The things we carried.

It all started with a conversation with my sister, who used to sell telephone systems to big corporations and now sells antiques, in an antique mall and on eBay. She specializes in American glass — depression, carnival, that sort of thing. Mostly utilitarian items prized by collectors. Pretty things. Hostessy stuff.

One day I was watching her pack stuff for eBay shipping, and she said, “If you ever see a square cake stand at a garage sale or something, buy it. You can name your price.” The lesson sunk in, and a couple years later, I saw a square cake stand. This one, in fact:


This was at a Grosse Pointe estate sale, notorious for overcharging. It seemed someone had already named their price, and it was ridiculous: $90. But the thing was in mint condition, so I called my sister and described it. “That sounds like Fostoria American, and if it’s perfect, it’s worth a lot more than $90.” So I bought it. Checked eBay, and she was right: Fostoria American square cake stands with the rum well and in mint condition were selling for about $300 at the time. (Less now — recession — but still well over $200.) I considered giving it to her to sell, but thought eh, it’s pretty, and added it to my china cabinet, to stand as a memorial to the day a simple peasant woman got a bargain at a Grosse Pointe estate sale.

So this Christmas, we went to my sister’s, and guess what one of my presents was? Ten cake plates, in the Fostoria American pattern:


But wait, there’s more! Also, a Fostoria American cake knife:


I mention all this to underline something we all learn about ourselves sooner or later: One minute we’re the sort of girl whose most prized possessions are a hand-written letter from Warren Zevon, a signed copy of “Freaky Deaky” and a “Kind of Blue” CD, and the next you own a Fostoria American cake stand, matching plates and a knife. As David Byrne says, “And you may ask yourself, ‘how did I get here?'”

That’s how.

The thing most people don’t realize about certain cake stands is that you can invert them — the base is almost always hollow — and use them as a snack plate. The dip goes in the hollow base:


OK, then. Some bloggage:


Sit through internet ads that appear on real, need-the-money websites (which is to say, newspapers). No more “click here to skip.” Endure the stupid thing. On favorite blogs, click one or two of the ads every day. (Boy, are they stupid, too.)

So you may have to sit through an ad for the Economist to read this NYT story about a new wrinkle in foreclosure culture: Roving bands of skaters chasing the ultimate skater perk — a nice dry pool:

Across the nation, the ultimate symbol of suburban success has become one more reminder of the economic meltdown, with builders going under, pools going to seed and skaters finding a surplus of deserted pools in which to perfect their acrobatic aerials.

In these boom times for skaters, Mr. Peacock travels with a gas-powered pump, five-gallon buckets, shovels and a push broom, risking trespassing charges in the pursuit of emptying forlorn pools and turning them into de facto skate parks.

Hey, I saw “Dogtown and Z-Boys,” so I know this could well have some legs. But this smells like one of those bogus-trend stories to me. In fact, a large chunk of the story is about pool builders and real-estate developers who are looking at a fraction of the orders they had a year ago. The fact teased in the photo caption — that skaters are coming from as far away as Europe and Australia to skate American pools — is entirely hearsay, too. Still, not a bad read.

Also, not for the faint of heart: Another excellent dissection of the collapse of yet another criminally managed bank — WaMu. Sooner or later we’re going to get wise and put someone like Kerry Killinger before a firing squad. Until then, he has his millions. Un-fucking-believable.

So have a good week. Today’s Holiday Photo is from Bill, who comments here as Bill, taken last summer in Alaska when he was stalking Sarah Palin on vacation:


I think I’ll go make a cake. Later.

Posted at 11:07 am in Current events, Holiday photos, Same ol' same ol' |

22 responses to “The things we carried.”

  1. brian stouder said on December 29, 2008 at 11:27 am

    Note to self: Trip to Detroit for the estate sale, if nn.c ever goes under!

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  2. Jolene said on December 29, 2008 at 11:50 am

    Brian: I told one of my mother’s friends about your one-word resolution idea, and chose “bake”, which I thought was a great choice. For myself, the word is “focus”.

