Jewish World Review August 9, 2002 / 1 Elul, 5762
http://www.NewsAndOpinion.com | 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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