Saturday, November 1, 2008

Uncle Mark Costich

This is a picture of me, very small and nervous, and my uncle, Mark Costich. I probably saw Mark less than ten times when I was a kid. After he died in 2004 my family went to his house to sort through everything left in his absence. It was a lot more than they had expected. My uncle 'bought and sold used furniture' which really meant that he bought used furniture and sold pot for money. Over the course of his adulthood in Boston he slowly and systematically filled a 15-room house with things, every room packed wall-to-wall and ceiling-to-floor.

My mom was struck with a strange kind of sadness over the experience of going through an impossible mountain of his stuff. Obviously, her sadness was invoked because he was her brother, but also because it seemed to her that his consumption and accumulation was an empty attempt to fill other vacancies in his life. One room in Mark's house was filled with used books, still in the paper/plastic sacks they were once purchased in. The intention to read/learn/invest/embetter was there, but it had never been realized. The idea of an empty life occuring inside of an overwhelmingly full house is contradicting and compelling. The story of Mark's house initiated my own dialogues and considerations over how ownership, collection and evidence play a part in my own mortality, identity and memory. Tomorrow is Dia de los Muertos, a holiday which, since his death, has always seemed the most appropriate way to celebrate my uncle's tragic, darkly comical and eccentric life. My mom wrote this list for me three years ago while I was working on my thesis in Connecticut:

Mark Costich’s Obsessions-Possessions List
[All items found in vast quantities in his house in East Boston]

1. Bags: tote bags (most from bookstores), duffel bags, gym bags
2. U-Haul rental company packing boxes
3. Bookshelves
4. BOOKS (10-15,000)
5. Dunkin’ Donuts cardboard carrying trays
6. DD.s Styrofoam coffee cups
7. Chinese food carry-out containers
8. Zip-lock bags: all sizes
9. Steamer trunks: the bigger, the better
10. Basis soap
11. Black umbrellas
12. Black jeans
13. Black Gap cotton crew socks
14. Men’s XL cotton turtlenecks (black or navy)
15. Ceramic statues: the uglier, the better, all sizes—animal motif prevalent
16. Keys and key chains
17. Knives: all sizes, shapes, degrees of potential danger
18. Tools: hammers, screwdrivers, saws, wrenches, sets of tools power tools
19. Toolboxes: most of them not containing the many tools that were found throughout the house
20. Workgloves (mostly brand new and unused)
21. Phones with answering machines
22. Junk mail
23. Lumber
24. Homemade wooden tables (practically big enough to perform surgery on an elephant)
25. Furniture: assorted, no matching sets, odd pieces
26. Matchbooks
27. cars
28. Tweed jackets
29. Framed and unframed prints, mostly of historical theme or owls or human females
30. Iron doorstops, reproductions

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I knew Mark back in the mid-70s to early 80s when he lived in Wash, DC. When he moved to Boston I lost touch with him.

When I knew him he was always a bit eccentric which is a role, I think, he enjoyed.

Even then he was a collector of stuff, usually books. I'm not sure he ever read them but I remember having to help him move them once or twice...not fun. In fact I was emptying a bookcase and came across a book Mark had given me which is why I found this blog. I wondered what had happened to him.

It seemed clear to me that something was missing in his life and it looks like he never found it.

He was a good person.