Selling My Crap on eBay

Selling My Crap on eBay, Day 21: Moving on

This is Day 21 of a 21-day series. More scoop on the who/what/why, here.

I grew up to the drone of an endless series of angel/devil discussions, my paternal grandfather lecturing me on the value of this item or that, supporting his claims with the odd magazine or newspaper or even catalogue clipping on how much this rare book or that Indian artifact or those other old advertising mementos were now worth, while his wife, my sweet, quiet Gram, hissed into my ear, sotto voce, “Sell it!”

He was a teller of stories, an acquirer of things and experiences, a desirer of fame and glory; she was a lover, of people, especially babies, and of love itself. Not that Les Weinrott didn’t love; he did. He loved his father, his son, his friends. He loved us, his grandchildren, robustly and effusively and wide-openly. He loved his adoptive city, Chicago, and his country, the United States of America, in the way that probably only first-generation countrymen can, especially those who spring from centuries of persecution and diaspora.

But he also loved things: pretty things, rich things, delightful things, sentimental things. He loved ideas, too, but he anchored himself with things, as if those things proved, for a time, anyway, until they didn’t, his value. This breaks my heart, because of all the things he and Gram gave me, the thing I value most of all is what I think all of us do, the way they made me feel, smart, important, delightful and most of all, loved. When things were difficult between me and my mother, or me and my father, or me and any stupid boy who was too dumb to see how smart, important, delightful and lovable I was, it was the love of my grandparents that steered me through the rocks back to safety. And it was especially the love of my grandmother, whose love was absolutely unconditional, for which I am grateful. I have learned many, many great lessons from many, many great teachers, but without that base of unconditional love, I doubt very much whether I’d have been able to stay alive and buoyant enough to weave together anything really meaningful and useful out of them. Which, you know, I’m just getting started doing now.

* * *

The author's actual, talon-like nails

This is a ring that was Gram’s. It is what they call a “cocktail ring”, designed to be dazzling, and to be worn on a non-usual ring finger, in this case, the pinky (although I wore it on my ring finger, as my pinkies are a bit scrawny).

The ‘tater has been dealing with a vast quantity of personal stuff, so she has not had a chance yet to photograph the ring for this series. It is gold, 14 or 18K, I think, although she can fill you in, set with baguette stones of a reddish-pink hue, and some diamonds. The center stone is a star sapphire, and was apparently a replacement for a diamond they inexplicably had taken out. I say “inexplicably” because they could not come up with a satisfactory explanation for me, someone who never, ever got the appeal of star sapphires, especially as compared to diamonds, but oh, well. Perhaps it matches more this way; perhaps it is more dazzling, in the cocktail-ring tradition.

It almost matched the hideous cap-and-gown combo I graduated from high school in. (Vile, vile school colors.) I wore it because it was the first Really Valuable Thing my grandparents had given it to me, and thus that I owned. It made me feel rich, and it made me feel like things were possible, which is how one should feel upon graduating from high school.

There is a downside to having valuable things, though, and that is that they can be taken from you. Perhaps I made the right call, leaving this valuable ring with someone back home while I went off to school, considering that the ring was awfully portable and I had the misfortune of sharing a dorm with a soon-to-be-notorious kleptomaniac. But in my absence, the caretaker of the ring saw fit to wear it as she pleased, and in doing so, lost one of the baguettes, which she flatly refused to replace, saying, if memory serves, that this is the condition in which she received it. So, in other words, I employed a liar to protect my “valuable” possession from a kleptomaniac. Brilliant.

Neither the kleptomaniac nor the liar ever came clean. I lost track of the klepto, who was never a really close friend, but I gather she outgrew or outran her kleptomania enough to live a reasonably happy and settled life. The liar, sadly, just went on to tell bigger and more damaging lies, both to herself and to those around her, about herself and about me and finally, untenably, about someone I love. There are things up with which I will not put, and trashing the people I truly love is one of them.

