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The Life of One Man as Found in the Garbage

by Elizabeth Monoian

A biography in scraps.

Temporarily lost to a dumpster, "The Life of One Man as Found in the Garbage" is a collection of materials representing the scope of one human life. The artifacts span 1920-1990 and include hundreds of photographs, maps, letters, journal entries, children's scrawl, travel memorabilia, medical notes, etc. — the remains of a lifetime — and these nine pieces are selections from the whole. These treasures generate an anonymous portrait that functions as a cultural mirror, from which the reflection of an average American narrative stares back. Although discovered in the garbage, these objects are anything but trash. They are, in fact, vestiges eternally linking us to humanity. They tell the stories of families, wars, disease, travel, recreation, and social causes:  an entire cultural landscape contained within one mound of rubbish. And their presence hints, too, at the missing connective tissue — those in-between moments lost to the garbage, and to us.

Excerpts from:
The Life of One Man as Found in the Garbage
Sidewalk, Pittsburgh, PA
Spring 2001

(Names have been removed from documents in order to preserve anonymity.)


1920, April 8:  Grade 4, writes "The Clock and the Thermometer"

1930:  Medical Student at University of Pittsburgh

1936, August 12:  Married

1940, October 16:  Presents notes on Endometriosis to the Allegheny County  Homeopathic Medical Society

1942, December 25:  Attends a Christmas Season's Greetings party at Station Hospital, Webster's Field, Massachusetts

1944, February 12:  Submits collection of medical notes

1945:  In Germany serves in the military as a Captain and doctor — keeps detailed notes of the Holocaust

Diary page - January 1945

Diary page 2

Diary page 3

1945, January 30:  Vanities sent from New York to daughter and wife

1945, February 16:  Mails postcard to Father from Germany (image of overturned enemy tank)

1945-1956:  Writes up examinations on Endocrinology

1945, August 12:  9th wedding anniversary

1945, September 8:  Returns to America aboard the S.S. Noordam, Netherland-American Line

1946, February 28:  Receives thank-you letter from General Devers, Office of the Commanding General

Thank you letter from General Devers

1946, May 7:  Attends Welcome Home reception at the Shadyside Hospital

1947, May 19:  Takes photo of patient

Photo of naked patient

1947:  Takes notes on Endocrinology

1947, October 1:  Receives letter from daughter (she is possibly living with her aunt)

1947, October 7:  Receives letter from daughter (she thanks him for the books, paper dolls and knee socks)

1947:  Receives Christmas list addressed to Santa Claus from daughter. List includes:  Victrola, Tinker Toy, Wig, Erector Set, Fairy Tales, Clothes for Big Dolls, Mather West Wind

1947, November 1:  All Saints Day, attends Mass with daughter

1947, November 2:  Daughter sends letter to mother

1947, November 3:  Receives letter from daughter (air mail)

1947, June 19:  Daughter is promoted to the third grade

1948, June 6:  Attends a Piano Recital by the Progressive Series Pupils of Sisters of St. Joseph

1948, April 19:  Cuts obituary clipping from newspaper 

1949:  Gives a fill-in-the-blank endocrinology test to a class

1950:  Daughter is in Grade 6

1950, May 25:  Typed notes of Gynecology/Ovarian Tumors

1950, June 11:  Attends a Piano Recital by the Progressive Series Pupils of Sisters of St. Joseph (daughter's?)

1951, June 10:  Attends a Piano Recital by the Progressive Series Pupils of Sisters of St. Joseph (daughter's?)

1952, February 16:  Daughter appears in newspaper for participating in a spelling bee

1952, May 25:  Attends a Piano Play, "Major Scale Takes Command," by the Progressive Series Pupils of Sisters of St. Joseph (daughter's?)

1952-53:  Receives report from Superintendent of Catholic Schools. Daughter is tested in 6th grade and is placed in the "fast group"

1952:  Writes course outline

Gynecology course outline

1953:  Gynecological exam tests given. Taught section on:  ovarian disease, fundamental disorders, abortion, etc.

1953-54:  Daughter is a Freshman in High School (takes courses in Religion, English Literature, English Composition, Latin, World History, Algebra, Home Economics, Art)

1954-55:  Daughter is in 10th grade (takes courses in Religion, English Composition, Latin, Geometry, Biology, Orchestra, Choral)

1954, November 28:  Daughter receives notice of Scout meeting on December 6 with plan to discuss the Square Dance

1954:  Attends daughter's high school "Music Revue"

1955, February 16:  Attends Sacred Heart High school annual Father Daughter Dinner

1955, March 9:  Sacred Heart high school. Mission assembly, play called "You Do It To Me" daughter plays the Iron Curtin

1955, March 25:  Attends daughter's high school fashion show

1955, April 11:  Attends Pittsburgh Hospital Auxiliary Easter Dance

1955, April 16:  Daughter attends Classical League of Pennsylvania convention

1955, April 23-May 13:  Daughter exhibits at School Science Fair

1955, April 24:  Daughter attends Federation of Catholic High School Student's convention

1955:  Daughter attends Girl Scout Camp

1956:  Gives lectures in Gynecologic Nursing

1956:  Daughter participates as student chairman for United Fund Campaign

1956:  Visits Vanderbilt Mansion in Hyde Park New York

1956, December 17-18:  Attends "Christmas Cantana" at Sacred Heart High School

1956 July 18:  Reads Pittsburgh Sun Telegraph article about change in Girl Scout uniform

1956, November 6:  Votes in election for State Rep.

