Let’s Talk… about Stuff

When I lived in Albuquerque – sort of at the beginning (maybe 2001) – my boyfriend Mark and I decided to make a short documentary about people and the things they own, the things they love, the things they cart around with them. We decided to call it ‘Stuff’. I think there was actually a competition for short films? Maybe we just did it for the lulz.  In any case, we actually made a pretty good start, driving around and filming dumps and landfills, but more to the point we filmed people at their storage units. On the weekend, in the evenings, visiting their stuff. We even got a manager or owner of a storage facility to grant us an interview wherein we asked him why, in his opinion, are people willing to pay month after month to basically store a bunch of useless crap. I will admit, it was completely inspired by Fight Club…..Because you know, ‘the things you own end up owning you’.

Anyway, I had that orientation, and I retained that orientation, generally, for my whole life. Probably because of my own history of losing. Losing things. A ring left by the side of the pool, which belonged to my adolescent boyfriend’s mother. A rather nice collection of books left in an out-building behind a house which got demolished in Monterey. Almost a whole young person’s life fill of stuff left in a dumpster in LA. Two engagement rings, hocked. Items left behind at the end of relationships. An entire life and house full of crap left behind in Albuquerque due to a uHaul incident, coming to Philadelphia. Things taken and things lost. So many things.

So this is my first house – my own! As Jeremy said, my first nest.  And I arrived here (owing in part to the ‘uHaul incident’)  with almost a clean slate. A new life, on the east coast. I brought with me only what fit in the back of Andre (my Buick rendezvous- and a quick shout out to Jay-Sun (formerly Jason H) who lives in Andre now, we think in the desert somewhere).  Oh, and whatever assorted boxes of clothes that people sent me after I got here. Almost nothing, really.

And then the stuff just started presenting itself to me. The universe started coughing up things for me. Lovely, old-east-coast-Americana. I noticed it early on – all the stuff left out on garbage day. In fact, I’ve been taking pictures.

But to be frank, much of this ‘furniture of the universe’ largesse comes from the dumpster directly behind the building I work in. Philadelphia is an old old city and Jefferson is an old old medical school. Here is the building now and here is the building in 1910, the year we graduated our first Black physician, apparently. And I’ve been ‘diving’ in, and taking pictures of! the dumpster behind the building almost from the beginning. In fact, they actually call me Dr. Dumpster Diver around the place 😉

So this rather long preamble is supposed to introduce you to my favorite piece of furniture, scavenged from said dumpster. So here it is.

From what I can gather, it's an old microscope cabinet.

From what I can gather, it’s an old microscope cabinet.

It has a plaque at the top – I googled it, it’s apparently an educational cabinetry company that started in Chicago and then moved to 316Muskegon, Michigan – seriously, like in the 1930’s. It’s gigantic and beautiful and it weighs about 500 lbs. Someone in my building, during the remodeling that’s been going on for a couple of years now, actually threw this thing out. I love it. I’ve had it a couple of years now.


So imagine my delight when I found another EH Sheldon Co cabinet in the dumpster a few weeks ago.1013 The same height.


In keeping with the theme of this post I’ve already decided to build these two pieces into the kitchen as permanent fixtures and leave them here when I go.


One thought on “Let’s Talk… about Stuff

  1. tbyrd2884

    Amazing stream of reflexions And Candid sharing! I risa everyone was this open… The insights we share about ourselves and our biggest fears, our past traumas, and our subsequent feelings of self worth or perspectives only help embolden others to be brave enough the share the same. Reading about your past somehow brings me confidence that I can overcome mine. You should write a book- cause you know, you aren’t busy enough!! Second note is how lovely it is how liberal you are, environmentally friendly you are, and how much you care about things: your family, your boys and cat, and your Renovations! Third response is your house looks sooooo amazing now! I seriously hope I get to visit sometime! I admire your insane productivity/effectiveness, both at work and at home, and in your helping others (like me with thesis.) you are a special person, great things will keep coming!!!



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