Saturday, May 29, 2010

These Dogs

In a former life, I lived in Hoboken. It's hard to convey what a little shithole my apartment was, even though this was a time when all urban young people lived in execrable conditions. But the amazing thing was that a family of four had previously lived in the place I thought was so small it was going to squeeze the life right out of me. It was the kind of space that gave you a steady run of dreams specific to living in miserable confinement: there are magnificent palaces spreading out just underneath you; there are grand apartments that may be accessed through the back of your closet, etc.

This family had moved to the basement apartment, which they considered a step up due to a shed-like addition that thrust out into the back "yard"--a storm-fenced pad of concrete.

One day, out front by the trash cans, appeared an assemblage of the most impossible riches: as strange as finding pieces of Versailles beside--well, beside a shithole in Hoboken. Porcelain figures (I think one was indeed Marie Antoinette) and objets d'art. And two life-size ceramic whippets, elegance personified, sitting on ceramic pillows with noses lifted to sniff a rarefied air. They sported real jeweled collars. (Who put those on?) I furtively looked around to make sure no one was looking, and I hauled all the loot into my apartment. I didn't know where I was going to put it, as it would not really fit anywhere. I would have to get rid of a chair.

Later, one of the children downstairs told me her family had had this stuff for a long time, then suddenly decided to get rid of it in a spring cleaning. Jeez: four people and two whippets in my tiny apartment? The bric-a-brac went to a friend who needed targets for his air rifle. But the whippets have been with me now a very long time.

{This originally appeared in the book Taking Things Seriously: 75 Objects with Unexpected Significance, edited by Joshua Glenn & Carol Hayes}


Kevin G. said...

This reminds me of an interesting initiative that I recently came across called "Give Your Stuff Away Day" - - which invites people to "unclutter your lives". It hopes to promote an idea into becoming a national movement.The goal: allowing people to shift ownership of unwanted valuables, while helping to reduce household clutter, landfill space and evidently.....score a few treasures along the way.
Next opportunity - September,25,2010.

Melissa Holbrook Pierson said...

Kevin, that's a beautiful concept, isn't it?

Though, now that I think about it, eventually there will be a big circle, and I will have to *take* the old stuff from the last person in line.

Oh, wait, I already did.

Actually, I'm a major fan of Freecycle. Most areas have a local Freecycle listserv. I have given away mountains of stuff this way, to people who apparently want it. Wow.