Back to the Scrap Heap

I love researching the pedigree of  blog awards.  It’s a grown-up, vntary version of the forced march our 6th grade Catechism class made through the book of Genesis.  Just as following those Biblical “begats” back through the generations carried us to wholly unrecognizable worlds, tracking the progress of blog awards can lead to strange and mysterious places, not to mention unusual or quirky companions.

When Andi of AndiLit graced me with the Honest Scrap Award, I did what I often do. I worked my way backward: through Courtney at Everything in Between to In the Mainstream, and then on to Allison Writes, where the easy trail grew difficult. No matter. I’ve never been able to make myself keep going on and on down the path toward the origin of an award, partly for fear I might end up somewhere I don’t care to be, like Armed Females of America, and partly because I fear capture by blogs capable of killing my every spare minute of time.  Stop by Neatorama and you’ll see what I mean.

Prowling and pawing around the Honest Scrap heap, one thing I did notice is that no one seems quite sure what the award means.  As Andi put it, “The Honest Scrap Award is – well, I don’t know what it’s for…”  That sentiment’s been echoed by innumerable bloggers who’ve received the award and it was my own first response to the honor.  My second response was curiosity,particularly since scraps have been an important, if unexamined, part of my life since childhood.

The earliest scraps I remember were table scraps – leftovers, as we called them when we wanted to be polite. While egg shells, vegetable peelings and fruit rinds from meal preparation went into a scrap bucket for the chickens, the bits of bread, meat and potatoes left from the table made fine meals for everything from hogs to raccoons.

Occasionally some of those scraps ended back on the table in the form of scrapple, bits of leftover meat cooked with corn meal, shaped into loaves and sliced for frying.  Scrapple wasn’t our custom, but Grandma was more than willing to borrow a good idea from the Germans and Czechs around us, and scrapple was a good idea.  Paired with fried apples it was a double delight.  “Scrapple and apples”, my friends and I shouted gleefully, “Scrapple and apples”.  We loved the way the words sounded, rolling off the tongue, and we loved the sweet and savory pair, tasting of autumn, and comfort and home.

Other scraps meant warmth and security.  Every home had boxes filled with scraps and trimmings of fabric left from the dresses, skirts, blouses and shirts made for family members.  Cut into tiny hexagons or squares (no triangles for us!) they became what my grandmother called “scrap quilts”.   Some called them “pieced” quilts, but no matter the name you preferred they were treasures: hand-stitched and hand-quilted with skill, patience and love.  Every year when the weather cools, I open the cedar chest and sit again in the sunshine, tracing my childhood through patches of fading color:  a mother’s sundress, a grandmother’s apron, the shirt my father wore when, desolate and brimming with tearful despair, I begged him not to abandon me for an entire week to the terrors of summer camp.

Later, the souvenirs of that really quite wonderful week – the postcards, the leather achievement patches, the mimeographed sheets of camp song lyrics – went into the first of many scrap books that served to capture and reinterpret my life.  Like the bits and pieces of scrap metal Lyle Nichols turns into extraordinary sculptures at his Colorado home and studio, their original purpose remains clear, even as their selection and combination creates an entirely new vision of reality.

Looking at Nichols’ horse,  thinking about the leftovers I’ll have for supper this evening, wondering if it might be cool enough to pull the quilts from their chest, it occurs to me at last: the best scraps are leftover bits of real life. They recall real meals, lovingly prepared. They intimate the cut of real clothing, patterned and stitched by human hands. They are mementos of authentic experience, photographed, clipped and pasted by the hand of one who knows which were significant and which were not, which must be encouraged to endure and which can be let go without regret. Honest scrap, it seems, is grounded in reality, capable of stimulating memory and able to contain an entire universe of experience within the tiniest gear or shred of peeling or fold of cloth.

To think of a blog as a  fragment of thought, a scrap of memory, the trimmings from a vibrant and imaginative reconstruction of reality  is to make the  phrase “honest scrap”  more understandable and the process of blogging more intriguing.  Pulling words from from a pile of paragraphs , reworking paragraphs as metal is forged into art, piecing sentences together with prepositional stitches and conjunctive thread, snipping, framing and pasting images as if into a cherished book ~ all of this is beautiful, nourishing and worthy of regard.

