Friday, July 22, 2011
The Discard Pile
This picture was taken several years ago at an event known in my native land as a “Trade Day." Inexplicably, folk elsewhere call these gatherings “Flea Markets,” which is ironic considering the fact that Trade Days often have livestock and hunting dog sections while Flea Markets instead sport endless booths of knock-off DVDs, "incense burners," and lucky bamboo. Regardless, whether you find yourself shopping for live chickens or that long-lost copy of The Last Starfighter on VHS, you will find no better opportunity for the appreciation of human and material flotsam. Oh, and the boiled peanuts are usually good, if you’re in to that.
Maybe it’s the fond childhood memories of such places that have led to my adult fascination with antique shops. Fortunately, my wife shares this proclivity for repurposing (or at least gawking at) discarded things.
“Hey, you know, maybe if we can rub off these nicotine and tar stains with some Brasso, this lamp will look cool in the library,” she says. More often than not, we try it. Almost always, she’s right. There’s a reason our house looks like a reboot of the Brady Bunch pad.
And yet, while she usually gravitates to the more practical items in the shop, I am rarely so pragmatic when sifting through junk. I can usually be found slouching in front of the knick knack or toy displays, staring slack-jawed like Animal from the Muppet Show—except without the spiked collar and groovy quarter-scale drum set. I am irresistibly drawn to the ephemera of pop culture and childhood: old toys, comic books, vinyl records and the like. These little scraps of joys and dreams long gone can sadden some people, but to me, they are like the blurb inside the dust jacket of a book with an interesting cover. I browse through them with glee, wishing I had the opportunity to read the full story. Occasionally, I’ve even gone so far as to purchase these forgotten mementos.
“You know, I think this Transformers lunchbox will make a really cool book end,” I say. She smiles, nods, and lets me clutter up the few remaining empty spaces on the bookshelves with tchotchkes (yes, that’s actually how you spell it).
Hello, my name is Scott, and I am a Junkaholic. It’s a disease, you know, caused by the same genes that generate my love of stories both fantastical and historical. Why did the Roman Republic fail? Who is John Galt? Did those bumpkins ever find an alternative trash pit after filling the first one up with cigarette butts and peanut shells? Read on, my friends. Read on.