The old man and I spent the morning wandering through a lost and faded part of town. Once a hustling bustling corridor of commerce, now empty loading docks, crippled brick facades crumbling at the edges. Soot covered archways leading into boarded up warehouses. Train tracks on the outer perimeter and trolley tracks still rutting the cobbled streets. Solid and heavy structures built for purpose yet marked almost poetically with whimsical cornices and architectural flourishes. Inside, rippled glass window panes and wide planked flooring. Narrow wooden staircases and freight elevators in the back.
One can only stand now and imagine what once was.
For here, just under the highway overpass, inside a barren warehouse, a business, like a tiny bloom peeking out through the cracks in a sidewalk, is flourishing. Just one space, filled with what used to be someone else's treasure, is now through the filter of new eyes, theirs. Or maybe hers. Or his.
You build it and if you are lucky and persistent and believe in what you do, they will come.
The treasure hunters came. Panning for gold. Wandering from floor to floor. Digging into boxes of faded fabrics. Opening the doors of armoires for a peek-a-boo glance at dress up dresses and slightly crushed pillbox hats adorned with demurely matching netting. Rotary dial telephones. Vinyl records rolled up in their original sleeves with the original artists trapped forever in time in the kind of junior high poses our mothers loved to show off to potential suitors and sweeties. The poses that made us cringe. The ones that now take us back to a memory. A prom. A first date. Dancing in front of the mirror when no one was watching.
I step to the side and misbehave.
I eavesdrop on the conversation.
My Momma wore one on her sweater. A poodle pin.
My Uncle Marty's old tool box. The one that sat just inside the garage door.
My Dad kept his shaving brush in a mug on the shelf in the upstairs bathroom out on the farm. A naked light bulb dangling over his head. I used to sit on the edge of the tub and wonder how he never cut himself.
Those are the milk bottles I set on the back porches down our alley, when the milkman let me ride in his truck. I stood in the open doorway holding onto a strap, jumped out quick and swapped the empty for the full.
Oh, look, what do you think that was used for?
Did you put water in this end or that?
A narrative on the roadmap to the past and the saving grace of a revival.
A slightly musty and dusty sigh echoes through the third floor of the vintage store.
You remember me.
A treasure retold.
One space. Then two. Almost thirty now. Signs written on chalkboards...promises of things to come. Street vendors spreading thier wares on sidewalks. The beginners.
Food vendors with unusual tastes. Hot dogs and jambalaya. Homemade coffeecake and cinnamon crumble. Hot coffee greets you at the door, or spiced cranberry tea.
The crowd is as diverse as the merchandise. Young and old, well dressed and shabbily chic, denim and leather boots, cotton jackets and secondhand shoes.
The merchandise is a jumble. Old and new. Used and reused. Old. Wooden storage trunks perfumed with a slight mildewed smell. New. Wooden steamer trunks lined with fabric and scrubbed clean.
Once a pending bride's hope chest, now perhaps a child's costume and dress up container. Old.
Embroidered linen hand towels. New. Embroidered linen hand towels starched and stitched together into exquisite throw pillows. Old. Apothecary bottles, corked and marked with faded and curling labels. New. Apothecary bottles, lining the inside of a used toolbox, a single stem in each.
From one purpose to another.
A treasure resold.
An empty warehouse transformed into a living museum.
Much later, close to midnight, I sit here retracing my steps, while listening to a documentary dedicated to the music of the '80s. Background noise. Until I notice my toe-tapping self and realize I am humming along. Singing. The words. The lyrics. I know the lyrics of every single song. Word for word. By rote. I glance up and look at the faces in the crowd. I am expecting to see faces like mine, the faded faithful, and see instead, a crowd as diverse as the treasure hunters earlier in the day. The performers look like me, older and slightly frayed around the edges.
Another nod to nostalgia rings true. Children listen just when we think they are not, and those venerable LP's sure can carry a tune...from way back when...to this spot in the future...and the same singsong refrain...
I remember you.
The knickknacks lining my shelves will one day fill a box in the garage.
End up in a corner at a flea market or on the third floor of a warehouse.
If I could, I would write collectible tales,
Wishing only that some day...