I’ve written about minimalism a few times in this space, and how age + the digital revolution has done wondrous things for my ability to pitch. (Not like baseball pitch; if I could baseball pitch, you would hear about it.) I’ve lost much of my attachment to thing ‘n’ stuff, and now conduct my life in a more streamlined, less Victorian-clutter fashion.

However, some items… you keep. One of our wedding programs. The hard case for my much-hated reading glasses. The plant that my mother gave to me Josh the Pilot in the first year of our marriage, which has seen more state lines and big trucks than an Amazon driver across his entire career.  You keep these things. You just do.

Archivally Prescient

The best advice I’ve ever seen about becoming minimalist is, when dealing with the belongings of a departed loved one, to save a tiny number of high-emotion items that also best represent the person. For instance, I chucked my mother’s necklace that still had its McAlpin’s box but was undeniably fugly. However, the little thesaurus she used to teach from, the one she’d written her maiden name into– that has stayed with me move after move since my college days.

Sometimes it’s a matter of holding on to everyday items that, long ago, were common enough to warrant a trip directly to the round file, things that speak entire volumes of another age. While sorting through my mother’s scrapbooks, I handed an envelope of Coney Island ride tickets over to my cousin, the family historian, a decision that proved archivally prescient. Coney Island was our parents’ family’s summer vacation, an amusement gem of the Queen City for many generations. And the first grand-niece or grand-nephew to show up probably won’t even know it ever existed.

Thanks, I really hate it.

The Folly of the Library

But the fact of the matter is that things are meant to be impermanent. Some of the most permanent-seeming things of the past are now ash, and some of them… uh, we don’t even know where they are. Scholars at the Library of Alexandria must have looked around with satisfaction every now and then, thinking satisfyingly that this very important building, with all its history, all its prestige, and all its people guarding it, would stand forever. Now? We’re not even sure how it was lost.

Now the Catholic in me realizes that items made by man are meant to be impermanent. Not even our own bodies are designed to hang around. This certain deterioration is a sign of our comparative feebleness before the works of God and the eternal afterlife. Someday, our bridges over the Ohio will vanish, our stupid modern art sunk well below sea level. Yes, even the Vatican will go.

It is good to let go. It is also good to have our loved ones around us in everyday life, in whatever way comforts us.

A Plan


What if one of the things you associate with a loved one is owned by a baseball team?

What if the baseball team decided to do away with it?

That is what happened to Giants fans this week.  The commemorative bricks people bought to remember and celebrate their loved ones– in any case, a shared love of baseball– were destroyed. The team was undertaking a development project and the bricks were in the way, and so… the bricks ceased to be.

You know the bricks I’m talking about. People place names, slogans, and inside jokes on these and usually pay a visit whenever they swing by. The Reds have these outside the Hall of Fame. Nearly every school, zoo, and public space has some form of them.  (Yes, Coney Island, too.) Now those of Giants’ fans are gone.

But. The Giants have A Plan. The Plan is to load all the messages into a digital kiosk where people could stare at the pixels of what they could once touch, take photos of, and introduce to future generations.

I’ve worked in a lot of museums, and the one constant is that the administrations are forever attempting to “engage” visitors, especially children. This almost always takes the form of a digital tablet. And anyone who has worked in even one museum can confirm that these tablets are never working, because the way children “engage” with anything is to pound on it.

Digitize This

To replace the bricks, the Giants offered “digital kiosk” so that everyone could call up the messages that now existed only in electrons. Right in the middle of a city so decayed and broke-down that people made an app to chart the areas most affected by poop in public areas. The time of death of this kiosk will be: Immediately.

And when were the brickholders told of this plan?  After the bricks were destroyed. But don’t worry, they saved all the messages. For the digital kiosk!

Outside of moving the team, this is one of the most soulless, tone-deaf moves I have ever seen in professional sports. No, things aren’t all that important, in the end; the people aren’t in those bricks and the people who bought them certainly can’t haul them along into the afterlife.

The destruction of the bricks does not automatically equal the destruction of the memories and people they represent. But on the balance of Things to Get Rid of and Things to Probably Keep, I think we can all agree on the category for the bricks.

As Long As We Have It

To the Giants’ credit, once word on this got out and everyone started slapping them, they backed off the kiosk and promised to do… something, no one seems to know exactly what…to smooth the matter over. There will be no kiosk, I can tell you that much.

We can digitalize most physical items and not miss a single paper cut. We can toss most items after careful consideration if space is an issue. Everything is temporary, even the highest mountains and the largest seas. Even us. Even baseball itself.

But as long as we’re here, and as long as we have it, it’s all right to back off the minimalism every now and then.

Some things are just worth keeping.

10 Responses

  1. LDS

    RLN own Marie Kondo, though perhaps not as OCD? Destroying the bricks seems like a breach of the social contract, but then what doesn’t these days. As for museums? The last time we visited the Smithsonian and all it’s digital displays, it was so dumbed down that it wasn’t interesting. The Air & Space museum was still holding up but it’s been 15 years and perhaps it too has been digitized. So much for the history of US achievement.

    • Mary Beth Ellis

      The Air and Space museum is currently closed for a total refurbishment, so I don’t think you’ll like what you find if you ever return…

  2. Rednat

    I always seem to forget my cell phone when I go to GABP. the people at the ticket office give me a nasty scowl as they are forced to print off a paper ticket, then I top it off by giving them cash. There is nothing like actually holding a paer ticket !

  3. Daytonnati

    Wait a minute! People BOUGHT a brick? That is THEIR brick! Was there fine print saying “Giants reserve the right to destroy your property if needed?”

    We were gifted a personalized brick in Atlanta’s Olympic Park as a wedding present. I have seen it twice – in 27 years. The second time it had bubble gum squished on it, but hey, such is life. I would be outraged if my brick gets plowed.

  4. Mark Moore

    IMO, there are very few times where a “full Marie Kondo” is required … but I do love your points about how to categorize what truly has meaning and needs preservation in some way by someone with the right point of view. As empty-nesters, we continually work to downsize stuff and will, eventually, move into a smaller space.

    The San Fran Brick-Gate is a hard slap in the face to those who purchased bricks for the singular purpose of a memorial. You can’t digitize that stuff and keep the intent. I’m skeptical that any alternate plan will suffice and the Giants will end up eating a dump truck full of crow.

    Regarding plants, our DD#1 was handed a slip of “campus ivy” by her school’s President’s wife upon Freshman entry. I cannot begin to tell you how many of those ivy plants we have in our place and hers (including one in my office). It just feels important to propagate that memory in a tangible way. But if one of them failed, that plant alone isn’t a loss as we have others carrying the same memories for us.

    Nicely done again, MBE. We all need encouragement to focus on what is truly important.

  5. greenmtred

    Because I’m a sentimental near-hoarder, I believe that sentimental hoarding is an expression of our humanity. Humanity may well be a double-edged sword, but it’s what we have. I have a venerable shamrock that was my grandmother’s. How venerable is hard to quantify, but I remember it being present when I was very young, and I’m nearly 78 now. Cuttings from it are thriving in my children’s houses, but the original resides with me, and it’s not getting tossed to make room for anything.

    • Mary Beth Ellis

      That’s a wonderful, living legacy. I think we can safely put Grandma’s shamrock in the same category as the bricks.