Perhaps few authors have understood the shimmering potential of scrap, the beauty of leftover experience or the potential for forging new realities more clearly than the Portuguese writer, Fernando Pessoa.  After Pessoa’s death,  a trunk filled with thousands of scraps of paper was discovered among his belongings. It contained unpublished poems, unfinished prose, writing of all sorts.  Among the writings was his thrilling and mysterious The Book of Disquiet, which contains this hypnotic sentence:

 “I ask and I continue. I write down the question, I wrap it up in new sentences, I unravel it to form new emotions.”

Published fifty years after the author’s death,  the extended diary fragments making up The Book of Disquiet represent the autobiography of Bernardo Soares, one of Pessoa’s remarkable “heteronyms”, or alternate selves. Each of these “selves”, nearly seventy or more of them,  functioned autonomously as a fully developed literary alter ego with a voice and a vision of his own.  In the words of reviewer Tricia Yost, Soares’ diary speaks of  “Lisbon, literature, monotony, dreams and much more. But in the final analysis, the minutiae of life is made heartbreakingly beautful.”

The minutiae of life. Fragments of experience. Well-trimmed poetry and  snippets of prose tasting of sunlight and oranges, unraveled, wrapped up and asked.

Honest scrap.


Comments are welcome.  To leave a comment or respond, please click below.

16 thoughts on “Back to the Scrap Heap

  1. All your posts reflect your gift for drawing disparate threads and weaving them into a compelling tapestry. If anyone is deserving of the Scrap award it’s you. You even managed to turn the awarding of the Scrap award into an intricate yarn!


    To one degree or another, I’m always of a divided mind about these awards. On the one hand, I appreciate them and am happy beyond words to receive them. On the other hand, meeting the requirements of the award – in the case of Honest Scrap, listing ten true things no one knows about me – doesn’t always seem to fit the intent of my blog.

    So, I have to ponder and puzzle until I’ve found a way to both honor the intent of the award and write something that might have a bit more substance than just a list of my silly quirks. I have three or four other blog awards I haven’t written about yet – not because they aren’t worthy of a post, but only because I’m not yet inspired ;-)

    Pessoa and his scraps of paper was a natural, here. The most amazing thing I’ve found about him is that some of his alternate selves sometimes would sit around and critique the writing of OTHER of his selves. I wonder if he ever felt the need for a psychic traffic cop?

    See you later – it’s my day to catch up with the blogs!


  2. Well, once again, you amaze me with your depth of thought, the way your mind “works,” your persistence and determination in your research and ultimately, the splendid way you bring all these “scraps” of information together in such an elegant and fluid way.

    I’d never thought about this so concretely, but scraps are part of my life. Bits of paper with notes reminding me to do something — or what I did. More bits of paper (and broken jewelry and ribbon and lace) ready to mix in so many different ways for collage. Bits of yarn that become scrap scarves. And more.

    Scrapple. Never heard that before. I like that one a lot!

    As always, I leave here with my head spinning about and I know I’ll be thinking about this all day!


    I thought of you and your art while I was writing this. For most of my life I thought of collage as a school art project – most often grade school. But now I have a piece in my kitchen which incorporates elements of collage – it’s beautiful, homespun and sophisticated all at once. It strikes me that collage may be the visual counterpart to Pessoa’s verbal scraps. In both cases the artists sort and turn and fit the elements of the creation until they fit “just so” – never knowing what “just so” is until it happens!

    As for those scraps of paper ~ can you see me smiling? I never made a successful transition to electronic organizers. I suppose now it’s the Blackberry or some other smart phone that’s taken over the chores. I just feel better if a phone number or grocery list is on a scrap of paper, in the same way that I prefer to read a book and not tote a Kindle. I know I’m not alone – I laughed for two days when I got this new computer and discovered that right there, in the Windows sidebar, it’s possible to tack up a cyber-pad of yellow post-it notes to write messages to myself. I fixed them – the programmers, that is. I quietly closed the sidebar and got out a pad of real sticky notes. There’s more room to write, and I can put them wherever I please!

    Here’s to sticky notes, ribbons and lace – and the pure enjoyment of them all!


  3. Wonderful.

    I prefer found objects to bought ones. The adventure they provide, and the randomness, combine into discovery, new art, new beauty, bringing the old along. This is far superior to the Pottery Barn catalog!

    I don’t know how many quilts I’ve made, but when I made them I remember meditating on the strangeness of taking something apart to put it together into a new piece of cloth. It makes sense when using old garments, to salvage the remnants of fabric that made them, or the garments themselves. But to take a perfectly good piece of new fabric (from the “quilt store”), cut it up, and make it into a new design together with other pieces, still strikes me as odd. This gathering of scraps you have meditated on is far more satisfying, because they are tied to experience. What value does a new piece of fabric – however gorgeous – have next to a piece of my daughter’s dress made from Liberty fabric I bought and took with us to Istanbul, then pieced into a pink and purple quilt, marking the age many girls adore that color combination, yet uniquely!