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  3. moe99 said on December 29, 2008 at 12:01 pm

    I had Christmas eve breakfast with longtime family friends. The dad of the family used to be the CFO of Wa Mu and retired in 2004, in part because no one would listen to him as he tried to slow down the furious pace of sales of mortgages. WaMu was a great local bank before greed transformed and ultimately destroyed it. He says the book to read is “Collapse.” I will take him up on it.

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  4. Catherine said on December 29, 2008 at 12:06 pm

    I hear you about the David Byrne reference. I used go to Talking Heads concerts, and now I’m living that song. Sigh. However, I think one of the possible takeaways of the cake stand story is: Sisters rock!

    Just stopping in briefly to wish everyone at nn.c health, happiness and, doggone it, a little prosperity in 2009. Off to see my sister!

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  5. brian stouder said on December 29, 2008 at 12:22 pm

    Jolene – I suppose my “augment” resolution sounds a little flat; maybe a sexier word for what I’m resolved to do might be “broaden” or “diversify” or “explore”.

    Anyway – the one word resolution idea is from Laura Lippman’s pleasant site, which the Proprietress links to. Over the Christmas holiday, I enjoyed her book “Hardly Knew Her” (a collection of short stories) – and it’s no criticism of her to say that, in my opinion, ol’ Nance can (at least) write every bit as well and as compellingly and insightfully as she does.

    And, Nance has the same newspaper pedigree (albeit from a smaller market), and the required alliterative name….proving once again that life ain’t a meritocracy.

    (a massive digression here could be on the subject: why the Santa Claus myth is more truthful than the ‘work hard and do your best, and you can rise as high as anyone’ myth – about which American kids spend years and years learning the untruthfulness…if ever!)

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  6. beb said on December 29, 2008 at 2:08 pm

    Moe99, is the book “Collapse” the one by Jared Diamond about how civilization fail, or is this some other book, and if so, who’s the author. As the article Nancy linked to, the behavior of the corporation is so far over the line that criminal charges are clearly called for.

    My one work new years resolution would be “endure.”

    I must be missing something but I don’t understand why skaters would want to play around in a dry swimming pool. The sort of pool I tend to think of are small, with straight walls. Pretty uninteresting as I see it.

    The Lions has achieved the Perfect Season. Will the NFL now do us all a favor and revoke the Lion’s NFL franchise?

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  7. Jenflex said on December 29, 2008 at 2:47 pm

    My 1-word resolution: Forgive.

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  8. moe99 said on December 29, 2008 at 2:48 pm

    Yes, beb, that is the book. The other one that I think is must reading, which I am on the reserve list at the library for, is The Black Swan by Nassim Taleb. I would also recommend this article by the author of Liar’s Poker:

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  9. brian stouder said on December 29, 2008 at 2:54 pm

    Hmmmmm. I suppose a side-challenge would be, assigning one-word resolutions to famous and/or powerful people.

    For the Madoff prosecutors: remorselessness

    For the Illinois state legislature: dispose

    For GW Bush: submerge

    For the folks that made the movie Mamma Mia: Encore!!

    edit: moe – I caught the author of The Black Swan on Book TV, and was quite taken with his talk (unlike Richard Dallek’s disjointed 90 minute apologia for Harry Truman, the other day)

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  10. LA Mary said on December 29, 2008 at 2:55 pm

    I think my marriage falling apart stopped my transformation to David Byrne stage. Now, I do like nice perfume and I can spot couture at 100 feet, but I don’t own any couture and perfume is a minor vice in the greater scheme of things.
    I scored a great new sofa at a thrift store over the weekend for 40 bucks, so I’m feeling very good. The thrift store guy threw in a OK chair and ottoman as well. I have to recover the chair because I don’t like its current color or texture, but it looks pretty much new.
    Moe, I’ll be in Renton for four days two weeks from now. Promise me it won’t be snowy and sub zero again. My Seattle area experience tells me winter should be forty and drizzly, not like the weather you guys had over the holidays, and I no longer own sub zero clothing.

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  11. Danny said on December 29, 2008 at 3:06 pm

    My one word resolution: Maui

    We must get back there.

    We returned to California last night with an achin’ in our heart. Maui made such an impression on me. It makes San Diego seem downright ugly.

