(I try to avoid commenting on current events here — but of course I can’t stop thinking of the victims of the Arizona shooting, and of the malevolent politics that I hold responsible for tipping a disturbed individual in the direction of political assassination. I’m writing good old fashioned letters to the certain half-term quitter governors, to let them know that they ought to be ashamed of themselves today. That’s all.)
I’ve watched Hoarders, you’ve watched Hoarders, we’ve all gotten that itchy feeling that there are corners of ourselves and of our houses that could be a Hoarders in the making. I vow that 2011 is the year that I start living with less stuff.
There are five big black Hefty bags out by the curb right now, full of bits of my past life, waiting for the garbage collectors to come by on their usual Monday rounds.
Also in the trash:
Every video cassette I own (even the precious $80.00 viddie of The 400 Blowsthat an old boyfriend gave me for my birthday in 1991 — I know it cost $80.00 because I saw it in a store and wanted it but didn’t have $80.00 and back then, imported French films were expensive). There are three shopping bags full of every audio cassette I own (except for the one from Selected Shorts with Bart Giamatti reading his essay about baseball called The Green Fields of the Mind which I have to keep because it’s in my line up of Music To Listen To When You Want To Feel Sad).
Half a dozen loose-leaf binders with all my notes from when I was studying jewelry history.
ALL my slides from when I used to give lectures about Scottish jewelry, watch design, pearls, and Faberge. So heavy! I mean, literally. HEAVY. So much heavier than Power Point.
The entire file from when I was writing the catalog raisonne of the c. 1810 Empire “George Washington” clocks which I wrote in 1993, back when you had to keep copies of all the letters you wrote to people to ask about their antique French clocks.
Three bundles of books, which does not include the 104 books I have piled up on the guest bathroom floor. Those books are all very decent (lots of art books, popular science books, nature books) and I will bundle them up and drop them off at our library’s used book shop for re-sale. My goal is to live with only 100 books; I’ll let you know if I make it or not (I’m not finished with my clear-out yet).
I am so ready to let all this stuff go, all this and more: this haul is from just one closet and two book cases. I have two desks and another book case to clear out. I’m going to be 55 years old next Sunday and I have a lot of history, tangible history that is just cluttering up my life. Literally. And it’s just STUFF.
(Wasn’t that the name of the shop that the wife of one of America’s bankrupt swindler CEOs set up when she had to sell her worldly goods? Jus Stuff? I remember she was from Texas and I guess they drop their terminal Ts in the Lone Star State, or they think it’s OK to be middle aged and “cute”. Does anybody else remember Jus Stuff?)
Digging in my closet, though, I did find some treasures, including this:
That’s a tea bag in the upper right corner, to give you a sense of scale. This is a hand-embroidered, felt applique banner that I made for my bedroom in 1974. I was 19. Yes, that’s the Star Ship Enterprise. Yes, I was kind of a moron when I was 19. Yes, you would have been far too cool to be my friend when we were 19.
I was not in college; I didn’t have the money, didn’t have the mentoring, didn’t have the socio-economic expectation of a middle class lifestyle. I was working full time in the order-processing department of a factory that made industrial gauges, in the suburbs of Philadelphia. But some little part of me was able to resist the Borg of Low Self Esteem: I did know that deep down, I should have been born French. Or Vulcan.
And I had only one goal in life: to save every spare dime I earned, to put towards a plane ticket to Paris. And lo that did come to pass, and lo, that has made all the difference. (See above: re: the more high-falutin’ of my trash.)
So the Star Ship Enterprise banner makes the cut. This time.
By the way, this is a c. 1810 George Washington clock:
I sold this clock at auction at Christie’s in New York on Oct. 28, 1992 for $42,000. At the time, there were ten published examples of this kind of clock (another one of these clocks is in the Blue Room in the City Hall of New York City, the room where Mayor Bloomberg gives his press conferences; the next time he’s on TV, look on the mantel behind him you’ll see it). I got curious about these clocks and I nosed around and found 15 of them in America — that’s what the catalogue raisonne was about. Let me tell you, having “Wrote catalogue raisonne of 1810 DuBuc George Washington clocks” on your resume doesn’t get you as far as you would think; I soon stopped mentioning it altogether.
P.S. Barbra Streisand sold her collection of Art Deco furnishings and art at Christie’s in 1994. (I think it was 1994. Could have been ’93.) She was switching genres, dumping the Deco for American Colonial and Federalist stuff. So when Christie’s was asked to decorate the suite at the Pierre Hotel for the TV interview that Barbra Streisand was giving to Barbara Walters about her tag sale, I was asked to find a nice clock for the fireplace mantel. Guess which clock I put there.
Yes, it’s a journeyfrom sewing a Star Ship Enterprise banner for your bedroom to schlepping an 1810 Empire George Washington clock to the Pierre Hotel.
Thank you, everyone, for your Comments (as usual, the best part of this blog). Thanks especially to those who have commented on my public speaking: and when we get together in Seattle, I’ll tell you my other Barbara Streisand story — the one about her Cartier clock!
Yes, life is a journey. We are lucky to live in a land where it’s possible to end up a long way from where you started. Anybody else out there have a Star Ship Enterprise banner in the back of your closet?