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Wednesday December 24, 2003, 15:44

Chapter 1.

Standing downstairs in the office supplies section of the Kmart near the checkout aisles where people are buying cereal instead of mistletoe.

Chapter 2.

I was cleaning out my room the other day. This was my room from when I was growing up in the suburbs and used to launch model rockets in the back yard. I had a cardboard box on which was written "In memory of the Alpha II" and after the "II" was written, in a small superscript, a TM. Why had I done that, at ten years old? There is a box in my closet full of old egg cartons. Each little section of the egg container contains one rock. The box of boxes of rocks comprises my entire rock collection. Interestingly enough, the rocks themselves are not labeled at all. I had gone to the trouble of sorting all of the rocks, but hadn't gotten far enough to actually figure out what they were.

Chapter 3.

I am wandering around the office supplies section of Kmart. I wonder whether Kmart is quite as horrible a company as Walmart. Presumably not, as Walmart's mascot is that big scary smiley face and Kmart just has a big K for a logo. Also, I haven't been reading as many stories about Kmart putting small suppliers out of business by forcing them to lower prices every year, which I have about Walmart. Even still, I am reminded of Christmas shopping a few days earlier with my sister as we were wandering around Target and I commented, "This really is just a Kmart, isn't it?" There is nothing particularly good about a Kmart, other than its prices and it's store hours, which exceed those of Staples and can provide me with a box of envelopes for about a dollar at eight in the evening.

I am in search of envelopes but find myself wandering the aisles looking at shelf after shelf of plastic file folders and staples (with staplers, and vice versa) and pencil sharpeners and binders. I feel a great desire to buy everything that I see and bring them home to organize my life, but I realize that this is just foolish.

Chapter 4.

At some point I became a pack rat. I blame my parents completely for this, but it is probably due to a combination of being a fairly scrawny anti-social child and not being spoiled rotten. As such, most items that I received, either as gifts or just as a matter of everyday necessity, became treasured to the point of being irreplaceable. This does, of course, have its exceptions, as does any rule (like, for example, the GoBot knockoffs that I got one Christmas that pretty much rocked my world for about a week or so and were then relegated to the attic, to be touched maybe once again in my life), but for the most part my room has become, over the years, a tribute to my childhood.

The shelves next to my desk have magic books from my years as a budding conjuror and my three favorite GI Joe action figures (do not, under any circumstance, call them dolls) whose elastics have since snapped, leaving them each in three distinct pieces: torso, legs and an in-between body part that can only be described as "butt." There is an old-fashioned bank on my desk that features a monkey and an organ grinder and tucked somewhere in a little set of drawers that sits under the lamp that appeared there one semester while I was away at college is a Star of David from my high school girlfriend.

Chapter 5.

Sometimes I go to Staples and wander around the store dreaming of all the ways I could organize my office area. I'm not very good about the follow-through and I end up walking out empty handed time and again. I have an aversion, for the most part, to buying things that I don't really need, which has been reinforced over the years by my collection of electronics equipment that I have either never used or has become obsolete before I've had a chance to enjoy it. Along with my inability to throw anything out, I have gained an inability to spend any money on myself and it shows in the form of, say, the desk on which I have been working for the past three years consisting of a door from a friend and four legs from Ikea (total cost, about $20).

I will crack sometimes as witnessed by the teak credenza that is sitting behind me (total cost, substantially more than the legs from Ikea), but I would not have purchased it without some prodding and the realization that I really just do have too much stuff to be sitting out all the time.

So office supply stores are my sanctuary. That there is an entire industry to keeping my life organized fills me with such a sense of unbounded joy that if given the option I would seriously consider moving into a filing cabinet if it meant that I would be around an endless supply of paper shredders.

Chapter 6.

Box of envelopes and a half gallon of milk. Total cost: $2.78 1.



1. I have actually been overcharged $0.20 for the envelopes. I opt not to go back and complain, but I realize that if 100,000 people each are charged $0.20 for the envelopes, that's a nice little Christmas bonus for somebody. The phrase "it's not the money, it's the principle of the thing" ran through my head, but I decided that my time was worth more than $0.20 so I walked right out that door. That's right.

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