We have an analog basement. Which means, we used to live an analog life, and the detritus lives on. Downstairs.
We’ve spent quite a few hours below the surface this past week, as we moved our friend into the guest room down there and figured that, y’know. We might want to dig out the guest room.
And that was the easy part. Aside from a few stray pieces of furniture, stored in that space because I couldn’t find any other spaces, the room was essentially the way it used to be, back when we had occasional guests. It’s kind of crappy in terms of peeling paint and threadbare carpet, but a working room nonetheless. The real work was elsewhere.
My reasonably neat garage got loaded up as we gradually cleaned up, first with an old waterbed that John used to sleep in, its frame with a minor collection of mold and certainly not worth saving at any rate. It then became a VR version of Tetris, shifting dressers around to get at what’s behind, shifting them back, throwing up my hands from time to time from the awareness that a dump trip was the only solution.
And stopping to marvel—and catch my breath—at residua of the 20th century, because of course.
I knew the encyclopedias were there. Bought the old-fashioned way, one at a time via grocery store specials, we had a complete set well before the time they were useless, although I’m not sure they were actually used. Certainly not the way I used them as a kid, a linear experience of turning pages, not clicking on hyperlinks. Wikipedia and other reference sites are rabbit holes of random connections, where hours are lost and knowledge waltzes by; the analog version was just alphabetical.
And these volumes lost their utility a long time ago, and became albatrosses, physical manifestations of good intentions. Those intentions are still good, but where we were going we didn’t need big books.
Maybe any books, although folks are divided. I’m almost completely an e-reader now, mostly due to convenience (and eyesight) but with an understanding that a family of voracious readers will inevitably result in a family that has to step over piles of books. We have thousands of books. This is not an exaggeration.
But there was more. VHS tapes number in at least the dozens, nearly all useless and probably not playable, if that’s your idea of a fun time. Numerous CDs and DVDs, too, casually tossed into cardboard boxes, long ago transferred to hard drives or re-purchased in MP3 form. Oh, a few MP3 players, too. I found an iPod Nano yesterday, lurking under a pile of junk, a homeless piece of technology.
John and I snickered at our friend, who’s 64 and refers to his television as an “HDTV,” repeatedly. I finally laughed aloud and informed him that redundancy can sometimes be a virtue but that won’t save you from appearing disengaged from the culture, not to mention old and unaware, like saying “color TV.” There are no other kinds.
There were, though. And we’ve got at least five downstairs.
And a filing cabinet of newspaper tear sheets, a collection of columns I once thought important to save. Once upon a time, that is.
Julie sold some of the books in decent shape, made a few dollars; the rest are slowly being carted off to the recycling center, destined for pulp. The TVs will likewise be loaded up and disposed of properly, as were the multiple discarded batteries I found, scattered by a compulsive teenage boy. The dump run will be an all-day affair and needs to be planned, and it won’t be enough. Eventually I’ll give up, promise myself to return to the chore, and in the meantime refrain from owning anything else that has mass.
With hard luck and work, we may separate the wheat from the chaff eventually, find the stuff that’s important, valuable, and worth keeping. Some of the chaff will tug at my soul, sentimental and not worth nodding over, and this will be a good thing.
And maybe, but probably not, I’ll get ambitious and organize, digitize, and dump, but whatever. You can’t go home again, not without throwing out a lot that used to be home, in an old-fashioned way, and a long time ago.