Things I’m throwing out #4: Cassette tapes and metal suitcase

From the series "Things I'm Throwing Out" by Laura Elizabeth Pohl Photographed in August 2016
Like many photographers, I work on personal projects that don’t necessarily lead to financial gain or have any relation to my regular, paid work. It’s been a couple months since I posted anything from my most recent project, so I’ll reintroduce it.

Things I’m Throwing Out” is my documentation of all this stuff I’ve accumulated over years and had troubling getting rid of. I recently realized that the reason I hang on to this stuff is because I like seeing the items and remembering the stories behind them. So I’m photographing these mementos, writing little stories about them, and then periodically posting each item on this blog. Then I’ll donate or throw out the stuff. I don’t exactly aim to become a minimalist. I just want to stop lugging around boxes and boxes of random belongings whenever I move (for the record: 20 times since graduating from undergrad, seven of those times to other countries).

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Item #4: Cassette tapes and metal suitcase

One of my earliest memories related to music is sitting outside with my family’s portable tape player and listening to a Kenny Rogers tape over and over to memorize all the song lyrics. My favorite was “Lucille,” the song about the woman with “four hundred children and a crop in the field.” I always wondered about those “four hundred children.” What house would be big enough for them? How did they get around?  Did they have to share all their toys? (The correct lyric is “four hungry children.” But I wasn’t the only one who heard it wrong!)

I started accumulating cassette tapes around the time I memorized all those Kenny Rogers songs. First I bought a Madonna tape and then a Lisa Lisa and Cult Jam tape (pictured above). My sister and I made up dances to these tapes, listening to our favorite songs over and over, often having to rewind a little, hit play, fast forward a little, hit play, rewind again, hit play. You might remember how it was.

When I got this metal suitcase a couple years after I started buying music, I thought I’d use it as an actual suitcase. Turned out the weak clasp made it unpractical for that purpose. Then I realized the suitcase would be the perfect container for my cassettes. I toted my music collection to different houses my family lived in and to college, where my first roommate told me my Linda Ronstadt tape made her think of her mother.

It’s been years since I owned a tape player. Some of the cassettes in this suitcase I’ve rebought as CDs and then as digital tunes. It’s funny for me to look at all the music in this case and see how my tastes have and haven’t changed. There’s no Kenny Rogers in this suitcase because that was my Dad’s tape, but I still love the song “Lucille” and yes, I do have it in my iTunes. Sometimes I still sing “four hundred children” for old times’ sake.

From the series "Things I'm Throwing Out" by Laura Elizabeth Pohl Photographed in August 2016

 

Things I’m throwing out #3: Lourdes candle holders

From the series

When you’re in Lourdes, a Catholic pilgrimage site in southwestern France, every day is like Christmas – and not in an opening-presents-and-eating-chocolate-Santas kind of way. There are numerous masses, many praying pilgrims and a candlelight procession every night. My mom and I got these candle holders one night when we joined the evening procession.

From the series

Things I’m throwing out #2: Spelling bee study books

Spelling bee study books by humanitarian photographer Laura Elizabeth Pohl

One of my childhood dreams was to win the National Spelling Bee in Washington D.C.

In 3rd grade, I didn’t make it beyond the class bee. I bombed out on the world “elementary.” I was so mad at myself. I mean, I was in elementary school and I saw that word on our building every day!

In 7th grade, I made it to the regional spelling bee. I don’t remember what word I went out on but I placed 8th or 9th.

In 8th grade, I made it to the school-wide bee and bombed out on the word “exchequer.” I will never ever forget how to spell it or what it means.

Many, many years after my last bee experience, I saw “Spellbound,” the amazing documentary about eight kids vying for the National Spelling Bee title. I love that film – such gripping and amusing storytelling.

But watching it, I realized I was never as fanatical and focused a speller as most of those kids. I never could have won the national bee. Still, I’m glad I had the childhood experience of studying hard and reaching for my spelling bee dream.

Spelling bee study books by humanitarian photographer Laura Elizabeth Pohl

Things I’m throwing out #1: Unicorn bookmark

Unicorn bookmark by humanitarian photographer Laura Elizabeth Pohl

I have trouble throwing stuff out.

I’m not a pack rat or a hoarder, but when it comes time to decide if I should toss, say, that purple Trapper Keeper with the big heart on it or all my reporting clips from my college newspaper, I just can’t throw them out. I’ll remember how I picked out the stickers decorating the inside of the Trapper Keeper and how cool I thought I’d look at school. I’ll read through all the college stories I wrote and remember how thrilled I was to be working as a journalist. And then I’ll pack everything back in the boxes they came from. At least until several months later, when I’ll decide again if I should throw stuff out.

It’s a vicious cycle and it’s kinda crazy. And it’s ending now!

I recently realized that the reason I hang on to this stuff is because I like seeing the items and remembering the stories behind them. So I’m photographing all these mementos, writing little stories about them, and then periodically posting each item on this blog. Then I’ll donate or throw out the stuff. I don’t exactly aim to become a minimalist. I just want to stop lugging around boxes and boxes of random belongings whenever I move (for the record: 20 times since graduating from undergrad, seven of those times to other countries).

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Item #1: Unicorn bookmark, circa 1985

As a kid, I LOVED my collection of bookmarks with yarn tails. People of a certain age out there, you might remember buying these at Waldenbooks or getting them for free with your order from the Scholastic Weekly Reader.

I don’t recall where I got this unicorn bookmark, but it was one of my favorites. I remember using it specifically for horse-themed books (because a horse is close to being a unicorn), classics like “Black Beauty” and “Misty of Chincoteague,” and books that nobody ever heard of, like “The Pony That Nobody Wanted.”

Do kids even use bookmarks anymore?