    Found objects – at least those we live with – are never just “found”. The very fact that they’re with us means they were noticed, collected, carried in and kept. In many cases they have no intrinsic value at all, but their power to evoke time or place or experience can be considerable.

    Just sitting here I can see: a bowl of gourds mixed with sweet gum balls picked up at Leadbelly’s grave, a copper basket filled with rocks from Georgia O’Keefe’s red Abiquiu hills, a clutch of forged iron “country money” rods from Liberia held in a mesquite vase turned by a friend in the Texas hill country.
    Oh ~ and there’s the famous “baked potato” rock, also from the hill country. It’s such a perfect replica of a just-baked Idaho russet it’s fooled and embarassed people for years!

    When I read your post about the Atelier and saw the photos, I thought it would make a wonderful shrine to Our Lady of Found Objects. Perhaps she’s the one who opens our eyes to all of the wonderful bits and pieces of life, makes them appealing and gives us the good humor to cope with folks who say, “Why in the world are you dragging around that box of rocks?”


  4. Oh, and I love the honeycomb quilt. We had two my Grandma Olive made.

    And the final photo is wonderfully chosen and rendered for the effect.


    We knew this pattern as Grandmother’s Flower Garden – here’s a nice link to the hexagon/honeycomb/flower garden history.

    Thanks for noticing the photo. I’m so pleased with it – it’s a door in Lisbon, for Pessoa. You were the first person I’d seen use the panography effect – remember the little bird last winter? I thought it worked perfectly here as well.


  5. Ha, Ruth’s comment #3.

    Two more things:

    My other grandma, Dad’s mom, whom I never met, made a scrapbook from a huge book, a regular book she just pasted clippings into. Frugal.

    Two, Robert Kelly wrote a poem “into” Percy Bysshe Shelley’s “Mont Blanc” adding his own scraps of words and making a new poem. It was a fascinating project, and you can see it here:

    Robert Kelly’s Mont Blanc

    See? Scraps of comments, too! Perfect!

    Interesting that, just as quilting now requires new fabric and quilt stores and all manner of modern commercial support, scrapbooking has taken on the feel of frenzied lily-gilding. My scrapbooks were very much the same – large books with ivory, heavy-paper pages that would support newspaper clippings, cards, photos and such. If we needed to “add text” we found a pen and wrote, “Minnesota, Leech Lake, Steve and Marjorie” – or whatever.

    That Kelly poem is astonishing. I’ve done as much reading as I can tonight, but I loved this:

    Any decent poem has room in it for us all. The process of “writing into” someone else’s poem is an act of reading, of listening, talking. Though formally it is a transgression, and may strike the reader as an arrogance, or an irrelevance to the sweet original design, in fact this writing-into turns the act of reading into an act of conversation.

    I just don’t know what to think of it all. On the one hand, my first, visceral reaction was, “That’s just WRONG!” On the other hand, what he’s done with it is clearly conversational and based on an appreciation for the poem. I’ll need to give this one more attention when I’m not nodding off. Thanks so much for bringing it along.


  6. I bow to your superior talent for creating beauty out of so many disparate scraps. Rather like a quilt. My mother quilts–but she is one who uses new fabrics for new patterns. They are beautiful, but part of me wishes she would dig the old, unfinished projects out of their hiding places in the attic; they are family, they are history. (As I write this, I remember that she does have a crazy quilt, pieced by the grandmother she never knew, draped over her piano.)

    In a bookstore this afternoon (I had been on a new walk. I had a coupon–a really good one–burning a hole in my pocket), and read for the first time the name “Fernando Pessoa” and thought: ” Who is that?”
    Now I know. He is no longer safe in the library (or perhaps that bookstore).

    Some of us stay on the surface only, but you dig deep…and come up with gold. Thank you.


    My mom has an unfinished jacket made from my dad’s old neckties. It’s a beautiful thing, but she’s out of enthusiasm for finishing it. It carries the same power as those old quilt scraps, though. I can remember so many of dad’s ties – just amazing, when you think of it, particularly since I never know where my car keys are!

    I wonder sometimes if our moms had to “make do” with scraps of fabric and food so often that they’re just tired of it. Your mom may have been too young to experience it, but the depression was hard on my mom and her sisters – I imagine going through that would make you grateful to start with something fresh and new.

