Thursday, September 15, 2005
My visitors, and an astonishing visit I made
Someone from Vancouver, B.C., for example, reads at length. There's a regular visitor from the north of France near Paris, several from the U.K., at least one from Moscow, a good number from the east coast of Australia as well as one from Perth and another from Melbourne. Today I logged page views from Kuwait and Singapore. Last week there was a visitor from Morocco, which just happens to be an artistic "home" of mine.
If any of you who fit the descriptions above drop by, please let me know who you are either in the comment section or via email--I'd be delighted to hear from you.
100 Memorial Drive on the banks of the Charles River
I had a Collyer Brothers experience today. A lovely lady from Virginia came into our design and production building yesterday afternoon, attracted by our Theater Arts sign. She told us she was breaking up the apartment of her 85 year old aunt who had lived at 100 Memorial Drive, a noted example of Bauhaus architecture in the U.S. that just happens to be a half block away. The aunt had gone to an assisted living situation and would not be returning to her apartment. Would we be interested in items of clothing, furniture, housewares, etc. for our prop and costume stock? We thanked her for thinking of us and made an appointment to drop by at 4pm today.
When I first saw the place, I thought that the niece had unloaded all the closets and drawers onto any available surface, allowing some items to drop to the floor everywhere. But I soon realized that the aunt had suffered from disposophobia, otherwise called Collyer Brothers Syndrome after the legendary brothers who had lived for decades in an upper Fifth Avenue townhouse in New York amid towers of newspapers, books, food remains, and at least three automobiles that had been dis-assembled, brought in through the door and reassembled. The police finally entered the place when neighbors complained about a horrible smell; one brother who had died some years before was found mummified and the other was found recently crushed under a collapsed tower of magazines and newspapers.
Nothing in this apartment was anywhere near that bad but there were narrow passageways between tall islands of books, papers, boxes containing photos, piles of clothing, stacks of shoe boxes and assorted household items. The rear bedroom could not be entered without climbing over a barricade of boxes, piled clothing and just plain trash. A row of women's suits hanging on the shower curtain raod looked as if they had been caught in a heavy snow storm--several years, maybe a decade--of dust. As L, our costume designer, and I moved around carefully trying to catch a glimpse of what lay under all the debris, most of the time our feet never touched the floor or the carpet. A thick layer of old mail, magazines, used paper towels, clothing, shoes and paper bags of all kinds including some insulated Howard Johnson ice cream bags from the 1950s lay as deep as six inches everywhere. There was a big cardboard box that had split split open spilling letters sent to the aunt beginning in the 1950s .
For use as props and for research material on hair styles, make-up, clothing and all kinds of household items, we took as many Life magazines from the 1950s, 60s and 70s as we could find. I left a list of furniture, art and luggage items (many suitcases from the 1930s and 40s), including a very handsome Louis XV-style armchair and a beautiful round end table carved in India that I would like once the niece has chosen everything that can go to the assisted living facility. We came away with a great deal in heavy plastic bags. I'll start a tax deduction inventory tonight. Tomorrow we'll begin cleaning the items we've taken so far, the "snow" covered women's suits among them. Just before leaving, our costume designer suddenly asked, "where did your aunt sleep--the beds are piled high." "She slept on the floor."
I just cannot fathom living in such an environment. I imagine disposophobia is some sort of mental illness - if so, do they "suffer" from it one way or the other, or is it all normal to them? When I read a story like this (I've heard many similar ones as well) I'm not sure whether I should feel sad. Maybe they were happy regardless.
I've always wondered about that building. The rents in their are ASTRONOMICAL (based on the views, I'm sure) but the floor plans (according to their website) are miniscule.
Wow....I keep a lot of clutter, but I feel better knowing I am able to throw some things away. I certainly empathize with the niece right now. It must be tough.