Tuesday, May 20, 2008

It's not often you get to buy the same thing from two different second hand sales on two different continents. I don't mean a identical objects; I mean the same object.

About thirteen years ago I was in America, getting over the break-up of long term relationship by running away to join the Hollywood circus twenty years too late. I was thirty-five and, as a friend so wonderfully put it at the time: "Having my mid-life crisis while I was still young enough to enjoy it."

So, there I was in California nearing the end of my six month's Tourist Visa and needing to buy presents for people back home. What do I get for the woman I had lived with for the last twelve years and who had precipitated my flight to America in the first place? Answer, a second-hand, hugely heavy grey metal 1940's Rolodex - and a signed copy of Joan Blondell's semi-autobiographical novel. I think we both had a big crush on Joan.

The Rolodex I bought at a huge 'swap meet' at the Pasadena Rose Bowl. That was a strange day. I have never seen so much second-hand military hardware for sale in one place before or since. Every stall seemed to have bits of obsolete weaponry. Sometimes it was hard to tell what the things were, various sized chunks of Army-green machinery with serial numbers and 'Property of the US Government' stamped all over it. None of it looked lethal in itself but I'm sure you could have built a couple of tanks out of the parts lying around.

(Johnny Cash's One Piece at a Time just popped into my head there.)

I can't remember what else I ended up buying that day but that's where I got the Rolodex. It still had a few of the previous owner's cards in it. Whoever he was was something in the writing game because they were all numbers of writers and literary agencies. One card had Ray Bradbury's number. I didn't phone him.

The book I bought in a bookstore on San Vicente Boulevard.

Fast forward to five or six years later. I'm now living with Merriol who, to be honest, is not as keen on Joan Blondell as I am, but is very fond of office equipment. I guess a fascination with the tools of your trade is an occupational hazard whatever your line of business. Personally I find the Viking Direct catalogue an odd choice of bedtime reading, but there you go. One day, in passing, I mention the rather substantial and stylish Rolodex I had lugged over from the US all those years before and was immediately subjected to one of those reverse-engineered fits of jealousy that women can knock up at the slightest provocation. 'How dare you buy something for someone else that I might have wanted at least a year before you knew I even existed?' One of those. Retro-fitted guilt tripping.

Fast forward to last Saturday. Holly's school is having a table top sale. Smaller than the swap meet in California, three or four tables instead of the several hundred at the Rose Bowl, and no sign of any tank parts. The first stall inside the door, was being run by Callan, my ex's ten year old daughter. In front of her, in the centre of the table, was The Rolodex. So I bought it - again; for Merriol. I bought it once once in the Twentieth Century, once in the Twenty-first.

I'm not doing it again.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

haha! that's a great story!

pj said...

I'm so jealous. I wish I had cool blog fodder like you do.

And hey!? I wanted a chunky Rolex!

Oh wait... you know what? I read that whole thing and thought you were talking about a watch! When I typed it, though, I wrote "rolodex" went back and re-made it into Rolex, and then decided to check the entry to make sure I knew what was going on...

As it was a rolodex, I'm less jealous about not getting one as a "best man" favor at the weddingish.

However, I'm still jealous about the fodder aspect of the situation.

I am woman! Hear me guilt!

Hey... does this make you a hopeless romantic?

Liam Baldwin said...

Hopeless certainly. Still working on the romantic bit.

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