austin_dern (austin_dern) wrote,

Its haunted towers rise into the clouds above it

The Michael Abrasaldo Museum of Contemporary Items has its beginnings with Susan Richman, who never met Michael, but people who knew them both were sure they would have been good friends. Those who knew only one of them were skeptical, and those who knew neither of them generally had a neutral opinion. Both Richman and Abrasaldo doubted that people who knew neither of them could be known to have no particular opinion. Those who did not know either said they didn't even believe either of them existed. When word gets back to Abrasaldo and Richman things could get quite vicious.

The museum began with Richman's discovery that friend Igor Day had a large supply of transparent labels perfect for attaching to slender plastic plaques, and that Eddie Chung's place was almost impassable for the piles of unlabelled slender plastic plaques, some of them in piles that could be accurately dated to more than ten years before the apartment building in which he lived was built.

Several rounds of talks followed, which culminated with Chung admitting that he did not understand how adenosine triphosphate actually gets energy into energy to body cells (he imagined small buckets), Richman and Chung soon realized their discussions had gotten hopelessly distracted, and they again found common ground in trying to name all the Herculoids without giggling.

The team soon got to work labelling items, but once they had identified all the distinct piles of plaques in Chung's apartment they realized they had a vast surplus of labelling equipment and not so much exhibition. Chung gave a demoralized Richman the idea to also label Day's boxes of labels, which used up eighty-six more labels and plaques. But with that done now Day's morale sagged, and the effort of writing all the labels made his hand ache, and his spirits were not improved when Richman pointed out he could have used the computer to print out all the text instead. Day defensively insisted he liked the custom look of his labels and he slipped in some humanizing touches which to the untrained eye look like misspellings and words run off the margin. Richman and Chung said they agreed, but they were just being nice to him.

It was lucky for the museum they did: with Day's spirits rebounding he whimsically put on the bathroom mirror a plaque he labelled ``You -- Circa 2009''. Richman pointed out that it wasn't 2009 yet, and Day responded by emphasizing that it was ``circa'' and the mirror didn't give a very good likeness of you anyway so it had to be taken as very approximate. While Richman tried to parse that claim Day went on to put a label identifying ``Wall'', ``Door'', and ``Toothbrush Holder Sagging Away From The Wall But Held On By One Screw'' before he was put to bed, and Richman and Chung realized that contemporary items could be worth collecting.

Now the mission was on: they searched for items which expressed the concept of ``item'', with ``contemporary'' taken to mean anything at least as new as things they remembered with fond nostalgia from childhood. ``Museum'' they hoped would take care of itself, and ``of'' hardly seemed worth fighting over. Alarm clocks and printed-out e-mailed jokes in Klingon, furniture not as comfortable as it looks and bags of unsorted screws, prank doorknobs and ten-foot containerized cargo boxes were brought in, labelled, and arranged to the delight of everyone except Day, who woke up the next morning unable to find his way out of bed past the velvet rope crowd barriers.

As with most great museums it soon generated a gift shop, which proved popular among people who hoped to buy kitchen blenders or fuel injector cleanser with the upscale snob appeal of a museum-certified sticker on the carton. A new license agreement signed with K Mart will allow them to pick five stores and simply put up the name ``Michael Abrasaldo Museum of Contemporary Items Gift Shop Store'' above the main entrance sign, provided those stores are all Targets.

The museum is open while Igor Day is trying to get a bit of peace and quiet for crying out loud, 282-A2 Lane Mills Lane, Elkridgeville.

Trivia: On 28 September 1918 Philadelphia went ahead with the two-mile-long Liberty Bond rally parade, against the warnings of public health officials that it would spread the Spanish Influenza. Three days later every hospital bed of all 31 area hospitals was filled, principally with influenza victims, and nurses were turning down $100 bribes for space. Source: The Great Influenza, John M Barry.

Currently Reading: Dark Genius of Wall Street: The Misunderstood Life of Jay Gould, Edward J Renehan. You don't see many sympathetic portraits of archetypical robber-baron Gilded Age stock operators. (Granted, part of the problem is he had that newspaper anti-charisma that sometimes makes everything a person does seem devious, whether or not it sensibly is, and after a while he embraced the image. On the other hand, has a stock speculator ever been loved by the public?)


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