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The Richness of Collecting
by Dario Bollacasa

Richness in this case, doesn't necessarily imply money (though many collectors make a lot of money out of what they collect). What I'd like to submit to you is the notion that collecting is exceedingly varied and practically every member of the "Animal Kingdom" exhibits collecting tendencies. It might be that the collecting is so deeply buried in our "reptilian" part of the brain, that we are not even conscious of its hold on us.  If you don't think you are part of the "collecting community" just look into your garage or cellar or attic. Surely you are collecting some junk!

Birds do collecting, as well as mammals of every kind, and humans naturally. Some of the reasons for collecting are purely driven by sexual imperatives, some are esthetic and many are both.

Take the bowerbird (one of the Ptilonorhynchidae). This usually esthetically uninteresting bird goes to great lengths to collect materials to embellish his bower where he (the male, that is) does elaborate dances to attract a mate for procreation. The collecting he does, is to make the bower interesting for the female and to keep her around long enough to go through his dance routine.

We know that many hoofed mammals collect females for the purpose of reproduction and those collections are cutely known as harems, the same term used for the place where Moslem potentates of yore collected women, for pleasure and procreation. The elks have harems, and so do deer and antelopes and even the non-hoofed sea lions and elephant seals.

Leaving aside the fact that humans collect all sorts of things, beside other humans, we all are familiar with collecting stamps, coins, wines, real estate, antiques, stocks and so on.

I used to collect stamps as a child. It turned out to have several un-anticipated consequences: I learned a lot of geography and history. That learning has helped a lot in doing crossword puzzles and playing along on the Jeopardy Show. The coin collecting was an attempt at "investing" in coins, with the result that I now have lots of rolls of pennies, dimes, nickels etc. that in total will keep me in "lattes" for a couple of months.

Some men collect women, even in modern times: see Hugh Hefner, Wilt Chamberlain and some Hollywood "heavies". What is less known is that women collect men as well. Some women from ancient times were very famous collectors of men: Livia, Messalina, not to mention Catherine The Great.

In more recent times an interesting collector has been Elizabeth Taylor. She seems to like collecting husbands, and diamonds too. She has been married eight times to seven husbands. Zsa Zsa Gabor seems to hold some sort of record for collecting husbands, nine in all. Not far behind are: Lana Turner with eight, Ava Garner with seven and Rita Hayworth with five.

I suppose that one would be able to compile several lists of husband collecting, and it would be interesting to have a definitive list, but that may be a useless exercise since the current crop of Hollywood heavy hitters are more apt to have relationships than out-and-out marriages. Perhaps the cost of divorce settlements is a deterrent. It appears that Hollywood male "heavies" are less likely to collect wives than Hollywood female "heavies" are likely to marry. Artie Shaw, in the heyday of Hollywood, married eight wives, but he was an odd ball. Eddie Fisher, Frank Sinatra and John Huston collected five wives each, and Johnny Carson, in spite of all his complaining on his late night show about the high cost of getting a divorce, went to the altar a mere four times.

But, one of the most endearing stories of collecting that I have come across recently was described by a friend who now lives in the High Desert of Central Oregon. She moved there from the East Coast. She encountered  a little rodent known as a pack rat (Neotoma cinerea). I shamelessly quote from one of her description relating to one of her paintings and how it relates to the pack rats.

"…..The cabin came with a family of pack rats. I began researching them and am endlessly fascinated by how they go about their lives. They are like nature's little folk artists, always searching for interesting items to bring back to their nest, constantly arranging things, adding new treasures. They also preserve their collections so they last for hundreds of years. Scientists in the west have studied some big pack rat nests and unearthed items nearly a century old. They have found plant species that no longer exist in the area but were collected and preserved by packrats many years ago! They create their own time capsules!

Many packrats make their nests at the base of old juniper trees. In my painting, the woman's lower body is a juniper tree and then I put all the things of mine that I would put in my nest, things I have that I collect and / or would not want to be without."



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