So I’m a total hypocrite. I just spent time ranting about “Best of…” lists and why they don’t work. But all I seem to have left are mind snapshots – little snippets of memory that in and of themselves don’t mean a whole lot, but I still find the need to get them down on paper. Maybe by listing my World of Mirth (WOM) memories, I can finally let them go…
(I’ll be adding to this list all month long – I’m shooting for 100, but who knows…)
1. Red Lamp – I have this fantastic black and gold lamp with a red shade, people always comment on it, on how “neat” it is. I always reply, “I got that at WOM.” The shade is custom made, 1950’s red tiered with black streaks. I love it. Every Christmas I have to move it to make way for our tree, and as I move it I can’t help thinking, “I got this at WOM.” Every time.
2. Celluloid Cow – I used to have a small cow made of celluloid that I placed on layaway while I was working at WOM; I always worked for store credit – too much cool stuff in that store. It was so thin and delicate and flammable. I don’t know where it is now.
3. “To Get” Notebook – Kathryn had this little spiral notebook she kept behind the checkout area – if a person couldn’t find what they needed in the store, she’d write it down to look for at flea markets later. She found so much stuff for my house that way. Mostly lamps :0)
4. Couch – Bryan and I talking at the newer location back by the coffee bar. I comment on how much I love the couch we’re sitting on. He asks, “You want it?” I bought it out from under him and he helped me move it that day. It had arms so wide you could sit cross-legged on it. Beige, rough fabric, 1950’s lines. I made out with my husband for the first time on that couch. My cat Gunther scratched the crap out of it. I wish I still had it.
5. Patio Furniture – Again at the newer location, Kathryn had this terrific patio set – white rubber tubing wrapped around black wrought iron. It was 1950’s style and lived outside the store. People would buy coffee and sit in the lounger and watch the people of Carytown walk by. One day I commented on the great set and she asked, “You want it?” Six weeks of layaway later, the 6-piece set was mine. I had to sheepishly ask people to move so I could take it home. For a time it served as my entire living room suite. Now it lives on my front porch and I absolutely love it. It feels like Nana’s house.
6. Price – I can remember calculating sales tax on a calculator with big numbers, then writing it on the little pad with the carbon copy between the first sheet and the yellow sheet. Giving the customer the yellow sheet and putting in with their purchase – in those little paper bags with the ugly print that we got in bulk for cheap. Counting change out of the money box because we didn’t have a register.
7. Winkies – We had tons of them. I started my collection from Kathryn’s big backstock of winkies. Winkies are little pictures that move when you move them back and forth. They’re made of hard plastic with a kind of ridged, rough surface. We had ones of people dancing “The Frug” and one where a girl picked up a phone while people were doing the twist in the background. I bought those and another one of a rodeo cowboy that roped a calf over and over again when you turned the winkie just so. I pasted a magnet on the back and stuck it on my fridge. We kept them in a shoebox in little plastic sleeves – with tabs between them, categorized by activity. Dancing winkies, blinking winkies, walking winkies. I don’t think I’ve seen a winky since I stopped working there.
8. Roy – Kathryn had huge letters she had grabbed from a dumpster and hung on the back wall of the store – they spelled out “ROY” and I think they were part of a store sign. They were white, and wide, and always made me wonder where they ended up. Who bought Roy?
9. Disco Ball – I remember I bought a record player in the shape of a disco ball once and traded it at WOM for other stuff. Actually, it was a huge, clear and beige sphere that held a record player inside when you slid back the clear cover – kind of like a space ship peels back its door. In the middle where the records play there was a tiny disco ball that spun when the record played, and a light hit it and showed little glittery disco lights all over the sphere when you closed the cover. It was a sight to behold. Afterwards I regretted trading it because it was just such a weird thing to own, but Kathryn put it in a place of special regard – right by the checkout with a “Not For Sale” sign on it. That made this dorky girl feel so cool.
10. Camille Howard and Boogie Woogie – “Ooh, I’ve got the boogie and the blues…” I can remember keeping her CD on rotation the whole time I was working, often alone. There was no one in the store, Camille was wailin’ on the boombox, and I was straightening shelves. Once Mimi came from downstairs to ask a question, listened a moment, and said, “Who is this? I like this.” I felt so friggin’ cool right then. This was at a time in my life when my self-esteem was non-existent so that little throwaway comment stayed with me for a long time.
