A while ago, I wrote a post about antiquing in Philadelphia, (and our acquisition of a new chandelier).
On that excursion, Paul and I went into a shop that we have never bothered with— because I perceived it to be total crap.
The entrance is blockaded with boxes and trash, and the front windows are mostly empty, save for some dusty, vaguely-goth-looking stuff.
Also, it’s on South Street… which, assuming you do not live in Philadelphia, let me explain— South Street is where I would send someone to shop for latex clothing, mohawk-hair-supplies, or Doc Martens… not antiques.
But since we were just around the corner, (at the fancy-skeleton-with-brooches place), I said— let’s go walk down South Street, it’s been forever!
As we went by this particular shop, Paul stopped… he said— don’t you want to go in here? And I was like— no…?… I don’t think so…? What even is this place? It looks like… crap… right?
Paul said— probably… but let’s check.
We climbed over garbage to reach the entrance.
Paul opened the door… he said— yes, total crap.
RIGHT HERE, all along.
7.5 miles from my house.
Sandwiched between a shop for gimp masks and whatever place used to have GIANT ANTS on the face of the building— my home planet.
The shiniest. Fanciest. Gilt. Crystal. Bronze. Etched. Glass. Pendants. Swags.
On the ceiling. On the walls. On the floor.
Stacked, hung, leaning.
I raised my hands to the sky and swayed back and forth.
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The guy behind the counter said— hello, welcome, how are you?
Paul was like— hi, yes, hello… EXCITING NEWS FOR YOU, SIR: my wife is going to live here now…
…I hope you like cats!
As we waded through, I was like— this, this, this, this.
And all of this.
This sort of exercise— the generic-coveting of mass-fancy— is very soothing to me.
When I do not need any of the specific things, I can enjoy it as a motivational-life-experience— a reminder that if I JUST KEEP APPLYING MYSELF, eventually our home will be a minefield of totally unnecessary and breakable items.
Never give up.
So we were going along, looking in all the nooks and crannies and pointing out things to each other and saying LOOKOUTBEHINDYOUOMGYOUALMOSTCRASHEDINTOTHAT.
I SAW something.
Out of the corner of my eye.
Do you know the glimpse I am talking about?
It grabs your brain.
RARELY is it anything more than my imagination.
In fact, MOST of the things I glimpse turn out to be lolwutno.
SOMETIMES the glimpse EXCEEDS your expectations.
Your wildest expectations.
And, for the record, MY expectations are nearly-impossible to exceed because they were forged in the world-distorting furnace of Golden Age Hollywood musicals— deeply-problematic for the rest of my life, but so spectacular for the set design.
I gestured to Paul— here is a THING.
It is FOR ME.
Made out of the literal fabric of my very own soul.
OBVIOUSLY I cannot leave a piece of MY SOUL behind.
Pack it up.
There was a terrible problem.
This store requires that you pay them with real, actual, money.
Paul and I do not know this mysterious currency.
We know craigslist, scratch-and-dent, floor model, free.
I said to Paul— take me home so I can watch YouTube videos until I gain enough skill to remove my own organs for sale on the black market… FYI, I may need your kidneys.
I will say this about Self— despite her general idiocy, she is a fast learner with the scalpel.
Paul said— sure, sure. But no. We do not need just one, random, truck-sized, lamp-of-ridiculousness… if there were two… maybe… something… to consider.
The guy behind the counter gestured towards the back of the store. He said— it’s a pair. We have the match. It’s in the back.
I looked at Paul.
He looked at me.
He could see.
The manic gleam.
The covetous clawhands.
The absolute certainty that he would be hearing about these lamps for the next 147 years.
That was nearly a year ago.
Since then, I have scoured the earth for a suitable stand-in under twenty dollars.
I have searched Craigslist, eBay, auctions.
My conclusion: there are no other lamps.
I will never love again.
I will wander the moors, sconce-less.
I will, instead, have cheap crap— if you cannot have your one true love, it really doesn’t matter what the replacement is.
So I looked at all of the brass-looking light fixtures on the entire internet.
It took a while.
LIGHTS ARE STUPIDLY EXPENSIVE.
A fact that will continually surprise you,
If you have never previously tried to buy lamps.
-a haiku of lighting
I congratulated Self on the evidence of our extraordinary practicality and ability to compromise.
When I showed them to Paul?
He said— those look like something you could buy at Home Depot.
And I was like— … ??… ?…???… mystified facial expression GIF.
Once in a while, Paul breaks out an unexpected opinion, so strongly held, I am forced to tip my hat— dude, you sound like a lunatic… mad props, yo!
Also, as far as I know, Paul plans to have his ashes scattered at Home Depot, so I’m not sure why he’s disparaging his everlasting-resting place.
Fast forward to this summer.
I’d gone over to the fabric district.
Despite my AWARENESS that fabric = unnecessary-project-of-chaos/guaranteed wish to light yourself on fire… I am an unrepentant idiot—> EXHIBIT A— when you assume your husband can help you sew DIY Christmas bows.
The fabric district is just a few blocks off of South Street.
I told myself— I do not need to go look at my lamps.
Because they are not my lamps.
They will never be my lamps.
Moors. Despair. Etc.
Of course, I went to look at them.
I was like— hello, hello.
Just checking on my lamps that are not my lamps.
And the guy said— oh hello, yes, I remember you… THEN he told me he is thinking about retirement… selling the building and everything in it… and so maybe he was ready to consider an offer on the lamps.
Self and I danced a silent jig.
Did he accept it?
He did not.
So I left.
The charade is important.
I went home and said to Paul— GOOD NEWS.
The lamp offensive has commenced.
It took me two more trips… I am not sure if lamp guy just wanted to be done with me, or if I am actually controlling the world with my mind.
The day I picked them up, I was BESIDE myself.
THEY ARE SO GIANT AND SHINY.
When I got home, Paul was out… I could not wait to KNOW… was I right?
I needed to SEE them IN PLACE… so I set up the tripod.
Paul had insisted that these lamps would be too giant, too ridiculous, too overpowering, too, too, too, too… he went ON AND ON AND ON… he put tape on the wall to show me HOW MASSIVE AND PREPOSTEROUS AND IMPOSSIBLY LARGE.
I bit my fingernails— so terribly afraid that he was wrong.
What if… they just… looked… like normal lamps?
It would be an unbearable tragedy, and also a waste of Paul’s kidneys.
I scurried to look at the picture.
Was I satisfied?
I was the very most satisfied of anyone in the entire history of the world.
All dead of envy… but also in agreement that THESE LAMPS COULD ABSOLUTELY BE BIGGER.
If you are not familiar with Caroline Astor, here is one of my all-time FAVORITE books: A Season of Splendor: The Court of Mrs. Astor in Gilded Age New York… if you love Gilded Age, American history, NYC, or descriptions of VERY FANCY THINGS… this book is SO GOOD.
If you are not familiar with Dorthy Draper, here is my favorite book about her— she is the decorator who did The Greenbriar and you are IN FOR A TREAT (or a headache, depending on your preference for ALL OF THE DECOR.)
If you care about sconce details:
Originally wired for electricity OR gas— hence the fancy part at the top.
I can ONLY IMAGINE the house these came out of.
FYI— it was not until 1882 that Edison formed the Edison Electric Illuminating Company of New York, which brought the first electric lighting to the new ultra-rich class of Manhattan society… but rich people were literally DECADES ahead… the not-wealthy wouldn’t make the switch until well into the new century.
Other Giant Fancy Things I Have Acquired: