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Preface to Tales of Tchotchkes (#1160)

Topics/tags: Tales of Tchotchkes, short, postscripted

I’ve finally completed the move to my new office. This office is my fourth at Grinnell. I hope that it’s my last. I don’t like moving offices. If you visit my office, you’ll see that it’s filled with not just books (and computers), but a variety of stuff. I often refer to the stuff as tchotchkes or ephemera or just "cr*p. Some photographers who’ve visited the office say that all the stuff gives my officetexture", whatever that is.

One view of an office.  Three full bookshelves are visible.  In front of the books and on top of the shelves one sees a variety of things.

Another view of the same office.  An oriental carpet is on the floor.  Two desks are in the distance.  Various items are on the window sill.

A third view of an office.  Two more bookshelves are now visible.  In front of the books and on top of the shelves one sees a variety of things including more books.

In any case, as long as I’ve moved the stuff, it seems to me that I should write about it. I’m also inspired to write because one of my sons asked something like,

If you’d died, how would we know what was important?

I think the answer is best phrased as,

If you decide it’s important, then it’s important; if you decide it’s not important, then it’s not. Does it really matter what’s important to me?

But perhaps it’s nice for them to know more about what I like and why. Or at least why I’ve accumulated the things I’ve accumulated. The things I inherited from mom (and why she kept them). The things that relate to particular interests. The things that I just found had meaning to me. The things that might just add texture.

So I’m going to start a new series of musings, the Tales of Tchotchkes. At some point, it will grow beyond what is in my office to what’s in my lab and what’s at home and books and whatever. The tales of a hoarder never end!

Let’s see how long I can keep up musing about materials. Or, more precisely, let’s see how long my muse wants me to spew about stuff.

Postscript: Now that I look around the office, I find myself wondering whether I have more stuff in another box that I packed two years ago when I went on sabbatical. I’ll need to search the lab.

But it’s the lab. It’s chaos, exemplified. So searching the lab will be hard.

I’ll search the lab; really I will.


Postscript: If you see something in any of those photos that you want me to discuss, let me know. Otherwise, I’m just going to write about the things in whatever order my muse chooses.

Postscript: The office is not yet in its final state. I have three shelves with books on them that I hope to give away soon. I’m not sure what will go on those shelves next. There’s a computer on the floor that ITS is supposed to take away. Maybe I’ll bring it to technology drop-off day. My monitors should be on my standing desk. Unfortunately, my standing desk is broken. So they’ve migrated to my work table, which I hope to keep (mostly) clear. I don’t know what I’m doing with the small monitor in the corner by the windows. My students have borrowed my fake flowers for the summer. I’ll probably get rid of the broken-down boxes at some point. I might move my giant wood sculpture back to the office. And, as I mentioned, I think there are more tchotchkes to unpack that are buried somewhere in my lab. Things will change!

After a few years, I may also find that I prefer a different arrangement of furniture. We shall see.

Postscript: I don’t understand the people I see on videoconferences who have blank walls behind them. As the photos of my office suggest, if I don’t have bookshelves on a wall, I put up art. I can’t think of any significant areas of blank wall in my life, at least not in spaces I control.

Postscript: You may note that my office is moderately straight right now. I hope to keep it that way. Feel free to lend me words of encouragement if you stop by and it’s not straight.

Postscript: A few years ago, the University of Chicago alumni magazine did a story on professors with over-full offices. It would be fun if the Grinnell magazine did so, too. Let’s see … the ones I know of with lots of texture include David Campbell’s, Henry Rietz’s, and Jim Swartz’s. There must be others.

Postscript: Astute observers may note that is now a second bookcase next to my bookcase of art and design books. I appreciate that FM installed another bookcase! I almost fit all the books I planned to put in the bookcase there.

Version 1.0 of 2021-07-16.