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Things are Looking Rather Belleek--on eBay!
The World is Getting Smaller
When I was a child, I would infrequently hear a grownup say, "The world is getting smaller."
As curious as I was, I don't ever remember asking anyone what that saying meant. The very thought of it scared the heck out of me. And so I shuffled my fear away in that imaginary toy box under my covers that contained everything that I was ever apprehensive about that I just knew would eventually go away as long as I didn't bring it up. You know what I'm talking about. Just about every kid has one of those places.
Huh? The world is getting smaller? If that was indeed the case, then what was to become of me? I didn't want to get smaller. I wanted to be a big boy. I wanted to have hair on my face like Daddy did so I could put that white stuff on each morning only to scrape it off. I wanted to get my driver's license like my Uncle George just did so I could gun the engine loudly and say bad words with my friends that made everybody laugh like crazy. I wanted to throw touchdown passes and make buzzer-beating shots from the corner of the basketball floor and strike out the side in the top of the ninth. And, yeah, if I was really honest, I wanted to have a girlfriend--but I'd deny it in a heartbeat to any of my 9-year-old pals.
But if the world was getting smaller, I didn't stand a chance.
The world...getting smaller? How did the grownups know that? Were they out measuring? And if not them, then somebody or something else was.
It was more than my little boy mind could bear to comprehend. And I wasn't going to push the issue, either. Because maybe, just maybe, if I didn't ask, it would go away. Yeah, that's it! It would reverse directions, like those flying saucers in the short subject serials that came after Tom and Jerry cartoons or The Three Stooges and just before the first of two cowboy or adventure movies on a Sunday afternoon at Pono or Roxy Theater in Kapa'a town.
Or maybe Superman could orbit the earth faster than light and make the world spin backwards...maybe then the world would quit shrinking.
Ah, it was more than a little boy could fathom in those small kid days growing up in the islands during the JFK era.
Regarding A Menehune Sighting
- Poalima Morning
Struggling with insomnia due to the island humidity, a man goes out for a walk. He finds himself drawn to the vicinity of Alakoko Pond and Nawiliwili Bay on the island of Kaua'i. There, he encounters the elusive Hawaiian leprechaun--a menehune!
Ah! So That's What They Meant!
The date and time when it happened for me is unknown. But it happened. You know what I mean...that moment when a child opens up his or her very own Pandora's box. And out spills the proverbial hill of beans...
- Bean #1: Santa Claus is not real. It's no coincidence that he was as tall and as big as Daddy was, and that he even had a black mole on his upper left cheek.
- Bean #2: All those teeth you lost and put under the pillow? That was no Tooth Fairy that kindly traded money for your ivories before you got up in the morning. That was a woman wearing Mommy's nightgown.
- Bean #3: You've raised enough chickens by now to know that rabbits have got nothing to do with eggs. Ever see a rabbit eating eggs? Well, okay, maybe poached ones...poached eggs , that is.
- Bean #4: Menehune? Those Hawaiian leprechauns? Built the fish ponds on Kaua'i? Are you kidding me? Ever seen one? Anyone put up a video on YouTube yet about a menehune sighting? I don't think so! (Note, or--actually--more of an Editorial Intrusion: Guys, to this day, I still secretly wish I can someday see a menehune!)
It was inevitable, then, that the true meaning of the world getting smaller emerged at some point in time. The great surges in industrial technology, post World War II, coupled with the relative thawing of the Cold War pall paved the way for quantum leap advancements in the sciences, especially the fields of telecommunications, computer software, and mass transportation.
The world truly is a smaller place because individuals, groups, and even entire countries are able to communicate at lightning speed with each other. In addition, improvements in rapid ground transit and especially air travel have facilitated global commerce, politics, and every facet of man's connectivity with his international neighbors.
Okay, Enough With the Macro. Give Me the Micro!
Okay, I took up as much time leading up to the meat of my article as I once did mustering up the nerve to ask a girl out on the floor at my first 8th grade dance. It's time to twist...or do the mashed potato...or trip over her feet while attempting a cha-cha-cha.
As the world grows smaller...
Sounds like a '60's soap opera title.
Even so, the cosmopolitan atmosphere of the Spaghetti Factory in Lynnwood, Washington, that fateful spring evening earlier this year paid no attention whatsoever to two middle-aged men--one, a German; the other, a Hawaiian/Asian--huddled in conversation at one of the tables.
A Sherlock Holmesian plainclothes detective seated nearby might very well have raised his antennae a bit had he heard the following conversation. Then again, he might've just gone on eating his noodles and mizithra sauce. It was more our furtive behavior at the table than our conversation, the sort of repressed we're bustin' with excitement over this, but we gotta pretend we're just having a normal everyday, boring conversation , looking over the shoulder every 15 seconds kind of demeanor that attracts cops like moths to pheromone-brushed tree trunks.
So, Steve, you brought the stuff?
Yeah, it's in the trunk and the back seat. My car's loaded down!
How'd you get all that?
I went on Craigslist, looking for scrap metal to sell. Somebody offered to give the storage bin contents up for free to anyone who would haul it away.
You mean, you got all of that stuff for free?
Yep! Pausing to look around a bit, Steve continued, I think there's some valuable stuff in there!
Burping with excitement, I could hardly contain myself. The food and beverage had been great, but for the first time, I wanted to get out of the pasta restaurant faster than I had wanted to get in.
After dinner, sluggish with that I ate so much I need to unbutton my pants feeling yet driven with anticipation--kinda like the way I felt at my wedding reception decades ago--I headed on over to my car. Steve quickly moved his car into a stall on the other side of the small roadway.
He hadn't been kidding. His little jalopy was loaded to the gills with storage bin treasure, so much so that his car had a pronounced lean to one side, reminiscent of Lee Marvin and horse in the classic Western, Cat Ballou.
