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Jewish World Review August 9, 2002 / 1 Elul, 5762

Art Buchwald

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Consumer Reports

Things in my attic | One of my favorite places on Martha's Vineyard is the flea market, where people bring things from their attics of great value - or little value - whichever comes first.

My dream is to find a valuable painting that the owner doesn't know is priceless.

This week I went to the flea market with my hopes high. I passed up a tea kettle from 1942, a Barbie doll with one arm, a torn quilt with the words "God Bless Our Home," a bluefish mounted on a plaque that said, "Caught by Gerry Hawke in 1971," a pair of used children's sneakers, the flat back tire of a bicycle and a copy of Boy's Life.

There, of course, were other bargains, but my eye was still looking for a priceless painting - either a Gauguin, a Van Gogh, or an early Picasso (which I always considered to be the time of his best work).

I was going through a stack of old Coca-Cola posters at one of the booths when suddenly I saw an oil painting that looked familiar. It was a Leonardo da Vinci picture of angels having a picnic. I knew the only other one was in the Vatican. Obviously, it had dust on it, and when I wiped it off with my sleeve, it looked as if da Vinci had painted it yesterday.

I pretended I wasn't interested. This always works at the flea market because the people there like to haggle.

"That's a nice collection of Coca Cola posters," I said.

"My grandson found them in the back of the attic in a trunk that Grandma kept."

"What is this ratty painting with saints all over it?"

"I don't know. It was in the attic with all my Coca Cola posters and I figured some sucker would go for it."

"Out of curiosity, how much are you asking for it?"

"I don't know, maybe fifty dollars."

I looked it over carefully. "I don't know. It's not even signed."

"I would charge a hundred if it was signed," he said.

"I'll give you thirty-five," I said.

"Make it forty-five and I'll throw in a poster of the Three Stooges."

He was getting desperate. I said, "Forty-five and also a poster of Marilyn Monroe with her skirt flying up over the subway vent."

He said, "That's my best poster."

I started to walk away. He said, "Wait, I'm reconsidering. If you want that lousy painting it's yours for forty-two dollars and fifty cents."

I had him wrap it up for me. Once I locked in the deal for the da Vinci I started wandering around the flea market.

I bought a television set that was made in 1959, an eight-piece set of dinnerware that only had four plates left, a silver flask with "Vancouver 1990" engraved on it and a pillow that said, "Love Me, Love My Dog." And to top it off, I had my blood pressure taken by an American Red Cross volunteer.

It was one of the most successful trips to the flea market I ever had. I couldn't wait to get to New York and show Sotheby's what I had bought.

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07/16/02: Money as a game
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06/13/02: The Accused
06/11/02: Don't let them know
06/06/02: The FBI changes its ways
06/04/02: RED ALERT
05/28/02: Malice On Purpose: I'm scared!
05/23/02: Barbie Doll
05/21/02: Why Bermuda?
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05/15/02: Those in depression
05/09/02: Mother's Day in the market
05/07/02: Salary negotiations
04/26/02: Homeland security
04/24/02: The greatest breakthrough
04/18/02: Conflict of Interest
04/15/02: The Sign That Couldn't
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04/08/02: The Young Audience
03/31/02: Safe Deposit for Sale
03/26/02: Au Revoir to Soft Money
03/21/02: Andersen Defense Fund?
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03/13/02: Shadow government in the sandbox
03/07/02: The Way It Is
03/05/02: Not telling the truth
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02/27/02: The players are mad

© 2002, TMS