An interesting memory to share

Posted: October 30, 2011 in Uncategorized

A couple of years ago we were shopping for furniture for our apartment and so we were going to lots of remates, or auctions. Remates are a frequent way for people to get rid of old stuff, and a great way to find antiques. Granted, a lot of it is crap and overpriced crap at that, but you can find truly excellent stuff if you take the time to look. The key to it is to set a price in your head that you want to pay, and never go past that. If the bidding escalates beyond your line in the sand, let them have it.

We had spied a pair of red velvet chairs with ornate carved armrests and high backs. The kind you would sit in while wearing your smoking jacket, by the fire, with a good book on your lap, a glass of cognac in one hand and a pipe or cigar in the other. We would reupholster them ourselves to match the decor of the house, but you get the idea.

This particular remate was Carrasco, one of Montevideo’s wealthier suburbs. Sure, folks here had money, but everyone going to auctions is looking for a good deal or looking to snatch up a valuable antique that nobody else knew the value of. One old art-deco cigarette case had opponents fighting, one was even bidding by phone, and they were up to several thousand dollars.

During the course of the auction, a bronze door knocker came up for bidding. “Door knocker, in the shape of a hand,” he announced, and held it up for the people to see. It was a small human hand, holding a sphere, with a hinge at the wrist.

“Which hand is it?” someone in the crowd asked.

The auctioneer took a look, and replied, “It is a left hand.”

Jeers, boos, and laughter from the audience. “Que politico!” the auctioneer chuckled. Rowdy laughs from everyone. This was back when Tabare Vasquez was president and the leftist policies of his new regime had already started the slow-death-by-papercuts on anyone productive here (new income taxes, more BPS obligations, and changes in smoking laws, to name a few). Those who had money and wanted to keep it, or those who wanted to make more, weren’t too fond of Tabare and his Frente Amplio friends.

The bidding opened. Nobody wanted it, not even for its melt value, as if it had been cursed. It went back into the pile of other dusty relics. Since then I have seen a number of the same bronze door knockers here and there at various antique shops and ferias. It must be an associative mental function, like when you own a certain kind of car or own a certain piece of merchandise, you start to see them everywhere. Nobody wants to buy these left hands, and you never see any right hands. They must all still be on doors somewhere.

Someone bid higher than our line, so we didn’t get our chairs. Ah well. We ended up ordering a sofa, which is another story that shouldn’t have needed telling under normal circumstances, which I’ll have to tell in another post.

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