Thus, the liar and I parted ways, and violently. I steadfastly maintain that there is, to quote my ex, The Youngster, “always room for sorry.” However, “sorry” must truly be so, and openly so, with attendant and appropriate reparations, penance and submission, and I ain’t holding my breath where the liar is concerned. There is just too, too much at stake for the liar to come around, I fear. Thus, I have understanding, and even some compassion, but no more room for the liar.

It is a beautiful ring, and I would love for someone else slip it on her own finger and start a new chapter in the ring’s life. I would like for the ring to carry forth more stories, and more learning, and more sparkle, and more joy. If this is not to be, then the ‘tater and I will pull out all of the stones, sell it for scrap, and someone else would truly change the life of this ring.

I am a believer in redemption, though, and our ability to change. I am a believer in building on the knowledge and experience we have, and of fusing those lessons and pain and experiences into something freshly wonderful, but rich with history.

Are you a part of this ring’s story? Email the ‘tater: miz.tater AT gmail DOT com.


Selling My Crap on eBay, Day 20: It’s all in the wrist

This is Day 20 of a 21-day series. More scoop on the who/what/why, here.

three sets of cufflinks and a silver tie clip

Better by the batch!

My grandmother was a great beauty and awfully stylish when she was in the mood, but like many people who grow up with money and all the fine things it can buy, in and and especially toward the end she didn’t give much of a hoot for anything beyond comfort and shmoopies with her grandbabies. (Or anyone else’s grandbabies, really, Gramma was a great fan of all things baby.)

the author's dapper grandfather in college

Natty, natty grandpa

Gramps, on the other hand, came from very humble beginnings and was scrupulously careful about the image he projected. He  was one of the most dapper men I’ve met to date, outside of perhaps one or two gents whose existence only serves to prove the rule.

Were you to show up unannounced at their home, Gramps would still be better-dressed than you, at the very least wearing a woven (not knit) shirt and a vest, knit or woven (which he refused to call by anything other than its proper name, “waistcoat,” and with the old-timey English pronunciation). With any advance notice whatsoever, there was a jacket involved, and usually a tie (he’d switch between regular and bow versions). But he’d sooner answer the door in the altogether than without something about the neck, a cravat or a kerchief, depending on his mood and ensemble.

In warmer weather, he might sport a short-sleeved shirt, hemmed to a straight edge (no tails, please!), but he also kept a couple of casual long-sleeved shirts, a red and white check, a la Studs Terkel, or a chambray he liked to wear with a turquoise bolo tie he and Gram bought on one of their trips to Santa Fe, way, way before it was a trendy destination. (Or rather, one of the very first times it was a trendy destination.)

knot cufflinks

Brass knots

Year-round, he’d take a daily constitutional, to Potash Brothers, the local family-run grocery store, or to the post office, or later, to the video store I bought them a subscription to so they could watch their old favorite movies at home (they never had cable TV). If he had no errands to run, he’d just take a stroll up and down a boulevard: Michigan Avenue, for most of his life, then a northerly stretch of Sheridan Road towards the end, when Dad moved them into an assisted-care building. But wherever he walked, Gramps carried a walking stick, just for show, early on, then utility, toward the end, but always, always, beautiful.

Most of his shirts fastened with buttons, but even toward the end, he had a goodly number that required cufflinks. Besides, as Jesse points out, cufflinks are the most fun form of Universally-Acceptable Male Jewelry (although Gramps, who never wore a wedding band, was known to sport a tasteful man’s pinky ring, in the fashion of the day.)

silver cufflinks

Hi, ho silver!

Over the years, many of my significant others have been the beneficiaries of Gramps’ compulsive collecting of cufflinks, and a few were turned into stud earrings for the ladies, so we’re down to the last few pairs extant. The ‘tater and I decided to sell them all together as a lot, and to throw in a jaunty tie clip, as well. (It’s quite small, and best for narrower ties.) The knots are brass, the ovals are gold with some kind of chip stone inset, and the round ones are sterling. At least, I think they are, the ‘tater has them all in her possession, and can answer any questions you might have.

