Saturday, December 13, 2008

suitably freaked out

i continued digging into my old possessions this evening, resulting in huge stacks of paper going out to the recycling bin, and several hundred pounds of books and other items stacked up, headed for goodwill tomorrow morning. i listened to cassette tapes of my old band, PG-13, and marveled at how good we sounded, then i listened to some other tapes of various bands i tried to jam with and I marveled at how self-absorbed i sounded. i don't know if this experience is universal, but there's an odd sense of discontinuity when you hear an old song, and the lyrics take on new, improved meanings. many 80s songs do this to me. it's as if i had settled on some simplified, wrong idea of what a song meant, but now that i'm older, i hear the irony in the lyrics, or the nuances in an instrumental part, and realize why the song was so popular. tina turner's "what's love got to do with it" did this to me big time, recently. in a way the same thing happened while listening to the old jam tapes. there was so much that i wasn't hearing back then. in comparison to what was possible, i hear myself trying to fit into the musical fads of the day, and failing. i guess i'm my own worst critic, hearing all that old stuff makes me want to be in a band again too.

when i moved into this house three years ago I was much more of a pack rat. a lot of the stuff i wanted to keep just seems worthless now.

then there was the paperwork, binders and folders from a decade ago that feel as if they were excavated from 100 years ago. the japan internships program, my stint at a multimedia startup, austin community college, UT, the "writing on the air" radio show, tutoring at st. ed's. 


Tuesday, December 09, 2008


fire sale

i put a bunch of stuff up for sale on craigslist. two people just came by and bought 1) my beer making kit and 2) my ceramic candle lantern. now that these things are gone i feel a strange sense of seller's remorse, a pity for the objects, as though they've been members of the family and wanted to stay, to remain useful to me. the truth is the ceramic lantern simply rattled when i walked around. i remember a time when i lived in a condo on a concrete slab, and i had a cute girlfriend, and we laid in bed watching the lights from the lamp flicker up the wall. now i rent a pier and beam house and have no girlfriend and the lamp sat on top of a 5' shelf glaring down on me. when i walked on the wood floors, the vibrations would travel up to the lamp and the little glass panes would rattle against the ceramic, reminding me i had no fire and that things are no longer so warm and solid. i wanted the shelf space. i was tired of the effeminate thing.

i made one batch of beer in 1996 and since then have been lugging around the 5 gallon glass carbuoy, plastic bucket, and an arsenal of rubber hoses. being an observant, sometimes pokey person i felt i had spent way too much time staring at the equipment and not enough time using it. a man in a camo baseball cap came by and eagerly gave me $5 for the rig. i told him that i needed the space. he said that he also deep fries turkeys in his garage, and that yes, the equipment does indeed take up a lot of space. i looked him dead in his blue eyes. amazingly clear, with enormous, mechanical retinas.

i forgot the old spincasting reel. my late father purchased this for $80 back in 1985. it had all of the advanced features: magnetic anti-tangle control, flipping switch, one-motion spindle ejection lever. my dad never learned how to use it and then i never learned, and over time i became the sort of person who winces at the idea of hooking a living creature by its mouth. a guy named jerry emailed back immediately, saying he'd come by tonight. i held the reel for him, ignoring subsequent replies. he called this evening and told me that tonight was his 35th wedding anniversary, was there another night he could come by. i got pissed, thinking he could have emailed me this information earlier. i said "today's the day, i turned down people in order to hold it for you." then he said "i'm sorry, i really want the reel, i'd be happy to come by first thing tomorrow morning and pick it up." then, quite suddenly i heard the history in his voice and felt ashamed of myself and offered to leave it in my mailbox. "if i leave it in my mailbox" i said, "could you leave the $5 dollar note in there." for some weird reason, because i was talking to a guy who sounded like he was 80, i used the term "five dollar note." he said "i'd be glad to, and I'd leave $10 because of your kindness." "have a wonderful evening" I said, contrite as could be. we hung up and I felt ashamed of myself. there was something precious, rare, and fleeting in the moment, an old old man enlivened by the idea of a sweet deal on some fishing tackle, and me getting uptight and bossy about it. the reel is sitting outside in the mailbox, waiting for jerry to come by and pick it up.

overall, it feels good to be getting rid of things. the aesthetic of the coming decade, i feel, will be minimalist. instead of an enormous CD collection, there will be a tiny ipod, holding all of it. instead of bulky photo albums, a very thin laptop. another restaurant we visited in brooklyn is called ici: breakfast, lunch, dinner. the only art on the walls was a thin 2X4 shelf, with apples sitting on it. as i wrote in a blog entry years ago, the desired aesthetic is not the bulky machine, or the weighty statement, but art that complements the joy of having empty hands and a strong back. art that owns the wall, or doesn't exist at all. goods that are durable, compact, timeless, like stainless steel bowls, or well-worn hikers, or a perfect wool sweater.