Stalking Stuff

The man speaks slooow and LOUD, as if to a person who doesn't know her hearing aids have failed.

"It's just stuff I have," he says. "And now I'm getting rid of it. We're moving."

"But how do you happen to have three glass jewelry display cases?" I ask.

"At one time I sold jewelry."

"But that doesn't explain the Kleen-rite wet/dry drapery cleaner."

"Well, I also used to clean draperies," he says. "Look, are you interested in buying it?"

"Maybe. I don't know. Lemme ask you -- how do you happen to have 'hundreds of Playboys from 60s to 90s?'"

"It's just a thing some guys have," he says, now truly exasperated.

"So why don't you want them anymore? They must be worth a fortune."

"Yup. And that's why I'm selling them, okay?"

"I still don't get it," I say. "What do all these things have in common?"

"You have to ask? They're miscellaneous."

Right, right. Miscellaneous is the only category that could possibly bring together a drapery-cleaning machine, a basement-load of lite porn, a jewelry display case and, oh, yeah, a 300-watt Pioneer stereo amp. Miscellaneous is also where you will find a collectible doll, a wheelchair and a pet carrier, all looking to be liberated from their owner...a paraplegic doll collector whose dog can't walk, either?

I love the miscellaneous section of the daily newspapers' classifieds. It gets me thinking. Whenever I get sick of the inside of my own head -- and much of the outside world, at least as depicted in news stories -- I spend a restful twenty minutes reading miscellaneous. And in the process, I glean little lessons about life. Really. Here are some of my gleanings in recent years.

1. Home exercise is a pointless venture at which everyone fails. There is not a single lot of miscellaneous that doesn't include at least one "exercise bike, never used," "weight bench with one dumbbell" -- what happened to the other one? -- or, most typically, a Nordic Track. As far as I can tell, no Nordic Track machine has ever delivered on its promise of sleek Nordic fitness, and the machines take up a lot of room. This is space in which you could otherwise store a pile of old Playboys or a Snake Prudhomme funny car -- but I'm getting ahead of myself. And so the Nordic Track is eventually sold, at a loss.

2. No one owns one of anything anymore, except a dumbbell. If someone is selling one solid cast-iron Kohler sink, he is inevitably selling four or five of them, and almond-colored refrigerators always come in sets of three or more. Of toilets there is an incredible bounty. Miscellaneous is where you can find a BIG toilet, too -- one with EPA-flouting gallons of stored water, a relic from the good old single-flush days.

3. Marriage often forces a man to change his ways. Otherwise, why would he be selling off his Jet Ski, three guitar amps, two non-running Chevy Novas (in boxes, but priceless) and all of his model rockets? Marriage is the culprit, without question, since he offers to trade all of this for a sewing machine, a motor home or a late-model car that gets good gas mileage.

4. Divorce makes a woman bitter and pressed for cash. Divorce is what causes her to put "beautiful size 8 wedding gown with pearl stitchery, only worn once, $125" on the miscellaneous market.

5. The word "goat" has several layers of meaning. If it's a genuine goat you seek, you need only go straight to Livestock in the classifieds, a category clogged with African Pygmies and other small species. (Or check out for a glimpse into one of the most compelling animal-husbandry obsessions of all time.) In miscellaneous, however, a goat is never just a goat. Last week I called on two goat-related ads.

Call One -- in which the goat-related item is offered along with "guns, lathe, welder and more":

Me: "I'm calling about the goat wagon."

Them: "No, honey, we ain't sold it yet."

Me: "Well, what is it?"

Them: "Why, it's an ornamental, with twelve-inch wheels, about 36 inches long, and it sets out on the lawn, and that's all it's meant to do. It's made of wood."

Call Two -- in which the goat-related item appears alongside "tractor/mower, PT8, CR-125, and Schwinn bike":

Me: "Have you sold the Tote-Goat yet?"

Them: "Nope. It's $400, firm."

Me: "What's it for?"

Them: "Huntin'."

Me (wildly guessing): "Like for dragging dead animals out of the woods with?"

Them: "Yeah."

Me: "Does the dead animal have to be a goat?"

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Robin Chotzinoff
Contact: Robin Chotzinoff

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