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Ramona’s Ramblings

A visit to Vintage Bling

Ramona Jan
Posted 1/26/24

If you’re from the area, you may remember my store Vintage Bling. It started out as a vintage plumbing store without a name. I had footed tubs, pedestal sinks, radiators and all kinds of pipes …

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Ramona’s Ramblings

A visit to Vintage Bling


If you’re from the area, you may remember my store Vintage Bling. It started out as a vintage plumbing store without a name. I had footed tubs, pedestal sinks, radiators and all kinds of pipes and fittings. However, it became a hassle to move that stuff around in making the store look good so I decided to sell used furniture instead.

Some of the furniture got a make-over; new handles, a paint job, etc. But even the furniture was a pain to move in and out and around the store. So I began selling vintage clothing and accessories. That’s when I named the store Vintage Bling. All incarnations of the store were really a means to sell my artwork, which ranged from impressionistic landscape paintings to, my personal favorite, lighting fixtures made from dismembered doll parts.

Vintage Bling attracted celebrities and even a rock star clientele. But what most intrigued me was the ordinary people I would encounter each day who were actually quite extraordinary.

One cloudy day, Karan, a young man from India happened by. Without taking the time to peruse anything in depth, Karan jogged around the store’s interior a couple of times before stopping at the counter where he began hammering me with questions, “What kind of store is this?”

“It’s a vintage-art store combo, I guess.”

“How can you make a living doing this? Do people actually come here?”

“You’re here,” I said.

“Are you a hippie?” he asked.

“No. But I’m a musician if that explains anything.”

For a good part of the afternoon, Karan and I got to know each other by exchanging a similar sarcastic wit. He was a graduate of Georgia Tech working as an I.T. expert for, of all people, Bloomberg. “In India one doesn’t really have a choice to do whatever one wants with their life,” he explained, “A profession must be chosen and typically the arts are frowned upon.”

That’s when Karan confessed that he was an aspiring DJ specializing in electronic music. His idea was to spin records while a live musician, a guitarist, improvised on the side. I thought it was a terrific concept and encouraged him to explore the notion. I told him about my band Venus Fly Trap and how we used to play on the streets of NYC. Soon his duo, Pirate Radio, was born and performing on the streets and in the subway stations of NYC.

One day, Karan appeared with a young woman who was also from India, but living in Philly. In fact, they drove all the way from Philly just so he could introduce her to me. She was his betrothed by an arranged marriage. (As explained in a previous column, in parts of India the caste system is still in place determining, at times, your profession and perhaps even your marriage partner. For Karan, this was the case, but he didn’t seem to mind. In fact, the two of them seemed a perfect match making me long for an arranged marriage, but it was too late. I was already married.)

Karan and his future wife invited me to attend their wedding…in India. As an enticement, they promised I would ride an elephant. (You may remember my column from last week, Ramona Maharaj, wherein I received my first invite to India and elephant riding. I don’t know what it is about elephant riding in that country, but I didn’t go. I prefer to travel inwardly.)

Pirate Radio has since performed at several large music festivals in and around the metropolitan area. And Karan, no surprise, is now also doing stand-up comedy in venues including Gotham Comedy Club in NYC. I haven’t asked him if he still has a job, but I do wonder…Is it possible that one visit to Vintage Bling unleashed his inner creative spirit? I’d like to think so.


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