Monthly Archives: April 2012


Here we have 5 boxes of assorted Jewish history books, videos, and even a Learn Hebrew record set that we’ll be donating to the Ann Arbor JCC later this week.



From left to right, we have the Book of Mormon, a Koran/Qu’ran, and a bit of Christian history on Jesus the Jew.  I’ve elected to save a good chunk of Dad’s theological library.  Not pictured is a lovely multi-volume set of various world scriptures.



This is how Dad read books – as if he was having a conversation with the author.  Not every book is marked.  Most hard-cover books escaped unscathed, as did anything more than 40 or 50 years old.  Many are only marked half way through.  Several books still had a bookmark in them, presumably from where he left off when another book caught his attention.


When I lived with Dad, he was often reading 6 to 10 books at one time, some for his classes at UB or Buff State, some for a pet project he was working on at the high school, and some just for personal enjoyment.



These are some psychology texts which belonged to my grandfather when he was at Columbia in the late 1940’s.  Aside from the terrifying title “The Manipulation of Human Behavior,” each book bore the inscription, “If found, return to N____ F____.  It’s worth more to me than it is to you!”  I’m not sure exactly how Dad came into possession of these books, because my grandfather certainly wouldn’t have knowingly given them away.  I’m guessing that during the years in which Dad was living with his parents after getting divorced from Mom, he probably just swept these books along with him when he moved out.


Our prizes today were the Hamilton Beach milkshake maker and a Hamilton Beach blender.  The milkshake maker I remember from my childhood, but the blender Dad must have purchased later.  It still has stickers on it, and as far as I can tell, has never been used.


In a few weeks, I’ll be starting the origin story of this whole crazy mess.  It seems appropriate timing.  Soon Rachel will be graduating from law school, and 3 years ago she graduated from undergrad.  Her graduation 3 years ago was the last time we saw Dad alive.


In other news, I got a birthday card from my deranged grandmother, but the full story of why I won’t go to New York to fulfill a dying woman’s wish to give photographs to her grand-daughter will take a little time to completely explain.

Pop quiz!  What is this thing?  Is it A: A rocket ship, B: A fish standing on its tail or C: A pterodactyl egg that landed on the roof of a house?  We found it in a box labeled “Pottery.”

Chris and I unearthed another box of CDs today.  Upper left corner is Dolly Parton, upper right corner is Type O Negative, lower right corner is Red Hot Chili Peppers, and lower left corner is The Flying Burrito Brothers.

Here we have an ancient relic, possibly an item once associated with religious worship.  There appears to be an all-seeing eye within a pyramid.  We have heard garbled tales of people inserting these silver disks into their primitive computer boxes, only to have the computer protest with loud squealing and harsh static.

These symbols are still widely worshiped today.

This is just one of several books on the Civil War we found today, along with Revolutionary War history, and biographies of Lincoln and Benjamin Franklin.

My Dad, the serious historian.

My Dad, the conspiracy nut.

Apparently, my Dad decided at one point that just going out and buying books wasn’t enough.  He needed a guide to tell him how to buy more books …

These are the stacks of books that Chris and I want to keep.  Rather, these are the stacks we made today, from the 10 or so boxes we went through.  Over 75% of the contents of those boxes went into the Salvation Army pile, or the “Give to Other People We Know” pile or the “Jewish stuff” pile or the “Old and Valuable” pile.  These are just the books we wanted to keep from TODAY.  *sigh*

So here is our theory on Dad’s book collection.  Most of the books fall into one of a few possible categories – World History, World Religions, Politics, Science/Physics, Great Leaders, Great Leaders who were Evil, Collapse, Education, and How to Influence People/Management.  Dad spoke often and authoritatively on what he saw as the inevitable collapse of the United States and the rest of Western Civilization.  We think Dad was trying to prepare himself to be a great leader in the event of societal break down, while at the same time preserving his favorite bits of wisdom in his own mini Library of Alexandria.

Sadly, he overlooked the tedious and unglamorous bits of everyday life like How to Disinfect Water and How to Not Starve.

I think about the collapse of civilization fairly often myself, and I probably have Dad to thank for that.  I’m a lot more concerned with food and water and shelter than How to Win Minions and Influence Rival Gangs, though.  I can see my Dad making it through, especially in his position as a beloved high school teacher.  He could have blockaded himself in his class room or even taken over the entire building with the help of some of his students.  He wouldn’t have known how to grow food, but at least for the first little while, his adoring legion of students would have kept him alive with tributes of scavenged canned goods.  With a Boy Scout manual, he could have set basic snares for pigeons and raccoons.  Pretty soon, he could have been trading raccoon pelts for blocks of cheese from a rural school district/castle.

