This thought has nothing to do with this trip, and yet has everything to do with this trip, ‘cause were I not on this trip, enjoying the cerebral openness that being on this particular trip entails, this thought might never have occurred to me. Thanks again for “nothing to do.”
Title this: “If I Were…”
To which the ultimate payoff – removing all suspense from this enterprise – is “Well you’re not, so don’t even think about it.”
Okay, “Fade In”:
We were browsing an antique emporium near our cabin, of which there are many antique emporia (Latin neuter plural), which in the past have offered purchasable delights, such as the bargain-priced Navaho rug with only a tiny amount of deer pee on it which we dry-cleaned away and it now enhanced our cabin’s living room floor, and a wood-carved “Twenty Mule Team Borax” promotional display, featuring a scaled-down covered wagon and twenty harnessed, miniature hand-carved mules, which I scrupulously counted, to ensure authenticity.
No one could pass that up, could they?
Anyway, amongst the endless array of “Who would buy any of this stuff?” I noticed a bronze sculpture of a galloping, lariat-throwing cowboy on a horse, in the exalted style of Frederic Remington, selling for twelve hundred dollars, which, were it “an actual Remington”, would cost millions.
With minor reservations, I ultimately passed on this wannabe Remington. But the random encounter got me to thinking.
This may not be an entirely popular perspective, but I have considered it before and, for me, it continues to hold defendable water. Besides, when have I ever shied away from a controversy? Except virtually always.
Simply Put (In Mine ‘Umble Opinion):
Classic works of art should be readily available to everyone. People who buy acknowledged masterpieces for their “Private Collections”? Simply put again: I would never do that myself.
If I were they, I would donate that original Rothko or Matisse or sculptured Remington to a local museum. An acknowledging plaque? Again, not for me. But, you know, that’s better than nothing. At least, the acclaimed “Work of Genius” is out there, for all to appreciate.
The thing is, however – that “thing” being the decision to privately own a Picasso – I am unequivocally not them. Leaving them writing a humungous check while I’m thinking, “Definitely, no sir.” (Had I the appropriate funding, which I don’t.)
I mean, where does such extravagant behavior end?
“I bought the Washington Monument; you wanna see it?” (Imaging the current president selling off national landmarks to subsidize tax cuts for the wealthy, a smaller “reach” than ever in our extended history. “It’ll look beautiful in your vestibule. Believe me.”)
You display it for company. You admire the “Look what I bought” as you casually pass by. You then ultimately forget about it, its attention relegated to the dutiful attentions of the housekeeper, instructed to dust it. And that’s it. The excitement inevitably wears off, leaving a “Trophy Painting”, a “Trophy Spouse”, minus the “pre-nup.”
But that’s me and that’s them. And, veteran imaginer that I am, I cannot imagine being them.
It turns out, as events subsequently unfold, I discover, I can no longer imaginably be myself.
Let me helpfully explain.
We decide on an outing to the Shipshewana Flea Market, home of a giant weekly auction, although not scheduled on the day we have selected for our visit. Shipshewana is part of an Indiana Amish community. You drive by people sitting in horse-drawn buggies, not some cockamamie “Tourist Attraction”, they actually live that way, their healthy horses clip-clopping by the side of the road without being physically encouraged, seemingly knowing that the sooner they get home, the sooner they can stop pulling the buggy.
Besides its vaunted Flea Market, Shipshewana offers authentic, Amish-cuisine restaurants, featuring meals including a mountain of wide noodles, mounds of buttery mashed potatoes, slathered in glutinous gravy. I have no idea how those Amish remain alive. Living longer, in fact, that most of us. Their typical diet should arguably kill them. But it doesn’t. Maybe because they toil actively in the fields, and, meaning no disrespect, “pray off” the inevitable plaque.
Anyway, we arrive, after an eighty-or-so-mile drive, we eat the healthiest lunch we can find on the menu, and we proceed to check out the Flea Market.
And it’s terrible.
Even fleas wouldn’t shop at this Flea Market. (Sorry, I am still a little rusty with the comedy.) You know the lame prizes they award at local carnivals? All better than the schlock foisted at this Flea Market.
CARNIVAL PRIZE BUYER: “Who’d throw a ball into a milk can for that?”
It’s just, you know, rows and rows of plastic heads-of-a-chicken stapled to a stick.
The official Flea Market map designates an area dedicated exclusively to “Crafts.” Unable to decipher the map, we receive directions at the “Information” kiosk, and we set off to look for the “Crafts”, which, who knows, might possibly be great.
We had seen some remarkable Amish rocking chairs at an antique store, coming “this close” to buying one, until we remembered that we did not need any more chairs, our diminutive cabin having a surfeit of chairs as it was. I considered unloading a couple of the extras at this Flea Market, deciding probably not.
FLEA MARKET PURCHASER: “Sorry, too nice. Make the rusty rooster weathervane here look shoddy.”
We walk down aisle after aisle, unable to discover the “Crafts” area. We ask further assistance, heading away in an alternate direction. Still, no “Crafts” area. Finally, we make a decision. It is a debilitatingly muggy day. We are exhausted from our search. We had driven a substantial distance to get there. And we are frustrated, being unable to locate the “Crafts” area.
Taking these myriad considerations into account, we collectively throw up our hands and trudge back to the car.
Which, as previously mentioned, got me thinking.
When we were younger, we would have definitely located that “Crafts” area. Our surrender today stemmed from… it’s a considerable list… energy depleting confusion, accumulated fatigue, insufficient determination and an accepting willingness to wimp out.
In short, we were older. And being older, we were demonstrably no longer ourselves. Except we were. Just not our former “ourselves.” We were now the older “ourselves.” And we palpably experienced the difference.
“This is not us,” we bristlingly bemoaned. Yet, accommodating the update, it unmistakably was.
I felt like two distinctively different people – the “me” that would have successfully tacked down the “Crafts” area, and the “me” that found it possible to give up.
Who was that first person? And where exactly did they go?
I used to believe “Walk a mile in their shoes” was a valuable strategy for identifying with others. It now occurs to me that that may not actually be possible.
How can I ever connect with other people when I can’t even connect with earlier versions of myself?
… is what I thought driving back from Shipshewana, having gone there to see crafts and returned home, unable to find them.