Saturday, June 02, 2007

Strange Powers

A Personal Note:

We've been cleaning out and refurbishing the flat here in Heliopolis that my father's family grew up in. My grandmother, both spendthrift and a packrat, had managed over the years to accumulate an unbelievable amount of crap in the apartment, most of which needed to be disposed of long ago. There have, however, been some interesting finds amongst the innumerable bits of plastic junk and bric-a-brac: we've found three old record players, for instance, an old X-Ray box that my dad made during medical school, a wealth of long-since out of print (if not banned) books on Socialism and Marxism, and a human skull signed by many of the members of my father's graduating med. school class.

Today however, in looking through some old papers and notebooks, I found some of my grandfather's old business cards. Though the cardstock was a bit thin by today's standards, the cards were striking enough to make even Pat Bateman freeze, and bore a simplicity of an age since passed. No email, no mobile, no fax; my grandfather's name, the company name and his position, and two numbers: one for Alexandria, one for Cairo (both only five digits).

I never knew my grandfather, he died shortly before my birth, but seeing his business card I feel as if I've learned something about the man, I've been able to locate the simplicity and grace that I'd heard about him in as many stories in a physical object of his. It may sound like I'm "Accessorizing the Renaissance" here, but it is interesting to think of the traces we leave, and ways that we mark objects and personal affects. There's a fair amount to be said about how objects, goods, and commodities shape our lives and change our ways of being, but I think it's equally interesting to consider how we go about the process of shaping those objects, changing their being.

I hope the Huffy Crew can indulge me in these personal ramblings, but I just can't get interested in the campaigning for the presidential election. Perhaps to open this up beyond the personal a bit more, I'll ask you fellow Crew members, what relationships do you have, if any, with such objects? Is what I'm describing merely nostalgia and the production of my imagination, or is there maybe a more intimate connection created between our objects and ourselves? I've no memories of my grandfather to be nostalgic about, but by seeing these very trivial cards that he carried, I feel as if I learned something about him. Any thoughts?


Blogger Austin 5-000 said...

The only thing I can really think of is my T-Shirt collection. I lost a "Austin's Steakhouse and Saloon" shirt a few years back and am still pissed about it. Everything else is just a commodity.

9:33 AM  
Blogger The Sheriff said...

Do you think the person who found it, assuming it was found, knows anything about you just by virtue of the T-shirt now?

6:50 PM  
Blogger Scantron said...

Wow, thanks for this great post. I haven't had too many contact-through-handling-of-material-objects experiences with deceased relatives, but the few that I have I'd like to think I put to some good use. For example, you are probably all aware of my green polo jacket, which was originally a possession of my great uncle Felix. (Despite his name, Felix ended his life by shooting himself when he learned that he had terminal cancer. But perhaps this was indeed the most noble, if not the happiest, way to go.) I have also enjoyed my maternal grandfather's sturdy glass ash tray, complete with a custom stitched, monogrammed wooden base. I always thought about sticking a picture of our dear President's face between the glass and the base, but I would then always consider my grandfather's stern and conservative nature, and decide that he probably would not have approved. I also own some handguns passed down from my grandfather, the whereabouts of which are unknown to me at this time.

12:45 AM  
Blogger The Sheriff said...

Scranton Jones' ashtray...What a sweet thing it is.

8:55 AM  

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