Sunday, March 13, 2016

decorous hauntiing

decorous haunting
artifacts patrolled by cats,
wide women, thin ghosts

Saturday Sallie and I saunter up to Iowa City, this time for business. I am bringing several packing boxes full of cool stuff from my travels (space-wise and time-wise) for three consignment stores located conveniently within a block of each other, on either side of the Bluebird Diner. First stop, the Haunted Bookstore, which sells used books, as well as new jigsaw puzzles and puppets.

Two cats patrol their domains, as they have done for ten years. Downstairs, a gray cat with a white bib greets me as I start of the stairs and submits willingly to a little ear scratching. Upstairs, a faded calico jumps down from the window sill, caroms off of a quilt covered chairs and sallies past me to the next room.

The purchaser, a thin woman with a long wispy braid and faded clothing, arrives to examine my books. After she has handled each one, she whispers, "None of these." I am astonished. "None?" She touches the worn red leather bindings on the complete set of Shakespeare. "They're not in good shape." Well, of course they're not in pristine condition. They're USED, as in, actually read by me and a lot of other people, not just languishing on a bookshelf. But with that pronouncement, the ghost-like woman wafts upstairs and disappears into a tiny room marked "Private." So it appears to me that this "used" bookstore, like a used car lot, is actually a "preowned in mint condition" place for people who buy books as decorations, which they periodically trade in for different colored covers, depending on the season.

Undaunted and determined not to be haunted by first-time failure, we carry my boxes of goodies to Artifacts. This looks promising, a flying turtle sculpture in one window, baskets and African carvings in the other. I actually brought along a couple of wood sculptures I was given in Senegal, at age 20, so they are now officially antiques.

Inside, the shop is full of shoppers peering at shelves and walls packed with all kinds of interesting things, from salt and pepper shakers to old hand tools, pottery, plates, books, dolls, games, paintings and clothing. A friendly woman looks through my boxes, smiling as she sets aside many items to keep. "I love this," she says, holding the Balinese puppet. "It must be very old." My turn to smile. "Older than I am," I reply.


Just down the street, Decorum is another consignment antique store. Though much smaller than Artifacts, they specialize in jewelry and art. 

Our mission now is to window shop, not buy, but Sallie finds a peacock plate for her friend who just had surgery, and a pair of glass bead earrings for herself. I fall for a little carved wooden chick with a feather topknot.


At our next stop, Home Ec, Sallie finds a big yellow measuring tape, which is on her To Do list. I wander around, imbibing all the eye candy: draped yards of white wool roving in the window, boxes of embroidery floss, trays of buttons, bolts of quilting material, skeins of yarn, tubes of brightly colored oil cloth, oh, and plates of scones and chocolate muffins.

I think about all the baskets of yarn I have at home and it makes me want to start knitting again. Of course, we have a wonderful knit shop in Fairfield, in the back of the At Home Store, but alas no longer a store for quilting fabric. Thinking about home reminds me that it's time for us to head home. We're both happy with our small purchases, and I'm looking forward to coming back in a month with more boxes of goodies. This time I'll take some to Decorum as well as Artifacts, and maybe try some unblemished books at the Haunted House, er, Bookstore. Hopefully, I will have sold some things too!

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