Monthly Archives: March 2012


Today we cracked open a box labeled simply “CDs and tapes.”



Inside was a delightful and bewildering assortment of copyright infringement and seemingly contradictory musical selections.



I found the musical foundations of my childhood, in such soundtracks as “Streets of Fire” and incredibly fragile Brenda Lee cassettes.



And also there was gospel and Motley Crue.



It may be hard to read the handwriting for anyone who wasn’t brought up reading “Lanc-ish,” but this is a tape of Rocky Horror Picture Show.  It’s not the soundtrack, it’s the complete movie in audio form.  And this was considered appropriate listening material for me as early as age 5.  This is why I can’t differentiate between members of the Backstreet Boys and NSync – I was too busy singing along to “Hot Patootie – Bless My Soul.”

Wow we got a lot done today!


Chris and I took 12 boxes to Salvation Army today, in 2 rapid-fire trips.


Here’s the view from the back wall of the storage unit –



And in today’s entry for “Why the *BLEEP* did we pack that,” I give you …


A box of assorted educational CD-ROMS that no computer sold in the last 5 years could even read.  There were some very fancy pens in that box, however.  And Chris elected to keep the blank DVDs and CDs.


And today’s entry for “Shaking my head, questioning my Dad’s sanity,” I give you …

Two copies of the exact same book.  Mind you, we packed these boxes room by room.  Most boxes are labeled.  This box was labeled “Front room.”  So these two books were most likely on the same bookshelf.  Did my Dad enjoy the book so much, he bought a second copy to give away?  Did he forget he already had a copy and re-purchase the book unknowingly?  I will never know.


Honorable mention …


Same book, one in hard-cover, one in paperback.


And a pop-up memory from the time I spent living in Buffalo …



There were over a dozen of these beautifully simple large format classic books.  My Dad and I rescued them all from closing libraries around Buffalo.  Any given Saturday morning, you could find me and my Dad at the loading dock of a beleaguered school, carting away books that would otherwise have been thrown away.  I had my little Ford Ranger at the time, and my Dad had his giant GMC Yukon.  We rescued a lot of books.  Many of them had not been checked out since the 1970’s.

And now they’re at Salvation Army.


March 11, 2012

I didn’t go to the storage unit last Sunday. A blogger I’ve been following for years came to stay with us as part of his US tour, and I volunteered to drive him to the next stop, which was Minneapolis. I was gone 5 days and I had a great time.
This week, Chris and I dove back in head first and rapidly sorted through at least 10 book boxes. Some went directly into the Salvation Army pile, like the outdated encyclopedias. We filled up another box of Judaica to eventually take to the temple. The wall on the right side is rapidly filling up with books to be sold and books we want to keep. I realized that even after all the sorting and giving away, we still have more books in the “keep” category than some people will ever own or even read.
The comic book project is going to be kept waiting for a while. I called a shop and they asked me to make a complete list of all the titles before they could make me an offer. So … yeah. Not going to happen right this second. And even though there are 20 long boxes filled with comics, they’re still taking up less space than all the regular books and assorted furniture.
Next week we’ll take Chris’s car for it’s superior hauling capacity and do some rapid fire runs to Salvation Army. After that I’d like to get rid of the two particle board bookshelves that are just hanging around.
Tangentially related, ever since I unearthed my My Little Pony collection, I’ve been gradually packing up a few at a time and shipping them off to little girls around the country. I posted my story on reddit and several mothers, teachers, and a new foster family responded to my offer of free ponies. I picked out my 10 favorites from my collection of nearly 100, and box by box, the rest are leaving.

March 19, 2012

Yesterday we reached the back wall of the storage unit!  We can see it!

Of course, there’s still plenty of boxes occupying the middle and front of the storage unit.  Our Salvation Army pile up front consists of at least 15 book boxes now.  We’ve arranged for a Purple Heart pick up Wednesday morning, which I’m extra excited about.  All we have to do is put the boxes on the curb and label them.

This week we brought home a spinning bookshelf to replace Chris’s bedside table, and a box of Judaica books to donate to the temple.

