Doing Something With Our Stuff.

One of the great George Carlin’s routines was about “stuff”. Of course, it was really about materialism, a commentary on our penchant for accumulating … uh … stuff. We don’t really need a house, he said, it’s just “a pile of stuff with a cover on it.”
I know I’ve written about this before, but as you travel around the country by train, you can’t help noticing the buildings offering self-storage space. You see them everywhere. Coincidently, for something like ten years, my advertising agency occupied office space in Honolulu that was part of just such a storage facility.


Our landlord, John McClellan, once told me that people would rent one of his big lockers, fill it with their stuff, and just keep it there for years. Eventually, with some of them, the checks would stop coming and after several efforts to track down the owner, John would padlock the locker. Then, two or three times a year, all the stuff belonging to all his non-paying customers would be brought out and sold. John said he would always see current renters pawing through the stuff, buy something, and shove it into their locker.
A few days ago, I brought two boxes labeled “Jim’s Stuff” up from a closet in the garage where my wife had stashed them a dozen years ago when we first came to Maui. So far, I’ve managed to sort most of it into piles laid out on our dining room table—photos of immediate family, other family photos, and a lot of baseball memorabilia. There are also copies of LIFE magazine published days after John F. Kennedy was assassinated. (After more than a half-century, I still can’t bring myself to look through them.)
There are more than a dozen essays written by my grandfather. Back in the 1930’s and 40’s, he belonged to an informal literary group in Hartford, Connecticut, called the Monday Evening Club. They gathered monthly to listen as one of their members read aloud an original essay, after which they all discussed it. Mark Twain was a member of the group, although he died in 1910 and, as far as I can determine, he and my grandfather didn’t overlap. (Can you imagine reading aloud some of your own writings with Mark Twain sitting there, puffing on his pipe, ready to critique it?)
There is some interesting baseball stuff, including an autographed ball and a road uniform from the 1979 Hawaii Islanders of the Pacific Coast League and baseballs signed by the 1990 and 1997 Boston Red Sox. Several other balls—I have no idea when or how I came to have them—appear to be a lot older. The signatures have faded badly, so it will probably be impossible to identify the team or the year. There’s also an autographed photo of Roger Clemens which I relegated to storage the day he signed with the New York Yankees.
I’m going to send a lot of the photos to my kids. My grandfather’s writings, too. I’m hanging onto the baseball stuff, though. That stuff could be valuable.