The scene is a second floor classroom at the local rec center, where a Stuff-Aholics Anonymous meeting has convened. The walls of the room are dotted with Xeroxed copies of affirmative quotes such as “I’m stronger than my Sunday morning circular!”, “Collect strength, not stuff” and “Today is about ME, not stuff” as well as a personal take on the Serenity Prayer which reads “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot charge, Courage to charge the things I can, And wisdom to leave my charge card at home when I don’t know the difference.”
The room is necessarily sparse- chairs and a podium. The minimalistic surroundings are a poignant reminder of the fragility of its occupants, whose battles with consumerism have led them here.
“My name is Cayman, and I’m addicted to stuff.”
“I . . . really don’t know where to start.”
“Just start with your stuff, Cayman.”
“I remember I was in love . . . she was a stuff-aholic. I had dabbled in stuff when I was younger, you know? LP’s, video games, stereo speakers, baseball cards . . .
“She was a hard user, big stuff and lots of it. She was bad into shoes. She asked me if I’d ever considered a really stupid shit credit line and I figured, why not? What could it hurt? Well, within a year I was collecting everything. I’d chase limited edition premium baseball card sets with Olympic pins. I was collecting special issue magazines and art books and comic books and vintage board games and signed lithographs and yes, shoes. And then shoes became ties and ties became suit jackets and before long it was like Blackwell was editing the style section of my closet and Hunter S. Thompson was sweet talking me on the efficacy of minimum credit card payments . . .
“When we got married I asked her to quit. We could do it . . together. I remember her telling me she could stop anytime she wanted to, and then she went downstairs to her Longaberger Basket party. And what did I do? I followed her! And we got high together on an order of baskets that we were never going to use! The impulse had taken me hostage . . . I mean, baskets?! But it was stuff, and that’s all that mattered.
“My fix would change, but the habit was unrelenting. I’d switched to African art and patchwork quilts and kimonos and antique pottery. She was my wife, I figured we should be into the same stuff.
“I knew the habit had gotten bigger than me when the stuff got bigger than me, literally. It’s like one day I woke up and I owned three vintage soda machines. There I was, tucking my latest fix into a storage unit I had for all my stuff! That’s when I knew I’d hit rock bottom.
“And then I did it, I picked up the phone and I turned over one of those machines . . . I sold it. I remember going to Atlantic City and gambling away every last penny of that transaction. One of the smartest things I’ve ever done.”
Several members of the audience nod their head in agreement. Most of this gathering has gone misty eyed as they recall their own personal battles with the demon-stuff.
“But I’m happy to say that I’m down to one soda machine. And what’s more, I haven’t collected any stuff since I left my marriage six years ago.”
The audience erupts in applause. I cozy on up to a pert little brunette with crimson lips and bangs circa 1975. She’s wearing an appropriately cliched T-shirt which reads “Stuff Happens”.
“I’m Erica. Eight years three months and seventeen days without collecting any stuff.”
“It’s nice to meet you Erica. What’s say we go back to my place and partake of copious amounts of our most favored liquid solutions while discussing your qualifications as my sponsor?”
(Writers Note: The roles of Cayman and Erica are somewhat true.They are both recovering stuff-aholics who like to get together from time to time and shoplift. For charity . . . of course.)
(Writers Note 2: *Frank Zappa quote)