The nearby town of Dexter was on the losing end of a recent thunderstorm/tornado system, so I’m thinking we can help out by donating some of the boxes of dishware to the churches that are helping people to recover from the damage.

February 5, 2012

Today was a very productive day in the storage unit. We took Chris’s car and took 9 boxes of various books, videos and odds and ends over to Salvation Army. It took 2 trips, and we made it just before closing time. As it turns out, we forgot a giant box of clothing, but there’s always next week. We also cleared out a lot of garbage this week.
We brought home 2 more book cubes for the wall we’re trying to build in our bedroom. I also packed up most of my Barbie dolls to give to a woman I met online, for her kids. They’re also getting a few selections from the kids’ section of our “library.”
The reproduction radio from last week didn’t sell, so I’m going to lower the price again. This week on craigslist we’re going to try to sell the knife block from Dad’s house, since Chris, as a butcher, has more quality knives than we’ll ever need.
Rachel gave me the clearance to contact a comic book dealer to make us an offer on the 20 or so long boxes which are currently residing against the left side wall of the storage unit.
The hardest part of today was sorting through the box of items Rachel and I found on Dad’s dining room table. A lot of it was Salvation Army material – a table runner, decorative bowls, candle sticks. Most of it was garbage – unopened mail from accounts long since laid to rest, calendars, date books, teaching journals, lesson plans, grade books. I flipped through each item, glancing over his familiar hand writing. Looking at the calendar was very sobering. He had made plans for the entire month of June, yet died on the 4th. He missed, by one day, the annual high school fashion show, which he had been working hard on along side his students. There were meetings, birthdays, conferences, awards dinners, and cultural events scheduled every day.
A friend offered to help us next weekend and volunteered the use of her SUV. We’re very glad to have the help and added cargo space.

February 12, 2012

We were both more and less productive today than originally planned. I woke up late, so we didn’t call our friend because by the time we made it up to Brighton, Salvation Army was already closed. Instead of hauling out the existing Salvation Army pile, we just made it larger.
We ended up bringing home 2 more book cubes, which completes the mini-wall we built in our bedroom. I tore through several cubes in the wall in the storage unit, and ended up emptying 4 cubes besides the ones we took home.
One of the cubes I unearthed was almost entirely filled with Frank Lloyd Wright books, photos and news clippings. I picked out a couple of what I considered to be the best and possibly most relevant, picked out a few more to give to an architect I met recently, who (unrelated to this project) is designing and will be eventually building a truck bed camper for me.
In related news, the eBay project is up and running! Chris posted the first item a couple days ago, a Byrds CD set. No takers yet, but we have plenty of time.
We’re reaching the point where the storage unit is almost starting to look organized. We know where most of the stereo equipment is. We know where all of the comic books are, and where most of the historical books are. What’s starting to take up a lot of space at the front is the stacks of books I want to keep, even though what I want to keep NOW is less than half of what I wanted to keep 2 years ago the first time I tried to sort through all this.
And today’s oddity was the commemorative box set celebrating Obama’s election in 2008. I thought it looked nice as a backdrop to the “Thanks for donating” photo from McCain and Palin. I think I should probably try to sell any Obama stuff before this election.

February 19 2012

Very productive day in the storage unit! Chris and I got up there around 3 pm, and took 3 loads to Salvation Army before they closed, mostly of books, clothing, and assorted lamps. We also recycled a few things at Best Buy, and finally dropped off the dead cell phones in a mailbox in those “Cell Phones for Soldiers” bags. I’m amazed at how much walking space we have in the storage unit now. We’re within 8 feet, maybe even 6 feet, of the back wall.
Today I unearthed my collection of 60 or so 3rd generation My Little Ponies, from 2004 – 2006. The last time I had them all on display was in my old room at my Dad’s house, when I was 20. My plan now is to sort and hang on to my favorites, and find good homes for the rest of my collection, in the hands of small children who will play with them.