Interested? Make an offer: miz.tater AT gmail DOT com


Selling My Crap on eBay, Day 19: Art of Chicago

This is Day 19 of a 21-day series. More scoop on the who/what/why, here.

book titled "Art of Today: Chicago–1933"

where "today" means "roughly 80 years ago"

My grandparents changed apartments over the years, but from home to sweet home, one constant was the art.

The pieces they’d collected over the years followed them from place to place, and many of them would end up in a configuration my grandfather called a “picture wall,” something which came into style in the 1950s. Here’s a stunning shot of their first and best picture wall, which crept up a story and a half in my favorite of their apartments. The colors have shifted in the 50 or so years since the photo was taken, but the feel still comes through loud and strong.

inside front page of "Art of Today: Chicago, 1933"

inside page

They collected many pieces from local artists, and were champion supporters of a select few. John Averill, an art director (I think) at one of the agencies my gramps worked at, and Victor Ing, who worked beautifully both in oils and watercolor. (You can spot an Ing on the wall above my desk, the monkey hanging from a branch, as well as an Averill linoleum block print of a cat and butterfly.)

I never became the devotée I’m sure Gramps wished I’d become when he passed along his copy of Art of Today: Chicago, 1933, a book filled with plates of paintings by artists whom he knew and collected. I probably wasn’t even suitably impressed that he owned the originals of one or two pieces from the book. I’ve only ever really been moved by what I’ve been moved by, and that dark oil of the two ladies top row, center, sisters, I think, mostly freaked me out.

But maybe you are from Chicago, and collect the art of mid-Century Chicago artists. Or maybe you know someone who does. In either case, this would be a lovely book for you, I’m sure, and one we’ll let go of for a song. The right song, and postage.

Email the ‘tater: miz.tater AT gmail DOT com.


Selling My Crap on eBay, Day 18: From the library

This is Day 18 of a 21-day series. More scoop on the who/what/why here.

inside title page of old edition of voltaire's candide

way, way before the musical

You don’t have to look far to find the source of my booklust.

The photos of it are buried in a pile of other photos, to be rescued and scanned, finally, Sally, upon my return to Los Angeles, but my Grandfather Weinrott, a.k.a. “Gramps,” a.k.a. Les, had the library full of them I was sure I’d have when I grew up.

There were always books everywhere at Gramma & Grampa’s: bestsellers (including a few written by friends) on reading tables next to rocking chairs, and under a good light; sci-fi and thrillers in nightstands and nearby overflow cases; a mixed-bag of titles piled up next to every toilet in the house; glossy coffee-table books tucked neatly in a sturdy low bookcase near another reading chair. (I

The crème de la crème made it into Gramps’ study, to become part of his real library, what he called a “working” library, a thing he insisted every writer worth her salt had to maintain. A working library included reference books, of course, but also seminal works one would want at one’s disposal while writing various books, articles or lessons of note. Your Plato, your Shakespeare, your myths and and your history (European, North American and Balkan, for sure); the Greek plays, the German philosophers, the “important” modern writers of fiction and nonfiction (and “modern” went back to Wilde for a man born in 1907.)

What was loveliest to me about this working library was not the content of the books, most of which, for better or for worse (probably worse) never really appealed, but the books themselves. Gramps came up in a time where books were rare and precious things, like all things, because things were still expensive to produce, ergo good things, like the Great Works, were worth making well. His books were as beautifully made as most everything he collected, partly because he liked nice things, and partly because things were nicer. Many of the books had “plates,” not to be confused with bookplates, which my Gramps was also partial to, and which are affixed to many of his books, and many more had illustrations, a word Gramps always pronounced in the archaic fashion, with the stress on the second syllable. (He also used that sexy, old-timer hard-g for “Los Angeles,” not out of affectation, but because that’s how people pronounced it when he lived there, back in the early 1930s.)

busted spine of an old copy of candide


The ‘tater can give you any particular info you might want on this edition of Voltaire’s classic Candide. It was published by Three Sirens Press, and features ilLUStrations by Mahlon Blaine, who seems to have been rather something in his heyday. I’m guessing this was originally given to me after either some conversation about the text, which I read in high school, or Aubrey Beardsley, whom I was obsessed with in high school. The ilLUStration featured here, for instance, had that kind of lush decadence that thrilled me in Beardsley’s raciest stuff, like his own iLUStrations for Wilde’s Salomé.

