “revolutionary” sensibilities had nothing to do with women – she opposed suffrage and refused to fund scholarships for women particularly since doing so might risk funding an education for a Jewish woman) in general but were really only about Edith Wharton. The host raised the spectre of selfishness at the very end of the program, but Wolf did her best to wave it away…
All right. Next week – my books with Ann Englehart, with special attention paid to Adventures in Assisi, of course!
Some photos from one of the inspirations for the book – my own trip to Assisi with the boys two years ago…..sigh.
Oh, and I did cook this week, but instead of talking about that, I”ll point you to this. It’s the most true thing I read on the Internet today. Just don’t read it in a hotel room with children who are trying to go to sleep.
“I don’t have any of these ingredients at home. Could you rewrite this based on the food I do have in my house? I’m not going to tell you what food I have. You have to guess.”
“I don’t eat white flour, so I tried making it with raw almonds that I’d activated by chewing them with my mouth open to receive direct sunlight, and it turned out terrible. This recipe is terrible.”
“Could you please give the metric weight measurements, and sometime in the next twenty minutes; I’m making this for a dinner party and my guests are already here.”
For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!