Monday, August 5, 2013

Junk can be valuable

I collect junk.  I pick it up from the street as I walk; I glean it from the workroom, the garage, the discarded mail, other people's trash pickup piles.  I make art with it (or plan to).

One of my favorite forms of junk is ephemera -- the fancy term for paper stuff.  In particular I love ephemera from foreign travel -- used Metro tickets, city maps, museum passes, hotel bills, menus, beer mats, newspapers, all the stuff that from home might not be very special but from away is très exotique.  I bring home packs of the stuff when we travel overseas, and I tell my relations to not buy me souvenirs, just bring home junk.

So my son, recently traveling in Europe, did as told, even though he travels light, just a backpack for a month's journey, and the pack of ephemera grew over the weeks.  Good boy.

As he went through security in Barcelona to finally come home, he was pulled aside for further questioning.

Where did you start your trip, señor?


Where did you stay first?


Which hotel?

Ummmm.... some hotel near the train station.... ummmm.... can't remember the name....  Adler, maybe.... if you have wi-fi I could pull up my email and find where I booked it....

[ Then inspiration struck!  The pack of junk for Mom!  He pulled out the pack of ephemera, leafed through it, and found a bill from the hotel!  The security guy was good with that.  But wait.... ]

After Frankfort, where did you go next, señor?

The guard took him through the entire trip, city by city (seven or eight in all).  If there wasn't a hotel bill in the pile, there was a bus or train ticket with a time and date stamp, a museum pass, a restaurant flyer, an ATM receipt.  

The guard eventually said, semi-apologetically, "You understand why we did this -- you have been here so long with so little luggage!"  He didn't understand, but that's another discussion.

Different readers might take different morals from this story.  The one I take, of course, is that collecting junk can be good for you.


  1. Kathleen, when my husband was alive we lived in Spokane and when we walked every day I picked up ephemera of all sorts: bike clips, pencils, screws, nuts&bolts, hair pieces, broken sunglasses, you get the idea.

    After a year of collecting this stuff and having a large tray full of it my husband built a 3' x 4' box for me and I glued all this stuff in artistic patterns to the box then we mounted it on our outdoor shed. It became the basis for much "yard art" while he was alive.

    I now live in Port Townsend, WA and walking is a whole different experience, the streets are clean here for the most part and not much to pick up but oh my goodness the beach combing! I see a new "yard art" box on the horizon!

  2. This post bought a smile to my face.....
    I love junk,not necessarily ephemera, but most of my reading material comes from the trash. I have just started 'Jude the Obscure' a bit damp, but perfectly readable.

  3. If ever there was a moment to say, "Now aren't you glad you listened to your mother?", this is absolutely it. LOL

    That is exactly the moral I would draw as well. I am forever picking up rocks, pinecones, little smooth sticks, and making my husband wonder where I went on walks.

  4. Junk is good especially when it gets you on your way to the plane! I know he had a wonderful trip and this makes a great story.