Thinking and Writing About Your Stuff


The other day, I dutifully checked in on the Ex Wife’s literary efforts, not just because I’m nuts but because they are so breathtakingly stupid. I always come away feeling both gratified and enraged.

I can’t help it! She writes a monthly column for her community paper. If it wasn’t there, I wouldn’t need to read it. But it is there. Like Mount Everest.

So the column this month is about packing up when a fire forces you to evacuate. You don’t have much time and there is limited room in the car.

What stuff would you take if you only had a small suitcase?

The stuff she packed was nothing special: “the important papers, and the photos, my doll, the few pieces of good jewelry, family videos.”

I guess the doll is a little suspect and who still says “good jewelry” but let’s move on.

Safely back at home, she removes the precious things she had stuffed into a washer and dryer, and here’s where the fun begins.

My old volumes of Shakespeare, heavy and dark with wisdom,

A collection of glittered Advent calendars holding all the magic of the season,

The Happy Birthday banner handmade by my father,

A pink sequin dress, old family bible, my Beatle cards.

One shabby, brown flannel shirt, well worn and shared by everyone in the family.

Miranda’s report on Ground Squirrels, complete with illustrations.

An Anniversary card from a man who loves me still.

A popsicle stick-framed picture of a guru, the Batman book, Riley’s small handprint,

The copy of, “An Actor Prepares,” that Cindy gave me all those years ago,

A Smashing Pumpkins tee shirt, a stuffed pink pig named Peddly,

Mike’s old surf jacket.

And a faded needlepoint from my mother, reading,

“Dear House, You Are Really Very Small, Just Big Enough For Love, That’s All.”

Jesus Christ. I can’t even.

How does a person get to be so enchanted with their own self?

I believe this is the key to my fascination. It is unfathomable. And so awful.

I asked my sister what she’d pack if she was in a hurry to evacuate. Her answers were reassuringly normal. Photographs and family mementos.

My husband’s answer was thrillingly concise: Instead of a suitcase, he’s take a guitar case, and a guitar. I could not love him more for this.

Me, I’d take the photos and the things I sleep with. I’d throw all my jewelry into a pillowcase, and if there was time, I’d take my hard drive.

I couldn’t manage to be poetic and nostalgic about my itemized stuff.  And believe me, I tried, on the phone with my sister. I’m just not enough of an idiot, say what you will about me.

Now! What stuff would you take, and for extra points, try to emulate the Ex’s lovingly descriptive tone.



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38 Responses to Thinking and Writing About Your Stuff

  1. David Duff says:

    Right … how far off is the fire … that close! … my Gaaard! … what’ll it be then? … I dunno … come on, come on! … what about?… nah, it’s crap … oh Lord the front door just burned down … how about? … fagedabartit! … hang on, there’s those hugely valuable thingies someone gave me for Xmas in 1968 … can’t remember where I put ’em … ooops, there goes the living room … concentrate! concentrate! … what about my favourite Long Johns? … nah! can’t reach the bedroom for the fire … I know, I know, of course it’s obvious, the most valuable thing in my life:

    “The Collected Speeches of Margaret Thatcher”

    Pheeew, that was close!

  2. Sister Wolf says:


  3. Blights says:

    I am impressed by how much stuff she got into her washer and dryer but I guess you guys have bigger capacity appliances over there…

  4. Muscato says:

    Having lived in some dicey places and through iffy times, I’ve not only long had a “go bag,” but had to use it. At the moment, I’m going through a particularly not-enchanted-with-having-so-much-stuff phase, and so I think I think my list would be both short and – for me – remarkably practical: wallet (with whatever cash is on hand, of whatever kind); passport, to get away with; other documents (it’s hell if you don’t have originals and need to get something done); phone, ipad, and backup drive (laptop if space allows); change of underwear and socks (shirt and pants if space allows); the most basic toiletries and my bottle of Hermes un Jardin sur le Nil; my wedding ring; and my grandmother’s seed-pearl brooch. With that (and the terriers and Mister), I think I’d be more or less set.

  5. Suspended says:

    I’d take an umbrella. If I’m watching my house burn to the ground, knowing my luck, it will start pissing with rain just to make the moment more miserable; and it won’t be the kind of rain that puts out fires, it’ll be that faux light, frizzy-hair-making, blurry eye’d rain.

    I have lots of possessions. They are a burden. Let them burn.

