The collector

I had to forcibly grasp my left wrist with my right hand to keep it from reaching for my wallet. I had already purchased a photo featuring trees in the water at twilight, as well as a handmade bowl by a potter who includes horsehair in the finished product. It is a one-of-a-kind bowl – I was assured of this. The point is, I have this bowl and you don’t.

Now I stand before an incredible glass sculpture at a suburban arts and crafts fair, priced at $375, and I’m shaking so hard, people stare as they meander past.

Somehow, I fight off the urge and continue to my car with my booty, which cost $120 with tax. I know that if I don’t buy it, there is a possibility I will never see that glass sculpture again because all these crafts people come from Florida, Pennsylvania, and Oklahoma, where there is less stress and more time to craft. I’m not the only one battling Impulsive Craft Purchase. Two minutes after I bought my bowl, a woman and her husband appeared, frantically inquiring where the bowl was. Their faces dropped when I pointed to my shopping bag. For a moment I felt empathy, but there’s no room for softness in the cutthroat environment of craft shows. What is happening to me? Since I got my condo three years ago, I’ve become an obsessive collector. I actually left a close football game at halftime to race to that crafts show. This is not healthy. My place is now overrun with stuff.

I spend hours switching stuff. My wax owl candle next to the Romanian glass, and metal vases next to my Beanie Babies, next to my curled up elephant sculpture, next to my paint on glass thing, next to giant bookends shaped like a nose and ear. Garage sales, flotsam left at the curb, window shopping extravaganzas, Marshall’s, Target, Wal-mart, Shopper’s World, Pier I, antique cubbyholes, street fairs, African art, Indian art, Latino art, Eastern European trash art, Chinese and Korean art, and my own pathetic attempts at art I’m too stubborn to hide.

At Jembro I sobbed over an exquisite $129 coffee table because I already had a coffee table. I want lamps! I don’t need lamps, but I must purchase more lamps. Today I’m going to Altantic Avenue in Brooklyn for their street fair, then back to Manhattan for the upper West Side festival complete with more vendors. Then the Hoboken fest. Then in October Brookdale Park in Montclair is holding its annual antiques and collectibles celebration.

This is money I should be putting away for retirement. At some point I know there will be insufficient oxygen in my place for me to breathe.

Here is the irony: no one ever sees my stuff. I refuse to invite anyone over for fear they’ll break something, or move it an inch, or try to dust it, or worse, stage an intervention.

I don’t want to be cured of ICP. How will I fill the hole in my life? I’m staring at a large white sculpture of a human foot, placed in the corner of my living room. Who, if not I, would give that child a home? – Joe Del Priore


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