Monday, September 04, 2006

The phoenix rises up from the stashes:

We have a lot of stuff. Jes had her bridal shower yesterday and there was a consequent flood of new stuff into our bursting apartment. It’s odd that I was the one to do this, but I cornered Jes and we went through all our silverware and kitchen gadgets last night to weed out the things we don’t need or don’t use. In that we are both pack rats this was something of a major undertaking. I am either a sentimentalist or a full on animist, imbuing all matter with animus (Greek for “spirit” or more literally “breath”), so watching the silverware of a thousand BBQs move on to new adventures has pulled at my heart strings a tad. That damn Velveteen Rabbit has forever warped my psyche.

You may have noticed that is hard for me to let go of things sometimes, but I am making strides in the right direction. Early on, when Jes and I first moved in together and merged our stuff we had a great deal of overlap: two toaster ovens, two bread machines, etc. We set up a table in our basement as a staging area for trips to Goodwill. I just don’t have the time to do a rummage sale and I feel good about donating stuff anyway. Unfortunately, the Goodwill store near us on Gravois no longer takes donations; one has to drive to a drop off center way down Hwy 55 or up to the Central West End location. Again, I don’t have the time to do that, so I have decided to become my own Goodwill.

We live in a marginal neighborhood where there is great contrast between extremes of wealth and poverty. Everyday several people will go through the dumpsters behind the house hunting for aluminum cans or anything that might be of use. I’ve been placing our reusable house wears in boxes or bags on top of the dumpster lid to make it clear that the items therein are free to a good home. The gas station near us does have a clothing-and-shoes collection bin, so I have been taking our recyclable clothing there. When my sister V lived in Hawaii she would get her recyclable clothing dry cleaned and then hang it from a hook on her dumpster that seemed almost intended for the purpose. One person’s treasure is another person’s detritus (ed. Mary).

As a story in contrasts, growing up in a wealthy neighborhood where this kind of recycling was a common practice, my father regularly brought home things that had been left out in our alley by our wealthier neighbors; including, I believe, the chair I am sitting in right now. My college town had two days a year where people could put anything out for collection and this day turned into a free for all for students furnishing their dive apartments. If you don’t have a dumpster, or even if you do, web pages like Free Cycle and Craig’s List facilitate a useful exchange of stuff, trading on the fact that time and hauling concerns often outweigh any thoughts of remuneration.

Perhaps this is Reagan’s trickledown economics in action, the Nuevo-riche in their obsession with displaying wealth, to re-inscribe their own sense of success while at the same time undermining their ability to become truly wealthy, obsessively and foolishly buy new to follow trends. The pragmatists of the world focus on what works or what can be got working, whether “it” came from the A-list or the alley. There is a simple lesson to be learned from the fact that the very wealthy rarely look it.


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