Today Chris and I started with a box of assorted cups – although not the giant box of tea cups.

Here we have some of the glasses from the china cabinet, all of which seem entirely superfluous for a man who generally drank only two beverages – store brand cola or instant coffee.



This was a neat find, although solidly in the category of “I wonder why Dad kept that.”




It’s a “Welcome to Ceasar’s Palace/Las Vegas” packet, with my grandparents’ names on it (not shown).  I was initially confused, because the only Ceasar’s I know of is a very depressing place in Windsor.  My best guess is that my grandfather was invited to Las Vegas for a psychology convention.  Perhaps this is a souvenir from my grandmother’s charming tale of how she wanted to visit a ranch for wild horses and ended up embarrassing my grandfather when she asked a taxi driver to take her to the Mustang Ranch.



Tangentially related, here’s a book we found called “Etiquette for Outlaws.”  Yes, that is a bar code on the left side of the book – this book was either stolen from or discarded from the Bennett High School library.  I wonder why … perhaps because the back of the book promises to reveal proper etiquette during jailhouse fights, while getting tattoed, and for gang initiations.  There’s a part of me that almost thinks Dad might have deliberately planted this book in the library, hoping to cause a stir.



This book belongs to my mother.  How exactly my Dad ended up taking it with him to New York is beyond me, but I’m really glad it hasn’t been damaged by mold or water or anything else.  And yes, Mom, if you’re reading, I put it in a safe place and I’ll deliver it to you next Sunday.



I just thought this book was too stunning to ignore.



This is the inscription on the inside of the beautiful book, dated 1866.  The book was itself published in 1864.



And this is an entirely different book, but I thought it was worth noting that Dad was rescuing library books as early as the late 1980’s.  We moved out of Owosso in 1989.


We ended up only having room for 4 boxes in Chris’s car this week, 3 of which are filled with books and one is filled with some of the fragile atrocities from a couple weeks ago.  We stopped by Mom’s house and I pawed through some of my boxes in her basement.  I filled a bag with Salvation Army things, shelter things, and things to give to my friend Lynn, but one item ended up making it back out of the give-away pile and back into my arms.


It was my giant Simba puppet, that I spent one whole summer working for when I was 9 or 10.  I’m pretty sure the deal was that my Dad would buy it for me if I skimmed bugs out of the pool every day.  At that point in my life, The Lion King was my favorite movie, and going to the Disney Store in the mall was a near religious experience.  I still remember locking my eyes onto that giant lion, and how wanting it consumed my heart.


As soon as I pulled Simba out of the box, I said aloud that I would give him to Lynn for her kids, since I already gave her several other members of Simba’s family.  But when Chris and I got in the car to leave, I wanted to hold Simba on my lap.  Chris was the one who actually had to convince me that it would be ok to hold on to this stuffed animal.  I felt so guilty for loving a material thing so much, for clinging to this relic from my childhood.  But the point of minimalism, or at least, the point of MY minimalism, is not to have only 100 things or only as many things as will fit in a backpack, but to make room for the important, meaningful things.  Simba qualified, so he’s staying.


Can’t forget that today (technically it’s Monday now) is Dad’s birthday.  He would be 61, or perhaps he IS 61 if he ran off to Morocco with a new identity.  There are so many things I wish I could tell him.  I wonder how he’d react if I could tell him I got my taxes done a few days ago, that I owe $400-odd dollars to the Federal Government, and I intend to pay in full.  I wonder how he would feel about Chris, if he would remember him as the same boy who, along with our friend Kevin, came to offer me moral support at the custody hearing all those years ago.


I might go out tomorrow night and try to find a way to celebrate Dad’s birthday.  On the rare occasions he drank alcohol, Dad enjoyed a Gin and Tonic, but I just can’t get down with a drink that tastes the way Pine-sol smells.  A good cigar might not be a bad idea, if I can actually get to a tobacco shop – there’s no way I would try to honor Dad’s memory with a Swisher.

Yes, East-Over, the spring holiday where we remember the brave bunny who led the Jews out of Egypt by laying a trail of chocolate eggs nestled into the shifting desert sands, and delivered them to a promised land of glazed ham and spiked lemonade.


What?  Look, I don’t know where you buy your calendars, but my calendar has this one clearly marked.  Anyway …


Chris and I got to show off our weeks of hard work to Rachel this weekend when she flew home from DC.



This is her impressed face.



