Travels North (Slightly More West Than Normal), Pawn Shop Miracles and Darwin

For some reason, Porter and her college friends spent four years across the Hudson from Kingston, NY (and even made numerous trips across the Rhinecliff-Kingston Bridge for Target runs and photo supplies), but never really managed to investigate the town...which pre-dates the Revolution and today is loaded with great little antiques shops and one great, still somewhat affordable heap of architectural salvage glory (Jean, it's everything you said and more). It's hardly a secret destination, but compared to the little towns East of the river (which I adore), this seems more local and less touched by the city folk and weekenders. After almost a decade of trips north, she and I finally popped up there last weekend and found a trove of treasures. 

For months, I've been fantasizing about finding a thick gold band to create a stack on my non-wedding ring finger. While this is the least difficult kind of ring to find, I passively thought about the kind of people who wear thick gold rings (happily married men!) and those who don't want those thick gold rings (divorced men!) and the kinds of places where those men might go to get rid of the thick gold rings (pawn shops!). Well, there was Sam's Swap Shop on North Fourth Street where many a man has decided to part with his shot guns, banjos...and, bingo, wedding bands. I went in like a laser and pointed at one of the hundreds propped into the trays. The owner, the granddaugher of the founder (Sam, I suppose), brought it out and that puppy slipped on perfectly like that glass slipper on Cinderella's impossibly small foot (this, I guess, is not normal in the Kingston, NY pawn shop world). In the days since, Porter has been horrified at the fact that I'm currently sporting and ogling a symbol of a destroyed relationship (at best, maybe?) or (at worst, maybe) a piece of jewelry plucked off of a corpse. But I love it and my joy will surely erase all those bad things.   

Across the street from Sam's Swap sits Half Moon Books, a great little used book shop where we both scored stacks of out-of-print gems, including The Book of Cowboys by Holling C. Holling (a man I should've plopped a gold band onto in another life), Louise Fatie's Happy Lion in Africa, which ranks up there with Curious George and Babar, and Alan Moorehead's beautiful look back at Darwin and the Beagle. Critics panned the poor book for being a lightweight of new Darwinian insights, but no one could deny its beauty. It's filled with over 50 prints and illustrations completed around the time of Darwin's voyage. Here are details of a few. You can buy it for mere pennies online.

The end papers.