“The Giarrussos are pack rats,” my mother said to me once about the volume of belongings stashed in attics, in closets, under beds, in desk drawers, in the Secretary in the living room, in stacks under the glass of the coffee table, in the drawers of the entertainment center, and, to the highest degree, in the basements of the houses we had lived in.
I like to keep things; I also like to throw them away. Being this kind of pack-rat is a self-perpetuating hobby – I keep things so that, when they build up to a certain level, I will have lots of things to choose from when I start pitching. My dad kept everything he ever owned, I think, and never threw any of it away. Most of this followed him from the basement of 426 Ross Avenue, to the garage of 9 Gratz Street after he and my mother divorced, to our two-bedroom on Penn-Adamsburg Road. There were boxes full of never-opened children’s toys (trucks, dolls, Mork and Mindy figurines). A box of vintage Playboy magazines from the seventies. His mother’s sewing machine, jars full of screws, nails, bolts, salvaged squares of Velcro. Scattered throughout the house were treasure chests of things saved over two or three decades. Camping equipment saved since he was an Eagle Scout: tents, thick, green sleeping bags, a canteen, pots and pans, at least six different Swiss Army knives. A fire-proof metal box containing back-up disks for every computer he had ever owned. There’s a recycled wine box of pictures, thousands of them, from the mid-seventies until the time of my parent’s divorce. There’s a glass book case full of his old college textbooks (psychology, business, a Webster’s unabridged dictionary) and, of course, the lockbox in the bottom-left drawer of his desk.