MR. CASTEN’S CLUTTER – Rich Paschall

Stuff, by Rich Paschall

Only his neighbor Jorge knew the old guy was sick.  In fact, Mr. Casten had been failing for almost two years.  Whenever Jorge saw the old man, he asked if there was anything he could do to help.  When Mr. Casten was not seen for a week, Jorge would go knock on his door.  If the old guy felt well enough he would stand in the doorway and talk for a while.  If it was morning, he would invite Jorge in for a cup of coffee.

By the time Casten had passed away, Jorge probably knew him as well as anyone.  Their little chats on the stairs, in the doorway or at the kitchen table revealed a lot about an old guy who had lived alone in the same small apartment most of his adult life.  The place was stuffed with memories and memorabilia.

Mr. Casten had collected and saved things throughout life, but in the last few years he tried to de-clutter his small existence.  He gave things away to charity resale shops.  He sent pictures he had from his parents on to other relatives.  He even sold some items on eBay.  It was all too late to clean up the house, however.  Mr. Casten’s small efforts were not enough after a lifetime of accumulation.

Since there were no siblings, no children, and no mate, the matter of cleanup and disposal was left to a crew of cousins. Jorge knew just who to call because Mr. Casten had prepared a list of contacts in case of his untimely demise. Although Mr. Casten was only in his late 60’s, his death arrived right on schedule the way Jorge saw it. Mr. Casten had gone as far as he could.

When the cousins arrived one Saturday morning to clean out the apartment, Jorge was waiting with the key that had been entrusted to him by Mr. Casten.  Four cousins and two of their teen age sons figured they would make fast work of the four room apartment.  They figured wrong.

“Oh my, who knew one person could collect so much stuff,” cousin Raymond declared.  “This could take all day!”

“Mr. Casten said to tell you guys to be sure to take for yourselves anything you want, then give anything else that is still good to charity.”

“And did you take something, Jorge?” cousin David said in a rather accusing tone.

“Yes,” Jorge replied calmly.  “I took the coffee cup he always gave me to drink out of.  It was the only thing I wanted.”

“Well, I heard he had a good baseball card collection,” cousin Jeff chimed in.  “I would like to have that if we can find it.”

“He’s got a lot of CDs here,” Raymond said in amazement.  “I think I will see what I need.”

“Hey dad,” one of the teenagers shouted out to David.  “He’s got a lot of DVDs. I am going to see if he has anything decent to watch”

As they randomly picked through the goods, cousin John grabbed one of the teenagers and said, “Let’s get to work.  With those guys working so hard out there, we will never get out of here!”

So John and a bored teenager went to the kitchen in search of large garbage bags.  “Under the sink,” Jorge instructed.

Armed with a box of bags, Jorge, John and the teenager went to the bedroom to empty closets and drawers.  John told the teenager to take everything in the closets and put it in bags for donation.  If it looked in bad shape, he should put it in a separate bag for the garbage.  John decided to do the same with the dresser.

As John and Jorge took items from the dresser, they found many new things in each drawer.  There were clothes with tags, new socks and underwear in packages, pajamas that were never worn and sweaters that looked new.

“I thought the old guy could not afford much,” John said in amazement.

“I think he was always afraid of running out of something,” Jorge said.  “He told me more than once that he was afraid to be poor and have nothing, so he kept everything and did not use anything until he needed it.”

“If he lived another 10 years he would not have to buy any clothes,” John said somewhat incredulously.

“Yeah, I think that was the idea,” Jorge noted.

Mr. Casten’s mother had grown up in the Great Depression.  She had nothing, so in her adult life she saved everything.  Anything that had value or possible use, she would save for whenever she might need it.  Of course, she had many things she never used, but they were there “just in case.”

When Casten was young, he knew they did not have much and he saw how his mother managed to get through the years with what they accumulated.  He naturally took on the same habits.  While everything may have seemed a jumbled mess to outside observers, especially cousins who never came to call, it was an organized home for Mr. Casten.

After many runs to the resale shop and the outside garbage cans, the crew had made a good deal of progress.  John declared he would return with one of the boys to finish the job the next day.

“That box in the corner marked pictures should also say ‘Cousins’ on the top,” Jorge remembered to tell them. “You should take that with you.”

“What would we want with a box of old pictures?” David said rather sarcastically.

So Jorge explained that collection.  “Mr. Casten thought that maybe someone would want to see them at a wake or service to remember how he looked, since he had not been invited to any family event in years.  I would guess you guys would be in a lot of those pictures from long ago.”

