Tuesday, October 28, 2003

detritus and luxury

You know how every house has a junk drawer? Admit it, you've got one. Half-full matchbooks, individually wrapped fork/napkin combos from the takeout place, endless sets of cheap chopsticks, rubber bands, crumpled warranties for items that have long since gone AWOL, capless pens, penless caps, bent paper clips, plastic straws, rusty scissors, and the innumerable "little wheels off of things," as Shirley Jackson once wrote.

This morning I went looking for a phillip's-head screwdriver in my new place, and ascertained something I had suspected: every drawer in that flat is a junk drawer. In addition to the usual suspects, every drawer I opened contained at least one crayon, and a couple of plastic grocery bags. Costume jewelry rings, packets of red pepper flakes and parmesan cheese, a long-empty single-serve soymilk container with its straw still inserted, paintbrushes with dried paint gluing the bristles together, plastic forks to eternity.

On the friends-of-hoarders listserv I'm on, someone just posted that scientists have uncovered the gene for OCD. I'm thinking I'd like to open a can of OCD whup-ass on my new place, but I need to talk to the Master Tenant, she of the two howling daughters, before I touch a thing. I remember what happened when I tried bringing some order to the kitchen of the group house I once inhabited in Oakland. Either the order crumbled after a week, or I drew the wrath of He Who Must Accumulate; it was a discussion in that very kitchen between he and I about whether covering the walls with extra egg beaters was really decorating or not that sent me packing.

Anyone who has seen my studio knows that this is a coals to Newcastle situation. But I really am trying to pare down. Here's Hans Hoffman on the matter (although I believe he was talking about either writing or art, not my desk), "The ability to simplify means to eliminate the unnecessary so the necessary may speak."

Speaking of which, has anyone else noticed that the magazine 'Real Simple' is totally cluttered with ads and features on things to buy? Does this seem disingenuous to anyone else?

Oh, and. Mies van de Rohe and his "less is more" statement? I read that he actually said that at a dinner party when the hostess was trying to serve him another helping of something he wasn't enjoying.

Absolutely fascinating and totally snarky: James B. Twitchell's 'Living it Up: Our Love Affair with Luxury.' Here he is on a recent fad:

"The word [pashmina] is a linguistic trick. Cashmere is goat hair from Kashmir, an area between India and Pakistan, whereas pashmina is simply the Persian word for the same goat in the same area. In other words, it's the same stuff."