Paul Prather

'To have and to hold' onto stuff

As I prepare to get married at the end of 2010, I've been, off and on, mostly off, cleaning out decades' worth of accumulated possessions from my house.

My fiancée, Liz, sighs and wags her head. She insists I'm a compulsive pack rat.

"Where did you get all this junk?" she says. "And why have you kept it? Don't you ever throw anything away, even when it becomes old and irrelevant?"

Junk? Irrelevant? Oh, I beg to differ. I'd argue that my tastes are fairly discriminating.

Let's say — let's just pretend — that I do have eight versions of my turgid, unpublished novel dating back to 1982 stacked on the floor of my home office. Let's say the milk in my refrigerator expired in December — of 2007. Let's say I've got the jeans I wore 40 pounds ago.

Let's just say.

There are, conversely, many, many more things available in our vast American land of plenty that I haven't accumulated. I recently wrote down for Liz a short list of possessions I don't have, don't want and thus don't intend to buy in the future. To wit:

A boat. A miter saw. A trailer hitch.

A yard gnome.

A ferret named Skylar.

A bassoon.

Bumper stickers.

A sidewalk edger.

A poster of Bea Arthur. A portrait of Chester A. Arthur.

A Snuggie.

A CD of the 20 greatest Christian rap songs. A CD of the 20 greatest Jewish rap songs. A DVD of The Jane Austen Book Club.

A pit bull. A python. A pink flamingo.

A recreational vehicle. A Ronco Pocket Fisherman. A talking Big Mouth Billy Bass.

A crossbow.


Instant coffee.

A motorcycle. A Clydesdale. A semi-truck. A thresher.

Galoshes. Platform shoes. Battery-powered socks. A candy-apple-red sport coat.


A unicycle.

A collection of poetry by Suzanne Somers. The first season of Full House on DVD. Anything involving Danny Bonaduce. Anything involving Screech. The Best of ABBA.

Fresh fruit. Buttermilk.

An aquarium, empty or full. An ant farm.

A CB radio.

White polyester bell bottoms. Spandex. Latex.

A koala cub. A miniature turtle.

An alb. A beret. A monocle.

A test tube.

Gummy Worms. Night crawlers.

A Bible in Portuguese. Mao's Little Red Book. The Wit and Wisdom of ... anybody.

A petticoat. A bustle.

Rice cakes.

Paisley stationery.

A gross of vacuum-cleaner belts.

A leatherette jacket.

A specimen cup.

3-D glasses. A set of fake dentures that clack across tabletops.

"So there!" I cried triumphantly, having read Liz the list. "Now tell me I'm a pack rat! Au contraire! I'm practically a neat freak!"

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