Wednesday, April 10, 2013

The Collector

That strange little house in the middle? A hoarder lives there.

Across the street is my favorite neighborhood café. The people who work there tell me that they gather at the plate glass windows every time someone sounds the alert that the Hoarder's door is opening, hoping to get a glimpse of the interior.

The other day, walking by, I finally got my own chance to see the sun-starved marvels of an unhinged mind. The door was flung wide, almost defiantly wide it seemed to me. The Hoarder was on his step, verbally abusing a young man who seemed to be an assistant of some sort.

I glanced inside, in the studiedly casual way that all NY-ers have developed; there is a lot to look at, surreptitiously, on any given day in NYC: dramatic accidents, street brawls, supermodels and superstars, robed psychotics denouncing their particular demons in high oration, men dressed as horses, fabulous homemade shoes and unlikely pets on leashes. It is well worth honing that skill, the stealth assessment, so that one need not miss a moment of the glorious horrible insanity of the city.

What a revelation was the Hoarder's Collection. Teetering ceiling-high stacks of old newspapers formed a dark mad cathedral, the path between these pillars so narrow that I have a hard time understanding how a Brooklyn rat could pass through, let alone a portly old man.

What nightmare vision created his home, what nightmare sustains it? What chases this man down, forcing him in daily retreat further and further back into this cramped stifling warren of newspaper? I can only imagine that he is shoring up his days and ways against an onrushing tide of fear, in the only way he knows how.



Brian Miller said... the people you bring out besides the hoarder...they give the world such texture eh? ha. imagine getting to see inside the house for real...scary yet exciting to walk through the maze...

nick said...

I'm fascinated by OCDs of every description. I have several notebooks of classic examples. I believe they're mainly motivated by extreme anxiety and the adoption of an obsessive ritual that keeps the anxiety at bay. I think you're right about the "onrushing tide of fear."

Hoarders create huge problems for other people, not least when they're ill or dead and it's virtually impossible to reach them through the accumulated spoils.

How fortunate that you finally managed to glimpse the interior. I think every city dweller has honed the "stealth assessment" you refer to. And I love your phrase "the glorious horrible insanity of the city." Those three words capture the uniqueness of cities beautifully.

Pearl said...

Fascinating. People -- and their behaviors are fascinating.

I remember being here, at your blog, years ago. :-) Glad you're still around.


Tracey said...

Always news paper. I used to work in a job that required me to go into many houses a day, so I ran across all kinds of people. The hoarders always started their collections with news paper. Fascinating.

I am friends with a young girl who just moved to Manhattan to go to college. I am going to quote you about the NYC glance. Also fascinating.

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Anonymous said...

Why fears and nightmares? I do not think that it is necessarily so (channel Sammy Davies jr. here). It also could be greed or the joy of possessing things, or the respect towards the print.

Donnnnnnnn said...

It's interesting that the American pursuit of happiness obsession can be stretched so far when it comes to hoarding...going past the Jones instead of keeping up with them is technically not a crime, even if these people are batchit crazy.

btw I loved your phrase "the sun-starved marvels of an unhinged mind" perfect.
I remember when Hoarders first came on and I remembered how the government emptied the "menatl" hospitals in the 70s and off-loaded all of those people onto the streets and the good grazes of society...hoping they'd pull in the slack. Great plan.

Secret Agent Woman said...

Here via Nick.

I'm a stealth assessor myself - there really is a lot of interest to see in this world. Fear and anxiety drive the hoarder - all that stuff is protective, even if the hoarder can't verbalizes what he is needing protection from.