Thanks to my recent trip to Brooklyn, and a visit from my sister-in-law and niece and nephew, we didn’t hit many estate sales this weekend (kids can only take so many musty basements.) However, I’ll use this opportunity to share some thoughts from a pair of longtime readers, Bill Pentland and Dennis Nyback.
I met Bill Pentland through Facebook, if you must know. Bill, a chauffeur and ex-spouse to the Stars (as he describes himself), is one of the few people I know exclusively through that strange and wonderful (and often evil) site. A mutual friend introduced us, and I’ve been following his amazing posts from Southern California ever since. Bill read my piece, Instant Relatives!, and weighed in with his own experience unearthing strange photographs in a letter on Facebook. He kindly allowed me to reprint it here:
“I just finished Estate Sale Confidential on Instant Relatives and wanted to share a story. Every Xmas, we go to San Antonio and I like to antique in New Braunfels at a certain store that has a big box of old black and white photos. About five years ago, I decided to pull a prank on my son, so I bought eight or nine really strange and unrelated photos covering several decades. There were white Okies with big leering heads, and black people in swim trunks, an assorted baby or two, and some really evil-looking children. I put them all in a padded envelope and addressed it with my left hand directly to him at Roseanne’s studio (where he gets all kinds of strange script submissions, etc.) I didn’t enclose notes or anything, I just wanted to strip his gears. Although I hand-wrote a return address for a small town in Ohio, one of his co-workers was sharp enough to note the TX cancellation and he figured it out. Oh, well.
“Anyway, at the New Braunfels store I also noticed that 50-60 pictures were of a very well-to-do black family c. 1940-1965. The principal woman was very pretty and regal; the pics covered her life from being a young woman until old age. I was always struck by why anyone would throw all those photos away. I began to think about her a lot. She was so proud and strong and she fascinated me.
“Every year I go back to that antique store, and every year I search that box until I find her. I buy one photo, just one, and bring it home. I have five now.
“Next December, I expect to be back in New Braunfels looking again for a scrap of a woman I never knew–it’s my own little way of keeping her alive, I suppose. One day, I expect she and I are going to miss our Christmas date, and that will make me very sad.”
I love that story, and send my thanks to Bill for allowing me to share it with you. I, too, have a number of old photos around, including this one, of a happy man singing with his child, that I found at a flea market in Raleigh when visiting my Dad ages ago. But I love the idea of coming back to a place, that antique store, and searching for that one photo of that one person.
Dennis Nyback and I met a few years ago, in the autumn of 2009, when he brought his acclaimed 16mm series “Bad Bugs Bunny” to the Trylon microcinema. We’ve got to know each other though the magic of email and Facebook, and I’m happy to say he’s bringing “Bugs” back to the Trylon this fall (hint, hint, Twin Citians–he’ll also have his loony Mormon show!)
Dennis was inspired by Estate Sale Confidential so much so that he wrote his own estate sale confessional–and I say, the more the merrier. This is a great piece, full of rich detail, and my only complaint is having to read about all the great stuff that I can’t buy, like old bow ties! Dennis’ll school you on the various great places to shop, from New York to Seattle. So I ask you to please leave us now and visit Dennis Nyback’s site and read Estate Sale Confidential: The Confession.
Thanks for reading! See you next week.