ORANGE COUNTY VOICES POSSESSIONS : As Booty Fills the Lair, Man Looks for a Cache : The hunter-gather of the '90s, Condo Man, finds he has gathered too much--A garage, a garage, his kingdom for a garage.

As we look in on Condominium Man, the hunter-gatherer of the '90s, he is about to lean his $3,500 Fettucine Molto Allegro double-butted magnesium alloy custom road bike against the living room wall, next to the Schwarzenegger Pump-U-Up home gym, the set of nine D'Artagnan "En Garde" irons, the Rotisserie Mark IV tanning bed and the Christmas ornaments.

Thoroughly aerobicized and ready for a heavy night of cocooning, he peels off his cycling jersey, emblazoned with the names of deadly Italian liqueurs, and heads for the laundry hamper in the garage, only to find . . . .

A carport.

And with a pathetic surge of organizational Angst, he realizes that in the primal flush of his hunting-gathering frenzy he has forgotten a crucial item in the formula: a place to dump all his booty. A garage.

Sure. A garage. The place where unused treasures go to hibernate. The place that smells of Valvoline and Goodyears and sawdust and newly cut grass and oxidized metal and musty old magazines and Simoniz and grease. The place with stuff in it.

You know. Stuff. The kind of amorphous exotica that is the natural result of a moderately acquisitive life. The things that you don't really need but don't want to throw away either. Your Pony League first baseman's mitt, now in a box up in the rafters, petrified. A neolithic coffee pot, the kind that perks. Mason jars full of old air. A moldy bowling trophy. Tire chains for a car you traded in 18 years ago.


And its natural place, of course, is in the garage, the repository for 20th-Century man's personal museum pieces.

But, among the transitory, upwardly mobile Orange County residents who likely dwell in a Lego-block grid of hideously overpriced cubicles with common walls, the garage shows up about as frequently as a gazebo. What they often get instead is a huge common garage or a series of carports with "storage boxes" about the size of trash compactors dangling from the ceiling above their single parking spaces.

Consequently, all the stuff that would, in a more benign world, find its way into the garage ends up in the living room or the bedroom. And the poor folks who are forced to rat-hole their stuff in that way also are burdened with the task of trying to give it a sense of place, even trying to make it look glamorous.

But let's face it. There is no way to justify the presence of a huge Black & Decker cordless drill on the piano lid. And there is no way to get away with hanging that Firestone retread on the bedroom wall and saying Andy Warhol did it.

Condominium Man knows this and takes the necessary steps. He patronizes his local Stor-'n'-Lock, paying a monthly fee for the privilege of stuffing a bogus metallic garage-like cell full of decades of personal history (at the more imaginative of these places, the cells are stacked like building blocks; if you want to get at the stuff contained in yours, you call in advance and arrange for a crane to pluck your cube out of the morass and plunk it down at your feet).

If Condominium Man gets a big raise (or marries up), however, he may be able to camp out in front of the sales office for a week to get his hands on a semi-detached Daly City knockoff, thumb his nose at the Stor-'n'-Lock and have a garage of his very own. But instead of parking his car in it and building a really spiffy workbench and putting shelves in the rafters that his kids can turn into a fort and sealing all those old National Geographics in boxes for his grandchildren to pore over and putting up a weight bench (only one) and a dart board and this year's Rigid Tools calendar, he converts it into an Amway warehouse. Or a mushroom farm. Or someplace to bore the neighbors with performance art.

And the metric socket set ends up on the coffee table.

Possible solutions: 1) Call NASA, rent the payload bay on the shuttle orbiter and jettison your old stereo speaker cartons toward Mars. 2) Keep all your junk at home and move into the Stor-'n'-Lock. 3) donate it all to Jim and Tammy. 4) Have a garage sale.

I'd go with that last one. Charge $1.25 for the tire chains but keep the National Geographics. And the mitt. And the irons. And the bowling trophy. And. . . .

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