Thursday, August 4, 2016

The Top

I suppose we all have something particular in mind we assume we will stumble across one day. The perfect this or the perfect that.

At the moment for me, well I write at the moment, but it’s been a long moment, about a year or two I believe, and by this I mean I really believe that someplace in me believes that I will find the top.  It’s an Amsterdam story, I adore the creativity of Amsterdammers and their garbage collection day. They carefully display the items someone might want before the truck rumbles along the red bricks road to crush and demolish. Perhaps it’s the bicycle mentality, try to make it to the other side before the Amsterdam taxi bears down on you. People spread the not totally obsolete jacket, minor stain on sleeve, across the rotting contents of the bulging black bin bags. Does it say “you”?

It was in a cardboard box, the upper part sticking out. I made a U-turn on my bike. It said “me” and I took it to work. Holding the large Chinese vase carefully in my hands, an office worker in my building joked, “It could be valuable.” I assessed it at 200 to 300 years old and this was confirmed. It was the repairs made in the 19th century to the pot that alerted me to its age.  The more modern repairs, cellophane tape and glue, did not alert me to anything special. Its value is the money one needs to restore it but for the moment it sits, warts and all, on my desk at the office.

I was brought a cupboard this week.  It was my cupboard, but then not my cupboard and then rejected by my defunct better half and became my cupboard again.  It’s an old battered cupboard and was ordered by two women on the Singel in Amsterdam.  Singel 234 it says on the label on the bottom of a shelf, ladies so and so. I live one block away. How the cupboard went from the Singel to Gouda and back in a little more than one hundred years is a mystery. 

Concerning my cupboard I decided that I would assemble my books in it. Up to this week my books were jammed into the kitchen cupboards, under the teak standing bookcase as well as in it, piled onto window sills, and stuffed into the bedroom closets. I organized them in the cupboard in the following manner: The books I have read and will retain are lying sideways in the back, the books I still need to read are upright in the front. It didn’t look bad. It turns out I have less books than I thought.  When I organized them in front of my eyes I realized that most likely half of the unread books would not be further detained in my apartment when I had read them. I felt good. I felt like I was near the top of Everest.

I keep looking for the top to the Chinese pot. They came with tops. The rim of my vase is encrusted with a demure crescent of old newspaper which sometime in the 20th century had been glued to the surface, presumably when it was undergoing one of its not very well performed repairs, The Glue Attempt. No top.

I peeked around the garbage bags. Someone had left some books collected during their Mayan phase. I discovered not the top to an ancient Chinese pot but Incidents of Travel in Yucatan (2 volumes) by John Lloyd Stephens; art by Frederick Catherwood.  I took the books home and put them in my cupboard for a fascinating read.


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