The Challenge of the Dust Collector

I suppose I got it from my father. I’m not talking about my wonderful good looks, nor my nose, but my love of knick-knacks. You know knick-knacks? If you type “knick-knack” into Google you get: “a small worthless object, especially a household ornament,” with wonderful synonyms like: “trinket, novelty, gewgaw, bibelot, ornament, trifle, bauble, gimcrack, curio, tchotchke, memento, souvenir, kickshaw.” My wife simply calls them dust collectors, so I guess, I’m a dust collector, although looking at the synonyms I’m thinking of shifting to calling them bibelot if only because then it sounds fancy.

My dad had tons of knick-knacks with most of them on shelves in our basement. Like most knick-knack collectors he gathered them in his travels. There was the variety of ashtrays, little statues, and he had this array of those little bottles of booze you would get on airplanes, which, I must admit, as a youngin’ wondering what booze tasted like, I had sampled (I wonder if Mom and Dad ever realized knew?). Me, my knick-knack collections kept growing through the years, though not to the level of my dad. Sometimes they were little gifts, something I made, maybe even a brick I kept in a sock, but most knick-knacks had a story.

The thing is, if you are a knick-knack, or rather bibelot collector, there generally isn’t any purging of them unless life changes happen, and usually that life change involves moving. Moving, many times, lets you re-assess the importance of things you have collected over the years, usually, in the end, revolving around the “What in the hell am I keeping this for?” line, especially if packing up of the knick-knacks happens at the end of the move, when, by then, you are sick of packing, sick of boxes, and somehow it’s just easier to just pull the trigger and either A) Throw them away. B) Give them away, usually to Goodwill now since it’s the easiest way to get rid of your bibelot and claim a tax right-off (Yes, that old hotel, ashtray collection must be worth at least $500, at least on the Goodwill form), C) Put them in a box that you won’t unpack at your new location. For me, though, my major purge came when I met my future wife. Somehow she didn’t run scared when she came to my bachelor pad the first time, and I had to explain why I had a purple, plastic armadillo that came from a drink at a cheesy restaurant, nor explain my sleeve of golf balls with Warner Bros. characters on them. They were there, on some shelves, and yes, there was probably some dust. Eventually, with her move in, there were some changes, and even I looked at some of the things with a “Why in the hell am I keeping this?”, and I think I claimed $5 for the sleeve of golf balls on the Goodwill form.

With the move to our new house there was some new purging, and now my bibelot collection is limited mostly to a shelf in my office (that is until we re-do our basement, just don’t tell my wife!). Included on the shelf are wonderful items like the first album I ever bought, Queen’s “A Night at the Opera,” obituaries of my mom and dad, a Noid from the Domino’s Pizza ad campaign, a bell and figurine that my dad had as part of his knick-knack collection, some old milk bottles from The Home Dairy, my grandfather, and then Uncle’s business back in Lorain, Ohio, with some of the best ice cream around (I always wished I could find the original recipes somewhere and restart the business, but alas, I believe its tastiness is lost as just a memory for Lorainites). There’s my old fraternity pin, a Buddy Christ (because he’s your buddy), a hat from Torrey Pines where we went golfing when a bunch of us were out there for our buddy Rob’s wedding, and one of my favorite pictures, of me, as a little dude, with a toy guitar in front of the TV with The Johnny Cash show playing (and I sometimes wonder why I’m a huge Johnny Cash fan).

The latest addition to the collection, because a knick-knack collection is always fluid and can grow at any time, is an Irv Kupcinet street sign, a real street sign secured, much to the help, and dismay, of my wife, from Sun-Times columnist and writer of the fun blog, Every Goddam Day, Neil Steinberg, who was having his own knick-knack purge when he was moving offices and offered it as a prize for guessing where a picture was taken. I won the sign, some pleasant conversation, and a cup of coffee, because my wife was relentless and wouldn’t let me give up figuring out the picture Neil posted was inside Chicago Pizza and Oven Grinder Company.

Much like a good knick-knack collection, this post has just kept growing, so it’s time to finish this up simply with this wonder: Do you have knick-knack shelves?

That’s it for this one! L8R!!