People have been asking me about the author bio on the back of my new book. Specifically, they’re wondering if it’s really true that I own 48 lamps. No, I tell them, the actual number is now 49 because I recently took in a rescue lamp.
I’m not sure how it happened. You pick up a few lamps here and there. Like aging, they all kind of snuck up on me.
For awhile, I was obsessed with Simon Pearce lamps. I even went so far as to plan a trip specifically to be able to visit the Vermont factory where these glass beauties are blown. For several years, I cruised for old glass oil lamps that had been retrofitted for electricity and then topped them with colorful Pierre Deux lampshades that I’d purchase in New York.
Then there was the summer of the wrought iron swing arm lamps. Seems everyone in Rehoboth was tossing these relics out on the curb. In a fit of nostalgia for old Rehoboth porch culture, I would drive around and pick up these unwanted lamps, spray paint them black, and adorn them with stylish seersucker and gingham shades, which ended up being too large and too heavy for the lamps to support. They toppled over at the slightest touch. Such fancy shades didn’t hold up too well out on my screened porch either. The mildew got ‘em.
I suppose one might term me a lamp “collector” but I bristle at such a label because of all the psychoanalytical baggage that comes with it. One explanation I’ve read for why people collect is because they were unloved children who learned to seek comfort by accumulating stuff. Another says it’s the existential desire to make sure an extension of one’s identity lives on after we die. Sure, perhaps if you’re a du Pont, a Walton, or a Rockefeller. Otherwise, you’re just curating a collection nobody will ever visit.
Evolutionary theorists say humans are unique in that we collect items purely for the satisfaction of seeking and owning them. This became possible once our ancestors gave up their nomadic lifestyles. Further, they also suggest that collecting was/is a way for a man to signal his ability to accumulate resources and thereby attract potential mates.
Man 1: “Dude, wanna come up and see my vintage Staffordshire pug dog collection?”
Man 2: “Woof, that’s hot!”
I’m not sure I buy into all that psycho babble. Some people collect for investment purposes or to preserve the past. Some do it because it’s fun. Whatever the reason, people do tend to collect things. Truman Capote collected crystal paperweights. John Waters collects books, which explains one of his best quotes: “If you go home with someone and they don’t have any books, don’t f—k ‘em!” A gay couple from Baltimore who shall remain anonymous confessed to me recently how their obsession with English wooden chairs bordered on hoarding. They have chairs everywhere but nowhere to sit!
I tend to think of myself more as a lamp connoisseur than as a collector. Simply said, I like lamps because I despise overhead lighting. With the exception of certain chandeliers and bathroom fixtures, overhead lighting reminds me too much of the office and hence work. More importantly, overhead lighting isn’t flattering. Lamps, on the other hand, are romantic and cast off a warm, calming, and inviting light that makes everyone look good, especially so if you use pink light bulbs. Lamps are definitely OG.
So there you have it. It’s all fairly sensible, I think. My obsession with daffodils and boxwoods on the other hand....