My Neighbor the Collector



If ever there was a time for me to come out of my blog-tirement and put up a new post…this is it.

I have this neighbor (Mike)…who lives about 12 houses down from me…and he’s quite the character.

Mike is in his early 60s…but I’m guessing from the second-skin death metal t-shirts, pointy-toed cowboy boots, rebel trucker’s cap, and fake fur black toupee he wears…he wants folks to think he’s more like in his late 50s.

But what really makes Mike…well…Mike…is…he “collects” things.

Things like the medieval swords crossed over the knight’s battle shield he has hanging on the front of his house. Things like the dried up triple-decker cement yard fountain topped with what I’m hoping is a fake skull. Things like macramé hangings on his porch and little lawn statues.

Mike used to work with me years ago at a state agency. He worked in the print shop and I, being in communications, worked with him closely. So closely, in fact, that I learned he’s never met a flea market or yard sale he didn’t shop. So closely that I learned he’s never had his own flea market or yard sale…so everything he’s taken into his house…is still there (including one of my grandmother’s old mirrors I sold to him at a garage sale a few years ago).

I actually went into Mike’s house once…about four years ago. My neighborhood had flooded and I went down to check to see if he was alright. I had heard his house got a couple of inches in it and I thought I could help him clean up.

When he let me in the door, I absolutely could NOT close my eyes as what only can be described as a fantasia of crap beckoned the attention of my gaze from every crevice of his living room. You couldn’t even walk from the front door to the sofa unless you followed the path created by the walls of stuff. It was truly an incredible sight to behold.

Fortunately, he said he wouldn’t need my help. I don’t remember his reason why. With my mind still reeling at what was obviously the tip of the collectible iceberg…I pictured the rooms that lay beyond the one in which I stood and breathed a sigh of relief that I wouldn’t have to sift through what I imagined to be decades of wet troll dolls, fake parakeets, and probably a kazillion issues of Penthouse and Playboy from the 60s and 70s.

I know I sound like I’m exaggerating, but, I promise you…Mike has literally years of junk that not only lines the walls, floors, and tabletops inside his house, but teams from his front door and vomits into his yard an array of doo-dads and trinkets and knick-knacks that never should have been made, sold, bought, or displayed in the first place.

But Mike loves the stuff he’s bought. And he loves to display it. He even rotates his chotzkes in his yard, replacing a garden gnome with a plucky ceramic owl one week or topping his fake boulder with a fake animal the next.

His most recent displays have centered around his car. He has taken to taping a picture of Nosferatu’s face (or maybe it’s Phil Stacey’s) to the steering wheel of his blue sedan, so that it looks like the old vampire is about to toot the horn for Mike to come out and go joy-riding to the Sonic for a footlong and some tots. I might think he was doing this in honor of the upcoming All Hallow’s Eve…except for the fact that ol’ Nos-tu has been behind the wheel, on and off, since August.

But stranger still than Nosferatu is the pouty doll Mike has begun leaning against his front bumper (pictured atop this post).

Now, pouty dolls in general are a phenomenom that I’ve never understood, appreciated, or, truly, tolerated. I find them creepy times a zillion…fake children made to look like they are either sad, spoiled, or sullen and used as decoration around the home…huh?

But Mike has made great use of his pouty doll. It usually laments on Mike’s front bumper…like it’s upset that Nos-tu and Mike are going for tots without it…but it has also found some good sulking spots on the plastic chairs in front of Mike’s ever-closed garage door (behind which will never be found a car…but more of Mike’s “collection”)…and I believe one day I saw it fake sobbing on the fake boulder.

I decided this morning, as I was driving into work, to roll down the passenger window and snap a picture of the forlorn little guy. He was looking all desperate and hopeless pressed up against the right headlight of Mike’s car…and…just for a moment…I took pleasure in the little doll’s never-ending unhappiness.

It was kind of nice to know that there was something out there in the world that was bigger on self-pity than myself.

Poor thing. If I lived at Mike’s…I’d cry to.

And then I remembered that this ridiculousness was taking place a mere 12 houses down from mine…and the self-pity returned.

So I rolled up the window, rolled my eyes, and pledged to let it all hang out at Monkbot.

I hope you’ve enjoyed the tale.