We uncovered this statue early on in the process, and have been saving it for Rachel.  I remember this little blue guy standing guard in my Dad’s home office in Buffalo, and long before that, in his basement office in the house we grew up in back on Buno road.


Today we got a few more boxes of books and knick-knacks to the Salvation Army in Ann Arbor.  A little part of me still squirms uncomfortably whenever I see a worker unceremoniously dump a box of books into a giant blue canvas bin.  First of all, they’re books!  You don’t just toss them around like so many cast-off socks at the end of a long day.  But more than that, even as I give them away, I’m still attached to them.  They’re still Dad’s books, and however illogical, I see those books tumbling over each other haphazardly and it feels like someone is jack-hammering right into Dad’s grave.


It’s hard.  If you’re the one stuck with the task of cleaning out a relative’s house a week after their death or you’ve got a stack of boxes in the basement from 10 years ago, it’s still hard.  All our lives, we identify ourselves and each other with things.  There’s Jay in his Porsche.  There’s Heidi, and would you look at those shoes!  I had my My Little Pony collection.  Dad had his library.


But we’re not our things.  We’re really not.  I know with total certainty that Dad still would have been a brilliant conversationalist and a dedicated teacher without all of his books.  I can still appreciate the more child-like pleasures of life without all 100 My Little Pony figurines.


It was this thought that led me to finally say goodbye to my red Doc Martin’s.



My mom bought me these boots when I was 15.  They saw occasional use in high school, mostly around Halloween or for the rare concert or party.  And I wore them exclusively for about 6 months in 2008, when I back-packed around the country on my hobo-punk odyssey.  And that’s it.  I’ve held onto them for the past 4 years for a variety of reasons.  They remind me of my adventures, they were a beautiful gift, and somewhere deep down, I had hoped I might one day resurrect my punk rock Dorothy costume.


But without them, I’m still the same person who packed a meager back-pack’s worth of supplies and headed out without a destination or a clue.  I still love the music of Rancid.  I certainly still love my mom!  And now I have 10 pounds less of stuff to pack, to move around, to think about.


Today Chris and I took 3 boxes filled with china and a microwave to the Faith in Action office in Chelsea, Michigan.  There were two sweet older ladies being assisted by a man in his 30’s.  Together, we got the boxes into a shed outside their building, which was already filled with clothes, suitcases, and small furniture items.  They were very appreciative of our donation, but I was shocked when the man asked us if the microwave worked.  Apparently some people are confused by the difference between a donation center and a land fill.


I’m really glad to know that we can give all the dishes to people who will need them, and who will get them for free.  I still can’t wrap my head around the notion that my Dad was out there in the world, buying all these cups and plates on purpose to fill up the giant china cabinet, that I’m fairly sure he only bought because it matched the table and chairs he wanted.  Ultimately, I decided to let go of the Fiestaware in favor of keeping the more formal wedding-ish china and the one of a kind clay plates that someone made for my parents as a wedding gift.


Here’s a link to the Faith in Action office if anyone, near or far, would like to know more:

Hello, and welcome back to Sundays in the Storage Unit!  I’m your hostess, Sarah, and my brave assistant is Chris.

This week we dove into some of the mysterious boxes labeled “China.”

I don’t know what this tiny owl was doing with the china, but it turns out to be a handy diagnostic tool.  Here’s the test – Does this owl utterly terrify you?  If you answered no, you might not be human or have a soul.

So that’s where the tiny ceramic tea kettle filled with teddy bears was hiding.  I’d been looking all over for that!

For those of you just tuning in now, no, these did not belong to my grandmother.  First of all, my GOOD grandmother had much better taste than this.  These tea cups all belonged to my Dad.

Gentle readers, this has all been fairly amusing up until this point, but now I have a serious message to deliver to you, through the next series of pictures.

OK, let’s recap.  In the boxes labeled “China,” Chris and I found not one, but TWO extremely tacky, possibly possessed porcelain figurines.  These figurines belonged to my Dad, a man who had a career as a lawyer and later a high school teacher, a man who liked guns, a man who did not like to eat at restaurants where you had to wait longer than 10 minutes for a table, a man who wore almost the exact same outfit every day – a suit with a dress shirt and a tie.

I lived with my Dad for over a year and I do not remember these things being on display anywhere.  I remember the rock and roll posters, the comic books, the regular books (good lord, the books …), the music, but not these awful things.

This is my plea – somewhere in your house, right now, there is something completely useless, something you never show anyone, something that hasn’t seen the light of day in years.  Please, get rid of it right now.  Do it for me, do it for yourself, do it for the poor slob who is going to have to comb through all of your possessions someday.


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