Blanket security

For almost 15 years, Mitch and I had this reclusive next-door neighbor, Oscar. A curmudgeon’s curmudgeon, Oscar was the street’s Boo Radley, the guy in the creepy house who never answered his door. In the early years, he scared me. But one afternoon, he stopped by asking whether everything was OK. He had thought we were out of town and when he saw our open door it concerned him.

After that, I thought Oscar was OK, but was never sure what to say when he was lurking in the yard sprinkling or rousting about the Pandora’s box of his garage.

Mitch got him, though. He’d jaw with Oscar over the fence and try to parse out the old man’s ramblings, a convergence of war stories, neighborhood slights and bodily ills. As Oscar aged and needed more assistance, he called on Mitch to help him. For the better part of a year, Mitch paid Oscar’s bills and miraculously managed to get that stubborn old goat to the doctor. Weekly.

Too keep this brief, Oscar passed in October. For us it marked the end of a neighborhood era. His friends who inherited the house spent months going through his effects, piles of plastic bags, enormous stacks of newspapers from the 1980s on, all of his mother’s possessions, egg cartons, broken tools, a 1955 Chevy Belair, which our neighbor Arthur is restoring, photos, pill bottles, letters home from WWII, driver’s licenses from decades past.

There’s been a lot of talk about Oscar in recent weeks. His house just sold to two young real estate investors who plan on sprucing it up and flipping it. When the one guy told us he was putting Travertine marble in Oscar’s bathroom—the same bathroom where Oscar used a garden hose to fill up his toliet tank for the big flush—we just about bust a gut. The times they are a changin’.

In the divesting of Oscar’s estate, Mitch and I received a few great memories—the old driver’s licenses, a photograph of a beautiful young woman, whom we assume Oscar loved, his mother’s button collection and two vintage bags, and three “wool” blankets.

When Oscar’s friend Ruth asked if we wanted the blankets, I said, “Of course.” The winter wind blows like hell at El Rancho and they have cool southwestern patterns.

Which brings me to the fiber portion of this post. I had it in my head that these blankets were wool. Like Pendletons or something. To wash them, I dutifully filled my washer with tepid water, added the Eucalan and soaked ‘em. They bled quite a bit and after washing smelled to high heaven of mothballs. I googled “mothball smell” and the prevailing wisdom suggests vinegar baths and long days on a clothes line. I gave them a healthy vinegar rinse and hung them to dry, which is when I noticed the shiny, plastic hairs emerging from the fabric.

One would think, after all these years, I would know from wool.

Still, these pieces are pretty neat. In this time of disposable water bottles, cameras and relationships, and as Oscar’s house makes the transition from haunted to haute, to have solid evidence that in the good old days, people cared for their acrylic goods like treasures—as smelly though that care may be—is somehow comforting.

Oscar's blankets

Oscar’s blankets

Comments (3) -

June 11. 2007 04:04


They are beautiful

Pam |

June 12. 2007 06:42


Acylic or not - they are beautiful blankets. Enjoy and use them....

carol |

June 12. 2007 09:52


Ha! Not wool. Good one.

Roxanne |

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