As you can see, the poor book has taken a beating over the years; you’re not getting some mint-condition prize to haul off to Antiques Roadshow and make a killing on. But if you like old books printed on fine paper, or are a Pangloss-head, or wanna get your Mahlon Blaine on*, or just feel like owning something that was passed on from Lester to Colleen to you, well, you would probably like owning this.

Email the ‘tater: miz.tater AT gmail DOT com.


*Someone has also created a whole lot of Mahlon Blaine merch for CaféPress, so you can REALLY get your Mahlon on if you want to!

Selling My Crap on eBay, Day 17: More (g)loves

This is Day 17 of a 21-day series. More scoop on the who/what/why, here.

blurry shot of two-tone above-the-wrist ladies gloves

print not included!

I knew it was bound to happen, 17 days in, the ‘tater is starting to show signs of battle fatigue. So weak, she can barely pick up a camera, much less hold it steady.

This is hard work, people, getting all of this stuff up on the eBay, out to the postal scales, into the mail to you! Not to mention all the emails back and forth.

So. These are the last of the last of the Great Glove Collection of Betty Weinrott (save the few that are still in my collection, getting daily use in cooler weather). When these are gone, that’s it. That other pair? Snapped up faster than you can say jack rabbit goes to town in top hat and tails.

These are truly beauties. The caramel-brown body is doeskin-soft suede, like buttah; the thumbs are a contrasting very, very dark brown. Or black. Really, hard to tell, and hardly matters. I think Gram bought them a half-size too small, because they looked brand new when I got them, and I’ve only worn them to try them on. If I had to guess, I’d say size 7, since I’m a 7 1/2. They’re so nice, you almost just want to put them in a nice shadow box, hang them on the wall, and call it a day. Either way, lovely gloves, of a quality just not seen anymore.

Email the ‘tater with an offer. No effin’ around, people, I need her for another week!


Selling My Crap on eBay, Day 16: Fabulous Palm Springs

This is Day 16 of a 21-day series. More scoop on the who/what/why, here.

November 1957 issue of the Palm Springs Villager magazine


There is a part of me that wants to live in 1957.

Or rather, that longs for a completely phony 1957, a mid-Century that Madison Avenue and Hollywood colluded to provide us with, in glorious Technicolor and tufted leatherette. A grownup, made-up 1957 that always existed just outside my reach as a real child born in 1961. I would only ever get to enjoy the ladies-in-gloves/men-in-ties styling, the swank “Continental” and exotic Polynesian dining, the cigarettes proffered on every coffee table from one step removed.

the author's parents in a speedboat, March 1961

March, 1961: Mom's knocked up with me here

Of all the storied places from my aspirational youth, the one that intrigued me the most was Palm Springs, the spot where my parents madly, all-too-quickly fell in love, at Jack Webb’s house, no less. According to my grandfather (who was known to embellish the yarns he spun, so, you know, caveat, etc.), Jack Webb was a man who enjoyed the company of young people so much that on occasion, he had a batch of them imported to his place in Bel Air and/or his fabulous Palm Springs getaway. My parents, according to legend, met at the former and, three days later, announced their engagement via telephone at the latter.

I wish I could tell you they all lived happily ever after, but they did not, neither severally nor together. The various twists and turns of fate that helped drive them apart I’ll save for another time; for now, suffice to say that one should be wary of falling in love with gloss, or at least that one should reserve gloss-lust for objets, not people.

inside page of Nov 1957 Palm Springs Villager

Those fonts! That waist!

This here magazine is some of that acceptable gloss. This particular issue of The Villager, “the magazine of fine desert living,” is from November of 1957, and sports a Spanish-y theme. ¡Olé! The articles are, well, pretty much what you’d expect: innocuous, non-noteworthy advertorial-type filler. But oh, my, the photos and advertisements! If you are a fan of mid-Century typefaces, you will be in hog heaven: it’s all Futura and swooshy, handmade serifs inside.