  6. Bevitron says:

    My cats (only two; that disqualifies me for crazy status) in their carrier

    My meds (nothing fun, just beta-blocker & anti-coagulant; one pulmonary embolism was enough)

    Unopened bag of cool ranch Doritos…who the hell knows when I’ll get to eat again

    My tweezers

    My stinking New Balance trail runners, which should be on my feet already, if I haven’t lost my mind in the panic

    One shabby, cotton-spandex, full-coverage, faded blue Playtex underwire bra, originally $4.99 at Target, tit-sprung and shared by everyone in the family

  7. Sister Wolf says:

    Bevitron – Hahahahahahahahaha

  8. Sisty says:

    How does a person get to be so enchanted with her own self? Indeed — you nailed it, absolutely.

    In the spirit of it all, I’d take:

    My toenail clippings that I’ve been lovingly arranging in a Limoges saucer by my bed

    Several small pebbles, because if one of my teeth gets knocked out, or rots out, I’ll have a cosmetic substitute

    A copy of Nabokov’s Lolita, for its lasting erotic bang-for-the-buck

    No need for tweezers — I’d just pull out my eyebrows by hand.

    A large club, cylindrical in shape, because you never know.

  9. Sister Wolf says:

    Sisty – Hahahaha, now I’m inspired to try harder!

  10. annemarie says:

    As I stared at the encroaching flames, the fire seemed like some alive thing, menacing and manic, shooting its tongues into all my intimate crevices. A shiver rippled through my body as suddenly my life, my identity, and all my possessions came into sharp, vivid focus, no longer simply objects anymore but talismans, carrying something of the essence that flows from the world to me, and from me to the world, penetrating presences with whom I have lived all these years. In a single fluid movement I sprang from room to room carrying a much-used and well-loved faded jute sack and opened up my inner ears. Which object called to me? My make up bag in the bathroom was first. That tiny, girlish looking sac that contained all the products I’d carefully culled from a veritable mountain of available products, and chosen only the ones that would nourish my skin and enhance my quiet natural beauty. Next, I fled to the dresser in the bedroom, the old dresser, a familiar sight since I was a child, now suddenly aglow with its rich patina dark with wisdom. I opened the first drawer and carefully removed my old battered journal, keeper of secrets, treasure vault of Pulitzer worthy morsels and testament to the talent I refuse to share with the world until the world is ready. Next: a photograph of myself as a child, fresh from crying about some long forgotten offense, the salt tears still drying on my cheeks, the eyes open and dark, pleading now to my adult self– I am you, do not forget me. No, my child, I am here.

  11. Sister Wolf says:

    annemarie – Never stop.

  12. Sister Wolf says:

    Blights – We need big ones, we are but Americans, with big dreams and bigger hearts…

    Muscato – since you’re grabbing the Hermes Jardin sur le Nil, ‘an impressionistic stroll through the island-gardens on the Nile at Aswan, the starting points for a new olfactory adventure,’ I will pack my Delices de Cartier, discontinued only to torture me.

    Suspended – What about a hair product then, to fight the frizz?????

  13. Suspended says:

    Nah, my hair is pretty straight and I like when rain gives it a little bit of a kink. It makes me feel a bit sexier like a latino pool boy. Ha ha, forgive me, I talk so much shite!

    I thought about a fragrance and then dismissed it. I thought the booze and fragrances would help get the fire going. For participation’s sake, I’d take Miller Harris’ La Fumee Intense for during the fire and for after the fire, Annick Goutal’s Ninfeo Mio (this one cheers me up. I’d need cheering up.)

    …oh, and I mustn’t forget my “collection of glittered Advent calendars holding all the magic of the season.”

    Barf! I’m against violence, but can I please hit her? Knock her flat on her smug arse!

  14. Dana says:

    person get to be so enchanted with their own self? Yessssss
    Speaking of, I ran into sea of shoes on Instagram the other day.

  15. Kim says:

    “heavy and dark with wisdom” *chortle*

  16. suzanne myers says:

    Reading that list made me feel queasy. It also made me want to take nothing (other than the people and animals, here). I am always amazed by how unaware the self-absorbed are and feel sad for them.

  17. Sister Wolf says:

    suzanne – yeah, possessions begin to seem absurd after a few lists like these.

    Suspended – Maybe we need to talk more about fragrance. I’d like to find a new one that changes my whole life. I need a base note of patchouli or something animal.