We also uncovered all the Disney VHS tapes from my childhood, in those trademark big puffy white boxes, all of which went directly to Salvation Army. The real thrill, though, was finding the bootleg copy of The Lion King that Dad tracked down for me and Rachel, within a month of the original coming out in theaters. At the time, it was a super-human power to get a popular movie so quickly. I remember being so astounded with Dad when he brought that tape home one day.
We found more ties today, too. Chris immediately spotted the “Constitution” tie and asked if he could have that one. I was happy to give it to him. I know Rachel will be glad to see the Salvador Dali tie. As for the rest, probably at least 50 or so other ties, I’m hoping my seamstress can turn them into a skirt. That’s a project for later, though.
This week, we may be able to get an appointment with someone who can look over the stamp collection and tell us if it’s worth anything. Right now, the stamps are just sitting in their commemorative folders in one gigantic box. Whatever they’re worth, it would be nice to have them out of the way.
So much of Dad’s collections of collections just blow my mind. I don’t think he was ever really enthusiastic about stamps, but he thought they might be valuable someday, so he collected them. The same could be said of the coins and sadly, probably even the comic books. Aside from the Neil Gaiman comics and a few big graphic novel collections, I doubt Dad read all of the comics in the 20 long boxes.

February 23, 2012

Yesterday we took an unplanned, midweek trip to the storage unit, because one of Chris’s friends works for someone who was willing to look at the stamp collection. We unearthed a box large enough to fit a microwave inside, filled to the brim with commemorative stamp folders. The friend’s boss, who also works with jewelry and coins, told me they were essentially worthless, and that the only stamps of any value anywhere are from before 1914.
I can understand Mom’s frustration with Dad better now, all those years ago when she wanted to start saving for college educations for both me and Rachel. Apparently there was a type of account parents could sign up for that would lock in college tuition rates at their current prices. Mom was really in favor of a plan that would allow us to go to college in 1987 dollars, but Dad vetoed that plan. He didn’t believe in saving money because if the government collapsed, money would be worthless. Better to invest in physical objects, he believed, like coins, stamps, Star Wars action figures … Apparently he promised Mom he would start selling his collections of collections when we were ready for college.
I’m not even really upset about Dad’s lack of realistic planning for mine and Rachel’s futures, but what I am upset about is Dad’s lack of common sense. I got the impression after looking at these stamps that they amounted to little more than Beanie Babies – lots of hype, lots of rabidly enthusiastic people loudly exclaiming how they would appreciate in value, and ultimately, a flood of products sold to the gullible. Just like a Beanie Baby that sells for $25, $50, or $100, the people who bought these stamps were buying them for “someday” when they would become valuable. Meanwhile, the actual valuable stamps (and Beanie Babies) were way out of their reach. (I just looked on ebay – there are Princess Diana Beanie Babies going for upwards of $100,000!)
And for someone who was concerned with the supposedly imminent collapse of the US government, Dad sure didn’t do much to prepare for it. Sure he had a box of gold coins and a few guns (which were stolen after his death and before our arrival). But he didn’t even have the basic supplies recommended for a 3 day power outage, let alone a full-on, end-of-the-world scenario. He had a few cans in the pantry, but no water. He had 4 cars, but no backup gasoline, no generators. He had enough books to restart a library, but he surrounded himself with people who had no use for learning. He lived in a city where vacant lots could be bought for $1, but he rented an apartment from a sleazy criminal who trafficked stolen TVs out of the garage. And he had access to my grandparents’ bizarre zoo/farm/compound, but he never planted a single edible crop and had no idea what edible plants might have been growing in their 10 acres of forest.
I love my Dad, but the more I dig through the storage unit, the more his life is becoming a course in What Not To Do. I could open up the storage unit and teach classes! Possible topics –
How Not to Hoard Useless Crap
How Not to Store Books So They Get All Mildewy and Unusable
How Not to Own 50 Sport coats
How Not to Trust People Who Will Steal Your Stuff When You Die Unexpectedly

February 26 2012

Quote from Dad, found on Artvoice issue –
“ One, among many, indicia of pending societal collapse, is the inability to make correct choices, and the unwillingness, refusal, and reluctance to make timely corrections.”

