Here are some things that I’ve found

There should probably be a companion post entitled “Here are some things that I’ve misplaced.” I can think of a few things.

I moved house two days ago (entering the world of property-owning capitalist running dogs. I am trying to adjust). And even though I was living in a one-room apartment with so little space that I had to give something away or throw something out every time I got something new, I have a truly staggering amount of stuff. Most of it is paper and books and a lot of unframed photographs that I have stored in small boxes because I never get around to framing them. Some CDs but not a lot, and a long, wide shelf’s worth of records. Three guitars (two electric, one classical), a Peavey practice amp, and a tiny Casio keyboard from 1983 that I bought from my music teacher and that never really amused me as much as I thought it might.

Although I had months to get ready for this, I was paralyzed by the task of sorting all that damn paper. Mostly I just dumped it into boxes and brought it to the new place. Some of it is personal letters and cards, all of which I toss into a bag and keep because no one really writes letters anymore, and I’m suddenly desperate to hang on to every last post-it note my father sends me, attached to a magazine article he thinks I’d like, because I’m not sure how much time I have left with him. Some of it is crud I’ve been dragging behind me for fifteen years, across cities, states and a time-zone or two. I know I don’t need utility bills from 1996, or a canceled check for about seven dollars that I wrote to my best friend in 1997 when I was living in England and she had performed some – apparently very trivial – task for me back in Connecticut, or the copies of bills that I paid when I was in school that confirm that yes, I actually was fully paid up and registered and they couldn’t kick me out. I have ten year-old bank statements for an account that I don’t have anymore from a bank that doesn’t exist anymore. I saved all the paper advent calendars my parents still send me every December and every letter my French pen-pal sent me through high school into college, when we gave up writing because it was a struggle for me to write in French and I would get so overwhelmed with guilt that I couldn’t answer her very thoughtful letters (written in French, about “everyday” life in Paris, which was unimaginably more interesting that the life of a semi-depressive shut-in in Connecticut). I found a little book that an English friend of mine gave to me before my first trip to Brussels to interview members of the Flemish extreme-right, entitled “Xenophobes’ Guide to the Belgians.” I found a map of Turin in Italian, even though I’ve never been there, because I was doing a scavenger hunt while taking a foreign language class in Edinburgh and I misunderstood the directions to “find a map of the city in Italian” as “find a map of a city in Italy.”

In the cabinet under my tv, I found a little box containing some of the buttons I used to wear on my denim vest when I started out as a punk and kids did that sort of thing: two Clash buttons (where did I get them?), a button that says “US out of North America,” and a button that someone made for me that reads, in stark black letters on a white background, “Frankie say ARM the unemployed.” I like to think that I was cool enough that I never wore that one. I found keys on a key ring that go to something, but I’m not sure what, so I can’t get rid of them. I found the copy of my eighth-grade class photograph, showing about a hundred and twenty kids standing on the school blacktop on a California spring day in 1982, all gamely squinting into the sun with frozen postures and feathered hair, with the aging of the photograph now serving to fade us all into the yellowy background of pavement and dried grass. I have very long, brown hair in that picture, held back on one side with a big pink plastic clip: I’m wearing a blue striped tracksuit jacket over a brown and white plaid cotton shirt, and I’m trying to smile without opening my mouth so that no one can see the metal and plastic orthodontist contraption that has been reconfiguring my jawline for the past year. About three months after that picture was taken, I gave up the hair, the tracksuit and the effort to smile and became a punk.

I found a series of glossy, beautifully photographed paperback books published by New Musical Express in the 1980s called “The Rock Yearbook,” which served as part of my introduction to music that seemed to only exist in this mythical world called the United Kingdom. My older brother gave me the yearbooks from 1980, 1981 and 1982 because he worked at a bookstore and got all this stuff at a massive discount. At about the time that junior high photograph was taken, I was already staring at those amazing photographs of outrageous-looking people and trying to find out what, exactly, they were singing about.

And I found my real high school yearbooks, too. Actually, I knew where they were, but while taking a break from a packing frenzy I sat down and started to read some of the comments that people had written to me in the back pages, back in 1983. I had forgotten that that June, only a little bit before he and two of his friends would turn against me and bully me in ways that messed me up for a very long time, my friend Paul had written me a long note. He was anxious about his band’s first gig the following night even though he was pretending that he was fine about it. He wrote that if I hadn’t been assigned to sit, in my afternoon class, at the same desk that he had been assigned to in his morning class, I never would have seen the Clash lyrics he’d penciled on the armrest of the desk and we never would have met. Nearly thirty years later, I constantly find myself thinking about how that tiny little twist of fate changed my life. But I also don’t feel angry with him; I just have weirdly mixed emotions. It reminded me that he was a pretty young kid, too, and probably had no idea about the consequences of his actions, and that he was probably as insecure as I was and just wanted to fit in, regardless of what that entailed.

Now everything is piled in mountain of boxes in a corner and I have to unpack all of it, one object at a time.

