You guys were talking in comments yesterday about finding caches of old porn under the rafters of one another’s houses, which is the standard hiding place, or was. (As my old neighbor the cleaning lady could tell you some folks just leave it lying around and expect the help to put it away.) It reminded me of a story I’m sure I’ve told before, but these things will happen as we all get old, right? Anyway: Some friends of mine rehabbed an old farmhouse west of Columbus, probably dating from the mid’19th century. As part of the kitchen restoration, they pulled off the mantelpiece for the fireplace. And found two items:
1) An addressed, stamped, but apparently never delivered invitation to a high-school graduation. You could almost see that it must have been part of a stack of them, and slipped off the top and down between the mantelpiece and the wall. How many hurt feelings did that lead to, you wonder?
2) A pamphlet, absolutely authentic and almost perfectly preserved, for a patent medicine that pledged to cure young men of the urge toward self-abuse. It went on for several pages about the dangers of this practice, how it could lead to a loss of vigor and general malaise, irritability, etc. I wondered how the homeowners came to pick it up at their local pharmacy — a bad-tempered teenage son, perhaps, paired with some spotted sheets? An embarrassing moment walking in on the boy at work in the bathroom? Who can say. The despairing mother confides in a druggist; he proffers some literature. I wonder if she ever bought any of the stuff. I wonder what it might have contained.
History tells us most likely it was alcohol. Which, when you think about alcohol’s relationship with human sexuality, is sort of funny. He probably switched to the livestock.
I started to write yesterday about the news that broke Friday, that the city-owned collection of the Detroit Institute of Arts could be at risk of liquidation should the city declare municipal bankruptcy (which most believe is a foregone conclusion). Opinion about the emergency manager’s statement on this is all over the map — it’s a trial balloon, it’s a negotiating technique, it’s a bargaining chip, it’s madness, it’s about time. At this point it’s safe to say that if you’re planning a trip to visit the Rivera murals, you don’t need to rush, but you never know. This will be in court for eleventy jillion years if it gets that far, but at this point, all I know to do is sigh heavily.
As you can imagine, the usual racists have stood up and thundered that those ghetto hood rats don’t deserve a great art museum, so why not sell every last watercolor. Some have said, “Oh, cheer up — it’ll just go to another bunch of museums,” which strikes me as one of the dumber things said in the last 72 hours, and that’s saying something. If the unthinkable happens, and some or all of it is sold to satisfy pensioners and bondholders, it’s pretty obvious it would go into the drawing rooms of Ron Lauder and Barry Diller, et al. I think about “Detroit Industry,” the Rivera murals, painted by a Trotskyite, commissioned by an aristocrat, celebrating the working class. It’s about the most recognizable single piece in the building, and the single best artistic distillation of what Detroit is, what it was, that probably exists today. (OK, a ridiculous statement, but I’m no critic.) I wonder what would happen to that.
Elsewhere here in the land where anything can happen, a disgraced former Supreme Court justice, a Democrat, was sentenced to 366 days in prison for bank fraud, i.e., shenanigans on a short sale. I have zero sympathy, but I don’t wish her ill. She’ll spend her year in a Martha Stewart federal prison for well-behaved lady criminals and be home in time for next year’s Memorial Day barbecue, and maybe even Christmas, with good behavior. She retains a generous state pension and the luxurious Florida home that led to all this crap.
I’ll tell ya — real estate never leads people down the paths of righteousness, does it?
I am on a dedicated campaign to get out from under my mortgage sooner rather than later — we went to a 15-year note two years ago, and I make extra principal payments — so I guess the fact the market is recovering should be good news for us, but somehow I don’t think so. Basically, real estate is the devil. I look forward to the communal apartments my old age surely has in store.
A short work week, and already we’re at Wednesday? How’d that happen? Happy Hump Day to you, too.