Chris spent all day yesterday getting the last of his stuff moved out of his old place, so today I told him to stay home and rest, and I went to the storage unit alone. I didn’t take anything to Salvation Army. I’m fighting a cold myself, so I didn’t want to over exert myself. Instead I did a rapid fire sort of 5 or 6 boxes.
Most of the stuff in most of the boxes were books, most of which went directly into the growing Salvation Army pile. I found a few I was interested in keeping, as I do every week. The real surprise this week was another one of my boxes from my time living with Dad. Within that box were another 30 or so books, and another lesson in What Not to Do.
The lesson is this – How Not to Encourage a Self Absorbed Teenager Who Writes Bad Poetry.
Inside this box, I found 7 copies of a frivolous little poetry collection I had been published in when I was 13. I had been featured twice before, at 7 and 10, by this incredibly predatory publishing company, which fed on the self-esteem of children and the misplaced hopes of parents. I convinced my mother to buy a single hard cover edition for us to keep, and 20 copies for me to autograph and give away to my friends. The 7 remaining in this box were all made out to various friends of mine (I even helpfully included a note as to which page my poem was on), but for whatever reason, maybe a last second stroke of awareness and humility, I didn’t deliver them.
I know that hard cover edition is still safely haunting the basement of Mom’s house, so I threw out the remaining 7 volumes.
What’s more terrifying to me than looking back on my own hubris is realizing the trait runs thick in Dad’s side of the family. His father, N, paid for a quarter page column with a photo in one of those “Who’s Who in …” type books. It might be Psychology 1972 or something.
I don’t think I can exactly accuse Dad of hubris though. Sure, his office was tiled in his various degrees – Bachelor’s, Master’s, Law, assorted professional certifications, but those framed pieces of paper actually represented real accomplishments. Anyone could get published in that little “Anthology” I was in – some kid even ripped off the “If Dr. Suess was a Computer Programmer” poem that had been passed around in forwarded emails since the mid 90’s, which was actually written by a man named Gene Ziegler.
At any rate, I’m proud of myself for correcting the problem now.

We did have a small Storage Unit moment of victory last week. I took a commemorative edition of Monopoly, still shrink wrapped, to the Delonis Center in Ann Arbor when I reported for my volunteer shift. That same night, I saw 3 women on the 4th floor thoroughly enjoying an lively game of Monopoly.

January 8, 2012

Today was the first day of the storage unit project. The aim of the project is to clear out as much as possible by May, so we can move the contents of the storage unit to a smaller unit, possibly to be combined with Mom’s storage unit.
Currently the storage unit is home to the vast and varied remains of Dad’s estate. We originally moved in with a 27 foot long Uhaul truck, and the storage unit is 25 feet deep and 10 feet wide.
Today Chris and I removed:

1 bag of random clothing, blankets, scarves, and a racket ball racket
1 bag of garbage, mostly papers
1 box of garbage, mostly books too destroyed by mold and mice to be remotely salvageable
2 boxes of old VHS tapes, to be donated to Goodwill or Salvation Army
1 handful of assorted cords to be recycled at Best Buy
1 random box of things we wanted to keep

In the box of things we wanted to keep we put:

My nearly complete collection of Calvin and Hobbes books
2 Disney story books, to be given to a co-worker of mine with kids
1 Physicians’ Desk Reference guide, in case of Zombie Apocalypse
2 nice pairs of gloves, to be donated to the homeless shelter I volunteer at
1 itty bitty clip on digital camera
4 Sharpies

