Thursday, June 01, 2006


Everybody likes souvenirs.

A souvenir is an object that you associate with a specific memory - a time, an event, or a place. Most often, we use the word in the context of objects we accumulate during the course of travel...but there are other kinds of souvenirs as well, best left undescribed...

My souvenirs are more prosaic.

I have boxes of crap that I have picked up on this or that journey over the years. In-flight magazines, menus, and amenity kits. Hotel stationery. Postcards. Brochures. Little bars of soap. Little bottles of shampoo.

I have a small pile of expired passports. The older ones, especially, are full of stamps and visas - each one a souvenir, a memory of a place I’ve been. One of my passports became so loaded up with stamps and visas, I needed extra pages. Sadly, nowadays, the use of High-Tech Electronics means that fewer and fewer jurisdictions even bother to stamp passports anymore. That’s too bad.

I’ve got samples of paper money from around the world, most of them picked up by me on one trip or another. Some of the currency has become completely worthless except for its souvenir value - one of the consequences of 1% a day Brazilian-style inflation. But I can look at each piece of paper, with its choice of Monarch, Dead President, National Hero, or Scenic Natural Beauty, and tell you with reasonable certainty when I got it and where I was. Likewise with my little box of Useless Coins from Around the Globe.

I have a pile of Playbills from all the Broadway shows I’ve seen. The covers would make a dandy photomosaic.

She Who Must Be Obeyed has a collection of Whimseys - little ceramic sculptures that were used for both decoration and for striking matches. She can tell you where she got each one.

We have dresser drawers jammed with T-shirts, many of which came from distant locales. I have one from Volcano House on the Big Island of Hawai’i, a place I had wanted to visit since I was seven years old and which I finally got to see in 1992.

Somewhere, tucked away in a Little Box o’ Tchotchkes, is a chunk of skin that I chewed off of one of my fingertips years ago. It was so large and impressive that I decided to keep it, taped to a piece of paper.

From my various (minor) surgeries - all within the last four years - I have paper wristbands. Nothing more interesting, though. This is in stark contrast to a kid in my third-grade class, one Bobby Van deVenter, who had a tonsillectomy and got to bring the infected tonsils home with him in a little glass vial. Like little Pickled Loogies, they were, all horrible and purulent. That was a “Show-and-Tell” I’ll never forget...probably responsible for my deciding to forgo medical school, tell you what.

What souvenirs do you have? And what events or places do they remind you of?

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