And Shelley quietly slips back into the void…


23 Responses to “My Neighbor the Collector”

  1. rowan Says:

    Shelley…it is a reflection of my sad overly-aquisitive-of-junk past, that I failed to process the “aged sixty” part, and wondered if there was a way of getting the guy’s number, or at least, a look in his garage window. Hee hee.

    Am slowly getting rid of years of junk, and persuading myself that my hoarding of broken picture frames and rocking horse that might be conceivably be restored by someone who has a pathologically regressed relationship with large wooden playthings, has been a sort of precursor recycling phase. The rosy-cheeked toymaker with lederhosen in “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang” will surely appear on my doorstep soon, and gratefully spirit away the giant dappled creature with the broken leg and ears I paid through the nose for on Ebay.

    I agree on the pouty dolls. They are scary. Kind of have to admit to having an old collection of artist baby dolls, though, which are about to be photographed and uploaded to Ebay. Am thinking of writing, “Save the Flowers from the Attic”, but there does not appear to be a great deal of humour in artist doll buying circles. Oh well…have got my de rigeur rocking chair from a charity shop for homespun piccy prop purposes. The ethos of selling the things involves making them look as comfortable and cherished as possible. Am soo tempted to have one sale blurb begin, “Help me…you are my only hope. Have been three years in this wardrobe (not musty, and completelysmoke-free, I have to say) and I can’t BREATHE! Bid and set me free…

    Oh…the hate mail! Naw, I need the sponduliks, and will post the requisite soft-focus chintzy pics which inexplicably drew me in, all those years back. My eyes are bigger than my cupboard space.

    Ah, it is good to be a reforming hoarder!

    Great to hear your wry voice again Shelley!

  2. bamaborntxbred Says:

    It’s this particular line that exemplifies why I love Shelley Powers:

    “He has taken to taping a picture of Nosferatu’s face (or maybe it’s Phil Stacey’s) to the steering wheel of his blue sedan, so that it looks like the old vampire is about to toot the horn for Mike to come out and go joy-riding to the Sonic for a footlong and some tots.”

    Ahhh…it’s like the good old days….when Shelley would regale us all with strange-but-true stories from her life…

    Yeah, Mike sounds like a real character. I have a tendency to save things for sentimental reasons, but have never had much of a problem buying things that I don’t have a specific purpose for. I guess what makes a “hoardy” person “hoardy” is twofold: buying excessively and compulsively, and the inability to throw anything away…


  3. Laurita Says:

    So nice to take a break from my life crammed full of papers, books, post-its, etc. to read this fun and wise story.. (about more stuff!) You’re such a wonderful writer, especially about things like this 😉

    I hope “the void” is treating you well, Ms. S- Take good care!

  4. jenfera Says:

    Hey, void? Yeah, you, the big void over there. Hand over Shelley!!!

    We enjoy the slice of life stories way too much for the void to hoard them all for itself.

    I’m with bama – loved the Phil Stacey/Sonic comment! Haaaaa!!

    Thanks for sharing!

  5. rowan Says:

    Shelley…your fab story is a sort of cautionary tale for reforming collectors, and am trying to download a little anti-collecting patch to stave off future pointless junk aquisitions. Am a little disconccerted to have displayed certain items actually owned by Mike, clearly a top-flight hoardy addict. My own rather fetching ceramic owl had his cranium crushed by a passing vandal, (sigh) but my admittedly tacky £1.00 garden gnome has thankfully disappeared behind the hedge, which has grown around him. He was beheath the notice of any self-respecting vandal, I guess. Nevertheless, the cute and heavy mosaic toadstool which sat on my doorstep was considered groovy enough to be actively stolen one night. (Even deeper sigh.)

    Hmmm….wonder if those dachshund dog dishes you posted are still at the flea market…

  6. Dr. Bob Says:

    Rowan — great job on the de-cluttering. Let me know how the doll selling goes! Do you have to do mood lighting, or just artful props. You could do a “save me from my neglectful mom” series, with each doll having a really sad story.

    Shelley, I have to admit that I also never got the pouty kids. Never. They kind of scared me — and I have sulky pouting kids of my own. When my kids sulk, it is not even remotely charming. Hey! Maybe I can rent them out to people who want a real pouting kid!