There is even a hint of mildewy-old scent, to conjure up images of kidney-shaped pools wrapped by Case Study houses in that indoor-outdoor California style of yore. (No actual mildew, just a bit of funk to keep it real.)

Would this item complete your homage-to-mid-Century-eclectic sunken living room? Email the ‘tater and make us an offer: miz.tater AT gmail DOT com.


Selling My Crap on eBay, Day 15: (S)crap

This is Day 15 of a 21-day series. More scoop on the who/what/why, here.

handmade sterling jewelry on a postal scale

weak, winnowed, useless: kind of like the Romanoffs

Change happens a little bit at a time, then all at once.

Or at least, it seems to happen all at once. Ten-year “overnight” successes are inevitably outed as a series of dreary, plodding steps, missteps and backtracking, fueled by hope and intermittent peeks under the tents of greatness. And usually, there’s something horrible in there, nadir-wise, like living in a car you’re about to turn around and point towards your hometown while there’s still enough gas to get you there RIGHT BEFORE the big break comes. (Only if you look closer, it’s never even a big break, just the right level of readiness meeting the right brand of opportunity.)

Did things start working for me when I had my bloody epiphany? Or did they start when I first became truly disillusioned with my big, fat advertising job in New York City, some 17 years before? Or was it the next crushing blow, in Chicago, the trifecta of new horrible job, old boss who brought me there abandoning me within two months, Love of My Life dumping me inside of 11?

The answer is yes. And in between, there were a lot more “yes”-es. There was my first-shrink-slash-astrologer, who made me understand that I could be deeply broken and still work. There was volunteering. There was a new job, and agency, and a marriage, and a move, and an end of the marriage, and yoga, and a hating of yoga, and Nei Kung, which is (knock wood/so far) still pretty awesome and showing signs of staying power, and a new career, and another new career, and the same amount of new significant others.

Oh, yeah, and a blog.

Somewhere in there was a whole lot of sanding and polishing. I forget how I stumbled upon it, but I fell into and subsequently became kind of (surprise, surprise) obsessed with metalsmithing. It was the first non-writing practice I found that I liked, and I loved it: the fussing with details, the acquisition of new skills, the making of an actual thing. It was my own first meditative practice that actually worked: the ungodly amounts of polishing and sanding involved turned out to be highly enjoyable and therapeutic; if they didn’t prove to translate literally to Karate Kid-style wax-on/wax-off training, they definitely opened the door to…something. A series of other doors, perhaps, leading to where I am now. (And as soon as I figure out where that is, you’ll be the second to know.)

I dragged my findings and scrap and new-in-box equipment from Chicago to Los Angeles, always thinking I’d pick it all up again, maybe even become a real metalsmith! But I finally realized earlier this year that the only thing that all that stuff was doing these days was filling up an out-of-reach cupboard in my kitchen, and let all of it go for $100 to someone at a different part of the trajectory. A thousand-dollar, 18-year lesson. (What can I say? Some of us learn more slowly than others.)

sterling silver jewelry arranged on a countertop

my babies, at the 'tater's pad (click to enlarge)

Now we come to the finished jewelry itself. I am hanging onto a very, very few pieces left which I still wear and love; the rest, I’m letting go of in one lot. It weighs 2.2 ounces, according to the ‘tater, who dragged it to the Mayberry P.O. to get weighed. That includes whatever stones, all cabachons, none precious, that are set in the pieces, and the findings, which may be silver, but I can’t say. I can say that any of those pin-backs I shaped myself, because our teacher was kind of Miyagi-like in her insistence on form.

I will also say that I had a penchant for filing things to a rather sharp edge, and a couple of the pins could probably double as a throwing star.

Of course, if you like not-very-beautifully-designed sterling jewelry, you could have a big set instantly, for cheap. Or a lot of holiday “shopping” done in a heartbeat.

I’m really kind of hoping that some nice metalsmith who casts will buy the lot, though, and transform it. Circle of life, etc.

Is that you? Or someone you know? Email the ‘tater: miz.tater AT gmail DOT com.