On a certain block on Georgia Avenue in Northwest DC, all together are a dive strip club, a plexiglass carry-out joint, and Mom N Pop’ Antiques. Ten or even five years ago there would have NEVER been an antique shop on that block, which was once adorned with a healthy combo of hustlers and fiends, drunks and the occasional homeless person. Now the block is spic and span. A new school is across the street and the infestation of cops and mostly Ethiopian and Eritrean merchants keep the streets well-lit and clean. These are not bad things, especially when they make way for surprises.
I’ve always had a thing for antiques, even since my summers in Powhatan, VA, my Grandma Sally’s hometown. Her mother, my “Gran Lucy”, had a house full of old things, from antique muskets to kerosene lamps and ancient iron bed frames. Though the half-eaten raccoon on a plate in one of the fridges nearly scared me to death I always had reverence for things old, things with history. And each time I wandered in Mom and Pop Antiques, its owner, John, always had something special.
John’s store gave my mother a brand new desk and me a set of iron skillets, some old wood jewelry boxes I gave as gifts and plenty of old wood furniture to drool over. I’d had a crush on this brass snuff tin that I knew I could use on the coffee table in my apartment. On it’s top is the image of two warriors on horses leading the charge westward.
It had sat on a certain shelf there every time I visited. And then one day, when The Madre was in the house looking for that desk, it vanished. I figured that it had been bought, as certain items are always meant for certain people. But today, wallet emptied by the holidays, I stopped through to wish John a Happy New Year and there it was, on a different shelf. And he gave it to me for half-price too. Thanks John.
I cleaned it with alcohol and sat with it for a few, admiring the craftsmanship and the weight of the brass in hand. I imagined the smith crafting it, adding shape and color based upon either mental picture of template. They don’t make things like this anymore. Maybe it’s time to start again.