    I noticed somewhere a comment about Pessoa’s translators. Apparently one was better than the others – I’ll go back and see if I can find the information.Your library will probably know, too, even if the bookstore doesn’t. There’s no sense reading someone in a poor translation.

    There are days when I wonder about the serendipities and synchronicities around our blog-land. Pessoa, for heaven’s sake ;-)

    Thanks as always for the kind words. This one surprised even me!


  7. Stopping by via ds today. I always liked this award because it gave me a task – rather than just mindlessly passing it along to 10 people who are great friends or something, it gave me a call to action. Reveal, share, expose, be truthful. And instead of just listing crap, make it scraps of life instead. That was my interpretation.

    I enjoyed your reveal. Quilts and scrapple, art and novels. My favorite image was the trunk filled with scraps and snippets of words, ideas, inspiration. What a treasure.


    How nice to have you stop by! I’ve always enjoyed your comments at the Third Storey Window, and very much enjoyed browsing your place this morning.

    “Reveal, share, expose, be truthful….” That really is the heart of it all, isn’t it? And the longer we blog, the longer we interact with one another on these pages, the easier it becomes to separate the honest from the dishonest.

    I don’t have a trunk, but my mother and I each have cedar chests. Mine’s filled with blankets and linens and such, but her’s still is the jumble it was when I was a child, full of baby clothes, beaded purses, silver dollars, photos. I loved pawing through that chest as a child – it was my rainy day treat. Now I have the image of Pessoa’s trunk to inspire me. You’re right – it is a treasure.


  8. I read this fabulous piece yesterday, Linda, when my Internet was touch and go, and while I was running out of the house. Today I’m still touch-n-go, emotionally as well, because the Internet is my lifeline. When I don’t have it “right” for several days in a row, I come close to tears. In fact, right now I feel a bit like a heap of disconnected scraps trying to hang together for dear life, lest I totally fall apart.

    That’s not how I felt yesterday when I read your finely-crafted words. You have a gift and every time I read you, I’m inspired and wonder where mine went! I used to be able to think and write clearly. When did I lose touch with that part of myself, I wonder? And will I find it again? Someone like you (and Ruth) will be the first to know, I’m sure!

    Anyway, thank you for the time and effort you put into these missives of love. I really am in awe.


    Oh, how you have my sympathy. My internet provider’s been amazingly reliable, but every now and then the “cloud” that is WordPress goes “poof”, and panic ensues. I’m diligent about backups, but diligent isn’t perfect and there’s nothing quite like fearing I’ve lost one of these posts to some cyber-grinch. That’s the best use I’ve found for Twitter – when WordPress appears to have crashed, I have somewhere to go to be sure I’m not alone ;-) Of course, a complete lack of internet service is much worse. I hope things have settled so you can get your reading done, your photos posted and your emails sent ;-)

    I wonder occasionally if our creative energies don’t rechannel themselves from time to time. When I see your photographs I’m just astonished – not only by your technical skill but by your unusual vision, your way of framing, your ability to catch those uncatchable moments.

    Perhaps the part of yourself you think you’ve lost touch with is still there, but transformed. Or perhaps it simply is lying fallow, waiting for conditions to be right again. After all, I went for nearly twenty years not writing a thing other than grocery lists and thank-you notes. Now… well, I do what I do, and I’m so glad you recognize them for what they are. Missives of love is the right phrase, thought I’m not certain even I could explain exactly what it means.


  9. Thanks Linda,

    My folks had a big old trunk at the foot of their bed growing up. I always dreamed there were magical trinkets in there so special and secret. Then one day I got brave and snuck in there to open it up. I was so bummed there were just blankets inside! But then as I grew older my mom shared with me boxes of memories with photos and clippings that she had stored in her closet. One of these days I’m going to organize them all for her – but there is something to be said for the fun of discovery.


    You’re so right! The discovery is half the fun, and maybe more. For a while I was going to organize all my photos into albums by trip, activity, place, and so on, but I do enjoy getting into my boxes and not knowing what I’ll pull out. It can be a little frustrating when I want a particular photo, but that doesn’t happen very often.

    The one thing that does seem more important as I get older is identifying the people in the photos, and recording their names. It won’t be long before the really old ones in our family are gone, and there are a lot of photos to be gone through. All of those serious people staring into the camera deserve to be known.


