Summer has been a period of purging household belongings, things we never needed, things we never knew we had. The fact that it coincided with my hometown’s shift to “pay-as-you-throw” trash collection has added some dynamic tension. Suddenly every non-recyclable object we ever bought on sale has a tiny new price tag on it — the cost of disposal.
Naturally, we’re having a yard sale and we’ll take a lot of stuff to the Salvation Army. But inevitably, a lot of bric-a-brac will wind up in the $1 apiece purple bags (affectionately called “Barney bags”) that are all the city will now pick up. It’s a small price, I guess, and it illustrates a larger principle. Not environmental principles — we recycle without any carbon-footprint guilt trips — but the principle that there’s also value in letting go.
When my wife and I first moved to New Hampshire, more than 20 years ago, we went through a similar load lightening. We were to be living in an ancestral home with its own furnishings and decor, so a lot of personal belongings just didn’t fit in. Also, we needed the cash. Among the expendable items was one old art print from my Louisiana grandmother’s house. It was in an ornate frame and the image was a scene from “The Rubaiyat.” It had sentimental value and I liked the artist — a guy named Maxfield Parrish. (I later learned that he had painted nearby in Cornish.) Anyway, it was snatched up by a yard-sale “early bird.” I was proud that I held firm with my $30 pricetag, but dismayed the next day when a friend of the buyer came by asking to “look around” and see if we had anything else for sale. Apparently, that print was worth quite a bit more than thirty dollars.
So there are not only expenses in letting things go, there are risks.
You might say the state’s economy is going through a yard-sale phase right now with downtowns looking shopworn and with dark storefronts like missing teeth on Main Streets. While painful to go through, this is a cycle as natural as the turning of the leaves in late September. And what costs one, benefits another. Here in Concord, Foodee’s Pizza shut down its ovens on its iconic corner of Main and Pleasant. In a downtown heartbeat, Pitchfork Records moved from across the street into the bigger, more beckoning space. It’s not easy shedding an old skin, but it’s the only way to grow.
Just as this issue went to press we heard the news that Claremont’s Eagle Times was going into bankruptcy. I’d recently been interviewed by a reporter there about our Best of NH party. Turning the tables, I had used the same call to ask her for information on a story in this issue about reclusive author J.D. Salinger of Cornish. You see, the Eagle Times, back in the ‘60s when it was called the Daily Eagle, had published on its high school page the only known press interview with Salinger. You can read all about it in an essay by former Daily Eagle Publisher Edward Bennett on page 47 and his essay actually includes yet another interview with Salinger — brief, but journalistically valid. So, between its publisher and a school page writer, one little newspaper from Claremont scored two interviews with the most famously private and press-averse writer in the country.
Makes me wonder if, like that Maxfield Parrish print, the Eagle Times is going to be one of those things-let-go where the value can never be recouped.
This article appears in the July 2009 issue of New Hampshire Magazine