Presents from the past.

After more than three years at my “new” job, I’m still randomly confronted by reminders of my old one.

Not just the photos from shoots that adorn my cubicle walls at work, or the tear sheets of writing that I keep stored in an ottoman.  Sitting here at my desk I can see the bud vase that came with a handwritten thank-you note from Jonathan Adler after I wrote this travel piece about the Parker Palm Springs, and my collection of pens and Sharpies are stored in a giant espresso mug that the team at Margo Media sent over one holiday.

Back when I was in charge of the weekly style page, I ended up with samples of everything from eyeliner to shoe inserts. I gave most of them away before leaving, but held on to a few items that, once I had opened them for testing, would be weird to foist off on other people. (“Hey, do you want this half-used container of body scrub? It’s been in my shower.”)

Months ago I opened a box and discovered a tube of Amore Pacific Treatment Enzyme Peel powder that must be four years old by now. Rather than just throw it away — it’s dry powder! how bad could it go? — I’ve been using it every day in attempt to finish the jar. But since each (handily premeasured) dose seems like about 1 gram of powder, it may be the end of the year before I can toss an empty container. Change effected by using product: minimal.

In another corner I found a jar of Bliss firming body cream that I never could figure out how to give away. Its name, Fat Girl Slim, seemed ripe with potential for an uncomfortable conversation with any woman I tried to hand it to, so I cached the jar at the back of a low bathroom shelf where it stood, unnoticed, until a few weeks ago when I had to lie on the floor to change one of the cabinet fasteners.

And when I was in New York last week, a former co-worker sent me a Facebook message saying that he had been telling the photo editor of Yakima Magazine about what I had called my “style bucket.” I lugged it to all my photo shoots since 2001 — it was a paint can (promoting that year’s Phoenix Home Improvement & Garden Show) that I had crammed with anything I might need before or during a shoot.

“She asked what all was in it,” he said, and I realized that I still had the pail shoved in the back of my bedroom closet. I had long ago tossed all the cosmetics that could serve in case of emergency, but I had everything else in place: Black gaffer’s tape to prevent injuring the soles of borrowed shoes. Three sizes of binder clips to nip in clothing without pinholes. Safety pins, bobby pins, straight pins, paper clips, double-sided tape. Makeup remover to whisk away anything that might smear on clothes. Hairspray for flyaways. (I used to have a retagger gun to refasten the sales tags of clothing I had checked out from department stores, but left it at a shoot and never got it back.)

Going through it made me wistful for those shoots, because I had that job at the perfect time: Phoenix and Scottsdale were booming, all these independent stores were open and hungry for publicity; I’d even convinced the majors like Neiman Marcus and Nordstrom to let me borrow thousands of dollars of merchandise for shoots—without having to put down a personal credit card as security. (Which was good, because back then my personal credit card wouldn’t have covered much.) One night I realized I had more than $250,000 worth of stuff in the trunk of my car, and I spent the entire drive home staring in the rear-view mirror, freaked out that I would be rear-ended and responsible for all that merchandise.

Granted, by the end of my tenure I was sick of shoots — scouting, requesting, picking up, arranging, preparing, shooting, rearranging, returning, and only then editing photos and writing. But for a good three or four years, I had quite a run.

That’s probably why rather than toss that old paint can, I stowed it in a corner. And why I keep my belts curled up in a two-sided picnic basket that originally was delivered to the features desk holding four bottles of wine. As mementos go, they’re better than snow globes.

WHAT SAM WORE: 10-30-11
The shirt: “Kitchen Warfare” T-shirt from shirt.woot.com. (See whole design here.)
The pants: Jeans by BDg, from Urban Outfitters in Tempe.
The shoes: Trainers by Diesel, from Last Chance.
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