The List: Ranking the things within eyesight in my makeshift basement office

Andy Downing
The Complete Calvin and Hobbes

Generating a new List can be a challenge, but most weeks some concept will eventually spring to mind. I say “most weeks” because I’ve now been sitting here for more than 30 minutes, scrolling Twitter and browsing websites, trying to find some sort of inspiration and coming up empty.

Meanwhile, I’ve got a looming editorial meeting and an afternoon jammed with interviews and transcribing, so I don’t exactly have the luxury of time, which is true of most days but particularly today. 

With that in mind, here’s a wholly unscientific ranking of the things currently within eyeshot in my makeshift basement office, which is still cluttered from a massive home renovation project that happened to coincide with a global pandemic. Hooray, 2020.

7. A pink children’s piano

We moved this downstairs long before our youngest daughter lost interest in it because that interest mainly consisted of taking whatever was at arm’s length (toy kitchen implements, small stools, playdough) and smashing it loudly, forcefully into the keys.

6. A treadmill

This is our only real pandemic-driven purchase, since I can’t imagine returning to the gym until a vaccine is developed. I both love it and hate it, which accurately describes my relationship with running.

5. The Complete Calvin and Hobbes

I got this for Christmas ages ago, and I still return to it regularly. It’s the perfect comic strip.

4. A six-foot collapsible tunnel

This was an early birthday gift for our youngest daughter and still surfaces from time to time, usually in the form of a monster that devours her whole, requiring me to dive in and rescue her from the hungry beast’s belly. This will be a hard one to throw away someday. This basement just got awfully dusty. DON'T LOOK AT ME.

3. An autographed Black Keys poster

A nod to my Akron hometown, as well as my former neighbor, Patrick Carney, who grew up a couple of blocks away and scrawled a wholly accurate message on this 2004 show poster: “Andy, I think we both have always known that we are both dorks.” Yep.

2. Various original artworks

After completing the home remodel, next on the list of tasks is getting some art back up on the walls, including a wood painting by artist and musician Jon Langford (The Mekons), a watercolor by Wes Freed, best known for his long-running collaboration with the Drive-By Truckers, and an original portrait by former Alive cartoonist Noah Van Sciver that depicts me as a suit-wearing, cigar-chomping editor in the mold of J. Jonah Jameson. Also accurate!

1. A Larry Bird-signed basketball

This is one of my prized possessions (I’ve been a Celtics die-hard since I was 5 years old, the same year Bird led the Celtics to the 1984 championship). Weirdly, this particular ball was gifted to me by a former boss at what is unequivocally the strangest job I’ve ever had. This was back in 2003, when I spent six months interning at a magazine in New York. Since the internship was basically unpaid, I subsidized my stay by working at an insurance firm for cash under the table, essentially functioning as an office grunt. Among the more memorable tasks: The owner once had me design a doghouse for his 12-year-old son to build, which is something I am not qualified to do. (I basically replicated Snoopy’s house on a piece of computer paper.) I then had to buy the wood for the house in off-sizes so that the son could use a saw and deliver the lumber to a house in Long Island. I doubt the doghouse ever got built, but the signed ball now has a permanent spot on the corner of my desk.