On Rotating The Dishes

Sometimes I worry about the dishes.

I think we have half our dishes out, and half in storage. Not fancy china, which we felt right off was a pointless wedding scam, but the everyday stuff, which we still have a dozen place settings of, but no kitchen or dining room big enough to realistically deploy them all.

So we have dinner, take down a couple of plates, wash them, dry them, put them back. Have soup more rarely, take down a couple of bowls--big? small?--put them back.

And this is what I sometimes worry about: do I put them back on top of the stack? Do I put the bowls back in the empty front spot on the shelf? Because if I do that, then guess which dishes are going to get reached for the next time? That's right, the same ones.

So do I rotate them, put the dishes away at the bottom of the stack? Because the glass dessert plates are underneath the glass dessert bowls, and that means lifting the entire thing up and/or out to put the plates underneath. And the dinner plates are kind of snug under a rack that holds the salad plates, not so easy to get--anyway, I'm rationalzing now; the reality is, I don't really rotate the dishes that much. Not as much as I feel I should.

As I was explaining this to Jean last night, after a dinner of Indian food which required the use of an extraordinary number of our big rice bowls--four--plus the kid-sized cereal bowls, I actually joked about rotating the dishes because I didn't want the dishes underneath, or in the back, to be lonely.

But what I really think about isn't the dishes, or even us or me, necessarily, except that it is. When I pull down and put away the same plate a couple of times a day, always from the top, I imagine what the cumulative effect of repeated use will be over the years.

Then I imagine a guy living alone, eating alone, washing and putting away his dish alone, for years. One dish accumulating the scars and scratches and chips of use, while the three, or five, or seven, or even eleven dishes below it sit untouched.

I see old china at the flea market or in a vintage store, and I imagine finding such a set, and it makes me kind of sad.

But not as sad as imagining the same guy eating and washing and drying his dishes alone, and then carefully rotating them so that they wear uniformly.

Related, and the inspiration for posting this now: Roger Ebert's reflections on what it's like not to eat or drink or talk anymore. [suntimes.com]

Since 2001 here at greg.org, I've been blogging about the creative process—my own and those of people who interest me. That mostly involves filmmaking, art, writing, research, and the making thereof.

Many thanks to the Creative Capital | Warhol Foundation Arts Writers Program for supporting greg.org that time.

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first published: January 8, 2010.

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