Perforated Lines (you can't resist 'em!)

 welcome gnome
-- Saturday, September 4, 1999 --



1:05 p.m. I am totally and utterly overwhelmed by all the stuff we dragged home yesterday. It has demanded my complete attention, not to mention the fact that my fingertips are all tingly from the Lysol/antibacterial Palmolive dishwashing stuff and the Brillo pads and the little scrubby things and the hot water. I feel like I want to say my piece and stop tapping because there's no feeling in my fingers anymore -- so how can there be any feeling behind the words?

I am surrounded by the high-quality stuff, the veritable gold mine that befell us yesterday. I'm aware that some of you might scoff, some might salivate, and some might just shrug and let it go at that, but I am of the salivatin' ranks and I'm here to tell you: this was a mighty haul. It isn't everyday that someone tells you that you can have the books, but you've gotta take the bookshelf too, or no deal.

As in: a brand-new complete and entire Encyclopedia Britannica, including yearbooks 1990-1996; the macropediae, the propediae, the sciencepediae, the medipediae, the freebepediae. Brand new, never been cracked in the last three years. Nice enough shelves, too. Plus a few chairs, a table, a plant. Everything sort of needed a good scrub, but that's the least of it.

The encyclopedia fit just exactly right and perfectly in a bookshelf my grandfather made, as if it's waited all these years for just that purpose. But it also meant that I had to move all my albums to the place beside the two TVs, where I'd formerly stored a bunch of video tapes. The tapes are now going where I used to put dead manuscripts, of which I have plenty, and magazines, of which I have far too many.

Every single time I put a perfect pile of magazines out for the recycling/and/or lucky soul who wants them, I need them the very next day. My complete set of Wired, from the first issue? The next week I find out that you can make a really decent living on eBay by selling Absolut ads. But it was too late. A guy on a 500-speed bike with no basket or backpack made many happy one-handed trips back and forth between his house and mine, all before 8 a.m. one morning, and now he has the perfect collection.

I know, I know. You can't keep everything. Not even I can keep everything. And I've tried. But we've moved a lot and my life-choices have changed a few times and sometimes I just got sick of looking at the piles of them. But it doesn't keep me from mourning the ones I've thrown away when I believed I had no other choice:

The incredible set of New Yorker magazines from the '40s. (Lack of space.)

The fine set of Sphere magazines that had every craft and great recipe you can ever imagine. (I thought I was going to have a "career" outside the home.)

All my Movieline (from the beginning) and Hollywood and the WGA screenwriting issues. (I've given up on scripts.)

The complete set of Old House Journals, back when they started with a three-ring-binder newsletter. (We'd sold our old house and I was so over the idea of scraping and bowing that I thought I'd never want to see another pot of varnish and tung-oil stuck to the floor. I was wrong.)

My entire collection of cutout pictures of clothes-that-I-like because I thought it was stupid and immature and besides, I'll never be that thin again. (It was, and I am. Too bad I lost hope just before I lost weight.)

Magazines are so interesting in the way they change on you. If you pile a bunch of them up, they fade steadily in importance until you are sick of the very sight of them. Then, after maybe another ten years or so, gradually they start gaining value all over again, and then suddenly one day you find that you have some major historical documents on your hands.

But only if you can afford to keep them around. You need a roomy attic without leaks and mice and a dry climate and a stay-put lifestyle. Otherwise, the next time you see the things, they're called "ephemera" and they're encased in plastic and gently fanned out on a marquetry table at the Antique Boutique and now you can't afford them, period.

So, I'm glad I've got the new shelves. They're drying in the sun as I type. After I drag them into my office, I'm going to pile up my old Writer's Digests and The Writer magazine on the bottom shelf. I never had the courage to totally give up on the idea of writing. In another ten years, I'll be a collector's item.

Tomorrow? Did you save it?


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