11. Wynona Carr and “Ding Dong Daddy” – “I wanna ding dong daddy!…I don’t want his money, he may not have a cent, but if he rings that ding dong bell, I’ll live with him in a tent!” One of the greatest lyrics ever. I used to listen to Wynona Carr too in the store, dusting shelves, singing along. My heart would race a little when customers came up the stairs because I was hoping they’d hear her sing and think I was cool for playing it. Yep, I used to care about that stuff back then. Maybe I still do a little.
12. Objects – I’ve just noticed that many of my so-called “memories” are wrapped around objects, and I wonder why that is. It’s like the objects are vessels of memory, they’re like vases, holding things in for me. A Pandora’s Box of memory. I look at the object and the memory of when I bought it, how I felt when I bought it, who I knew, the person I was, come pouring out. Should we put so much reverence in objects? Probably not. I’ve been decluttering a lot of objects away lately, out of my life, and I wonder if because of the tragedy these particular objects have become more precious than they might have been otherwise. Some of the objects I don’t even have anymore, they’re long gone, but I still remember them. Will I always keep these WOM objects now? Put them on some pedestal? I think it just coincidence. I love mid-century crap, and Kathryn sold a lot of mid-century crap. I love lamps, and she had a lot of lamps. And she had great taste in lamps.
13. Roller Coaster of Love – Kathryn had a 70’s funk and soul tape that she would play in the store – one of the songs was The Ohio Players singing, “Roller Coaster”. I stole it. Well, not stole it, borrowed it to take home and make a copy of. I just never got around to doing it. I still have that tape, and my love for 70’s R&B has grown and grown over the years because of it. I never stop listening to Soul Town 53 on Sirius. I remember there was a shitty rendition of “Love Train” on that tape by some crappy 80’s band – it was a horrible remake. The original is much better.
14. Carter’s Limo – Once when I was working, my friend Carter called from D.C. and insisted that I drive from Richmond that afternoon because he and his brother were getting a limo for the night. No reason, they just felt like getting a limo. Carter was rich, lived in a brownstone right near Foggy Bottom metro, went to GW, and I remember he had a huge collection of Patrick Nagel art. The guy who did the Rio cover for Duran Duran. I even sold him my two prints when I needed some money. I had bought them with my employee discount a few years before when I worked at Art Explosion. God, that was a million years ago…
Anyway, he wouldn’t take no for an answer. I just remember standing in an empty store, broke because I’d spent all my wages on store credit, trying to justify a 2-hour drive up I-95 for one night of limo-ing, then driving home the next morning to work again. I think I did end up going after all and having a great time. Why am I writing about this? I just remember how weird it felt, having this rich friend with all this $$$ and evidently time to spend trying to convince someone to go out, and I’m standing amidst all of this “stuff”: Javanese puppets, 50’s lamps, winkies, ancient postcards, tee shirts, German tin toys, and other various knick knacks. It just seemed so strange…
15. Carytown Location – I remember Kathryn taking me aside once and telling me she was thinking about moving the store to a new location on Cary Street, and did I think this was a good idea? She was worried that Mimi would think she was abandoning her, because I guess they had started out as some sort of business partners or something. She was worried that because people had to come through Exile to get to World of Mirth that she wasn’t getting enough foot traffic. But she was also worried about not wanting to lose Mimi’s friendship. I felt honored that she would ask my opinion, and thought it was a great show of the kind of person she was – not worried about the bottom line so much as to how her friend would take it. I guess I do remember this because she did end up moving, and her business growing a lot because of it. One of those, “I knew her when…” kind of things I guess.
16. Store Credit – I hardly ever got a paycheck working there. It would have been a waste of time. So much stuff arrived at the store that I wanted that I just ended up turning my whole paycheck right over to Kathryn. So we came up with an agreement where I would work for store credit – in that way she could “pay” me more per hour, which worked out well for both of us. She had more turnover of merchandise, less payroll, and I got to grow my beloved 1950’s collection of crap.
17. German Tin Toys – WOM had a huge stock of really expensive, handmade German tin toys, not antiques, but really cool nonetheless. They were cars, planes, guys on bicycles, things like that. You’d wind them up with a key, and they would go spinning crazily until they wound down. No one ever bought any – the VCU art student who frequented the store couldn’t really afford them, but we’d always keep one example out of the box to play with. I remember the boxes being really cool too – really detailed drawings of the toy inside, all the text in German. Old-looking.