  10. I always have scraps of thought…and I use notes to try to keep track of them, but they don’t often work. Today I sat down at the computer in the late morning, with plans to get my next two weeks planned out (lessons at school). I started with email, went to taking care of a few of mother’s bills, then to mine, then to Wunderground, then to Facebook. By the time the clock read 12:30 – I hadn’t touched a scrap of work. STOP – I said to myself – you came here for a reason – you have scraps of ideas in your head – get them down now! So I did…so that allowed me to come here and read your newest article, because now I’m ready for tomorrow :)

    You truly have a gift Linda and I feel quite privileged to be a part of that gift – I get to read it!


    Isn’t that the way it always goes – one minute leads to an hour leads to a morning. That’s one of the reasons I’ve stayed off some of the sites like Facebook – there just isn’t enough time in the day for everything.

    It does take discipline. One of the best tips ever was offered up by Paul Graham, author of Hackers and Painters. In an essay titled “Disconnecting Distraction” he told the story of dedicating a laptop to his writing – one that wasn’t hooked up to the internet. He found it difficult to maintain focus while working at a computer that allowed him to surf the web, check email and so on. So he just unplugged. If I’m in the initial stages of writing and want to do some research as I work, I’ll stay connected. But often I’ll write on my laptop, unplugged.

    Hey, if unplugged is good enough for Clapton, it’s good enough for me!

    It’s always a pleasure to have you stop by. And from what I’ve seen of your work at school, your students are profiting mightily from those scraps you carry around in your head!


  11. dear sleuthing friend, very cool backtrack to find the meaning of honest scrap.
    All scraps are honest, somehow, n’est-ce pas?
    What really got me here, was your line about the blogs eating up time (in a good way, of course), but still…
    Yet who can resist visiting one’s friends?

    Much much more to say about us getting together, us bloggers, there in TX where the weather is easy (easier)!
    I do not think it’s outrageous, not at all. More on that later!


    I’ve had to turn over your phrase for a bit ~ that “all scraps are honest, somehow”. I’ve decided that’s right. They are honest, in an “it is what it is” sort of way. The trick then is to look at how they’re used. Is Lyle Nichols’ horse well done, or poorly done? Are Pessoa’s literary scraps arranged artfully, or simply cobbled together without vision? As bloggers, are the scraps of thought we present and the personae we present honest or dishonest? Skill, intent and imagination determine the nature of the final product as much as the nature of the “scrap”.

    As for that time thing… I just called Comcast yesterday and said “Pull the plug on the cable tv”. I am finding some new ways to economize as I grow increasingly nervous about the direction of the economy, but that decision wasn’t about money. It’s all about time, and the intentional use of time. We’ll see how it goes. I’ve never tried “cold turkey” before!


  12. “The minutiae of life. Fragments of experience. Well-trimmed poetry and snippets of prose tasting of sunlight and oranges, unraveled, wrapped up and asked.

    Honest scrap.”

    Beautiful fragments, Linda! Poetic and pure. You’ve created a Montage! I can hear you talking in film language, evocative and clear!

    Yes, we’re all seekers of meaning, not satisfied with mere superficial scraps. Let’s continue to use blogging to capture these fragments of ruminations… I’d say, time well spent!


    As you mentioned in your blog re: script writing, we’re so programmed to avoid sentence fragments (“Where’s the subject!? Where’s the verb?!)
    it can be hard to do things differently. I didn’t set out to write that conclusion as I did. It just appeared that way, and when I looked at it I thought, “I believe we’re going to let that rest.” Then I read your blog, and knew I’d made the right decision.

    What’s most interesting to me is the way several “scraps” are interwoven in those few words: the photo of the doorway in Lisbon, Pessoa’s own words, my memories of a hotel on Madrid’s Plaza Mayor, concepts from the body of the blog itself, the Honest Scrap award. It’s a perfect example of the point Michael Ondaatje was making: the work can lead the author, as much as the author controlling the work.

    Here’s to more of THAT happening!


  13. Linda,

    Your words remind me of my grandmother and others who were forever changed by the hard times exerienced in the Great Depression. Granny believed everything was worth saving ’til it found its proper use. Honestly, there was never leftover food at Granny’s. Eventually, it would all be consumed, even if it had to be resurrected into a new dish like Scrapple. Or Mincemeat. People of my Ganny’s generation were ‘green’ before it came into vogue. They did not waste money, food or time because there was none to waste. They believed in an ‘honest day’s work for an honest day’s pay.’ No free rides — which makes me wonder if they weren’t at first suspicious of Social Security — and whether Social Security was viewed as honest, as it scraped off of one hand to hand over to another.

