I got the strangest and most wonderful Christmas gift last week. No, not socks...
Here's how it happened: Working like I do at C. Mariani Antiques in San Francisco is kind of like that movie The Boy in the Plastic Bubble. The only difference is that I'm no boy, our gallery isn't a bubble, and we don't carry ANYTHING in plastic.
Ok, so that made no sense. Or did it? Well, if you worked where I do, you'd see there really is an analogy between life at C. Mariani and that movie. Because working here makes you forget the outside world and start to think everything's beautiful from the furniture to the clients to the boss (Claudio) and even to our posh restrooms (I think we're one of the only galleries that hangs Old Masters in the bathrooms.)
So, every day I sit blithely on my Aeron chair among 4,000 exquisite antiques, drinking lattes, and gabbing with my clients, always surrounded by exquisite antiques worthy of Versailles, the immense chandeliers sparkling with crystal, chairs glowing in all their gilded beauty, and gleaming wood surfaces, all thanks to our team of two full time housekeepers dusting and waxing around the clock to make sure that everything's perfect.
Oh, I forget to mention our trusty plant service that makes sure we have fresh Cattleya and assorted other exotic orchids and plants pouring out of a variety of urns, jardinieres, and cachepots.
We even have a workshop crew nattily dressed in smart blue uniforms who are always courteous, kind, fun and oh-so-skilled in their trades. So getting jaded to the perfection of C. Mariani is pretty easy to do.
And so it's no surprise that I've come to see the world only through Mariani rose colored glasses, Tivo'ing past the "ugly" TV news segments on the Middle East and only rarely taking time to appreciate our men and women risking their lives there for me and you.
But even when you live in a pretty bubble like C. Mariani, you can still get small wake up calls that remind you how harsh the reality is outside and how you how lucky you are to be safe, warm and secure in a world that is uncertain, dangerous and tragic.
And so I recently got one of those wake up calls in a series of emails. It started pretty innocuously:
"Dear Sir, just curious on how to order your colorless C. Mariani antque wax featured in an article in this month's Traditional Home magazine, Signed William E TSgt USAF ANG 200RHS/LGS".
So I emailed him back the usual response (we get a lot of these requests both for our clear and tinted waxes):
"Dear Bill, Thank you for enquiry regarding our colorless wax. Each tin blah blah blah-blah blah and also blah-ba. Buzz"
So he emails me back:
"Thank you Buzz, I actually called your office and ordered my can of wax, received it and I'm very please with the results. But ironically, I thought your name sounded familiar to me, and then it hit me. You're the guy with that Buzz on Antiques column. And I realized I spent all of last summer in Afghanistan reading your wonderful articles—I especially liked the one on how many people can sit at a dining table. Thanks, Bill"
That last email stopped me in my tracks. Did he say Afghanistan? As in dusty, Taliban, Spider holed, "Can't even get Evian Mist by the Pool" Afghanistan? I just couldn't believe that anyone that far away and not even staying in a Four Seasons would want to read my blog, unless he thought Buzz referred to a drug connection.
Anyhow, I was stunned. And it made me realize how incredibly lucky I am to be safe and warm right here right now. To me, if that isn't a Christmas miracle I don't know what is. It also made me wonder, How many Georgian breakfronts can you fit into a pup tent and with all those dust storms why bother waxing it all? That alone would be a miracle.
As it happens, Sergeant Bill thankfully returned to the States last October after his tour of duty defending our lives and lifestyles was complete. And he assured me he's not living in a pup tent but rather in a home filled with antiques desperately in need of our special antique wax.
He also confirmed for me that when he was in Afghanistan, he couldn't recall seeing even one museum- quality 18th c. period piece. NOTE TO SELF: Better close down our Kabul gallery.
Anyhow, I just wanted to take a moment to wish Bill and all of our servicepersons in uniform a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. We appreciate the job you're doing and I hope we stay mindful throughout the year how lucky we are to have your protection.
And for that matter, Happy Holidays to you all and to all a good night!