What We Keep

First Bug Drawing

Last night Maura and I attended a reading, signing, and conversation hosted by the wonderfulNational Museum of Toys and Miniatures. Seriously, if you are anywhere near KC and haven’t been, you MUST go. Authors Bill Shapiro (the former editor-in-chief and founding editor of Getty Images FOTO) and Naomi Wax (whose work has appeared in the New York Times, LA Times, and the Iowa Review) were at the museum to present their latest book called “WHAT WE KEEP, 150 People Share the One Object That Brings Them Joy, Magic, and Meaning“. Bill and Naomi interviewed people from all over the country, from all walks of life, asking them about an object that has deep meaning and then publishes images of the objects along with the stories, in the person’s own word. At the event, they did a reading of some of their favorite objects and stories, then did a Q&A answering some great questions from the attendees about their process, how they chose who to talk to, etc. They started by talking to people they knew, then took an exponential approach, talking to people that they people they knew knew. They then decided to travel across the country, seeking out people that they decided might be interesting to talk to. During their travels, they came to Kansas City, heard about the Toy and Miniature Museum and decided they had to stop in to check it out – only for half an hour or so. Unsurprisingly they ended up spending four hours there, missing an interview in Iowa.

After the reading and Q&A session, they did a book signing – before the reading, they were making their way around the room to introduce themselves to everyone. It was so great to meet them and have a brief conversation with them before the talk and at the signing – this project is obviously very meaningful to them. So meaningful in fact, that the last segment of the evening was a group conversation where the attendees broke into two groups to discuss their most treasured objects. During the break, Maura and I were naturally thinking about and discussing what objects we would have selected. Bill led the conversation at our table. He gave us a few minutes to draw the object on one side of a card, then flip it over and answer several questions about the object and why we chose it. We then went around the table discussing our objects. It was very touching, hearing these intimate stories from strangers and sharing our own.

Which brings me to the real point of this post. At the top of the post, you can see the drawing I did, from memory, of the object that I selected. Here is the actual car: First Bug Original I don’t think I did too bad, for a non-illustrator. As I was listening to the stories in Bill and Naomi’s book, I was thinking what meaning this toy car has to me.

Many of you know that I collect toy VW Beetles. Well, this is the original. I have many more Beetles now but this was the object that started me down the path to becoming a collector. I had never thought about what deeper meaning might be behind that Bug, but as I considered it last night I realized several things that I have never fully acknowledged. It was given to me by my father, early in my high school years. I have never had a strong relationship with him. He left when I was pretty young and for the first several years after that we didn’t see much of him. I ended up living with he and his second wife when I was in high school. My father came home one day after work and surprised me with the Bug out of the blue. I’m sure I had mentioned my love for the VW Beetle and that I wanted to drive one someday (I still haven’t bought one and yes, it has to be a vintage one, not the new abomination). This was one of the only truly thoughtful gestures I ever experience from my father. It was a small thing, but it meant that he had heard me and more importantly, done something about it. The majority of what I learned from my father was what I didn’t want to be as a man or as a human being. Thinking about the history of this car last night, I realized that I had learned something positive from him after all. I learned that listening is powerful, and no matter how small the gesture, acting on what you hear even more so. It’s difficult for me to acknowledge that I might have learned something positive from my father, he was pretty worthless as an example most of the time.

It was interesting to talk about it so openly last night with a table full of strangers. As we were leaving, an older gentleman who we shared the table with approached me, placed his hand on my shoulder, and told me how much he appreciated what I shared. This, I believe, is what Bill and Naomi’s project was ultimately about. Everyone has stories, they simply used a person’s cherished object as a focal point to bring out some of these stories. It must have felt like a tremendous privilege to be able to talk to all of those people as they shared theirs. I can’t wait to read the book and experience more of them!


If you didn’t already know, I have a soft spot in my heart for vintage VW’s – Ghias, Vans, Squarebacks, Things, but particularly Beetles. I have an extensive collection of toy VWs, mostly Bugs, only a portion of which I have the room to display. Someday I hope to photograph my collection and post it. We just buy a beautiful new display case which lives in our front entry so several more of my friends can live out in the open. They love sharing the space with Maura’s robots too!

display case with robots and vw bugs

The observant amongst you will notice that the walls are a different color. It’s a bad picture taken at night with a flash, so the color’s not 100% accurate but you get the idea. We did that last weekend, it needed new paint and we decided to go with something a little different.

However, none of that was what I really set out to write about. What I wanted to share with you was this:

VW vancake

From the original post:

Volkswagen parts specialist Just Kampers teamed up with artist Andy Saunders to produce the World’s Lowest VW Bus – also known as the Camper. The 3-foot (1 meter) tall VW Bus entitled “Vancake” that’s fully road legal was created by Saunders and his team in just three days during this past weekend’s (July 18 to 20) Bug Jam festival at the UK’s Santa Pod Raceway. Apart from lowering the roof the team also applied a custom paint job and an electric sunroof.

I love seeing the modifications people have made to their classic VWs. It’s great to see them restored to their original condition, but some of the mods are very creative and fun!


Thirty-seven years ago today, at about 1:00PM, the most significant event of my life took place. It would form the basis of all other events in my life. Every single person I have met has been affected in some manner. Everything I have ever done – none of it could have happened if not for this event. Yes, thirty-seven years ago today, I was born into this world. I have to say, life’s been pretty good so far. Particularly the last several years, thanks to my amazing wife, Maura. She got me this awesome new (old) tin toy Beetle to add to my growing collection!

My new Red VW Beetle

As is happens, tomorrow the second most significant event in my life happened. I didn’t know it at the time, but this event would change my life in more ways than any other event, besides the one I mentioned above. Yes, thirty-seven years ago tomorrow, my awesome, beautiful, talented, smart, kind, generous, playful, silly, colorful wife, Maura Cluthe, was born into this world. Thank you, Maura, for making life so wonderful.

No. 329 The Brat

Last November Jim Woodring posted a pen and ink drawing on his blog called The Brat featuring his characters Frank and Pupshaw. I commented on it asking him if it was for sale and now it’s on it’s way to our home! I can’t wait to see it in person! Jim Wooding is an amazingly talented artist. I love his aesthetic of surreal cartoon characters, and the bright colors he uses in his paintings are so vivid and happy! His work reminds me of the cartoons I grew up on and yet there’s something totally “other” about them. I like to look at them and wonder what the heck is going on.

I had bought Maura some limited edition plastic collectibles of Frank, Pupshaw, and Pushpaw a couple years ago. We’re excited to have an original work of Jim’s hanging on our wall!

Jim Woodring's The Brat

Jim Woodring’s The Brat

Road Rovers

I officially have another collection. The rule in our household is if you have three or more of anything, it’s a collection. I’ve had one of these for years – Scuttle Bug, the little yellow guy, second from the left. I found the Banana Bus in the River Market Antique Mall a couple years ago. This weekend I found three more in the Antique Mall in Lawrence – Fuzzmobile, Vroom Broom, and Carpool.

While I’m not one to collect items made by Hallmark, I love these little cars. They were made in 1975, 1983, 1984 and 1985 and I don’t think very many were produced. I keep my eye out for them whenever I go to an antique mall. They’re so colorful and cartoony – they make me happy! For more pictures, go check out my Flickr set!