Saturday, January 03, 2015

The Only Explanation Was Offered By Our Dentist

Yesterday I picked up some good research items from that used book stall I like so much. It's in that strip mall across from Big Bad Breakfast, way in the back of the antique store. Check it out! One thing I found might be the most interesting self-published book I've come across since THE SCRAPBOOK OF A DETECTIVE. This one is by a livestock inspector named Dr. Harold Wallman, and it's a lavishly produced overview of his many collections of things. It's called 640 OF MY COLLECTIONS. They're put into alphabetical order and numbered. For example, collection #5 is "Alligators." The paragraph about his alligator collection begins, "The most intriguing alligator is controlled by two buttons." No set-up or anything, he just gets right to it. I don't think I'm getting across how unusual this book is. I'll keep trying. Collection #141 is "Cinema Photographs." He found most of these "in a Chicago alley. There were way more than I could take in a car, but I kept some... I had some fun with them by putting captions on them as to what I thought each character was saying. In one for 'Bed Time for Bonzo,' Ronald Reagen [sic] is standing there and he says, 'Well, I'll be a monkey's uncle.' The lady holding the chimp says, 'You mean father, Ha Ha Ha.'" Dr. Wallman also has a collection of newspaper articles and cartoons containing the name Arnold. The description is somewhat muddled, but they seem to be a tribute to his friend Arnold Cohn, and he put together a scrapbook that is partly (I think) about the real Arnold Cohn and partly about other people who happen to be named Arnold that he pretends are Arnold Cohn (?), including, writes Dr. Wallman, and note the quotation marks, "a picture of 'him' on a motorcycle, as a wrestler, and with a great body. It ends with his car accidents, death, services and auction. Many entries are completely anachronistic." Collection #155 is "Coffins." The descriptive paragraph begins, "One of my skeletons came in a rosewood coffin." So right away you know that he has a collection of skeletons, and indeed there it is, collection #507: "Skeletons - Human." Here we learn that his RV caught fire in 1986, and the only skeleton he owned at the time was destroyed: "I soon tried to replace it at dealers in Texas and Chicago, IL. I was told that human skeletons were no longer available." He finally got one but "it is light brown in color. The only explanation was offered by our dentist who said it got that way from being kept in the dark." And yes, I read between the lines that he was driving around in an RV with a human skeleton, and you'll have to trust me that it's only one of the disturbing things I've read between the lines - and in the lines - in this book. In a closing thought, Dr. Wallman regrets all the collections he couldn't include. "Too late to be more than mentioned are dolls, scout parapernalia [sic], bird feeders and houses, feathers, crutches, lead sinkers, enema cans, and cloth patches." Speaking of dolls, I believe he claims to have a pornographic Charlie Chaplin doll...? Details are vague, though the doll is mentioned in collection #432, "Pornography." Hmm, it seems that the thermos mentioned there is definitely pornographic (don't ask) and maybe the Chaplin doll is something he picked up in the same lot. "There is also a 'dirty' pocket watch and wrist watch," concludes Dr. Wallman. Such is the fascination of this book that only now do I find time to mention that Dr. Wallman's 392nd collection consists of owls, of course.