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The Beat #30: The Junk Drawer

Copy and illustration by Reed Agnew, TV Comedy Writer based in Los Angeles

This week, we have a special treat. Our friend, Reed Agnew, writer for shows like Wilfred, Son of Zorn and Crank Yankers, turns his attention to that place where we all hide the things we don’t want to think about. That’s right … the junk drawer.

Over the past year, I’ve turned to the banalities of my life to discover tiny gems of magic. The plodding nature of my days has forced me to see the most mundane objects as strange and sometimes even thrilling. I appreciate how a blue shirt-button makes me anxious. And how the tops of blueberries form perfect stars, and how a cheap trinket conjures the memory of a forgotten man they once called Butt-Crack.

A seedpod from Pennsylvania, a staple-remover I used in college, a mud-crusted Polaroid of a birthday cake I found in the woods … each of these objects, once taken for granted, is a testament to the strangeness of reality. And each is miraculous in its own tiny way.

We all have junk drawers, a place where such little “gems of banality” languish in lonesome, not-quite-trashcan purgatory. We open our junk drawers, stare with annoyance at the half-wanted clutter, and then we shut them. But we never take the time to appreciate such clutter to be worthy of artistic consideration.

Here is my attempt to change this.

Imagine my drawing to be one of those identification charts you see in classrooms or labs. Except instead of “insects” or “glands,” this chart identifies “Objects in a Junk Drawer.” Now imagine that what you are about to read is the text you see at the bottom of such charts; the boring “information” part of the chart that nobody ever reads…

1. TINY REALISTIC HAND: I used to stick this out the end of my sleeve so that it looked like my actual hand. It was so realistic-yet-odd that most people politely tried to ignore it. That was the funniest reaction: someone trying to not look at my tiny hand.

2. EMPTY LEAD BOX: Lead is my favorite thing for drawing. Especially when it’s as soft as they can possibly make it. I loved this lead so much that now I just have the empty box. But pencil lead boxes, even empty ones, are a triumph of design and bring a classic elegance to the mini-container scene.

3. TINY RUBBER HUMMINGBIRD: This was lying in a puddle in a Ralph’s parking lot. “Don’t pick that up,” said my wife as I stared at it, mesmerized.

4. MEXICAN WRESTLER CHARM: As I mentioned before, I once knew a guy named Butt-Crack. He used to call me a “sloopin’-ass slip-skitcher.” Once, he gave me this charm as a gift. I should have known it would give me bad luck based on Butt-Crack’s whole “unlucky” lifestyle.

5. LEGO TORSOS OF ANTONIO BROWN: Antonio Brown is a complicated man. On the surface, he seems self-obsessed and angry. But nobody is just one thing, and we must never forget his first ever grab: on third and 12 against Baltimore in the playoffs with 1:49 on the clock. Remember that!? AB was the best. He just needed a good friend.

6. ALTOIDS CAN: Inside this Altoids can is something totally astonishing.

7. PINK SCRAP OF PAPER: Back in my youthful days, my crew was always beefing with Mark McGee and the Wreckers. “Down with Mark McGee and the Wreckers!” was our slogan. But looking back, the truth is that we were jealous that MMATW got to sleep at Fort Thunder and watch the sunrise with Brian Gibson and Brian Chippendale.

8. DRIED PLANT MATTER: No, it’s not weed, you stoner. This is a green seedpod I was trying to dry out and add to my astoundingly diverse collection.

9. RUBBER DINOSAUR: This is my son’s beloved toy. I keep it in my junk drawer so anytime he insults me, I just sit there quietly smiling, knowing I have his dinosaur in my junk drawer.

10. ZIG ZAGGING TOOTHPICK: I’ve been obsessively doing this to toothpicks since ’79 and I can’t stop.

11. BINDER CLIPS: Oh, you prefer stapled pages? So then you also enjoy sweater-snags and not innovating?

12. CONNECTOR THING: I have no idea what this thing is for. Maybe it’s just to draw.

13. GRIMY LIGHTER: This pink Bic lighter is covered in some sort of oily resin that smells like chlorophyll. It smells the the fresh-cut grass when you were a kid, and when a lighter was a treasure.

14. SECRET INVITATION TO MYSTERIOUS NIGHTCLUB: This card says, “PHUN THAN kong BAB NEzo SiN,” which doesn’t translate to anything. It once served as a “secret pass” to a clandestine nightclub that opened at 3am. If anyone approached you in the club and said, “secret,” you had to say “worm,” or you’d be asked to leave. I once saw Kate Moss get slapped by Yamantaka Eye there.

15. SNAKE VERTEBRAE: I bought this baggie of snake vertebrae at a store called Necromance for $12. I had it in my car for a few weeks. Then one day I realized that if I got pulled over, the vertebrae baggie looked like drugs. Therefore, I brought it inside and put it in my junk drawer. I think the vertebrae are from a common “green snake.” They’re beautiful because if you spread them out on a dark background, they look like stars.

16. OLD KEYS: I no longer remember what these keys open. But I think it’s intriguing that one of them has a sticker that says “Don’t.”

17. HEINZ PICKLE PIN: They give you these if you visit the Heinz Ketchup factory. It’s a beautiful factory, even on Tuesday mornings when it smells like vinegar as you drive past it.

18. CHILD’S FINGER PUPPET: The other day my daughter said, “where’s my puppet, stupid!?” And I just sat there smiling and listening to the Slayer soundtrack playing in my head.

19. NEON GREEN FELT-TIPPED PEN: The only time I ever used this pen was to draw this pen.

20. UNIDENTIFIED TOOL, COCKTAIL SWORD, OLD ALMOND, LOLLIPOP SCULPTURE, BENDY PLUG/PRONG: I dunno nothin’ about no unidentified tool, cocktail sword, old almond, lollipop sculpture OR bendy plug/prong! They’re meaningful because they’re here among all the other gorgeous little things in my junk drawer.


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