“Is this real silver?” one of the Texans asked, barging through the door and grabbing a bracelet from the window display. “I heard that there are a lot of fakes down here.”
“It’s easy enough to tell,” Miriam said, flipping it to show the woman the stamp that certified it as silver. But she didn’t hand the bracelet back to the woman, her own private technique, as if she had just realized she wanted it for herself. A simple trick, but it made the right kind of customer wild to own the thing in hand.
Only a collector of objects would understand the importance of the hunt.
For every collector, there’s a vendor. There are those gallery kinds, who also fill the sales ranks of stores like Gucci where the customer is treated with suspicion and required to prove herself worthy of being allowed to make the purchase.
And there are those whose roots sprung from The Jew Store, leaning on the customer to buy.
“It’s you, I tell you. You look simply marvelous in this. I’ll leave you alone to think a little about it while I get you something to eat,” Sylvia Einbender used to say when I’d visit her store in St. Joseph, Missouri. She was our kind, and she could sell ice to the Eskimos. Memories of every piece of clothing I ever bought at Einbender’s remain with me, more vividly and more cherished, than any purchase I ever made at one of those stores where the clerks remained icily distant. Maybe I’m just not gallery material.
Getting back to collecting, my efforts, save shoes and clothing, seldom extend beyond amassing three or four pieces before I either decide that my collection has reached critical mass or it’s time to move on to something else. But that doesn’t mean that I don’t prize my collection of Negro dolls, the Sergio Bustamante back before he went into paper-maché, or the small wooden chair covered in bottle caps into which religious images had been pasted. What do I care if my artistic tastes run to Dogs Playing Poker? What I really need to complete my collection of objects is a Janus bear.