Monday, July 5, 2010

Shopping With Ellen Datlow

It's been a busy social weekend.  Parties everywhere.  And, this being America, they all celebrated our Second Amendment rights.  First we went quail hunting.  Then we rode to the hounds.  Mountain goats in the Rockies.  Bears in the Appalachians.  All topped off with a spot of fishing with dynamite -- the only efficient way to fish, in my opinion.  And of course we went to the Pen & Pencil Club on Friday., where I potted a vicar.  I wanted to mount his head, big flat hat and all, in the den, but Marianne was having none of it.

Can you tell that I'm suffering from an excess of whimsy this morning?  Maybe I should skip straight to the story . . .

Shopping With Ellen Datlow
Michael Swanwick

How did she find these places?  And how the hell had she talked me into coming along with her?  I hate shopping.  It’s my idea of no fun at all.  Yet there I was when, rummaging through a box of handbags in a thrift shop, Ellen Datlow emerged with a lambskin purse.  “It’s a Chanel 2.55 Classic Flap!” she cried.  “And only thirty dollars.”

“That’s nice Ellen.”

Then we were off to a shoe store that was having an overstock sale.  There she found a pair of Manolo Blahnik shoes in her size and favorite color for fifteen bucks.  “Aren’t they lovely?” she said.

“They’re shoes, Ellen.”

So it went.  In a sidewalk bin of costume jewelry, Ellen found a rhinestone necklace the green stones of which, when she rubbed off the grime, turned out to be emeralds, and the red rubies.  In a print shop, she found an original Charles Addams cartoon, autographed, for seven dollars, though she talked the seller down to three because the frame was ugly.  On the way out, she found a small Odd Nerdrum oil that must have been mistaken for a print because she was able to pick it up for a few loose bills.  “I don’t really have the wall space for it,” she said.  “But it’s just so lovely – look at how he handles light!”

“Yeah, yeah, very wintry,” I said.  Thinking to myself that there was no end to the crap she was willing to buy.

I followed Ellen into a used book store where, under a pile of old magazines, she found a brown envelope stuffed with the typescript of “Johnny Mnemonic.  “This was the first story I ever bought from William Gibson!” she exclaimed.  “It’s got my notes on it.  Look – there’s where I wrote ‘Buy This.’”

“Fifty cents,” the proprietor grunted, without looking up.

“Do you want it?” Ellen asked, afterwards.

“As if I don’t have enough paper in the house already,” I said.

“I’ll give it to Bill, then.”

“Ellen, we’ve been shopping all day,” I said once we were out on the sidewalk.  “Please.  No more.”

But she didn’t hear me because she’d rushed to the nearest store window.  It belonged to one of those Manhattan showrooms where they display antique cars as if they were sculptures by Michelangelo, and charged just about as much for them.  A sign in the window said, BLOWOUT SALE.  “Let’s go see!” Ellen cried and, groaning, I followed in her wake.

I found her standing in front of the most beautiful machine I had ever seen.  It looked like the kind of car that God would drive.  “It’s gorgeous!” Ellen said.  “What is it?”

A very elegantly dressed man smiled gently and said, “It’s a 1928 Dusenberg J-101, one of the most desirable cars ever made.  Only a few hundred were ever built and ordinarily the price of one in mint condition, as is this one, would be astronomical.  But I’ve decided to renounce all worldly goods and become a monk.  So, just for today, I’ll let you have it for two thousand dollars.”

“I wouldn’t have anywhere to keep it,” Ellen said.  “But you’ve got a garage, don’t you, Michael?  You should get it.”

“Oh, all right,” I replied.  “I’ll buy it.  But only to be nice to you.”



Matthew Brandi said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Bruce said...

Hey, if it's good enough for G.K. Chesterton, it's good enough for Michael. :0)

David Stone said...

According to my late grandfather, "telephone fishing" was the most efficient way to fish. Back in the old days, they used an actual telephone with a hand-cranked magneto generator to fish with: the phone was dropped into the water, the generator cranked, and the fish floated right up to the surface, alive but stunned. Last phone call those fish ever answered!

Later some no-good biologists copied the idea for their own purposes.

Michael Swanwick said...

Story corrected. My thanks.

I love the use of hand-cranked telephones. When I was a boy scout, we only used 'em on each other.

Datlow said...

THank you! That's me all right :-)

Michael Swanwick said...

Right down to your tolerant patience with shopping-impaired friends.