Wednesday, June 8, 2011

New Directions

The Steinway is gone. Not just sold (I got the bank draft over a week ago) but gone. The professional movers hired by the buyer arrived at eight o’clock yesterday morning as we were told they would. With clockwork precision the three men dismantled, bundled and strapped the impressive instrument. Within minutes it was out the door and loaded onto a truck, on its way. Having witnessed such a display of acrobatic precision when the piano arrived twenty-seven years ago, the reprise didn’t astonish me.

We were then left with the uninviting task of redecorating the stricken room. Replacing such a huge piece of mahogany is not without its challenges. The removal of this significant item precipitated a pandemic upheaval. In addition to relocating some paintings we scouted the entire house, from top to bottom, for alternative lamps, rugs and furniture. Finally however we were satisfied with our “new” room. We complimented ourselves that it looks elegant and achieves the requirement of “grouping” so technically critical to any setting dedicated to dialogue. The now spacious room proclaims itself as a veritable “parlour”, distinctly lending itself to conversation.

Unloading the Steinway (as trepidatious as I was about it in the beginning) dissolves any reservation I may have had by being a major step forward in my journey to reverse years of spendthrift profligacy. The result is that I have overcome deprivation with a preferred sense of economy and an accompanying positive zeal for austerity. I won’t say that I was formerly wasteful, but admittedly extravagant. One needn’t be much of a mathematician to calculate that the money I spent on such expensive items years ago easily accounts for the lingering indebtedness I still service to date. Slowly the margins of that unfavourable condition are being pushed back. The process began with the successful auction of the Dutch painting in March. Then as I say followed the sometimes difficult though ultimately rewarding sale of the Steinway. Although the final step is the November auction of a Frederick S. Coburn painting (which required some restoration before going to market), I must first see my way through the auction of my jewellery on June 12th, an event which we’re combining with the celebration of my mother’s birthday on the same day. My mother assures me that the coincidence of the dates is decidedly serendipitous. I was also heartened recently to hear that while the financial markets are in some respects still sluggish, apparently the rich are spending their capital lavishly. Places like Tiffany, for example, reported higher than normal traffic. This bodes well for my consignments of gold and diamonds. Following the final act of penitence in November next I will have exhausted all possible sources of revenue from my erstwhile material possessions. What remains is only what is common to the average estate or garage sale. Even if I am understating the value of that stuff, realistically I would have to be dead before it is marketable.

Meanwhile I have to adjust to a new perspective. Clearly the object is no longer acquisition; and, having exhausted any further possibility of disposition, I must now content myself with what I have. I don’t however feel like an ascetic. Oddly I find this to be a relieving obligation. I am fed up with having to maintain, secure and insure those belongings. The cost of insuring the jewellery was for example staggering, far out-distancing the cost of insuring our house on an annual basis; plus, over twenty years or more, it adds up. Similarly the Steinway cost handsomely for its semi-annual tunings, something I did for almost thirty years. While I derive some theoretical buoyancy from the knowledge that I can always purchase the objects again, frankly my interest in doing so has utterly waned. I am now more fascinated by the prospect of accumulating capital and getting it to work for me. There is additionally no small measure of satisfaction in avoiding conspicuous luxury. It is comforting to know that whatever one has in one’s house, while pleasurable, has very little attraction to the common thief. Traveling with high-end jewellery was always a liability. Over thirty years ago I recall having to go through the cumbersome motions of dealing with the staff at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel to obtain access to the walk-in vault. Those annoying interludes are now thankfully avoided.

Reflecting upon one’s past it is inescapable that one ponders whether, if given the opportunity, one would do anything differently. I suspect the answer is no. There are simply too many parameters at play to make such wild conjecture. What matters to me is that I have been afforded the present opening for a new direction.

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