That “Americana” feeling

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This is the time of year that my mind turns to Manhattan. It’s cold there, surprisingly cold, maybe even snowy and often rainy. The buildings make each street a wind tunnel, so you can never get away from the icy blasts.

It’s not the frozen fingers and long wintry morning waits for the subway that I’m thinking about, though. It’s Americana Week starting on Saturday, Jan. 19.

For the last seven years I have made a two or three day pilgrimage to my old home to check out the auctions and the shows – more than anything the shows. There is The American Antiques Show, The Winter Show, Antiques at the Armory and, normally, The Stella Pier Show. There are also a whole host of other shows that happen in and around the week, but those four usually constitute the heart.

Two things that have been a steady part of Americana Week for me, however, will not be happening this year: Stella has had to cancel its January Piers show, as we reported some weeks back, due to construction, and I will not be anywhere close to NYC a week or so from now. It’s all about proximity.

Stella cannot fight City Hall, and cannot fight the cruise ship operators that are driving the reconstruction of the space. I cannot fight gravity, which has me on the ground, living, in the Midwest. I will indeed miss cold Manhattan, but I will be at those shows in spirit.

Important American history is everywhere in Manhattan. Most every building downtown witnessed the pivotal events of 1776, and within almost every corner of the island there are the artifacts of that time, and before; it is at TAAS and The Winter Show that these things come out.

Walking the opening night party of TAAS is any antique lover’s dream, watching the best in the business do what they do best. Walking the press preview for The Winter Show is surreal. It is a show where, if you have to ask the price of a piece without a price tag – and there are a lot of them – then you can’t afford the answer. It is, literally, like a museum where you can buy what’s in the galleries if you had the money to burn.

I do not have the money to burn, but I will miss my yearly ritual. I will not see the friends I have made over the years, and I will not get to sit down for barbecued ribs at Virgil’s on 44th Street. I will not get to see what all those dealers have brought to tempt the high rollers that can drop five and six figures on a painting or a piece of furniture or folk art.

Most of all, I will miss being able to be in the presence of those things that were witness to the history of this nation, that still bear the imprint of their original owners and that survived the great battles this nation underwent in order to be what it is today. It is that direct link to that time – and the ideas that came out of that time – which make these things “Americana,” not a price tag, or a venue.

This year I will simply have to settle for dreaming of Manhattan.

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