  18. Suspended says:

    I’m currently in love with Le Labo’s Patchouli 24. It’s quite an original take on the infamous note. It opens very, very smokey and a bit dirty (birch tar, leather and styrax.) The smoke clears considerably in the dry down and you’re left with a burnt wood patchouli underscored by an unsweet but warming vanilla. Just around the edge there’s a flash of something a little medicinal/herbal. The patchouli is present through all the stages but it’s never loud. It was composed by Annick Menardo, who brought us the equally fantastic Bulgari Black (with it’s strong burnt rubber/Lapsang Souchong note.)

    Great on a man or a woman, it wears very classy but isn’t for the faint hearted. You can buy a small tester of it from their website (while you get a second mortgage approves for purchase of a full bottle.)

    Borneo 1834 by Serge Lutens will give you the dirt you crave. Damp, earthy, camphor-ous with hints of cocoa, tobacco and spice. It’s sexy with a sinister edge. On the downside, it can turn a bit powdery.

    Another uncommon but equally fantastic Patchouli is the one by Etro called Patchouly. The vintage version is better (brown box.) Opens bright and clean with no hippy vibe. It’s less challenging than the Le Labo, maybe a little too conservative, but beautiful none the less. If you like your fragrance a bit sweet and spicy, try L’Artisan Perfumeur’s Patchouli Patch.

    There are so many patchouli’s out there, so I’ve suggested four that are quite different from each other and aren’t run of the mill. The first two, you will love or hate them. Try them first.

    If I was going on name a lone, I’d pick you this…
    I don’t think there’s any patchouli in it though 🙁

  19. Sister Wolf says:

    Suspended – I have thought about trying the Le Labo Patchouli!!!! I love the Rose 31 and one other, can’t remember which. They have a shop in L.A. LOVE!!!

    One of my go-to fragrances is still Flowerbomb, which has just a hint of patchouli.

    Don’t you hate when they change a formula?!? Or when they discontinue a favorite? I loved Secret of Venus by Weil, which they reinvented and has nothing going for it.

    I used to wear Mechant Loup by L’Artisan, just for the name, but it wasn’t me somehow.

  20. Suspended says:

    Get your backside in to that shop then! I put some of the Le Labo on as I was typing to you, it’s at that lovely, comforting, patchouli/vanilla base stage. You definitely need to try this, but please don’t be jarred by it’s opening. It’s so smokey it’s almost BBQ’d. Try their Santal 31 too, no patchouli, but I love this one. If you want a laugh, take a friend and spray them with Oud 27. It is total cat piss.

    If you like Flowerbomb then I think you’ll probably like the Serge Lutens I suggested. Some say it’s like a sophisticated reversed version of Angel (which I think Flowerbomb is very similar to.) It has a musky/animalic note too 😉

    Yes, I get pissed when they change formulas and discontinue great classics. Bulgari Black has just been given the boot and it’s Bulgari’s most lauded fragrance by a mile. It might not sell well but it broke new territory. Surely that makes it worthy of perpetual existence? I bought it for my Dad years ago and wanted to rediscover it but his stupid ‘lady-friend’ has re-gifted it.

    My first ever fragrance was Paco Rabanne pour Homme when I was about 14. I came across some the other day and could not believe what a piss poor disaster it had become. This rich oakmoss giant is now like something you’d sterilize the toilet with. I complained to the sales girl, as if it were her fault, knowing full well she was too young to understand or even care. She sympathised with me anyway, which I appreciated. Ebay is great for finding vintage bottles. You could catch a vintage Secret of Venus on there. I just snagged an old Paco Rabanne for nostalgia’s sake.

    I have a similar experience with a few of the L’Artisan’s. I find them intriguing but they never quite win me over.

    Have you tried Chanel’s Coromandel? It might be to your liking. I find the Chanel’s very well made but a little too stiff and sterile. That said, they do smell quite good on the right person. You could be the one.

    Please let me know how you get on. xx

  21. Suspended says:

    Meant to say, I love the Rose 31 too. The shampoo/conditioner and shower gel is great, especially with a few sprays of Lalique’s Encre Noire on top (I love a good vetiver.)

  22. Bevitron says:

    Oooooh, don’t stop the perfume talk, I love it! One of my very favorite things!

    Speaking of patchouli, years ago I knew someone who would buy shitloads of bottles of Patchouli Ember and Asian Spice “home fragrances” from Pier One, and she’d spray great clouds of both into the air then let the mist settle into her hair (this was back in the much bigger hair days, so it was like a hair-sponge), and she declared it her signature scent. A friend of mine called her Air-Wick, right to her face. Didn’t bother Air-Wick one bit.