1956:  Writes lecture notes

1956, April 28:  Bus Tour

1956 April 28:  Daughter attends PA Junior Classical League at Altoona Catholic High

1956, May 2:  Daughter attends " Queen Marry, Teen Mary" fashion show

1957, May 21:  Daughter reports to church for Day of Recollection

1957, June 2:  Daughter graduates from Sacred Heart High School

1957:  Attends Agatha Christie's "Witness for the Prosecution" at The Playhouse

1957:  Attends John Boruff's "The Loud Red Patrick" at The Playhouse

1957:  Attends "A Peek at a Premiere" at St. Philomena's Auditorium

1957, January 12:  Daughter takes SAT

1957, November 11:  Receives daughter's Mid-Semester Report Card from
Carnegie Institute of Technology

1957, March 9:  Attends daughter's Ambridge speech semi-finals

1957 May:  Attends "The King and I" at Central Catholic 

1957:  Attends "The Most Happy Fella" at Imperial Theater

1957:  Daughter Participates in National Forensics League

1958, October 21:  Writes index card notes on gynecological disorders

1958, March 12:  Gives lecture to Duty Nursing Group on Recent Interests and Discoveries in Endocrines

1961:  Reads the "AAA Go to Europe" promo travel catalog

1964:  Pan Am flight ticket shows travels with wife from New York to Lisbon,
Madrid, Paris, Zurich

1964:  Visits Copenhagen, stays at the Palace Hotel

1964:  Visits London, stays at The Carlton Tower

1964:  Visits Madame Tussauds Wax Museum

1964:  Visits Berlin, stays at Berlin Hilton

1964:  Takes cruise in Greece on Nomikos Lines

1964:  Visits Vienna, stays at Hotel Ambassador

1964:  Visits East Berlin

1964:  Flies Iberia Airlines

1964:  Visits Madrid, stays at Hotel Wellington

Receipt from Damasquinados Suarez

1986:  Receives photo of family reunion in the mail (first class)

1988:  Member of the Pennsylvania Medical Society

1993, October 9:  Writes to do list on a notepad "CHOPIN LISZT", includes AMA book, Carnegie Library, phone books

Chopin Liszt notepad

1995:  Member of the Pennsylvania Medical Society

1996:  Member of the Pennsylvania Medical Society

1996:  Certificate of Endorsement form the Pennsylvania Medical Society

1996, June 24:  Receives certificate "Presidents National Medal of Patriotism" awarded by the American Police Hall of Fame

1996, June 24:  Receives "The Order of Merit" from The Chairman and Executive Committee of the National Republican Senatorial Committee

1997:  Member of the Pennsylvania Medical Society

1998, March 10:  Receives Certificate of Appreciation from The Veterans of Foreign Wars

1998:  Member of the Pennsylvania Medical Society

1999:  Member of the Pennsylvania Medical Society

1998, April 13:  Receives Certificate of Achievement from Republican National Committee

Republican National Committee 1998 Certificate of Achievement

1998:  Certificate from the Allegheny County Medical Society

1990s:  Receives the "Speaker's Citizen Task Force Inaugural Member Certificate" from Newt Gingrich

Images courtesy Elizabeth Monoian.

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Articles in this Issue

Manzanar, by Karen Piper
The Phoenix Agent, by Robley Wilson
The Life of One Man as Found in the Garbage, by Elizabeth Monoian
My Berlin, by Karin Finell
Coats of Arms, by Justin Bednarz
Criminology, by Ralph Gardner
Paranormal Technology, by Alex Boese
Athletics, by Zack Hample
October 2006


Elizabeth Monoian is an interdisciplinary artist who uses the internet, found objects and spaces, electronic noise, video, and performance to tease apart and question cultural relationships to time, history, and memory. Her work has screened and exhibited in venues including: the XXIII Moscow International Film Festival, Moscow, Russia; Anthology Film Archives, NYC; Open Screen Belgrade, Belgrade, Serbia; Festival of Actual Kino, Novosibirsk, Russia; The Kiasma Museum of Contemporary Art, Helsinki, Finland; and the International Media Art Festival at the Armenian Center of Contemporary Experimental Art, Yerevan, Armenia. Elizabeth received her MFA from Carnegie Mellon University.

Where loss is found.

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