    Mike sounds like a character. I had a professor who used to study packrats (which at its extreme is a bona fide psychiatric disorder) — she would regale us with stories of people who had stacks of stuff, like old newspapers, reaching toward the ceiling in wobbly towers. My brother had a neighbor who outgrew the house and began stacking stuff in the backyard — the health department finally went in there with a forklift.

    I do love the idea of the Nosferatu steering wheel and the performance art aspect of his yard. More people should do that, in my opinion.

    We went to the beach a couple of months ago, and this guy had taken his van and glued stuff all over it. And I mean, every square inch. You have to wonder about people like that. I am fifty-fifty on whether they are a bit nuts or national treasures.

    Maybe they are both.

  7. rowan Says:

    Bob, your sad neglected doll stories are just what I would like to post, but oh…the potential hate mail! Really, there is a sort of consiracy that the listings are a sort of bona fide rooted hair and painted vinyl adoption agency. There is a sort of pall of disapproval, evinced in lack of bids, for dolls who are clearly in good condition, but sold on by an emotionally detached “mummy” rather than the original artist. Still, hope to make a few guilt ridden pounds.:)

    See your pouty kids and raise you mine!

    Yeah…I love the steering wheel cover idea too. Have seen spare wheel covers on the back of jeeps, but not on steering wheels. A gap in the market and brilliant entreprenerial endeavour there, methinks… (Am now pondering who I would have on my sw cover…)

  8. rowan Says:

    Grr…I mean “conspiracy” and “entrepreneurial”. Sheesh. (I have a few vry reluctant keys on this machine. Mostly vowels, for some reason. And the hyphen and number six are ignoring completely. 😀

  9. ivoryhut Says:

    I need to put monkbot back on my lineup of homepages so I don’t miss out on surprise treats like this. I am with Jenfera in shaking a fist at the void. I really miss Shelley and her writing and I think the void is uber mean to be hoarding her like that.

    I was about to say something about being a bit of a packrat myself, until I read what Dr. Bob said about it being some sort of disorder. I am now worried about what exactly constitutes “extreme packrat-ness.” Hypochondriac much?

    One good thing about being clueless re: pop culture is that I have no visual image of them “pouty dolls” nor do I have any intention of correcting the matter. Dolls freak me out. Ever since my brother hurled one at me and I ended up with a doll with a cracked face and a missing eye that sat on my dresser facing me as I tried to go to sleep every night, dolls give me the heebie-jeebies.

    Am I using “heebie-jeebies” correctly? Part of my foreign-ness, I’m afraid.

    Shelley, that “fake sobbing on the fake boulder” cracked me up. And Rowan, I wish I talked like you. I would be all fascinated by my words and never stop talking to myself.

  10. Libby Says:

    Just surfing tonight — and so pleased to see a post from dear Shelley !! Hope that Shelley steps from the “void” again soon.

    I miss her writing !

    Hope all is well, friend.


  11. ruhappytoseeme Says:

    at first I thought the pouty dolls were like dolls made to look like real babies till I went to that site and from the back some are cute but eww from the front freaky lol
    im a pack rat, 3 of my kids are full grown and I have pictures they drew me in head start (4 yrs old LOL, my oldest will be 21 in may lol) my attic is completely full of stuff my kids collected over the years and they moved out but begged me not to throw the stuff away, then Ive been hoping to move for 4 years so I started buying new stuff for the new house (like coffee pots, blenders, sugar flour and tea containers, new pots and pans (mind you this isnt old or used stuff, but over a couple eyars I got a lot of new stuff for my new home) ok so all this stuff is in my attic, have no clue when we are actually gonna move (were thinking just get rid of all the old stuff and move the new stuff while still in boxes LOL) I have a ton of clothes (didnt buy any of it) no clue how my 2 dressers, closet and attic have so much clothes as every year I fill up 2 large garbage bags up with clothes and give them away (how does this stuff multiply, and the only things I have bought in 2 years clothes wise are 3 taylor tee shirts LOL) I have candles, oh man do I have candles, I could open my own shop, first I used to buy them, then people caught on especially my kids so they started buying me them, now I have a million candles. I collect angels, again I bought a lot but then friends and family started buying them for me (I do love them but am out of room as to where to put them) again I could open a shop just in angels. before I hurt my back I used to have yard sales all summer long, now I cant carry the stuff in or out of the house, so it sits. I can honestly say my “stuff” doesnt come from yard sales, only because I refuse to go to them because im scared ill end up with even more “stuff” that I have no room for LOL, oh and theres no move date still LOL

    as for dolls, my oldest got 2 porcelain dolls for xmas one year, she ended up putting them in the attic cause they wouldnt stop staring at her at night LOL (those did go to a home up the street finally, after a yard sale 😉 )
    I love getting to see you have a blog every now and then, your writing always makes me laugh! hugsss to all hope all are well

  12. Karen Says:

    Shelley, it’s really good to “hear your voice” again. What a lovely, funny, sad story; and, as usual, your story bonds with your readers and multiplies.

