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CRIS COHEN is a staff humor columnist for Renaissance
Magazine. His work is also published weekly in three California newspapers and
four online humor magazines.
Treasures That Should Be Lost
Lately stores seem to be blurring the line between what is an antique and what belongs in a Hefty bag. I used to think that to be considered an antique something had to be a fine work of craftsmanship. Now it just has to be something that was made before the Bush Administration.
Remember when you used to be able to tell the difference between a store and a garage sale? It's a lot more difficult now, primarily because a lot of stores that specialize in curios, which I believe is a French breakfast cereal, have begun to sell items that present generations haven't finished throwing away yet. The other day I was in a shop that had many nice items. Then suddenly I came across a bowl that they were selling as an antique - a bowl that my mom still owns and that she has never considered any more precious than the cat's litter box. This was the bowl you used when you wanted to experiment in the garage with some old paints that were probably banned by some government agency a long time ago. This was the bowl you used when the disposal started firing off unknown substances at speeds approaching thirty miles an hour and you had to protect your guests with something.
Yet, this shop was trying to pass it off as an antique, something that may have once been owned by a Russian Czar or at least by the guy who parks people's cars at the new Wolfgang Puck restaurant. But it was never that nice. Even when it was brand new it was the kind of thing a person reached for when he was working on his car and needed a drip pan.
And the bowl hasn't gotten better with age. It's not a once simple piece that has become a priceless treasure. It's a once simple piece that has become evidence that older generations sometimes had no idea what they were doing. I mean the thing is turquoise. That's not a color with which any kind of food should come in contact. In fact it's really only a color that should be used to line the bottoms of pools or to be applied to signs to warn people about hazardous waste material. However, because the store placed it amongst some really nice items, some poor soul is probably going to buy that bowl and display it prominently somewhere in her house. Meanwhile my mother, on those rare occasions when she has left it out, makes sure to hide it when she has guests over or even when her house is being passed over by low-flying aircraft.
But that's how these stores work it. They tuck really pathetic items in with really nice ones. Thus you're walking down an aisle and see chair, table, chair, bookcase, chair, Snoopy thermos. This actually happened. I was in a store that had a Snoopy thermos sitting on top of a table that looked like it had been part of an Abraham Lincoln estate sale. I guess they thought it was a way of making the thermos seem more distinguished. It's kind of like selling the Mona Lisa along with an empty container of Tang.
It wasn't even a thermos shaped like Snoopy. Not that many people would have been into pouring a nice hot beverage by first twisting off a dog's head. But it was just a plastic, rectangular thermos with a faded drawing of Snoopy on it. It's the kind of thing that couldn't even survive a trip through the dishwasher much less the test of time. One trip through the rinse cycle and it would emerge horribly deformed with Snoopy looking like he had been transformed from a once vibrant puppy into a small gooey substance. One minute he's one of America's favorite dogs, the next he's something you peeled off the bottom of your shoe.
Of course then you could just dump him into one of those cheap turquoise bowls that the other store calls an antique.
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GRAPHIC mixed media by Kevin Ridolfi