The cousins said nothing.  John grabbed the box on the way out.

Jorge closed the door.

See also: “The Accumulation of Stuff,” Reducing Clutter

A TUESDAY MYSTERY – RICH PASCHALL

The continuing story of  The Case With The Missing Egg

Tuesday started out like every day for the perpetually prepared Harold. The morning shrill of the alarm clock announced the beginning of another well planned day for the Premier of Planning, the Overlord of Organization and the Lord of the Library. After his normal morning duties, Harold looked forward to his next reading selection from the local library.  It was the standard Tuesday plan.

He arose promptly and went straight to the window, as was his normal practice. He grabbed his glasses off the nearby dresser, opened the blinds and surveyed the weather.

“What a beautiful day,” Harold announced to himself and went on to brush his teeth, stare in the mirror a few moments and jump in the shower. Harold included shaving on the days he was to go out of the house. He always felt better if he looked better to himself. He did not really give much thought to what others may think of his appearance.

All through his working career, and right into retirement, the only one Harold ever tried to please with his appearance was himself. He felt perfectly comfortable at work with a pocket protector in his white shirt pocket. He gave little thought to whether his socks clashed with the rest of his clothes as he only purchased white and black socks. There were no colors to worry about. His shirts were solid colors as were his pants. There was little chance that he could wear anything that would clash. As everything was rather basic, he had little concern about clothes going in and out of style. It seemed like the most practical style tactic for the very practical Harold.

After donning the proper underwear, shirt and pants for the day, Harold went back to the dresser for his socks. As he stared in the drawer a moment he decided that something was not quite right. He felt instinctively that the items in the drawer were not as neatly stacked as usual and decided to take out the stacks of black socks so that he may return them to the drawer in neater piles. When they had all been removed Harold was surprised to spy something that certainly did not belong in the back of the drawer. You can not imagine the unpleasant feeling that ran through the body of the sultan of socks’ stacking when he made the curious discovery.

There is was!  It was in the back of the drawer, hiding behind the socks. Was it there since Sunday? Could it possibly have been there from the Sunday before that?

pottery Qianlong-1736

Harold carefully reached into the back of the drawer and removed the Chinese porcelain egg. He placed it softly on the bed and went to get the step-ladder. He used the ladder to get the special box of porcelain collectibles down from the closet shelf and took the box and the egg to the living room.

As if it was Sunday, the day the lord made for Harold to clean house, he set the box down on the coffee table. He then set himself down on the sofa and studied the egg closely, just like it was the time of day on Sunday that was set aside for such things. Clearly Harold introduced a piece of the Sunday schedule into Tuesday morning. The discovery of the egg was both pleasing and perplexing.

Try as he might, and he did, Harold could not imagine how the egg got into the drawer. There would seem to have been no point in time over the previous 10 days that he could have accidentally placed the egg into the drawer. Was it out of the box or even in his hands the last time he was folding and putting away socks?  Could he possibly have dropped it into the drawer when he put away underwear? No! He would never have underwear and his precious porcelain out at the same time. What in the world happened?

Many minutes of mystery manipulated the thoughts of Harold, normally the master of minute manipulation.  He reran the tapes in the back of his mind that held all of the activities of the past ten days.

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The previous two Sundays seemed like the most probable times to have inadvertently placed the egg in the drawer, but how did he do it?  Nothing in his highly organized memory banks gave him a clue to the mystery.  Nevertheless, the beauty of the item also held the riddle Harold wanted sincerely … even desperately … to solve. How could it be that the vault of knowledge Harold secured in his brain failed to hold the key to this riddle?  Why couldn’t Harold recall how this had happened?

After too much time had passed staring at the egg, Harold knew he could not let Tuesday morning’s plan turn into Sunday afternoon’s activity. So, he placed the egg carefully in its box and returned the box to its shelf.

What should have been a happy Tuesday for Harold ultimately resulted in more than a bit of concern.

The mystery of Harold’s Missing Memory remained unsolved.

Related:
First Harold story:  “Soup and Sandwich
Second Harold Story: “The Case With The Missing Egg
Third Harold Story: “Come Monday, It Will Be Alright

DOLLS

WEEKLY WORDPRESS PHOTO CHALLENGE | NOSTALGIA | THE DAILY POST


The world has changed in myriad ways — huge and subtle — since I grew up. When I was a kid, none of us, regardless of how much money our parents had or didn’t have, got everything. You wanted everything, sure, because kids always want everything … but you got something. In my house, since we didn’t celebrate Christmas, birthdays were the big gift-giving day.

