Posted by: 1of10boyz | October 22, 2012

Collectables – One man’s junk is another man’s treasure


I think I am probably one psychotic episode from being on my way to being a television superstar, not in a good way though. I would be on the A&E TV series Hoarders or TLC’s Hoarding – Buried Alive. I am pretty sure that I have some compulsive disorder or maybe even two.

My lovely wife will tell you that she has thrown out many, many things but would never tell me that. She knows that if she tells me she has thrown it out I will sulk and pout for a few days; missing the opportunity for either making it work again or stealing everything useable from it to put in my growing pile of things to be used to “save” something in the future.

Now she is always quite happy (at least I think she is) when I take something that she has accidentally destroyed or broken and make it work again. Rarely do I ever think that she did it on purpose so she could get a new one. She likes what she has and is often sad when she has killed it or it has suffered a deathly event, not because she can’t go get a new one but because she liked the one she had and isn’t sure that she will find one that she likes as much.

I have fortunately never found anything that is already broken that can’t be fixed or completely disassembled so that there is no hope of putting it back together again. Those really are the only two options once it is broken and/or doesn’t work. I haven’t given up on taking something apart to see how it works or what is in it with the hope of making it run or salvaging something out of it for later use. If it has screws that hold it together then I will mostly likely take them out and see if I can figure out what kind of death it suffered.

You can learn a lot about things around the house if you take them apart. Now I don’t recommend that you do this with something that is still working, as sometimes, in today’s world of plastic parts, you can’t put them back together again, or at least easily put them back together again. But if it is already dead, well, what can it hurt? I have been amazed at what is inside many of the items that have failed. Some have failed and but by the grace of God not burned my house to the ground based on the condition inside. Others have been filled with “Ghost turds”, a term created by sailors on submarines for the stuff that collects in places that only a ghost could get.

I should have lots of “spare parts” in my work collection but sadly, I have moved many times and have sacrificed them to the dump because I couldn’t make myself haul them all over the country as I moved my little family around during my career. I also suspect that some of them met an untimely demise because the boss of the house got tired of looking at them, moving them around, and figured since I hadn’t messed with it in a month or two that she could safely make the jettison to the trash bin. Rarely has she been wrong. I have only on rare occasions asked about something that she has admittedly sent to the rubbish heap.

As I wander this immense country I am in now as a tourist and “collector” I wonder what it is that I should acquire that, as some point, will be of value, maybe not real value, but have meaning to whomever gets my stuff when I am gone? I hope that what I collect will be something more than just a pile of things on a table or in box at the yard sale when my kids or grand-kids are clearing away my collections.

I am not a real collector; I don’t have the money or the skill to be one of those. I buy what I like and what reminds me of where I have been and what I have seen. I buy things that fit within my understanding of the experience I am having. In many cases, that means that no one else sees in it what I see, this means that the probability of it being worth much to someone else is also pretty small.

My current fad for collections is the little curious teapots that I see for sale, refrigerator magnets, and porcelain or ceramic figures. I imagine that the teapots won’t have too much difficulty finding a home in many generations of my family, since they are unique and cute, and even if they aren’t worth anything they will make some little girl having tea with her dolls pretty excited to use. My refrigerator magnets may not last for many generations but one or two may get passed down to hold pictures and hand paintings on the refrigerators of the future. The figures may be another story all together.

Sure I buy some nice ones for my wife, you know the hand-painted intricate ladies with fans and umbrellas. But the ones that I am constantly on the lookout for are the ones that were propaganda figures during the Cultural Revolution of China during 1966-1976. These are the ones that have caught my eye and represent the period of China that I knew and feared. This is the Communist China that haunted the dreams of the American people as we lost heart in the conflict in Vietnam. This is the China that was destroying itself from the inside out and still managing to take away the American will to fight and die for freedom in faraway places.

As I have lived here I have walked by these figures very few times without negotiating a price to make it mine. This is propaganda at its finest, it is the projection of what the people should be doing and how they should be acting by a government that is struggling to define itself and struggling to move forward. Though I have yet to learn what many of the figures mean, I can see how they would have encouraged the people to continue with the struggle even if they didn’t know why. I hope that in my wandering that I will find the ones that most closely reflect the anguish of misguided and illogical ideology as the power structure and order that existed was destroyed and replaced with something else. I hope to find those that are intended to be patriotic and express the excitement of youth as they are challenged by the leaders to take charge.

I hope to find ones that will inspire my heirs to stand up for what is right when times are tough and everything around them seems wrong. The pieces that will encourage them to make a stand even if they are in the minority and it means persecution and condemnation, grateful I am that they will make those stands in America. But, I would hope that they would make them wherever they need to be made, including China.

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