Community Columns

Gazarian Column: Buried beneath an avalanche of books

Books can tend to pile up over time. (Credit: Corbis Images)
Books can tend to pile up over time. (Credit: Corbis Images)

They always tell you, ”Write about what you know.” Fine and dandy. But I know so much that I forget what I know. Write about what’s on your mind is better advice. 

Well, let me tell you, I’ve got a lot on my mind, some of it not printable. One thing that’s on my mind right this minute: How did I ever allow this migration of “things” into my house? The Mexican border is not the problem. Little children deserve a chance. My house is the problem. Why so many plates and cups and forks, spoons and knives hiding in my cupboards? Am I about to open a coffee shop to compete with The Country Store on Village Lane in Orient? I find it hard enough to toast a slice of bread.

I have no intention or talent to serve sleepy strangers their morning scrambled eggs with bacon on the side. No. This is not me. You wouldn’t want my scrambled eggs anyway. Eggs are not on my shopping list. Simple as that, as my Russian friend used to say. Yes, I had a Russian friend, a long time ago, like this past spring. Time goes by quickly. Here today, gone tomorrow. Darn clichés. I don’t know where my Russian friend is anymore. Perhaps she expected scrambled eggs from me.

If spoons and forks and kitchen stuff were my only problem, I’d say OK, throw most of it in a bag and graciously deliver it to the Op Shop in Greenport so that dozens of people can get those eggs scrambled with my forks and spoons, the old American way.

To avoid coming back home with a bag of new old books, no lingering at the Op Shop. When you bring donations to thrift shops, make it quick. No dreaming there, no sniffing around for another irresistible, useless thing. Also, no stopping at yard sales on your way to donation sites and on your way back home. Understand what I’m saying? (Cliché.)

The fact is, kitchen stuff is not my only problem. My other major problem is books. Like 4,000 of them. At my speed, that’s two hundred years of reading even with a dog and a fireplace and a couch to sit on. A dog, a fireplace, that’s what reading is all about. I even had dogs who ate books, or tried to. How did 4,000 books end up here? One book at a time, that’s how. I got old, too, one day, one year at a time. It happens and you don’t even know it’s happening.

I’ve bought a supply of boxes at Staples. Banker’s Boxes, they call them. They come flat. You have to fold them yourself. So I’m folding, one box at a time, obviously, and the covers, too. Now, empty boxes everywhere. Very depressing. A reminder that I have to get them filled up. All that work. Not good to leave them empty too long. It’s been two days. Just a couple of small books in one box is all I can report. The living room, an obstacle course. Must keep my cool. Yes I can. Dinner time, soon. Tomorrow, the books. I said that yesterday. Dinner came, then sleep, then breakfast and dinner again. Still, only two books in one box. The same books.

One bit of good news: Rummaging through piles of “documents” I found a credit slip from the 8th Street Hardware Corp. in Manhattan. $26.21 for some returned kettle. Should be money in my pocket. But it’s dated 12/28/81. Too late now. That bad kettle cost me. Can’t even blame it on Nina. She wasn’t born 33 years ago. I did go back, once, to 8th Street Hardware Corp. to swap the kettle credit for a hammer. Not so fast. Door closed. They had gone out of business. Don’t ask me why I kept the credit slip. As if I could use it at Home Depot. And get a hammer. Ah, some nails, too.

I do not know how to throw papers away, how to throw anything away. Nancy, my wife, was so good at keeping the house in order without clutter and with a logical place for everything so that I could find what I was looking for without an anxious search. There was such harmony, then. Order brings peace.

One day I’ll hire an organizer, a pro with credentials. Years ago, Rosa, my assistant, knew how to create order out of chaos. My desk, a clutter after the storm. In the morning Rosa would come in and, without saying a word, in a few quiet minutes she’d sort things out, make my desk smooth and organized. Her rescue work done, she would ask with a smile, “How are you today?” and leave my office after watering a couple of plants on the windowsill. Yes, she was good with plants, too.

We’ve kept in touch. Once in a while Rosa calls and checks on me or I make the call and we talk about the years gone by. She might even ask, “How are you today?” I do not mention the empty boxes and the 4,000 books and the kitchen stuff. But I sure could use her help. Now.

Pierre Gazarian is a poet and a writer of one-act plays. Email: [email protected]