Wednesday, January 7, 2009
In Clean Start, an article in the NY Times, September 24, 2000, Arthur Lidz is interviewed by his nephew, Franz Lidz.
Since I was 15, I've saved all kinds of stuff: bureau handles, small bottles, marbles, mirrors, nuts, screws, wire, cord, bathtub stoppers, mothballs, empty cigarette packs, frying pans, pencils that say different things on them, trusses, parking tickets. In 1997, my brother Harry, with whom I lived, slipped on some of my papers and got brought to a nursing home. The social worker wouldn't let him come back unless I got rid of my collections. So I bought a bus pass and visited him once a week. He died last year at 85. If he'd had a hobby like me, he might have lived longer. I liked living in my junk, and I always knew where everything was. In the living room, the junk came up to about my chest. In the bedroom, it wasn't too bad; it just came up to my knees. I made paths to get around. It made me feel important. But I guess I overdid it. The landlord wanted me to get rid of my junk. A third of my neighbors wouldn't talk to me. I suspected I might get evicted. So this summer I had to let my junk go.
My nephew cleaned it out with some friends of his. It took 10 days. I wasn't there. When I came back, I was disappointed. I thought more stuff would be saved. I had an empty feeling, like I was robbed. I lost memories of my four brothers and my mother. But things happen -- what can you do? I'm too old to worry anymore. All that's left is my necktie collection and my cat, Wagging. The emptiness is a little hard to get used to. For one thing, the traffic noise is very loud now. And I feel hollow. My junk was sort of a freedom. I put so much work into saving -- years and years -- and it's suddenly gone. It's like somebody had died, a fire or an earthquake. It's like the change from hot to cold water. I may start saving certain things, like books, but I don't go out as much as I used to, so I can't collect as much. From now on, I'll have fewer hobbies.
"Samuel Beckett said art's purpose was to fill an empty space. I guess that was Uncle Arthur's purpose, too." When writer Franz Lidz cleared out his Uncle Arthur's one-bedroom home in New York a year ago, he filled 417 large rubbish bags on the first day. It took four men six days to clear the rest, and four days to fumigate the place. For the first time in 20 years, the bedroom was accessible. "They threw away my stuff!" says Uncle Arthur Lidz, 86 years old and 5ft tall. "I'm still mad at them."