Annabelle - 1952, Mme. Alexander
Annabelle – 1952, Mme. Alexander

Each year on my birthday from when I was three until I was eight, I got one really nice doll. When I was five, I got “Annabelle,” the 1952 special doll from Madame Alexander. She would be my favorite for the rest of my life. Over her long life (she was born in 1952) she has been rewigged, restrung, repainted, and redressed half a dozen times.

I really played with my dolls. They were my friends. I talked to them. I told them everything and I took them everywhere. Everything I did, felt, hoped for, and feared, my dolls knew.

My dolls understood. Always.

Toni (22") Revlon, 1953
Toni (22″) Revlon, 1953

When I was six, I got Toni. She was Revlon’s “flagship” girl doll with hair that could be “permanent waved” using a doll version of the Toni Permanent Wave kit. The set was just tiny plastic rollers and sugar-water and they didn’t really curl hair. They just made it sticky … which attracted ants. So then you had to wash it and you were lucky if the wig didn’t come right off her head.

Madame Alexander as herself - 1985
Madame Alexander as herself – 1985

There was Betsy Wetsy — also from Revlon, I believe (Tiny Tears was made by American Character). Those were the memorable dolls. Lots of little 8″ Ginnie dolls too and too many outfits to recall. Ginnie was in my day what Barbie was to the next generations of girls. It is perhaps a reflection of how the concept of girlhood changed during those years. By the time I turned 9, it was all about books.

From then on, I got books for my birthdays, though usually one other “special” thing too. One year, my beloved bicycle arrived. It was much too big for me to ride. I was a tiny wisp of a thing, but also, the only 9-year-old with a titanium frame Dutch racing bike. I had blocks on the pedals and I had to ride standing up because no way could I reach the seat or use the coaster brakes sitting down. But I grew a few inches. So, by the time I was an adolescent, I could reach the pedals without help. And, I knew I had the greatest bike ever. Tiger Racer and me … we flew!

When I was 11 I got a little transistor radio. It was a big deal, the ultra high-tech of the late 1950s. I was the only kid who had my very own portable radio. After that memory fades …

I slept with my dolls.

As I headed into my 50s, I began searching for the dolls with which I had grown up. Collecting is insidious and doll collecting even more so. I developed a bizarre lust for dolls. I didn’t know I had become a collector until I began to buy reference books so I could identify dolls by model, year, manufacturer, etc. Reference book are the significator of any kind of collector. When your reference collection is far more complete than the local library, you are a collector. Accept it. Deal with it.

These pictures are a sampling of the dolls. I tried to capture something of that ephemeral sweetness the dolls of my generation had. Perhaps show a hint of why they still give me a warm glow when I look at them. They never argue, always forgive. And they never complain and don’t mind if you drag them around by one leg with their foreheads scraping the sidewalk.

I participate in WordPress' Weekly Photo Challenge 2016
I participate in WordPress’ Weekly Photo Challenge 2016

WHEN GOOD SHELVES GO BAD

THE WEDNESDAY MASSACRE

Yesterday, while cleaning, I stood up and my shoulder connected with the glass-fronted curio cabinet. I knocked a shelf and the aforementioned cabinet entirely off the wall. There was a loud crash. It wasn’t the noise that distressed me. It was what that noise meant … that I was about to incur serious losses.


I used to collect things. Pottery — Navajo, antique Chinese and Japanese — and antique sacred Asian art (mostly statues ranging from pretty big to very tiny).

Hard-plastic strung dolls of the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s with a smattering of newer girls from the sixties. Tiny stuffed bears. Native American carved fetishes with a strong leaning towards Corn Maidens.

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And art. Paintings, photographs (not just mine, but other artists). Musical instruments. Wind chimes. Teapots.

Survivor!
Survivor of the massacre

There’s more. My husband’s baseball with autographs of the entire Red Sox organization of the 1970s, including Ted Williams.

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A Russian Matryoshka doll (the kind with all the little dolls inside each other).

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The glass-fronted cabinet and one shelf in the living room contain many of my favorite small pieces.

With all that we gave away or sold, the house is too full. At least most of it is on shelves and (presumably) out of the way. And safe, isn’t it? We put up a LOT of shelves, pretty much anywhere they would fit. The dolls are on shelves as is pottery, fetishes, and the small bronzes.

When those two shelves crashed to the ground, first bouncing off a small table and smashing some lovely Italian glass, I could only imagine the carnage. I’m surprised anything survived. Of the two Navajo pots, one came through without harm while the other was reduced to shards.

