NOTE: I know that I am outpacing you at the moment, dear readers, which is to say that I am writing these dispatches more frequently than you will care to read them. But, so be it—for the moment at least—because I find writing this blog to be an oddly effective anti-depressant, and so I will continue to write as much as I please, with very little regard at all for your proclivities.
“Please,” implored the elder flopsy-duckit, for the third time.
“Oh, fine,” grudgingly consented the duck-rabbit, who felt irritated at the prospect of having to stand up and walk anywhere.
“What do you want to look at in there anyway?” asked the duck-rabbit, as they walked towards Wilshire Boulevard.
The elder-flopsy duckit paused before answering.
“There’s something they might have that’s really cool that I want to show you, but they might not have it … anyway, you have to wait and see … it’s a surprise.”
Our destination was a shop called Light Bulbs Unlimited. Although I had walked past it many times, I had never been inside. When I Googled it to check the address, I noticed that it was described by Google as an “emporium,” which made it sound rather grand and exotic, although this had not been my impression on the countless occasions that I had walked past the slightly shabby storefront.
“What kind of person do you think owns the store?” the elder flopsy-duckit asked excitedly as we turned onto Wilshire.
I frowned. “What do you mean?”
“Like, do you think it’s a man or a woman … is it someone old or young?”
“Ummm … I don’t know. I guess I’ve never thought about it. Until now.”
He continued eagerly, “For some reason I have always thought that it’s an old man who owns it …. Can’t you imagine it?”
It was Sunday, and as we neared the store I realized that although I had looked up the address, I hadn’t thought to check if it was open today.
It was not.
“Dang!” exclaimed the elder flospy-duckit in frustration. “Man, that’s so unfair!”
I assured him we would come back at the earliest opportunity.
“Anyway, since we’re here, let’s look in the window,” I suggested.
We peered through the windows. Now that we couldn’t go in, it suddenly seemed rather intriguing. There were chandeliers, and a display of “antique & Edison style” light bulbs that did seem emporium-worthy. Maybe it was owned by a mysterious old man.
“We’ll come back tomorrow,” I promised.
I returned the next day—which is to say, today—with both flopsy-duckits in tow. As we walked in, I felt a twinge of disappointment. There was no old man, just a bunch of youngish friendly employees in red T-shirts. Inside there were shelves with rows upon rows of different sorts of light bulbs. I was unimpressed. But then I heard the elder flopsy-duckit call “Mom!” and beckon me towards a darkened back recess.
All three of us gazed up and around with pleasure: here, in the back, were the lava lamps, plasma globes, spinning siren lights, and, hanging over our heads, glittering disco balls. This was an emporium, or, no, that wasn’t quite right … not so much an emporium as a, a: the word that popped into my mind, possibly because I am teaching The Rape of the Lock tomorrow, was grotto:
“Pale Spectres, gaping Tombs, and Purple Fires:
Now Lakes of liquid Gold, Elysian Scenes,
And Crystal Domes, and Angels in Machines.”
Standing there, I was reminded of a place that I hadn’t thought of for a long time: the lighting department in Jones Brothers. Jones Brothers was a department store on Holloway Road that my family frequented with great regularity when I was a child. It was founded by William Jones in 1867, and closed in 1990, to the shock and disbelief of Islingtonians everywhere.  Really; I’m not exaggerating. That store was truly beloved.
It may not have been the case that we went there every weekend, but it felt as though we did. Not that I minded: like everyone else, I loved Jones Brothers. It had everything: household appliances, clothes, knick-knacks. It was a true emporium. And my favorite department was lighting (haberdashery came a close second). When my parents were off in some more boring department making necessary household purchases, I would linger in lighting, which always seemed to be darker than strictly necessary to show off the lamps and light fixtures, rendering it a gorgeously romantic, dusky wonderland. Just being in there had a calming and restorative effect on me.
It may have been at this moment that the elder-flopsy duckit, sensing that I was lost in reverie and thus perhaps vulnerable to persuasion, made his move.
“Mom, I think Dad really wants a disco ball,” he said.
“Does he?” I asked, skeptically.
“Yeah, we talked about it; we could put it in the living room. Can we get one?”
“No. I think they’re really expensive.”
“Can you just ask how much it is?”
I approached one of the friendly red-shirted fellows. “Excuse me, how much is your cheapest disco ball?”
He went to check in the back and returned with a basket-ball sized globe. The tiny silver mosaic pieces glittered as he held it up.
“This one’s forty dollars,” he said.
“Really?” I said, surprised that something so beautiful could be so cheap.
I felt a little giddy. “Let’s get it!” I said to the elder flopsy-duckit, who looked astonished and delighted.
Although it turned out, when we got home, to no-one’s surprise, that He-Who-Must-Be-Preserved had not in fact especially wanted a disco ball, our enthusiasm was contagious, and he was soon intent on the task of hanging the disco ball with fishing line from the basement ceiling. Then, the moment of truth: the lights were turned off, the disco ball was spun, and He-Who-Must-Be-Preserved shone bike lights on the ball so that the patterns of light would reflect around the room.
The effect was pretty, in a subtle kind of way.
“Hmmm. It doesn’t work very well,” said the elder-flopsy duckit.
“Oh well,” he said, and, his interest entirely exhausted, he went back upstairs with He-Who-Must-Be-Preserved, flicking the basement light back on as he did so.
“HEY!” yelled the younger flopsy-duckit. “Don’t turn the LIGHTS on, turn the MUSIC on!
I laughed, flipped the lights back off, and conjured Madonna from my phone. Then the younger flopsy-duckit and I held hands and whirled around and around in the half-light until we were dizzy.