Things That Used To Be; City Style

When you look at the neighborhood around you, do you wonder what it used to be?

Did it used to be busy, or was it quieter? Is it safer than it was or a tad seedier? What kind of people roamed the road and what kind of wheels rolled down your street? Do your views today make you long for the past or yearn for the future?

Old Philadelphia, courtesy of thingamababy.com

We took a stroll around a pretty neglected area of Philadelphia over the weekend. We had no real destination. My pictures fail to capture the atmosphere unfortunately.  It’s something I’m learning to figure out as an amateur. I like to find the beauty in what “was”, and I like to dream about what used to inhabit the buildings and sidewalks that I walk.

When I see areas that are abandoned and half demolished, I wonder if the area is going through a transition to be rebuilt again or if the crumbling bricks are a true metaphor for the neighborhood. Time will tell.

I’m not foolish enough to think that the past was glamorous. Crime, corruption, drugs and heartlessness have always lurked in corners of every time period. There are still sights to be appreciated and customs that are appealing, particularly when we don’t know the pitfalls. The revolutionary buildings that I admire may not have seemed so beautiful with excrement being flung out the windows out into the alleys below.

There are times we can’t experience and life to be enjoyed today.  Generations will pass on, scenery will continue to change and traditions will be altered. That is how time works and it always will.

A Doily Away From “Old Lady”

The weekend is here, and that means antique shopping; walking from place to place buying old stuff I really don’t need but really, really want. I love finding antique pieces for our house, furniture to knickknacks that give our home the kind of character that Ikea can’t. My rule is that my purchases must always have function or they can’t come home with me.  Old kitchen tools are some of my favorite, even though old ladies condescendingly ask if I know what it is that I’m buying.  Yes, I know what it is, and I guarantee I’ll use it more than somebody buying it for just kitschy wall décor.

Antique character is not for everyone. My brother for example, thinks that old furniture is creepy and reminds him of dead people.  It’s a little extreme to me, but then again I’m an old soul, whereas he’s a hip 20 year old.

That being said, in a small home like ours, it’s easy to teeter on the side of excess. As I’ve said before, the key to life is “everything in moderation”. This holds true with antiques too unfortunately.  Our house is officially full of old furniture and I’m sad to say, I think I’m out of space.

When we bought our house from an elderly man, his children were going to donate all his furniture and were kind enough to ask if we’d like any.  For one, we didn’t have any furniture to start with, except for a bed, which, sorry but an antique mattress is one of the only things that would creep me out.  Two, so much of his furniture was from the 30’s and 40’s, with beautiful veneers and sturdy wood frames.  And who doesn’t want a full size Hi-Fi? I am still giddy about having the monster piece of furniture that plays my record collection with surprisingly good sound.  My husband even fashioned a jack so I can plug my iPod into it.  In the end, we all won and it also saved the owner’s kids the hassle of having it all hauled away.

Before we got our modern couches and rug, our house was filled with just old wood furniture.  We relied on the old couches from my Dad’s basement for a while and the house didn’t quite have our special touch to it; that attempt of a perfect mix between vintage and modern.  My Dad stopped over one day and said, “Shan, you’re about a doily away from living in an old lady house.  You’re not going to start covering the furniture in plastic are you?”

I began to feel instantly insecure.  Could my love of old “stuff” go too far?  Did I pass by being hip 20-something, only to teeter on retirement?

Maybe his mockery helped point me in the right direction.  Who knows where things could have gone.  It is safe to say that the mix is fairly complete now and we more often than not, get compliments on how our house looks like something out of a magazine.  And since I’m a pretty serious recycler, I’m happy to see these old wooden monsters have a new life outside of the landfill.