Monday, June 25, 2012
Jennifer and I went to a memorial service this weekend for our neighbor Bob, who died last fall. He was an architect, and a dad, and a husband, and a good guy.
The thing I'll always remember him for, aside from the fact that he was kind to my boys, is that he and I tried to buy a set of original blueprints of Fallingwater at auction a couple of years ago.
I saw them posted on the auction site, and having no money whatsoever, I immediatelty sent an email to Bob saying, let's pool our resources and buy them! The estimated value was only $5K because they were in such poor shape, so I figured if we had $10K to spend we'd surely get them. They had to be worth--what, $100K? A million? Original blueprints to the most iconic house of the 20th century?
You know, people value things differently, but Bob and I were of like minds on this one. These were priceless. These were like--how could anyone even auction off such a thing? How could they possibly be valued at $5K?
So together we went down to the auction house to see them in advance, and the agent there pulled them out of their plastic sleeves, and we spread them out on the table and touched them and were about to pee our pants just looking at them.
We agreed to put in $5K each, and we figured, hey, if we get them, we get them; if we don't, it's not the end of the world.
Bob wasn't able to attend the live auction, so I went by myself. I got there a full hour early, so I had to wait for about 60 other lots to be auctioned off. There were only about 30 bidders in the room, all in folding metal chairs, plus the auctioneer and several people manning a phone bank for remote bidders.
With about 10 lots to go my palms were starting to sweat. Most of the items were going for near the minimum, and some weren't even selling. Could it be possible? With 5 lots to go I was visibly shaking. My mouth was dry. My feet were tapping uncontrollably on the floor.
Then the Fallingwater blueprints came up, and the opening bid was $1,000, and I raised my paddle, and then it was $2,000, and then it was $3,000, and I kept raising my paddle. And then it was $6,000, and paddles stopped going up, and suddenly there were only two of us left. Come on, baby, come on, baby, get those damn blueprints. $7,000. $8,000. $9,000. Come on, come on, drop out, you son-of-a-bitch, those are mine! And then it was $10,000. Damn. Damn.
Okay. I'm in. I'm in. I'm in. Come on.
And then it was $11,000.
And then it was $12,000.
And someone else got those damn Fallingwater blueprints.
The last conversation I ever had with Bob was a couple of months before he passed away. He had been diagnosed with cancer. He was looking thin, but he was smiling. He said maybe we could contact the auction house and see if they'd give us the name of the winning bidder. You know, they probably wouldn't do it--why would they do it?--but, hey, he had cancer, right? Maybe they'd make an exception!
He was a good guy. Life is short. Too damn short.