    My aunt gave me an old original-formula, unopened bottle of Secret of Venus a few years ago, which I promptly sold on ebay. I’m so sorry, if only I had known.

  23. Heidi says:

    As a seasoned evacuee, all I care about is my phone & charger, pet(s), medications, a handful of clean clothes, some toiletries, and honestly some makeup. I was lucky enough for Katrina to have an entire laundry basket of dirty clothes. I thought I’d be gone for a couple of days at the most, and I might as well do some laundry while I was at my parents’ house. Little did I know…

    But yeah, this ex woman sounds like a former English major who never did anything with her degree and still fancies herself some sort of poet. Lady, the rest of us gave up that crap in our early 20s!

  24. Sister Wolf says:

    Heidi – Yes, you are the expert on this!!! I was upset at first that you thought that nutcase had a degree in English but I worked through it. I Love you, I’m sorry!

  25. Sister Wolf says:

    Suspended – This fragrance discussion is turning me on! I’m stoned and it’s giving me synesthesia. I can’t wait to try the ones you mentioned. Whenever a fragrance sales person asks me what I’m looking for, I say, “Something really strong and stinky.” They never get what I mean.

    First guy I made out with wore English Leather and it was so evocative for years and years after.

  26. Sister Wolf says:

    Bevitron – Your friend must’ve smelled a bit like Woodstock! Do you remember how cute that little bottle of Secret of Venus was?? I think it’s in the ballpark with the original Youth Dew…overwhelming.
    So what do you love??

  27. Suspended says:

    Stoned? You lucky woman! My desire to be stoned is giving me palpitations.

    Fragrance sales people are notoriously hopeless. I often ask for things they haven’t heard of despite the fact they work for the company that created it.

    I love smells, they are second only to music for giving me a rush of deja vu or putting me in a very specific place and time. I hate to be the bringer of bad news but I think English Leather is another one that no longer has the same depth.

  28. Dj says:

    First, the fire escape…what would I take? Depends on my mood…absolutely nothing, total reinvention. However, I love my cats, my iPad,passport, credit card.

    Ok, parfumerie…I have worn l’artisan for almost thirty years, my favorites were Santal , original Jour de Fete and Cascarille. All gone. But, I’ve adjusted to new Jour de fete…heavenly Jordan almond smell, one of the Poivres for winter, and Bois Farine. I get a lot of compliments etc., and I basically tell everyone “you wouldn’t understand.”
    I do love flower bomb and spice bomb. But I always go back to l’artisan. My first real parfum was L’aire du Temps, my mother wore Bal a Versailles…very pricey and rich, but it worked on her….I loved grey flannel on men…yes..1980s…….

  29. Sister Wolf says:

    Dj – Wow, I didn’t know l’Artisan had been around that long! I remember my mom also wore something by Rochas…all her perfumes were heavy and overwhelming. In a good way. I really want to find something new and intoxicating.

  30. Stephanie says:

    Molinard de Molinard & Chanel #5.

  31. Suspended says:

    My Mum was a Rochas fan too, Mystère was her favourite; a beautiful animalic chypre that gave off a spicy oriental impression.

    It sells for stupid money now.

  32. K says:

    Is there nothing more enchanting than being a tiki aficionado? I think not.

  33. Sister Wolf says:

    K – Hahahaha, too fucking right!

  34. Bevitron says:

    Perfumes, perfumes….let’s see…oooh this is hard…

    Right off the top of my head, my old, old faves come to mind:
    Ma Griffe
    Parce Que!
    Fendi (original)

  35. Bevitron says:

    Oh, and a great heavy oriental, with hieroglyphics and Tutankhamun (I guess) on the bottle: ‘Amun’ by Muelhens

    Discontinued in the 80’s, damn.

  36. Sonja says:

    my cats, drivers license, passport, a few pieces of clothing. blankets. pillows. water. food. phone. charger. laptop. I’m outta there.

  37. Dj says:

    Forgot the old standby…Joy.

  38. Gina Carpellotti says:

    I’d toss on some clothing, grab my husband, grab my handbag, and I’d get the fuck out of a burning house.
    Material things… who cares? Maybe I lack sentiment, but there is precious little of my belongings that I actually need. The sentimental items? Well, I have done a good deal of decluttering in my life, and I do not have much left that is purely sentimental. Even my photos and photo albums…I am ready to purge the bulk of my photos. Seriously, when did I last look at them?

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