There are folks who are always on the lookout for that rare bird that watchers covet. I am not talking celebrity sightings, rather the genuine feathered creatures that for the well-outfitted aficionado, camouflage from head-to-toe, binoculars with superior optics and unending patience, is an obsession. Peterson’s bird guide in one pocket, checklist in the other, excess tenacity in reserve, the serious birdwatcher is a force to be reckoned with.
But there are other “collectors” to whom observation, the art of seeing is a potent skill. To wit, let’s take the example of the intrepid curiosity-seeker who is always on the lookout for something queer, bizarre, rare, unusual or out-of place. Camera always ready and in hand, this person has a quick trigger finger for that moment waiting to be memorialized.
Such an instance occurred yesterday in the parking lot of The Minuteman, a popular family eatery at the edge of Morristown, NJ. On this perfect autumn day, a fully restored, 105-year old Buick Model 35 glided into a diagonal parking space and sandwiched itself between a 3 or 4-year old Honda and a Kia—both newborns compared to the Buick. Even the most blasé and unobservant were arrested by the perfection of this machine marvel. Just to be on the road and functioning at 105 years is amazing. Looking as if the inspector just released it from the factory, brass polished, rich blue finish shining, furniture-finished wood agleam, this was a sight to behold. In 1912, it would have taken two years of a schoolteacher’s pre-tax wages to pay the $1,000 price tag. It wasn’t until the next year, 1913 that the 16th Amendment was ratified which officially marked the beginning of Federal income tax collection.
When asked if he restored the car, the gentleman/owner responded, “No, my checkbook did it!” A passionate collector who, in addition to the 4-cylinder Buick owns a 1911 Cadillac, a Stanley-Steamer, an early Ford and more, was proud but quite matter-of-fact, perhaps feeling as if he was just on a lunch outing with and old friend.
It is refreshing for a change to glimpse not just a beautiful rarity but to experience a lesson in endurance–not obsolesce.