Back in 1988 during a presidential debate, Dan Quayle , one of the candidates, made a comment in which he compared himself to John F. Kennedy. Senator Lloyd Bentsen, his opponent, interrupted disdainfully, “Senator, you’re no Jack Kennedy.” Since then, it’s become a phrase that serves to humble politicians with over-inflated egos.
Now we can put a new twist on that old saying: “Buddy (fill in the name), you’re no Andy Warhol.”
Back in 1974, the controversial artist Andy Warhol was getting ready to move his art studio from one location to another. Being an over-the-top pack rat, he became overwhelmed with sorting. He had saved everything in his life that had to do with his art, the people he knew, the social climate he lived in, souvenirs, newspaper clippings, post cards, letters . . . you name it—he had kept it. And he knew that as an artist famous in his own time, all of these treasures had value. Some day there would be an Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, that would actually be interested in all the banana peelings and photo booth snapshots he had saved over the years.
So in 1974, at the suggestion of a friend, Andy Warhol bought uniform-sized cardboard boxes, dumped all the stuff from his studio into them, sealed them up, and sent them to a storage facility in New Jersey. After that, he kept an open cardboard box in his studio into which he would toss any object he couldn’t bear to throw away. At the end of every month, he would close up the cardboard box, seal it, and send it to that storage facility in New Jersey. When he died in 1987, he had accumulated 610 cardboard-box “Time Capsules." In addition, at the time of his death, his four-story townhouse in Manhattan was crammed to the rafters with more “treasures” that he could not bear to throw.
Archivists are now in the process of going through the boxes and sorting the good, the bad, and the ugly. Some must be thrown (a moldy piece of wedding cake from Caroline Kennedy’s wedding or oozing, unopened cans of soup) while some are priceless mementos. The archivists, clad in white smocks and latex gloves, reverently sort through the boxes, inventorying and preserving their contents.
But that’s Andy Warhol. He was a famous artist. His “Time Capsule” cardboard boxes are worth millions.
Which leads me to the rest of us:
The boxes and stacks in the closets, basements, garages, and corners of our houses are not worth millions. Archivists in white smocks and latex gloves will not be reverently sorting through our belongings when we die. Our archivists will be whatever poor shmuck relative gets stuck with the job of going through our piles of crap. There is no museum in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania, with our name on it that is dying to see what oddities we’ve collected over the years. We weren’t invited to Caroline Kennedy’s wedding and don’t have a piece of her cake in a cardboard box in a storage facility in New Jersey.
So rent a dumpster. Get the telephone number of Goodwill. Find out when the local church is having a rummage sale. Figure out how to use Craig’s List and E-Bay. Especially if you happen to love your poor schmuck relatives who will have to sort through your mess.
We’re no Andy Warhol.