Quickly, we transported the various boxes, plastic bags, and paper sacks full of valuables from his car to mine. We were still doing the over the shoulders looks, but only because the arriving and/or departing Spaghetti Factory patrons were passing by. A couple of passengers watched with more than passing interest (sorry, I couldn't resist that). It elicited a protective response from me. I curbed the impulse to give them a mind your own business look and worked faster instead. After all, I'd have been just as curious at the sight of modern day Captain Jack Sparrows hauling pirate booty.
Previously, Steve and I had struck a gentleman's deal--I'd help him sell the items, and after expenses, he would get 67%, and my commission would be 33%. He initially had wanted the cut to be 50/50, but I knew he'd worked hard to acquire the items and was also in dire financial straits. As much as I felt like a pirate, ohana (the Hawaiian word for family) trumps ambition in my islander lifestyle. Plus, just like on HubPages, when you live and breathe other-centeredness, it's a win-win proposition every single time.
A business rule of thumb--selecting the path of helping others while aspiring to entrepreneurial heights is directly proportional to one's level of success.
There were all kinds of articles that could easily be put up for sale on eBay. There was a Jerry Garcia stuffed doll, complete with a cardboard guitar; a Beatles lunchbox filled with Beatles trading cards; several Christmas ornaments, figurines, and houses; Star Trek and Star Wars collectibles; copper plate wall hangers; collector's plates; music boxes; snow globes; a few books; and a large box of plates, cups, bowls, and other kitchenware items that had an unusually glossy sheen to them.
I later learned that this last batch of items was a collection of Belleek China.
Yes, just like a lot of you reading this article, I had never heard of this particular group of ceramics. It didn't take me long, however, to discover how popular they are with the collectibles circuit.
- 'Opihi--The Hawaiian Limpet
Looking for another viable food source; handcrafted items to buy or sell on eBay, Yardsellr, or Etsy; or simply an interesting read during your coffee break? Here's the scoop on 'opihi!
The Inspirational History of Belleek China
As is the case more often than not in the annals of history, great discoveries occur in the midst of turbulent and urgent circumstances. The genesis of Belleek pottery is no exception.
The Great Potato Famine that lasted from 1845 to 1852 was a very dark period in Ireland's history. The notorious culprit, a potato disease commonly known as potato blight, resulted in the mass starvation and deaths of 1 million people. In addition, a million more people emigrated from Ireland, causing the island country's population to drop by 20 to 25%.
In 1849, Captain John Caldwell Bloomfield inherited his father's Castle Caldwell Estate which included the village of Belleek in County Fermanagh. The county is approximately 653 square miles, a little bigger than the area of my home island of Kaua'i. County Fermanagh's name was derived from the Old Irish words of Fir/Fear Manach or men of Manach (men of the monks) .
The concept of necessity being the mother of invention certainly rang true for the innovative Captain Bloomfield. The devastating potato famine had just run its course in the county, and the estate was in considerable financial jeopardy.
An amateur mineralogist, Bloomfield surveyed his land to determine what natural resources might be present that could contribute to the employability of the local residents. He found kaolin, feldspar, flint, shale, and peat. He also noticed a vivid white coating just outside of several of the small cottages of the tenant farmers. He learned that this coating was the result of clay deposits of unusually high quality.
Spurred by economic necessity and the very survival of the countryside, Captain Bloomfield and his partner, a man named Armstrong, eventually came up with just the right formula for crafting pottery of outstanding quality. Thus was born the renowned Belleek Pottery.
The first successful batch of Belleek porcelain was fired in County Fermanagh in 1857. It consisted of a very thin ivory-colored and especially iridescent porcelain. As I described it in my eBay listings, it almost appears as though the Belleek items are weeping. The finish has such a compelling luster. Different shapes and patterns were produced such as Limpet, Tridacna, and Grasses. However, Shamrock was and continues to be the most popular style.
Just in the proverbial nick of time, the inhabitants of Belleek Village were given significant work. With the exception of a long hiatus during and shortly after World War I, the villagers of Belleek worked long and diligently in the mass production of this magnificent pottery with the magical sheen. Today, their descendants continue to successfully manufacture the beautiful Belleek China for consumers from all corners of the globe.
By 1884, all of the original owners were deceased. Investors from the local area took over the Belleek China interests, subsequently forming a business enterprise called The Belleek Pottery Works Company, Ltd.
The items that my brother-in-law, Steve, handed over to me to sell were all Shamrock style products. A prominent basket weaver named Michael Maguire was hired on at Belleek Pottery in the 1880's. It was just a matter of time before his trademark signature, a basket weave pattern, complemented the shamrocks that were hand painted onto the ceramic products. Essentially, the pattern hasn't changed in the last 130 years, no matter how old the personal collection happens to be.
Using traditional methods, the handcrafted Irish clay items are fired to produce a beautiful Belleek pattern that features the iconic Irish shamrock emblem, hand painted for an intriguing lifelike affect. Maguire's finely-detailed and embossed basket weave texture, decorated with the verdant green of the shamrocks, creates an exquisite and distinctly rustic Irish look and feel.
No wonder, then, that the products literally fly off the shelves. In my personal experience selling these items that--prior to their removal from Steve's car trunk--I had never seen before, I can honestly attest to the fact that the bids would come flying in literally just minutes after listing each item.
I only have about two side plates left to sell out of the huge box of Belleek China that Steve gave me. My brother-in-law and I are pleasantly surprised with the profits we've made. In addition, it's boosted my confidence in selling items that I've never sold before.
The Final Word
So, is the world indeed getting smaller?
With all due respect to the little boy inside of me, I'd have to say it is.
How else could you put a German with a Pacific Islander and come up with the luck of the Irish?