January 15 2012

Today was Week 2 of the storage unit project, and I got a big psychological boost from being consistent, at least for two weeks.
Over all it feels like we got less done than last week, but we still removed one bag/box of garbage, brought home one book/cube filled with assorted books to give as gifts and a few to keep, and two boxes of cassette tapes, CDs and DVDs to sell at the record shop tomorrow.
We also added to the GIGANTIC pile of books to be given to a hospital psych ward, and a second pile of books to be donated to Salvation Army or Goodwill. Each of those piles is a trip in its own right, and both piles are too large to fit in my little Pontiac, so we have to wait until next week, when we take Chris’s 4 door car instead.
We also made a new category today, books to be donated to Beth Israel’s library. There are so many good books on Jewish history, theater, the Holocaust, Judaism in American society, and more, and I feel like they would go unloved at Goodwill or in a hospital, but hopefully Beth Israel can use them.
Today we also tackled the issue of encyclopedias. Some encyclopedias are valuable, if they are very old, say, a century or more. But encyclopedias from the mid 1980s are not old enough to be valuable, but too old to impart much relevant knowledge in the age of Wikipedia. Still, the Jew in me refuses to throw them out, since they’re in excellent condition, with no mold or missing pages or writing. So the solution for now is to hang on to them, and hopefully find someone who can use them for some art project. I’m not entirely comfortable with the idea of cutting up books and making the pages into flowers, but it’s better than just putting them back on a shelf to be ignored.

January 22 2012

Today Chris and I had a short but productive visit to the storage unit. We loaded up 5 boxes full of books and videos, which I will try to donate to a local hospital, and failing that, Salvation Army. We also grabbed another box full of CDs and DVDs to try to sell, but we struck out hard core last week. It seems like there’s just very little market for used media in such a bulky physical format in the age of iPods and cloud storage.
We also grabbed another book cube to use at home, and a stack of things to give away to friends. I found a couple of cut-out books, one of paper airplanes and another of dinosaurs, that I’m going to offer to a co-worker with children. I found some CDs of music from various science fiction TV shows and movies that my favorite geeky co-worker will hopefully enjoy. A Vietnam coffee table book is going to one of my managers, and a Picasso book is going to a local DJ I know.
Today I also ripped open a box of office supplies that just made me reflect on how rushed and disorganized Rachel and I really were when we were packing up Dad’s house. There were at least 100 assorted pens, highlighters and pencils, all taken directly from Dad’s desk in their respective tin can organizers. Chris and I threw them all away. We also pitched the stacks of half-used yellow note pads, the un-used address books, the decaying post-it notes, and a stack of business cards.

Out of the whole box of office supplies, we saved a Swingline stapler, a stapler remover, and a few desk accessories that I want to make sure Rachel doesn’t want. But we got rid of 80% of the other contents. I feel like that’s an accurate prediction of how the rest of the storage unit will go – get rid of 80%, save 20%. It just boggles my mind to realize that we’ve been paying $200 per month to save that box (among others) filled with 100 useless extra pens and highlighters.

January 29 2012

Today felt like we were just re-arranging things, but I think the full effect will be felt next week. Chris counted 12 boxes filled with clothes and books we’ll donate to Salvation Army next week, not counting the 5 boxes in his car from last week we haven’t dropped off yet. Tomorrow he’ll unload his car while I’m at work, and next week we’ll use his car to make a few trips to the Salvation Army back in Brighton.
Treasures found this week include my box of Barbie dolls, which I didn’t even remember packing, my animatronic walking horse which still works!, the menorah Rachel and I grew up with, the Christmas tree angel I dropped and broke the hand on, and a few coats that fit Chris. I un-earthed two of My Little Pony stuffed animals, which I squealed over at first, then decided I would offer to my co-worker, Lynne, who got last week’s discovery of paper airplanes and dinosaur dioramas. I’m also giving her a hula skirt that I got in Hawaii when I was 7. I found 3 more art books for the DJ, and a book on Harley Davidson motorcycles for my manager.
I made a couple of executive decisions today, such as deciding a large box of eight-tracks can be consigned to the garbage heap. I also decided to bring home some reproduction antique radios to try and sell on Craigslist.

I think next week when we remove all the Salvation Army boxes and garbage boxes, we’ll start to see real progress. Already there’s more room to walk and I can almost see the back wall. One of our next steps will be finding an antique book dealer to come take a look at the collection, as well a comic book dealer and maybe a record dealer.


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