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10 Responses to Here are some things that I’ve found

  1. Mack says:

    Congratulations on joining the ranks of the landed gentry. We recently abandoned those ranks and lost $100,000 in the process. Hopefully there won’t be any back room illegal rezoning deals made by billionaire real estate developers in your neighborhood increasing the supply of similar units to 10 or 20 times the demand (and counting…) At least we now have a little space to breathe. Although we no longer live in a cool neighborhood full of awesome things that we couldn’t afford to do anyways… But yeah, it’s funny what you find.
    I’ve always been the type to agonize over whether to chuck personal ephemera or hang on to it thinking that one day looking at some hand bill from a Los Crudos show 15 years ago or rereading my complete run of HATE comics will bring a smile to my face when I’m an old(er) coot… I usually end up chucking shit, then feeling depressed about it for a few days. This time, because of the circumstances I was particularly angry and chucked just about everything non-essential. All the old punk rock fliers and posters and comic books, all the guitars, basses, keyboards and amps that I don’t actually use regularly…
    We had rented a $160/month 10’x5′ storage locker while we were trying to sell the place for a year that we shoved everything into that we could live without (to give potential buyers the impression that our 400 sq ft railroad was really a 450 sq ft railroad apartment- sneaky!). When we finally sold the place I was left with the task of going through the storage space and realized that we had spent $2000 to store a room full of garbage. Literally. Boxes with usb cables, cat toys half used sheets of sandpaper, drywall anchors, totally useless shit. A few books we’ll never read again… I chucked it all. Kept the “paperwork” because I’m sure I will at some point need a copy of the electricity bill from May 2003. Basically we spent $2000 to store about $300 worth of ratty ikea furniture.
    Fuck my life.
    Good luck with your new place.
    The unpacking is even more of a pain in the ass than the packing.

    • janet5 says:

      I packed and moved a toolbox full of drywall anchors (four different sizes! Ask me how many ways I used them to rip holes in the drywall of my old place). I also have a box with totally unknown cables from all (three) computers I ever owned and I don’t know what half of them are. I never have the kind of cable that I actually need, though. My problem with stuff like personal papers like letters is that I actually do want to keep them but I have no system of sorting them, so they just get chucked in a big bag that gets lugged from place to place. At least I divested myself of a childhood’s worth of model horses and dollhouse furniture back in high school – that’s probably stuff that I’d get runny-nosed and sentimental about now. I’ve decided to remain a hardass about my record collection, though. And about the Siouxsie poster from the Hollywood Bowl in 1984.

      The amount of space I suddenly have is now freaking me out, a little. I’m used to being able to literally see everything I own. A storage locker would make me paranoid (like, who knows what’s going on out there?). There is a long story to be told about my friend Doug who agreed to pay the fees for his girlfriend’s storage locker when she went to Germany for a year. Then she didn’t come back because she met a guy, and Doug *kept paying* because he wanted to be a nice guy. When she still hadn’t come back four years later, we told him he had earned the right to sell/keep/distribute her stuff however he wanted, and when he finally went out to the locker to take a look, it turned out she had cleaned it out years earlier and never told him.

      Admittedly, it’s nice to have enough space that I don’t trip over a suitcase every time I get out of bed.

  2. steve says:

    The “stuff” issue is right in front of me at the moment because of the OS move. The same thoughts are occurring to me as last time we moved, and the time before:

    Those moments where I think “oh fuck I used to have that…” hardly ever happen and when they do they aren’t that bad, and they don’t last that long.

    The vague, low level stress caused by having a bunch of stuff “I should do something with some day” is probably worse than that occasional feeling of loss.

    I don’t wish there were more photos or videos of me when I was five. I don’t want to look at my old school work or drawings I did. My old school yearbooks are boring. My kids will keep their own sentimental stuff. I don’t have to think about that for them.

    If it was worth keeping it for sentimental reasons I probably already worked that out last time, and the time before.

    A lot of scrapbooky writing / music stuff I did when I was younger worth remembering, it was probably the idea that was good, rather than the execution.

    If I need it I probably use it already.

    Also: I kinda think genuine thrift is brought on by necessity rather than by affected virtue. Or, because you are doing something as a hobby and really have the time for it. Someone who saves up old wool because they might make a scarf one day has either got to be really poor, or, really into knitting. Otherwise it’s just crap.

  3. epanchinriot says:

    Weird. I met a friend of mine almost exactly the same way and he wrote about our fated meeting in my yearbook as well. I don’t talk to him anymore either.

    Anyway, post those pictures you found!

    • janet5 says:

      None of them are digital, I fear. It’s mostly stuff from my hometown in California that I bought because it looked nice or because it reminded me of my favorite beach. This is yet another “project” for my new place – namely, that I could get my butt in gear and actually buy some frames and put things up.

      It’s weird. I have no sense at all of permanence here, in part because I lived in SO many apartments for so many years. There was a point in my twenties when I moved eight times in four years. I never bothered to decorate any place I ever lived because I always knew i wouldn’t be there very long. Strange that I could never even be bothered to hang pictures on the walls. . .

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