To shmy…to wander about with no intended destination.
I had a wonderful friend and mentor named Melvin who taught me the true meaning of this delicious Yiddish word, Shmy.
Melvin was a dignified and powerful attorney who had Jason Robards-good looks and Alan Dershowitz-sagaciousness. He entered the courtroom like Moses parting the Red Sea. But. Give him a Saturday away from the bustle and tension of his busy law firm and suddenly he was a quiet, unassuming, master Shmyer who could spend an entire day wandering along Cape Cod’s country roads, never passing a yard sale he couldn’t stop and enjoy. If a bargain was found he negotiated with sparkling blue eyes and a deceptive charm that was often turned with laser-like determination on many an unsuspecting jury. I once saw him bargain for a $5 bamboo fishing pole that had neither line nor guides, but he “landed it” for $3. The fact that none of us fished…well, who cared? It was a bargain!
His wife and my dearest friend, Maxie, had a triple garage at their Cape house, not for the cars, but for extra furniture, dishes, bric-a-brac and other treasures from Melvin’s Saturday sojourns by the sea. The garage brimmed with the useless to the precious – none of which could be disposed of by a garage sale — Melvin would have been standing at the curb buying everything back! That garage practically furnished our daughter’s first apartment. We always said he should have been a Bloomingdale’s buyer. Once when we were shmying at Filene’s Basement, (the original one in Boston) he insisted that I couldn’t live without two matching flower pots simply because the price had been reduced three times. “It’s no money,” he exclaimed. I bought them, of course, and they are still among my most precious possessions because of his connection to them.
My friend Ilene and I went shmying this week: a healthy and delicious lunch on the patio at our favorite restaurant Pacifica, a trip to the Renaissance Spa and undiscovered delights tucked into the alleys along El Paseo‘s busy upscale retail district, where objet d’art prices can command upwards of $100,000.
One delightful find was Dr. Orchids, (73-160 El Paseo) – an amazing little shop brimming with live orchids growing in gorgeous pottery. Owner Young Lai, who is knowledgable and friendly, has created a lovely zen-like oasis in his shop that exudes calm and serenity while reflecting his passion for his exquisite flowering plants.
Another wonderful surprise was Cilantro Gallery which features unique jewelry and whimsical – and expensive – art. This gallery is so charming I was ready to redecorate our whole house. Odel, the suave Spanish owner, warned us that one of his featured artists, Carlos Albert, is now in his 70’s, and might only be creating his art for another year or so. Whether that’s true or hype, there are a couple of his pieces that need to come home with me. We’ll definitely stop in again next time we’re shmying.
Melvin taught me many things over the course of thirty plus years…but among the most important was taking the time to find such wonders. Shmying was his version of being in the moment. Ilene and I would never have found either of these shops, or met Odel or Young Lai, had we not taken the time to wander with wonder, along El Paseo!
RIP my wonderful friend, Melvin. I never pass a sale without thinking of you.