    We got off the plane slightly forlorn and still wide awake so we went to the BellyUp Tavern for a couple of beers and caught the final set of Michael Kang and the String Cheese Incident. Very good jam band. Reminded me of old, pre-Dark Side Floyd and Alan Holdsworth.

    Gotta unpack. Chat with you all later.

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  12. whitebeard said on December 29, 2008 at 3:09 pm

    My friend in Canada’s capital this week sent me this NBC video I missed earlier and i get a little choked up each time I see it. My nephew is in the Canadian Armed Forces (militia) and wants to go to Afghanistan.
    Highway 401 is the main east-west superhighway in southern Ontario, not just a secondary road.
    Here is the link

    A fervent hope that President Obama will stop the military from hiding the coffins.

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  13. del said on December 29, 2008 at 4:06 pm

    Good article, moe.
    Another David Byrne-like line that comes to mind is Don Henley’s “saw a deadhead sticker on a Cadillac, a little voice inside my head said don’t look back, you can never look back.”

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  14. moe99 said on December 29, 2008 at 7:03 pm

    String Cheese Incident was a group adopted by many bereft deadheads after Jerry’s death. I’ve seen them twice in concert in Seattle and have enjoyed them greatly. Good to know they’re still chugging along!

    And LA Mary, give me a call when you get up to Seattle, if you have a moment. I’m off to Death Valley and the Grand Canyon tomorrow until Jan 8 but will be back, hopefully rested and refreshed after that. Best way to reach me is via home email reginac23 at

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  15. LA Mary said on December 29, 2008 at 7:44 pm

    moe, I’ll see how things are going when I get there. I’m in four days of brainstorming about new applicant tracking software from 8 to 6 each day, staying in Renton in a hotel 1500 feet away from the corporate office. I suspect the free breakfast bar will be the highlight of each day, but if there is time, I’ll get in touch with you.

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  16. joodyb said on December 29, 2008 at 9:01 pm

    Thanks, Whitebeard, for that link. that’ll make you stop for a minute. i know the road well.

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  17. basset said on December 29, 2008 at 9:23 pm

    so what kind of a cake would you eat off that glass? I’d be afraid to touch it.

    a “rum well” sounds like a good idea, though.

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  18. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on December 29, 2008 at 11:12 pm

    Going to be in Death Valley to be well rested . . . that’s a kind of aptonym, isn’t it?

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  19. Suzi said on December 30, 2008 at 12:10 am

    I learn the most interesting things from this blog — upside down cake plates, splendid! Here’s one that would make a really nifty snack ‘n dip set:

    I’m a former trash-pickin’ West Centralian, Old Art School Bohemian but now I set a pretty table with my Mom’s old Dellarobia milk glass and green Tea Room Depression glass.But what can I say, I married a guy with 2 Harleys and his own set of Le Creuset and Bavarian china serving pieces for 8.

    I hope that funky looking link works.

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  20. coozledad said on December 30, 2008 at 8:30 am

    I don’t know if I own anything that isn’t trash at this point. I guess the computer was new a few years back. I’m not complaining. It’s a lifestyle choice.
    OT, but I thought you might be interested in a forgotten American talent, who’s just coming into his own through the blessings of Youtube.The first time I watched this, I had to turn away. There was something too real, too painfully close to home. The second time, I just let the music take me away.
    This guy is the Jaques Brel of funeral home directors.

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  21. brian stouder said on December 30, 2008 at 6:01 pm

    THAT was a funny video, cooz. I loved his ‘cover’ (like a tarp) of That’s Amore (although he ain’t Dean Martin)

    If the lyric was changed to something like “If an eel gouges your eyes into big pizza pies, that’s a moray” – then at least the joke would have been unquestionably intentional!

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  22. coozledad said on December 30, 2008 at 7:23 pm

    Brian: That video reminded me of the nightmares I used to have when I was in a band. The thing that got me laughing hysterically is the unusual pairing of the sacred and the profane. Once he slogged through to the hook “That’s A-Morrie”, I was in tears.
    My wife says she is going to have me evaluated.

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