Robert Morrissey is a good friend who is a dealer in St. Louis and has a penchant for understanding the history behind period decoration just as I do. He sent me a book that arrived yesterday called, “Richer Than Spices”, by Gertrude Z. Thomas, a book about how the exploration and trade with the Far East changed the decorative arts throughout the world. I could tell I was going to like the book the moment I started reading the prologue where Ms. Thomas explains that every object that we live with has a history and is a part of history, something that is very evident with antiques, but the treatise is true universally whether you own contemporary, Arts and Crafts, Nouveau or Deco or anything else.

In 1931, my grandfather needed a new car and my father remembers waiting for him and the new car in great anticipation. Instead of a Packard or a Buick, he rolled up in a Model A pickup truck. His heart, and those of his two brothers, sank. No wooing of dates with a fancy car. However, by 1954, Dad was a family man with a house and yard to look after and he also had to get to the train station every day. His father gave him the pickup and it became his station car and the car he used to drive to the dump on Saturdays to get rid of clippings, etc. I well remember him sticking his head into the kitchen asking, “does anyone want to take a trip to the dump”. I always went.

Last fall, my brother, David, had a party and as his property is large enough for running around in the pickup, he got it out of the garage and asked if I would give rides to anyone who wanted. The moment I sat in the front seat, floods of memories came back to me. I remember Dad taking the truck to Cooperstown with me and my oldest brother, Harry, and coasting down the long rolling hills of Route 20. I certainly remember going to the dump and the nonsense songs Dad sang en route. But, even more remarkable was the moment my niece’s husband sat in the car with his son, Edison, and his father, Ted, saying to his son, this is the car your great, great grandfather bought in 1931. Objects do have power.

You can find Robert at www.clarkgraves.com and the book can be found athttp://www.abebooks.com/servlet/SearchResults?an=gertrude+z.+thomas&sts=t&tn=Richer+than+Spices


August is a month for eating tomatoes and corn and other things from the garden—if you have one. I don’t have one, but I used to and I have to admit that when those squash really started coming, they came at you fast and furious. A squash the size of your little finger in the morning would be the size of a banana by noon, a reasonably sized water balloon by evening and a phallic monster worthy of your favorite stallion by the next morning.

The antiques business is largely dormant in the summer, but one notable event has taken place affecting New York antique dealers this summer. Andrew Cuomo signed a bill into law banning the sale of ivory on Tuesday. I have to say of all the ill considered laws that I am aware of, this one is pretty stupid. How we are going to save the elephant by banning sales of antique ivory in New York State is beyond me. Yes, I want to save the elephant, but I really want to save the elephant. Think about it.

I don’t long for the end of summer. If we could stay stuck on August 15 for a month, I would be delighted, particularly as it is a really nice day in New York City today. We have had a very easy summer thusfar without too many really hot days. My son reports that London has been pretty nice and my daughter says that San Francisco has also been nice. Frankly, climate change, certainly a threat to mankind, has been beneficial this summer. Now that is something I wish our government would be proactive about.


There was an advertisement in the NY Times today for people who think that the legalization of pot is not a good idea. I can see why a lot of people feel that way. Pot is not an easy substance for everyone to control. But the ad, at one point, refers to it as habit forming. That is not true. Pot is not habit forming, but it can be a habit, and a bad one at that, it just isn’t habitual in the way that cigarettes are. Oops, that’s a mistake that they will be called out on.

The mischaracterization of an alleged fact seems endemic to this era. In an age where the internet allows us to check anything out, we go to sites that second our own point of view. I think this is absolutely fascinating in many ways. Critical thinking, something I remember studying in high school, has been abandoned since there is always someone who will state an untruth that backs up other untruths. Heartening to those living in alternate universes.

This might be called lying, but I am convinced that many people just don’t know the difference. It is as if at some point in our lives, we choose to be skeptical of some ideas, but not others. You see it on political broadcasts, you see it in Congress. Unfortunately, you see it in the fight to save the elephant as well as if anyone dealing in ivory is abetting the slaughter of elephants. Is there just too much (mis)information out there?

I read a review on PolitiFact the other day about a would be congressional representative running for office in Texas. She states that global warming is a hoax. PolitiFact makes short work of her criticisms as most are just the rehashing of other untruths found on the internet. What I find interesting is that denying the problem is easier than coming up with a solution. She’s just playing to her audience.  How sad given that our problems require thoughtful consideration.

The slaughter of elephants is also a knotty one. Coming down on those people who may have ivory artifacts that are old or antique is not the answer to saving the elephant. The attitude that endorses such a draconian “answer” is both lazy and intolerant. You want to tighten up the market? Come to those of us that know the market, know the true antique dealers and work with us. We will help. Too much work, I guess. Congress isn’t the only slacker out there.