• Carmen Marie Fabio

Paradise lost


“How much for the colour TV?” I asked the nice lady behind the counter of my favourite second-hand shop in the Montreal suburb of Notre-Dame-de-Grâce decades ago.

“Seventy-five dollars,” she answered.

“Would you take $60?” I countered.


With the extra $15 used for cab fare, a friend helped me lug the monstrosity home and though it may not seem like such a big deal in today's world where everyone has a sophisticated computer screen tucked into the back pocket of their jeans, that colour television was a cherished find.

As a broke teenager in a small apartment whose ex-boyfriend had recently gotten custody of our shared Sony portable, the lack of a TV was the stuff adolescent dramas are made of.

My newly purchased 21-inch screen with the fake wood-grain exterior was awesome, but not without its idiosyncrasies. A folded-up piece of cigarette pack was necessary to hold the fine-tuning knob in place so the channel reception didn't wander away.

The speakers had an annoying habit of picking up the broadcasts of an area ham radio operator, adding a sputtering layer of radio-feedback staccato over whatever I was watching.

The remote control looked annoyingly like my calculator and on more than one occasion as I sat at the coffee table in my living room doing math homework, I would inadvertently change the channel whilst trying to work out an equation.

But most disconcerting was the mysterious green powder that would regularly materialize on the screen.

“My new TV is giving off green dust,” I told my brother when he visited.

“A TV doesn't give off dust,” he said. “It attracts dust.”

Whether it was giving or taking, the dust was a dull forest green, a shade that matched nothing else in my apartment and to this day, I don't know – and really don't want to know – its origin.

The shop, aptly named the 'Recession Boutique' was the source of many bargains and oddities, some of which I still have, and even if we had no money in our pockets, we would visit the place for the sheer entertainment value of the rapidly changing stock.

I hadn't thought about the store, or that cranky television set, for years until moving off island, becoming a journalist, and one day happening upon a book titled 'Memoirs of an Antique Dealer - the Politically Incorrect version' (I don't think there's a politically correct issue) written by Hudson resident and proprietor of Ye Auld Curiosité Boutique on Main Road, Frank Hicks – the same proprietor of the Recession Boutique years back.

Of course I'd visited his Hudson shop with my kids many times to peruse the novelty items, comic books, antique toys, old coins and trinkets, and just for the sheer entertainment value of the rapidly changing stock. Hey, old habits die hard. If my dog was in tow, he knew that Frank's wife Marilyn usually had dog biscuits in her pockets.

I'm the proud owner of all kinds of baubles and bits from Frank's store, including glassware, jewellery, coins, silverware, old keys, and a single elk antler that's almost 100 years old, purchased as a birthday gift for my son. Seeing what I'd bought, another customer offered to sell me a full cat skeleton but alas, his asking price was out of my budget.

Like me, my sons bought all matter of things they didn't need, from comic books, replica Japanese warrior swords, and myriad CDs.

“How do you suppose Frank got a Spacehog CD?” my eldest asked.

“It'll probably be a chapter in his next book,” I hazarded.

Frank christened his closing sale with a sign posted outside his Main Road location that reads 'They're paving paradise to put up a parking lot' sale as his century-old rented coach-house is slated for demolition for a condo project.

And, just like the song says, “You don't know what you've got til it's gone.”

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