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Sunday, December 27, 2009

No Good Deed

This afternoon, my red PT Cruiser will resemble Santa's fucking sleigh.

It will be crammed full of winter coats, six of mine, three of my wife's, and will be driven to the local Burlington Coat Factory to be donated to clothe the homeless and the needy this winter.

Before your pupils get all dilated and dewy in a veritable occular orgasm of affection for me based on this tremendous act of goodwill I am doing for the betterment of mankind, um, restrain yourself.

As is, I suspect, the case with most acts of do-goodery, this holiday-time mitzvah is not entirely altruistic. I was, shall we say, heavily prompted by circumstance.

For several days, my wife and I were vacationing in Providence with my in-laws. While we were there, it was difficult for me to not feel suffocated, or at least overwhelmed by, well, crap.

My mother-in-law, an ardent anti-cussiest, eschews all four-letter words except for "crap." It is, in point-of-fact, one of her favorite and most oft utilized nouns. For some reason, crap is acceptable for her to say, without restraint, but, when my wife's ear-bud fell out of her ear and she uttered a reflexive "shit!" in her mother's presence, her mother cleared her throat loudly and announced that, "Four letter words hurt mommie's ears."

It is a funny little coincidence that "crap" is my mother-in-law's favorite cuss, because her house is full of crap. The refrigerator is crammed tighter than the fiction shelf at your local public library. Drawers overflow with random, non-sensical items such as newspaper clippings and hair-covered dog toys, lipstick containers and expired JoAnn Fabric circulars. There are lots of batteries in the freezer. The basement is, well, frightening. When at the RISD museum, my wife noticed familiar-looking silverware on display there, and she recognized it as silverware that her mother sometimes used when there were a lot of people over for dinner at their house. Sure enough, as her mother dug through a wardrobe that lives, inexplicably, in the dining room, she found dozens and dozens of pieces of this apparently museum-quality silverware. It needs to be polished for a week or two but it should clean up nicely.

For what reason, though, remains to be seen. A complete set is worth approximately $6,000. But she won't ever sell it and I fear that, in thirty or forty years, it will wind up in our house.

There are also approximately 328 coats in that house, though only two people live there full-time. There are coat hooks on the wall all along the basement stairs and there are approximately four coats on each hook. You hang your coat up and it falls down.

This situation is, naturally, distressing.

What is more distressing is that my wife and sister-in-law and I went out antiquing, (to buy my mother-in-law a display case for her newly-unearthed museum-quality silverware) I saw a U.S. Navy pea-coat hanging up in one of the antique vendor's booths. I've never wanted a pea-coat before, but I was magnetically drawn to it. I don't know why. I took it off the hanger and I tried it on. It was $28.00 and dusty. The sleeves fit perfectly. But, when I buttoned it, I almost asphyxiated myself. It was much too tight. Apparently, 17-year-old skeletons enlisted in the Navy back in the 1940s. So, it was not meant to be. But the fact that I seriously considered buying this coat at all disturbed me greatly.

I knew that I had roughly nine or ten coats at home-- why did I want this one, too? Well, it's old for one thing, and I like that. Maybe I had never wanted pea-coats before because the only ones I had really ever seen up close were the gay, cheap-looking ones for sale at GAP for $88.00. I like old things. I went to the upper-level of the antiques mall and proceeded to inspect several pocket-watches, one of which I actually considered purchasing until I realized that it was thoroughly broken.

I have at least three pocket watches. How many pocket watches does a man in the waning days of 2009 require for life? One? None?

What the fuck is wrong with me? Six or seven typewriters. 10-ish desk telephones (the vast majority of which currently reside in our garage). Am I a hoarder? I don't think so-- but am I a collector and an accumulator? Yes, I am. Do I take pleasure from purchasing things? I do. Can antiquing get dangerous for me? It can. Do I usually let it? No-- I often go antiquing and leave with nothing, and that's good.

Yesterday, I didn't leave with nothing. I bought a gift for my mother-in-law's friend. She loves and collects ice-tongs. Hey-- a pot for every lid, right? I found a pendant watch that was a set of ice-tongs clasping onto a watch, shaped like an ice-cube. The ice-cube was made of clear lucite, so you can see the watch face inside. I wound it up and it ticked, so I reasoned that it was worth the $24.00 (and I got a 10% discount because I'm so sexy). Besides, I rationalized further, it wasn't something for me, it wasn't a lot of money to make someone else happy, and where the fuck was she ever going to find something like this?

And it was much cheaper than the set of vintage 1909 ice-tongs I also saw in the store for $395.00.

And so, because of my semi-disturbing weekend at my in-laws and the antique mall, I'm going to donate a bunch of coats to the homeless. What a guy, right? As a reward for my generosity, Burlington Coat Factory will offer me 10% off a new coat from their store.

But I think I'll pass.


  1. It's obvious you only want to donate coats to the homeless to get that 10% discount from the coat "factory" -- admit it, Apron, you're a slave to the Burlington.

    And just think, in 30 or so years when the museum-worthy silverware ends up in your house, it will be worth even more than it is now. Think of all the coats you will be able to buy ;)

    By the way, what's a pea coat?

  2. My husband and I rushed three full garbage bags of clothes to the church charity store this weekend to make sure we got our tax write-off for 2009. If that's not altruism, I don't know what is.

  3. Hey Jay.. It's a coat sailors wear.. Navy blue wool.
    Google images of pea coats! I had one when I was a teenager. Soooooo warm and gawd I loved that coat.
    This was before cheap versions!


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