    I once took a kitten to an elderly woman down the road from me. She had magazines and newspapers piled so high in her house that there were only pathways to get through the rooms. I worried about her for awhile, but should have worried about the cat – within a month it was dead on the road.

    My longest collection frenzy was tins. It made me happy to find them and happy to look at them. I stacked them all over my bedroom on every flat surface, and they rattled at night when big trucks drove by the house. Even that was comforting – a wind chime of sorts. After awhile I had to start putting them inside each other, there were so many (last count 150); and then I just decided to stop. They have been in plastic bags in my garage for at least ten years now. Occasionally family members will find one they think I should want, and they come holding them behind their backs apologetically. Why do you suppose that is – that I can give up the collecting, but they can’t?

    One more thought. In nearby Rochester, we have the Margaret Woodbury Strong Museum — the lifetime collection of a rich woman – dolls, dollhouses, toys, trains, miniatures, etc. She cherished her collection and provided for it. I wonder if your neighbor cherishes his collection in the same way.

    Thanks so much for coming back to tell this story. As is happening to me very often lately, it’s almost by accident that I came here today; and I’m so glad that I did.

  13. Quossum Says:

    I’m a packrat, too. My tiny room is wall to wall with stuff from which I cannot be parted, including stuffed animals from my high school days and previous. No faceless, leaning, pouting dolls, though; at least I have that going for me.

    Good to hear from you again, Shelley! An ocasional bone is all we ask. =)


  14. Jan Says:

    Shelley: I saw a pouty kid at my aunt’s house last weekend. It made me think of you.

  15. Shelley Says:

    jan…i don’t know if i’m flattered…or disturbed to my very core. 😉

  16. Jan Says:

    Disturbed… very disturbed

  17. texastaylorfan Says:

    Shelley – a friend told me just today that you had some “new” posts. I’m so glad to be reading you again!!

    So very, very sorry about your sewage problems. Ewwwwww. Yuck.

    And I’m just plain ol’ frightened about your neighbor and his pouty fake kid. I’ve never even heard of such a thing before. The fake pouty kids that is — I saw an Oprah about hoarders, so I am educated on that now.

    Don’t go down there alone anymore, okay? Sounds like the beginning of a horror movie to me.

    Please don’t stay in the void too long. Lots of us miss you.

  18. justwatchin Says:

    You never know who/what dwells in even the nicest neighborhoods….

    Always a treat to see a post from you Shelley. I’m glad you surface every now and then!

    I agree on the pouty kid thing….I’d rather see a happy kid doll then a sad one. sad children are rather heartbreaking.

    Take care…how’s the pup?

  19. texastaylorfan Says:

    Hmmm. Boogie’s shut down and I need a break from the mundane tasks I’ve been doing and still have ahead of me.

    I enjoyed reading about the pouty kid as much now as I did last October. Hee hee.

    Is he still there, Shelley? Are YOU still there, Shelley? Miss your blog.

  20. Jan Says:

    I’m still anxiously awaiting squeebees next monkbot adventure…

  21. Karen Says:

    Shelley: I think of you every time I see that commercial with the father taking pictures of his daughter’s monkey while he is away on a business trip. I hope you had the Tm on that idea and are getting a bundle for it.

  22. Ciara Says:

    This post made me laugh so hard I cried. But I have to ask… what on earth does “going for tots” mean?

  23. Bama Says:

    Ciara- Tater tots? From Sonic? You don’t know of what I speak?

    Karen- I think those people stole our idea from Monkbot for that commercial! That’s a great Amos Lee song in the commercial though!

    Shelley- Love you lady! I was just reading our “Progressive Story”. Ahhh…those were the days!

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