Friday, April 13, 2012

Odd Thing To Pay Forward

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored!" Wow, what a busy week! It's so nice to get a spring break. If I hadn't had one, I would have had to create it.

One of the highlights of this week was the visit Spare and I made to the special Van Gogh exhibit at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. The exhibit focused on Van Gogh's nature paintings, and it was amazing. "Starry Night" was not there, but there were several woodland vista works that reminded me of home. And one haunting canvas of a rainstorm, painted while looking out of the window of a mental asylum.

Van Gogh was also in the mental asylum when he painted this beautiful canvas for his brand-new namesake nephew. It is Spare's favorite, and she spent quite a long time gazing at it.

I know fashions and tastes change, but I just cannot imagine how this artist was overlooked in his lifetime. Maybe if he lived longer, like Walt Whitman (both alive and working at the same time, different continents). Maybe he lacked Whitman's self-assurance ... certainly lacked Whitman's mental health. Say what you will about Walt Whitman, he was supremely happy in his skin.

The same day we saw Van Gogh, Spare and I visited the Magic Gardens on South Street in Philadelphia. This is an art installation created by a local man named Isaiah Zagar. Words and pictures do not do it justice. It's as if the artist went to a landfill full of old bottles, plates, coffee mugs, tiles, and a zillion other things, and just waved a magic wand and turned it into a gleaming, mirrored palace. Here is a place you could go 30 times and never see it the same way twice. And while it was a daunting $25 per person to see Van Gogh, the Magic Gardens (probably same square footage or larger than the Van Gogh exhibit) was $5 per person.

Ha ha! Some day the Magic Gardens will be as famous as "Sunflowers in a Vase," and it will cost $75 per person to get in, after waiting in a long line and being issued headphones so you can hear famous critics talk about it! Yay! Spare and I got there before the fashions and tastes did!

The best part of this week, though, was the magick I performed for my late grandfather.

Granddad spent his entire working life creating machinery that worked on a microscopic level. He must have wondered how he came upon such a fascinating occupation, having grown up on a piece-of-nothing mountainside farm. In his spare time he fixed timepieces of all sizes, from little wristwatches to great, big grandfather clocks. He was an early browser of yard sales, and from them he procured many pocket watches that he fixed and doled out. I have one. Sometimes I take it to school, just to feel its warmth against my hip.

While Granddad was still alive, he kept his watch repair books on a shelf in the family farm house. After he died, my uncle moved the books in order to have room for his own library. I thought the books had been lost, thrown away. But when my cousin cleaned out the house in preparation for sale, he found the watch repair books. I asked him to send them to me.

The books were a motley lot, smelling moldy and broken at the spine. But I could see that they were really great how-to manuals for watch repair. Two of them were published in 1922.

It happens that there is a watch repairman in Snobville who has been in the trade for a long time, certainly as long as I have lived here. I once had him "tune up" my pocket watch, which he said was a good one, well cared for.

Yesterday I walked into the jewelry store where the watch repairman works. I gave him all of the watch-making books. He was like a kid in a candy store. He pointed to my grandfather's name in the front of one of them and said, "Is this the man who owned the books?" And I said yes, that was my beloved granddad, and I know he would want useful books to be paid forward into the right hands.

The repairman said he was in the process of creating a workshop in his home. I told him my grandfather had a table where he kept all his watch books and supplies, and people used to give their watches to him to be fixed.

The only request I made of the watch repairman was to keep paying the books forward, to be sure that someone who worked with clocks would always have them. He said, "No problem!" Then he added: "Wait until my wife sees these!"

It's such a comfort to me to know that those books are in the hands of someone who can understand them, use them, and appreciate them.

The moral of this sermon: Holding onto certain things for sentimental reasons robs them of their essence. Pay it forward. Tick. Tick. Tick.


Kristen Eaton said...

Wonderful advice. When you find just the right home for a meaningful object, it feels like everything is just a little more right with the world.

I love the magic garden. I lived in Philly for a year. It was an adventure, but having grown up with trees and hills and mountains on the horizon, having my world defined by buildings and streets was really wearying. Walking into the Magic Garden felt something like walking into a park, with light playing through colored glass instead of leaves.

Anonymous said...



you always do good

Maebius said...

I love the Magic Garden also!
As for paying things forward, I don't find it odd at all. You found a home for something, and it was Good. As Kristen said above, that sort of thing seems to make the world a bit more Right. Kudos!

Chas Clifton said...

Fascinating story. I doubt that too many new books on the repair of mechanical watches are being published!