    I love your take on honest scrap and your creative use of your everyday life scraps to form such fine words for us to feast on. It feels like Thankgiving.


    The abundance we have today would have amazed my grandparents. The abundance we’ve enjoyed since WWII certainly has amazed the rest of the world. Yet I count myself lucky to have known my grandparents’ less abundant world because the lessons I learned there will be needed in the next decades. The workings of the law of unintended consequences never are pretty, but I fear we’ll have the chance to see them up close and personal unless our Congress comes to its senses and does a better job of legislating. I’m not counting on that.

    Thinking about that frugality and how much things have changed, I remember one of my first childhood chores: breaking the yellow “egg yolk” of coloring that came with the white margarine and kneading it into the bag of margarine until it took on an even “butter” color. I tasted my first real butter in a second grade classroom, when we churned it in a mason jar and ate it with oyster crackers and saltines.

    Now that I think about it, I surely walked five miles to school and ten miles home, through blizzards, barefoot…
    If I wrote that story, of course, I’d be writing fiction ;-)

    There is a good bit to be thankful for, isn’t there? Rain here and Max, there. Blessings all around.


  14. Linda, it’s me again…

    Congrats on pulling the cable plug!!!!!! Excellent move you will not regret. No, really! I “interviewed” the family before doing that about 4 years ago, and they were all pretty “whatever” and then I did it, I cancelled cable and they just went along their merry ways without it. This is greatly due to the fact that the kids find TV, sports and even movies on the Internet. Didn’t bother them at all. And I swear it improved the “lively art of conversation” around here.

    And on a completely different note (I should be emailing you rather than writing all this here!), our weather has turned snarly cold and we’re sitting around with two layers on already and in my case, a scarf as well. Egads! can it be time for socks and shoes already when walking the dogs?

    Thinking of you in your big warm friendly southern state, and hope all is well.


    The one who’s missing tv most is Dixie Rose. The morning and evening routines always involved brushing her while watching some news and drinking coffee. The last two mornings, I’ve had to turn on the radio so she’ll settle down. She keeps looking at the blank screen and fussing, or getting up from her brushing to walk around and around the television as though looking for those nice people who used to visit us ;-)

    It reminds me of a poor cockatiel whose owner decided to stop smoking and drinking. No joke, here – when the scotch got cut off, that bird was mad! He was used to having a little nip every night and would sit on the edge of glasses, looking pathetic. Quitting smoking was good for him, though. His singing voice improved.

    I just cannot believe winter is coming – we had a very brief cooldown but are back into the 80s and 90s again. Everyone is grumpy as can be, dripping sweat and wondering when the jetstream’s going to take a dip. I finally turned on the AC tonight to get the humidity out of the house. But see – you get fall colors and all that in exchange for putting up with the coolth!


  15. Your post is full with the light, each word radiates deep wisdom. The scrap that ends your post (the door) just put me under a charm. I see it as the great art and bow to you, my applause, dear Master.


    I just have spent some time at your wonderful site, and am anxious to see and read more.

    Thank you so much for stopping by. I’m happy you like my door, my little bit of sunlit scrap. I love windows and doors – even if they are closed, I imagine them open.

    Please do stop by anytime. You always are welcome.


  16. There are entire cultures who have survived on scraps throughout history. My husband told me that when he was in Vietnam, the Vietnamese people would collect the scraps of the soldiers – beer and soda cans – and make picture frames, etc. Then they would sell them back to the soldiers.

    I like to think of you researching all of these topics for us, collecting bits and scraps of information, weaving them into wonderful essays, adding your particular perspective, and serving them up to us. They’re delicious.



    That’s exactly what my draft files look like – a scrap heap! A paragraph here, a title there, the occasional rough outline… Every time I get a stray thought about something I tuck it in where it seems to belong and eventually it may do some good. I’ve got two poems that are nothing but titles at this point. I know they’re poems, though, so there they sit while I wait for them to reveal themselves ;-)

    I have a friend who’s done the same as the Vietnamese for years. She’s not poor, by any means, and lives a comfortable life, but she’s made a practice of prowling the curbs on heavy trash day or checking out the trash in Houston’s better neighborhoods. She often spiffs up lamps or home accessories and resells them, just for the pleasure of it – and occasionally has found some true treasures that brought in a good bit of cash.

    She does say that in her twenty years of doing this, she’s never seen the pickings so slim. Her contention is that those curbsides are a better barometer of economic trends than the Dow or durable goods orders. I suspect she’s right.


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