Gone, but not forgotten
Gone, but not forgotten

Two very old Chinese porcelain vases– one little black one from the 12th century and another from the Jian dynasty (probably 16th century), plus a lovely little “story” dish, probably 15th century, were smashed beyond saving.

The bronzes were unaffected, though the shelf barely survived the fall.

It was my fault. Entirely. No one else did anything to cause the massacre.

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It got me to pondering the transitory nature of things. Antiques would not be so valuable if they didn’t get broken, destroyed, lost through the years. If everything survived through the generations, there’s be no scarcity of ancient artifacts. This line of thought is actually not very comforting.

On the shelf, I thought they were safe. Out of harm’s way. My only enemy was the eternal, unavoidable dust settling on everything.

It turns out, I am time’s enemy.

I WOULD RATHER BE A TREE

SHARE YOUR WORLD – 2015 WEEK #32

Are you a collector of anything?

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I am a collector of everything. Dolls, Native American jewelry, fetishes, and pottery. Cameras.

Seed Pot

Ancient Chinese Porcelain. Asian sacred artifacts. Wind chimes. First-edition books (new ones, not old ones). Musical instruments.

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And a lot of miscellaneous stuff that just appeals to me.

pottery Qianlong-1736

Now, if only I could collect my thoughts. They seem to be all over the place.

What is your biggest fear or phobia? (no photos please)

Spiders.

Do you prefer reading coffee table books (picture), biographies, fiction, non-fiction, educational?

Fiction, science fiction, and history. I consider biographies as history.

Toni 16 Toy Filter

I read auto-biographies of people I think might prove interesting. Sadly, many of them are not interesting at all.

Complete this sentence: If I Must Be Reincarnated, In the Next Life I Want to Be…

canal and river in may

A tree. Near a brook. In a meadow.

ANTIQUE CHINESE CHICKEN PORCELAIN

It is not leftovers that have stayed too long in the refrigerator.

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Typical famille rose design on an antique porcelain plate

You may know (or not) I have been a collector — in a small way — of antique Chinese porcelain and Asian art. As a collector, I love flea markets and yard sales. It’s part of the collecting mystique, that one day someone will be selling a great antique piece for a few dollars and I will be there to grab it.

It happened. Twice, to be exact. One pieces I got was a small, 200-year-old Qing dynasty pitcher. In pretty good shape. Got it for five dollars, sold it for $150. Ka-ching!

The other was a little dish which I’ve kept. It’s decorated with blue and yellow chickens. It’s a rice bowl, the sort of thing a working man might carry to work and use to eat his lunch. The piece fits loosely into the category of famille rose. Or famille verte. I haven’t decided if rose or green is the dominant color.

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They are both a style rather than a dynasty, though the vast majority of piece in this category are between one and two hundred years old. Most of these pieces are elaborately decorated, but simple pieces were made for regular folks.

qing famille rose rice bowl

Chinese porcelain was secular. Art for art’s sake. Decorative. Non-collectors may assume Chinese porcelain was lavish. What I would call “imperial porcelain.” Certainly some very fine porcelain was made for the wealthiest members of society, but much of it was not. The Chinese were very egalitarian, believing that everyone needed art, the same way everyone needs food.

Food feeds the body. Art feeds the soul.

blue chicken on a qing dyn rice bowl antique porcelain

Art — dishes, figures, vases, ginger jars and so much more — was made for peasants, servants. Middle, and upper classes. Beauty was not a privilege of the few, but part of life for everyone.

The concept of art for everybody delights me. Too many people think art is a waste of money because it has no “function.” Merely being beautiful isn’t enough for them.

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In this bowl indeed has a function, but it wasn’t painted to make it more functional. It would hold a man’s rice without hand-painted chickens. But me? I prefer it with chickens. In fact, I just love those chickens!

SHARING OUR WORLD, WEEK 22

Share Your World – 2014 Week 22

Regarding animals would you prefer not having them around or having domestics pets, farm animals, or seeing them in nature or the zoo?

We do not allow animals in our house. We don’t even like them.

Bishop joins the party 31

Are you a collector of anything?

fetishes

I don’t collect anything. Nothing. Never. Our home is clean and uncluttered.

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If you could know the answer to any question, besides “What is the meaning of life?”, what would it be?

 What are the winning numbers for tomorrow’s Power Ball drawing?

If you were to treat yourself to the “finer things” what would you treat yourself to?

A brand new house with no stairs and a really GREAT kitchen.