Last night was another wonderful edition of That Belongs in a Museum at Gallery Cabaret. This is a wonderful literary event put on by Sarah Crawford, Susan Golland, and Serena Washington. The basic premise is that you can bring any object and present it to the audience for up to 5 minutes. The object can be historical significant or significant to you. All objects are welcome. The order of objects is randomly selected from a fez. It’s a wonderful celebration of the objects that make up our lives.
This time, I brought a book titled The Playful Eye but I’m calling the object: “Commoditized Appreciation.” It is an object that heralds back to my senior year in college. In my last quarter, I took a class called “Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass;” it was a ten-week class that just studied those books. It was fantastic. I adore these books and loved every second of the class. It was a thought free for all. We discussed psychology, biology, history, art history, etc. with respect to these books. It was one of my favorite classes in college.
At the end of the quarter, the professor sent out an invitation to a party at her place. In her message, she causally mentioned that people were welcome to dress up. To this day, I’ll use any I excuse to dress up. So I made an aluminum foil top hat with a red ribbon around it. I stuck a card in the brim that read: “In this style 10/6.” I wore a suit and pocket watch. I was the Mad Hatter, one of my favorite characters. So I showed up to the party and discovered that I was the only person who had dressed up. And I was wearing a tin foil hat. But I had some options. I could go home and change. Or I could hide the hat. Or I could just go ahead with the plan. I took the last option. It ended up working out. People actually complemented me on my hat. So I wasn’t just a weirdo who showed up to a party in a strange costume. I was a complemented weirdo.
At the end of the party, the professor walked up to me and complemented my outfit. She said, “I like this outfit so much I want to reward you.” I demurred, pointing out that I had just dressed up for fun. And she responded, “No, I need to commodify my appreciation.” So she grabbed a book off her shelf and handed it to me. This book was The Playful Eye, a book of visual paradoxes. It was really neat and pitch perfect for a class on Alice in Wonderland.
Sadly, the hat has long been destroyed. After all, it was made from tin foil. But the book remains a reminder of the time I wore a tin foil hat to a respected professor’s apartment.
There were many other lovely objects. My fiancé brought a magnificent object: a brick from Pullmantown. It is a piece of family history. His great great grandfather came to America as a stowaway from Norway. He was a Communist who escaped the gulag of the Czar in Siberia. He came to Chicago and worked as a cabinetmaker in the Pullman factories. It’s likely he participated in the Pullman strike, where house ownership was a big issue. Pullman didn’t let his employees purchase homes in the town. So this brick was a symbol of this long legacy. It’s about the land of possibility but also labor strikes and robber barons. It seems appropriate that the descendent of a Pullman worker would end up with a piece of the town so many years later.
Another nifty object was a working Geiger counter. It looked an awful lot like one of those ghost traps from Ghostbusters. This Geiger counter was a professional class one. The gentleman who brought it explained that during the 1950s, the government encouraged people to prospect for uranium and other radioactive materials. People would use this machine to find materials and get paid well for them. Unfortunately, the side effects had not been well-known, so many prospectors later died of cancer. That’s an interesting bit of Cold War history I never knew about.
However, this machine was a symbol of a bygone era. The gentleman bought the machine at a garage sale. Once upon the time, these were prized objects (by some). Now, it was something that someone would sell at an informal gathering. It is a nice reminder that the era of these machines has past. We don’t have the same worries about nuclear bombs like we used to.
Another gentleman brought four brothel tokens that had been mounted into a frame. He said that they were from the Old West. Each coin had amazing things written on them. One promised “The Best Pussy in Town” while another said that it was good for “Trade, Woman, Whiskey or Tobacco.” Pretty fantastic. He said that it was a gift from his then fiancé, now wife.
So these are just a few objects of the many fascinating objects. All the objects and a blurb will be posted in a few weeks by the hosts. Check out their website of past events: http://thatbelongsinamuseum.org/ The next event is December 3rd. Be there or be square!