I have a treasure box. I’d more or less forgotten about it, mostly because there is nothing of real value there. It’s filled with an assortment of small stuff I’ve collected willy-nilly (do, people still use that term? I was told recently that some of my expressions are totally antiquated) over the last half-century. Some of it has meaning, some of it doesn’t.
There are, for example, commemorative medals from countries I’ve never visited for events I never attended. I have no idea where they came from—none—but they’ve become emblematic of life’s vagaries. There are political buttons from the Nixon era, with a slyly smiling Tricky Dick asking for your vote. Right alongside this Nixon memorabilia is my press card for the Washington Post. It’s from 1972, the year of Watergate, and I’m not sure if the term ‘Watergate’ evokes memories for anyone under the age of 50. But the symbolism is perfect if not particularly original.
There are drink coasters from a second-rate hotel in Kathmandu, Nepal, and a little sign I stole from a place in Bangladesh telling me not to brush my teeth with the water, much less drink it since it probably carries cholera.
There’s a condom key-ring from Bangkok, a gift from Mechai Viravaidya when I interviewed him for a magazine article. Mr. Condom, as he is known internationally, reduced sexually transmitted diseases in Thailand and elsewhere with his awareness campaign. The condom in the key ring, incidentally, is not removable, so this particular bit of merchandising may have a fatal flaw.
I have an almost full collection of Washington, D.C., Metro farecards from 1981. They were issued twice a month for $10 and made me feel very urban.
Not in the treasure box, and possibly lost forever, is my ticket stub from Woodstock, though I do have the stub from the Spinal Tap Break Like the Wind tour in 1992.
There remain some 8,000 African Francs from time spent in Mali and Senegal, and odd bits of East Berlin change from my attending the Communist Youth Festival as a free-lance writer. I also count among the treasures a strange little pair of pliers from Sharper Image, and a 10 millimeter wrench, the necessary tool for anyone owning a European car.
There’s more stuff, trash to anyone else but meaningful to me. Oh wait! A Spiro Agnew tie clip! Now that’s a collector’s item!
How many people remember being called “nattering nabobs of negativism?”