Brian J. Sullivan

It started when I was very young. My parents, both of whom were respected artist, carted me across the United States from one art fair to another. Sometimes we slept in our van at seedy waysides. Other times we spent the night at a camp site in an old army surplus canvas tent with a slightly musty smell to it. I remember fondly hotdogs cooked on sticks held over the camp fire. Stars filled the night sky. Occasionally we would stay at the big hotel chains along the main interstate highways. These were the best. At each and every hotel we stayed at I would secretly slip one of the room keys into my tiny suitcase. Those were the good old days of solid brass hotel keys on a fancy key chain with the room number stamp on it.

Times change, brass hotel keys are no longer available long replaced by ubiquitous plastic cards devoid of any artistic significance. Some people collect antiques toys, fine furniture or even original art. Now as an adult I collect all the different miniature shampoo and conditioner bottles along with bar soap of the hotels in which I stay. My suitcase has all the evidence of my obsessive/compulsive behavior: Holiday Inn, Best Western, Carlton, Hyatt, and Marriott, all of which provide me with souvenirs.

From Sausalito, California to Miami, Florida, I have been to some of the best places. Each has a story to tell, and each unknowingly contributed to my collection.

These acquired treasures fill my medicine cabinet in addition to several kitchen drawers in my small cape cod style house. Two large pine trees shelter the front door from the public's knowledge of my sickness within. I can't help myself.

Then of course there are the individual packets of ketchup, mustard, and salt included with each drive-thru meal ever taken on the road. Never mind that my refrigerator shelves overflow with them or that I know I will never use them; still I save them. Is this sick or what?

Then there are the soy sauce and hot mustard packets from all the Chinese take-outs along with those cheap disposable wooden chop sticks. A hand-blown glass bowl on top of the large screen TV holds countless years of the slips of paper found inside each fortune cookie. Their sage advice long forgotten.

Why do I save all these things? Only really old people who went through the depression saved things like this. I'm not really that old nor have I gone through the depression. Was it something in my mother's breast milk, or the water I drank as a child? Growing up we lived next to a toxic dump and played for hours in and amongst the trash, but surely that had nothing to do with it. I think I may need help but I don't know where to turn. I even went so far as to look in the yellow pages under self-help groups. Listed I found practically every malady; alcoholic, sexaholic, overeaters, cancer survivor, pet bereavement, claustrophobic, agoraphobic etc. I even found one for people afraid to step on sidewalk cracks (some kind of superstitious thing). But I could not find a support group for persons like myself who collect small and insignificant items of little or no value.

It's gotten so bad (and I'm really ashamed to admit it), I even started collecting disposable white plastic silverware sealed in a cellophane bag usually containing salt and pepper packets! And then there are those nice plastic cups from Steak & Shake, Hardee's and Fazoli's. You know the ones, the super size models that are so top heavy that they tip over in your cup holder and spill all over your car's interior. Those are the ones I collect.

On rare occasions I've even up-graded and purchased a coffee cup from one of the quick mart gas stations that offer half price refills every time you bring the cup back. Never mind that I don't drink coffee! I still have my share of these cups, just in case I decide to start.

Of course, now that I think about it, it's no worse than the hundreds of people who come into my booth at each art fair and grab three or four different postcards.  At one time I was flattered that so many people were interested in my work. But slowly with time I realized that they were not really interested in my work because they never called back. They had a postcard addiction. I would see the same people across the isle at another booth loading up on that vendor's postcards. I could only imagine (but of course not understand) why anyone would want to collect useless pieces of heavy paper of little or no value.

Now I guess I could be labeled as a co-dependent or an enabler for feeding their postcard addiction. What is an artist to do? Van Gogh went insane and cut off his ear. I think it's time to take action:

For Sale: 20 year collection of art fair posters and memorabilia, including T-shirts, plastic cups, key chains, hats, pens, etc. Will sell individually or as one lot. All reasonable offers considered. Will even deliver.

P.S. Let me know if you have found any relevant self-help groups for the shampoo & ketchup addiction. I can be reached at:

Brian J. Sullivan
1514 Grandview Dr. #9
Champaign, IL 61820