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May 24, 2010

Two retail coups in Kensington, Maryland

Kensington, Maryland, where my post-waffle trip with Eau continued on Wednesday, has a a row of great antique shops. In the first very one I spotted two books. One was a dictionary of art criticism terms for $3, the other was a book written in the early 1900s called "How to listen to music," for $8. The former seemed like a useful reference, and the latter was an adorable, antiquated document.

A selected sentence: "The highest form of musical composition is the symphony. This stands in contrast to a style of music that is increasingly appreciated. We name this style popular music," The italicized popular made me smile. Like you'd say umami or some other newfangled or imported concoction.

Had to have it.

I approached the register and tried the ol' round number method.

"Hi!" I said and smiled.

"Hi," she answered.

"I'd like to buy these books, but could I get both for $10?"

"Yes, that's fine," the woman answered. "Oh, this book?" she began when she saw the dark green hardcover with gold lettering of the music book. "I'm so glad you're buying this. Someone was just in here and wanted to buy it, to cut it up and use for crafts."

"Crafts?" I asked, horrified. (Nothing against crafts, but not with cute books written in 1908 that someone might one day snatch up and read...)

"Yes. They cut up books and use them in scrapbook projects."


"It's such a cute book. I'm glad they didn't buy it and tear it up."

"Me too!" I answered.

A few stores down, my eyes fell on a pair of earrings. Two thin bands of gold were holding together a pair of seed pearls and drop shaped amethysts. They were the first thing I saw in the store, and they gave me an idea.

My dad and stepmom told me a few weeks ago they wanted to get me a graduation present -- jewelry, in general, and a rather expensive form thereof, to be specific -- and checked first if there was anything else I preferred. I told them the fact they're coming to Boston is my present and this isn't the time for extravagant purchases, but Dad gave me the "Ok, honey, of course, no problem," answer, which meant one thing: He was going to proceed as planned.

But if I spotted something I loved, and something I knew was in his budget, that would be the best of both worlds.

The earrings were $250, marked down from $300.

My target was considerably lower.

I glanced at Eau, who I'm positive could bargain in her sleep, and on cue she started talking: "We'd like to buy these earrings as a present for someone who just finished a Ph.D., but--"

I picked up there: "But $250 is really over my budget."

"These really are lovely," the woman -- slight British lilt, deliberate, distinguished -- replied. "How much would you like to spend?"

"I'll be totally honest. A lot less than the pricetag, unfortunately."

"Well, tell me. I'll see what I can do," the woman said. "These have seen sitting here for a while, and they really are pretty."

"They are! Ok. Then, I'll just say it. $125," I said.

Eau continued: "She's been working on her doctorate for 8 years, and she finished literally a few days ago. These earrings would be a gift -- a treasure to commemorate her graduation years to come."

"I see," the woman answered. "Eight years is a long time. What was the doctorate in?"

"Comparative literature," I answered.

"Interesting. And what is the career plan, after graduation? Teaching?"

"Writing," I said.

"I see," she answered, less convinced. "Well, I will call the owner and see what she says."

"Thank you!"

She murmured a few words into the receiver and turned to me with a counteroffer.

"She says the lowest she can do is $175."

I countered that I'd like $175 even -- no tax. Especially since I was paying cash.

The owner agreed.

In all, saved $76!

And I left the store with a pair of earrings from the turn of the last century which I will wear the day my grandkids get their doctorates. Hmm... What will people be studying in 2070? A few dissertations I'd love to see:

"Toward a statistical understanding of the time travel habits of infants."

"Peanuts: How a small beige legume brought peace and goodwill to mankind."

"Lunarian communities and the emigration equation: Three case studies"

"How a free press turned Latvia into the 21st century superpower."

"Remember cancer? Hierarchies of epidemiology at the CDC before the Fritzaur Fungus eradicated all disease."

"Askologia: Revisiting La Roxy's Italian period, 2030 to 2061."

What would be your ideal dissertation topic for 2070??


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