back to the Black Table

 Recently, I have been thinking more and more about my wallet. No particular reason exists as to why Iíd be pondering my wallet. I havenít been reaching for it often; I assure you, there ainít much money in there. But at the end of the night, when I change into the pajamas and settle in, I have only four items I set by the bed: my address book, my Zippo, my watch and my wallet. These are the four objects I have with me at all times. I am a human being, somewhat complicated, definitely cluttered; when you boil down my life to its most basic objects, the stuff I really couldnít live without, you get those four objects. Address books, Zippos and watches arenít really all that interesting, and theyíre certainly self-explanatory, so weíre going to just focus on the wallet.

My wallet, right now, before my trip to the pawn shop this Thursday, has seven dollars in it. The holding of money is certainly the least noteworthy function of a wallet, so letís just take that at face value and move on.

For a while, I saved all the ticket stubs from movies I saw and placed them in that little pouch they put on the inside of your wallet. Iím not really certain why I did this; maybe I feared I would be falsely accused of a crime and might need an immediate alibi. Well, officer, I was in fact nowhere near the conservatory with the lead pipe at 8:15 p.m. I was watching Dude, Whereís My Car again. (Perhaps in that case, it would do my reputation well just to plead guilty regardless.)

But I see too many movies, and eventually the stubs became too obtrusive, even though their inevitable fattening of the wallet did provide delusions of successes I have not attained. After holding onto all those tickets for so long, I couldnít just throw them away, so theyíre saved in a folder somewhere while I start a new collection.

I had a similar habit with business cards, but when I moved to New York City, I learned quickly this was a most impractical practice. People are obsessed with business cards here, and you canít walk 50 feet without being handed three or four. In the film American Psycho, the murderous lead character is vexed not by chainsaws through flesh, but by his feelings of inadequacy after itís revealed a co-worker has a more impressive engraving on his cards. I thought this was overwrought satire until I caught two associates of mine stealthily comparing their cards at a party last week. One told the other her cards were ďimpressiveĒ while failing miserably at hiding his disgust and envy. Amidst this culture, it is simply unreasonable to attempt to store all the business cards one receives in a wallet. They now reside in the same folder as the tickets.

So whatís in the wallet then? Well, obvious identification materials. Driverís license, social security card, ACLU card, an old college ID that works wonders at student matinees. And my subway card is in there, along with an ATM card from my bank in St. Louis I never got around to throwing away. Oh, and an Illinois basketball schedule that is needed every time Mom calls, wondering why her favorite episode of Falcon Crest has been pre-empted.

Oooh, musnít forget my expired health insurance card. Maybe if I just wave it past the nurse quickly, or cover it with the blood splurting out of the stump that used to be my arm, he/she wonít notice that itís invalid. Never hurts to have one of those cards lying around.

But where did the rest of this crap come from? Why, I ask with a poorly concealed whiff of alarm, do I have a hotel key from the Renaissance in Detroit? Does it still work? Do I even dare to try? I have a lifetime preferred card from Filter 14, the bar in Manhattanís meatpacking district where we held our Ironminds reading a few months back. I have no intention of ever returning to Filter 14, not only because itís kind of a dumpy bar and the manager was a bit of a tool, but also because itís way out of the way. Subways donít even go out there. Why am I keeping this card around? Itís oversized, barely fits in the wallet, and its color is a nasty shade of puke yellow. I should throw it away.

I have a Blockbuster video card I havenít used since I lived in Los Angeles, three years ago. The last time I used that card, they didnít even have a DVD section. My ex-girlfriend Mandie and I used to spend a night every few weeks at the Station Casino in St. Charles, Missouri. She taught me how to play blackjack, and before you knew it, I was addicted. I still have the Boarding Pass card, ID # 00480191, This Boarding Pass is the property of Station Casinos, Inc. Use of this card constitutes acceptance of the conditions stated in the Boarding Pass rules brochure. This card is non-transferable and is subject to cancellation by Station Casinos Inc. or any of its subsidiaries at any time. Cardholders must be 21 years of age of older. For reservations and information, call 1-800-325-7777.

There was a time I would carry a condom in my wallet, but not only did it produce an embarassing ďring-around-the-condomĒ effect in the leather, but it was also depressing to realize how long it would sit in there, unused.

Thanks for being a blood donor proclaims my New York Blood Center card. B-positive. Did you know that you can give blood every 56 days? I havenít given for a while. You should do that. Itís a nice little charitable thing. When my mother was studying to be a nurse about 13 years ago, she would practice new techniques on me and my father. She would rehearse finding veins for IVs and blood drives on our wrists and arms. It hurt, and I hated it - sixth grade teachers must have thought I was a heroin addict - but Iím no longer afraid of needles.

And Iíve got an AMC frequent moviegoer card. The AMC chain was all over the place in St. Louis, but they have only one theater in New York. Iíve never been there. I realize, with a sigh, that the only thing in my wallet Iíve acquired in the last year in New York is that stupid preferred card for that stupid bar thatís too far away.

Whatís in your wallet? The extraneous things we obsessively gather and collect for no apparent reason say more about us than we might like to admit, I suspect. But I donít know. Maybe itís just me.



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