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Friday 23 January 2004

Junk Room Serendipity

I spent some time today going through some boxes in the junk room and picking out things to haul to the dump. Among the things to go: Oracle 7 documentation, freebie CDs from trade shows seven years ago, lots of floppy disks, papers, bags, trash. We have a reasonably-sized room in the basement that’s almost completely filled, floor to ceiling, with banker’s boxes, and in those boxes you are liable to find anything.

Junk room

Junk room

One of the boxes — long since sorted and discarded — famously contained:

  1. A complete set of Simpsons dolls, missing only Maggie;
  2. A glass Garfield coffee mug, offered as a premium at some fast-food restaurant in the 1980s;
  3. A plastic-coated-wire dish drainer;
  4. Two 9x11 darkroom trays;
  5. A Swedish gasoline-fuelled blowtorch, of the kind you see cartoon characters using.

The box was labelled “Miscellaneous”.

The problem is that few of the boxes have labels that are much more helpful than that. A good quarter of them are labeled, literally, “Random”, and a lot of the others have labels like “Gadgets (broken)” or “Wires, probably useless”. Somewhere in that room, there are at least three toasters, and one toaster oven. Some of those boxes are full of old newspapers — and I don’t mean ones with stories about us, or things like the Washington Post from September 12, 2001; those tend to get thrown away. I mean, they’re full of just random newspapers that were thrown in a box because we were too lazy to do anything else with them. We have paid movers to move such boxes from house to house. I once opened a banker’s box only to find that it was full of miniature bags of snack chips. Judging by the dates on the things, we’d moved that box three times.

Anyway, once in a while you do come across a gem:

Diary excerpt

This is an excerpt from the first page of a diary I found in a box that otherwise contained old shopping bags.

Particularly interesting is that this diary was begun exactly nine years ago today. I don’t generally keep a diary, so this is particularly serendipitous.

It’s amazing the difference nine years make. In 1995, I had a gray BMW and a PowerBook. Now, I have a different gray BMW and a different PowerBook. The superficial details of my life don’t change all that much, I suppose. But nine years ago, I never would have guessed that today, I’d be living in the middle of nowhere in fucking Virginia and sorting through boxes of old junk.

Some of today’s other activities drove home the theme of how time changes circumstances. One of the things I was trying to root out from the junk room was my collection of seriously obsolete software and documentation. I estimate that I threw away CDs, floppy disks, etc., etc. with an original retail value of about $20,000 (there were some copies of Oracle in there, which tends to push the price up pretty rapidly). Today, they’re worthless. The 80 mb hard drives I didn’t throw away; I just can’t bring myself to do it. They’re the blowtorches salted through this year’s generation of boxes, I suppose.

It all makes me wonder — I realize that this is hardly going to come as a surprise to most readers — what I might be doing nine years from today, in 2013. I might be dead by then, of course, but the odds are against it.

Presumably I’ll be chucking today’s 160 gb disks into boxes and sneezing from the dust. I only hope that some kind of hover-belt is invented by then, so I can do away with the step-stool.

Posted by tino at 17:50 23.01.04
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Quit sniffing the madelines, Marcel.

Posted by: RRP at January 24, 2004 11:54 PM

Warhol kept such ‘time capsules’ with little more than the date he sealed the boxes up and never re-opened them. Now, at the Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh they have a display/research room stacked with a number of the time capsules and each month they open one up displaying the contents in glass cases for the curious public, and I suppose for the snooping art critics.

Indeed, one finds just about anything in these sboxes. It is an interesting twist on an artist’s exhibition, since it’s not really art on view, but ‘stuff’ and each viewer can reason or speculate as to why Andy admired or procurred these things. There’s not much burdonsome theory based assumptions by museum curators and art historians’ heavy handed writing to interfere with your take on his stuff either.

Often the boxes reveal fun surprizes: money in unopened letters, fan mail requesting signed photos and offering praise as well as criticism, aspiring designers/artists wanting to work at the Factory, match books, thirft items and flea market novelties, clippings and other publications, invites,et cetera. Rarely it seems, anything of his own hand in form of personal writing or studies for works of art. It’s all just the ‘STUFF’ of a celebrity artist and visually gifted social commentator.

I admit they are somewhat fun to see- to see how they compare to one’s own boxes of STUFF, I particularly reflect on this when regarding Warhol’s time capsules. All the more reason NOT to throw away the stuff in one’s own junk rooms, boxes, drawers, whatever it is, wherever you have it stashed away- keep your Stuff, even if it moves with you.


Posted by: cb at January 25, 2004 01:39 PM

I’ve been looking for that Garfield mug.

Posted by: Shaye at January 26, 2004 11:47 AM

Well, if you weren’t in the middle of nowhere in Virginia, where would you be? What were you expecting?

I’m amused by the newspapers and the boxes of miscellania. We had lots of boxes like that. Still have one or two left, I think. My big goal now is not to have that kind of crap IN THE HOUSE anymore, so that if we ever move again, I’ll have that many fewer boxes to move.

Posted by: Evelynne at January 26, 2004 07:04 PM

Mirror those 80 meg hard drives (all zipped up they would take >80 meg each) and rip them apart for the super magnets! http://www.7volts.com/magnets.htm

It’s a little easier to destroy a perfectly good 80 meg hard drive if you know that the data will live on, forever, in a pc’s version of your junk room.

Posted by: steel at January 28, 2004 12:14 PM