A friend passed along a catalog she'd received in the mail.
As catalogs go, it's no L.L. Bean. Scully & Scully Park Avenue is practically a slick magazine, with heavy paper, beautiful photography and the kind of binding described as "tight, bright and unmarred" on websites devoted to books and their covers. All that's missing is a masthead with "Anna Wintour" on top and a fashion column called "Do's and Don'ts."
If people such as Bill Gates and Warren Buffet get catalogs in their mailbox, this seems like one of the catalogs they'd get. And they're glad to have it, too, because when one of their friends has a birthday or gets married, they can't just pick up a six-pack of wax fragrance cubes and a slow cooker from Bed, Bath & Beyond. They have to do better than that.
This catalog allows them to do better without leaving their house, which you and I -- or at least I -- would consider a house the way we think the Taj Mahal is a building.
Take this 18-inch-high porcelain eagle. Well, the catalog calls it an eagle. It's certainly a large bird, described in the text as "our national emblem" (made in Hungary), but this bird is white, gold and blue. The white-and-blue pattern makes the bird look polka-dotted. He's posed on a rock with his wings spread, and he seems to be wearing a blue-and-white onesie. The effect is startling, in the sense that a large bird wearing a Gymboree bodysuit is not what a person expects to see, even in a pricey New York catalog. If that thing were on my dining room table, I'm pretty sure my younger grandson wouldn't put foot inside the room. We have a large stuffed dog that looks like a golden retriever, and my grandson is so wary of it we finally had to close it up in a closet.
This bird, with its talons and its 23-inch wingspan, is a lot scarier than that dog. But no matter, because at $12,950 -- plus $40 for shipping -- this bird will never be in my house's airspace.
Let's consider something more affordable. Here's another bird, a heron, full name "Daum Pate De Verre Crystal Collection Heron." Makes me hum Fleetwood Mac: "Now here I go again, the crystal heron. I keep my heron to myself ... " Not this one, though. It's only $1,075, which compared to that dotted eagle is a bargain, but still. I buy berries out of season, so I have to economize in other ways.
You'll think this whole catalog is nothing but birds, but now I'm contemplating a brace of swans, each 10.5 inches high. "Highly intricate feathering is hand-plated with sterling silver with gold vermeil eyes and beaks," the catalog says. And only $5,175 for the pair.
Now, listen. It's one thing to have a set of silverware passed down from my mother, silverware that sits in a drawer from one Christmas to the next because using it means finding the silver polish, the time and the derring-do to sit down and devote myself to removing tarnish. I'll polish a few serving pieces -- spoons, forks, butter knives -- in the spirit of the holidays, but I won't throw $5,000 at birds whose only purpose in life is to sit around oxidizing.
Silver polish is a toxic combination of paint stripper and 1950s dentistry, and anyway, my house is the wrong habitat for these two. "Truly exceptional as a centerpiece or on the mantel," the catalog effuses, but these swans would look as appropriate on the washing machine as they would on my dining-room table, and our wood-burning stove didn't come with a mantel.
Try as I might, I can't find one thing in this entire catalog I'd be willing to buy. A $1,395 leather backgammon set in its own carrying case? A $5,450 Myrtle Kidney Desk with Leather Top? (It must be called a kidney desk because you have to sell one to afford it.) A teensy-weensy Pearl Owl Pin for $5,250? No, no and no.
I guess this is why I'm not on Scully & Scully's mailing list.
Write to Margo Bartlett at firstname.lastname@example.org.