Thursday, August 28, 2014

Good Web Hunting

On our way home from last week's sailing trip in Maine, we passed a number of outdoor flea markets and cobwebby antique shops. We were in a hurry to get on home (and get into an actual shower), so we didn't stop. But, there was a time when we would have. 

Pre-parenthood. And, more importantly, pre-internet.

Our family doesn't buy new furniture often. In fact, I was once nearly stymied when asked about the "style" of our home decor. I couldn't name any particular genre: "modern" or "mid-century" or "French provincial" or "Victorian." Our rambling colonial house is filled with a hodge-podge of different things. Some family heirlooms (although not of any great value, except to us), some restored pieces (at least a couple found curbside). When we had free time, long ago, my husband and I enjoyed visiting antique shops and finding new ways to use funky old things.

A few months ago, I broke down and bought a chunky velvet sectional for our TV room. (Sometimes we call it a "family room," but there really isn't a whole lot of room left after the TV, the new couch and the family.) Lounging on the chaise portion became a great luxury that I looked forward to. And, to her credit, my teenage daughter hasn't challenged me for it yet. 

Our old coffee table didn't fit anymore and we're temporarily (very temporarily, since my husband hates it) using a contemporary square from Ikea decorated with vintage Ouija board graphics. (I found this odd object on Etsy and it used to live in my attic office.) Anyway, not to worry. My husband is handy and he decided to build a new table.

In line with our quirky aesthetic, his plans called for reclaimed barn board and some repurposed industrial base. Like a wrought iron sewing machine, maybe. A little bit steampunk, but not exactly. In the days before the web, this project would have been more difficult to implement. We might have visited antique stores, scoured architectural salvage places. We certainly would have stopped at the roadside flea markets we passed last weekend.

Instead, my husband found a base on eBay. (Actually, he found two. The first was snatched out from under him in the auction's final five seconds. BTW, how does that happen???) Two wrought iron legs from a vintage school desk. Unique, quirky, adjustable. Thank you, worldwide web. (Thank you, Al Gore.)

Building a table is one thing. (Have I mentioned how much my husband hates the Ouija one?) We need it. We'll use it. The sooner the better. But, I do sometimes think about how the web has taken away all the thrill of the hunt. Before we were all online, collectors spent hours browsing through bins of other people's treasures. Now, we simply Google "limited edition Hummel figurine" or "signed copy of Interview with the Vampire" or "World War II purple heart medal" and voila! It's ours.

And, collectibles aside, nothing's ever gone forever. Missing your favorite tee shirt? Left your camera at the beach? If my daughter loses something, she assumes (rightly most of the time) that we can find another in a handful of keystrokes or the click of a mouse. Everything is simultaneously disposable and recoverable.

It's fast. It's easy. But, it's not much fun.

Times change, and I admit I practically live on the worldwide web. But, I still feel a little wistful when I pass a flea market.

If you enjoyed this post, I invite you to order a copy of my new book Lovin' the Alien at 

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