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The Basement’s Leaking
I am a proud, self-proclaimed wanderer, always looking for fresh pastures. I can pack my essentials and be on the road in five minutes. A relative once said that it was easy for me to be a vagabond because I had nothing. But in my eyes, I have everything a modern-day nomad needs. A St. Croix 9 1/2 foot, 6-weight fly rod, a new laptop, an automobile and a GPS. Oh yes, some clothes and some personal hygiene products. But since my Buick Camel and I can easily travel anywhere at a moment’s notice, I have a collection of memories in my happily-divorced parents’ basement. I’ve never seen the television shows “Hoarders” or “Interference,” but a family member will, one day soon, nominate me to star on an upcoming episode of either.
Now remember, after reading this, you might be thinking to yourself, “He wouldn’t have made this stuff up.”
I gave away my Taiwanese, woman’s bubs-shaped, wooden massage tool and replica Iranian battle ax and chain mail helmet. It would certainly be foolish to leave such things lying around for no reason. I only keep the important crap, the stuff that deserves valuable storage space.
While looking for a hammer the other day, I stumbled upon a copy of the Selective Service System’s “Registration Receipt.” After 35, you never know when your military draft status might come up during a job interview. Along with this document, there are the test results from which it is clear which career I can succeed in near future. “You should consider ‘Truck Driver’.” Damn, that’s where I made my mistake in life! Stupid restaurants. My DAT test (Differential Aptitude Test) results actually seem a bit more targeted. Abstract Reasoning and Verbal Reasoning – 95 percentile. Space relations – 30%. I can figure it out myself, don’t stand so close. That’s how I read it.
One of the treasure boxes contains my stuffed bears that I carried around as a child. Smokey and Joe Joe. Don’t tell them if you see them, but after all these years they look worse than me. Now the name is “Smoky”, I understand. Smokey the Bear. Belts, hats, badges and everything. But Jo Jo? Inspired by Joe Joe White/ Point Guard for the Boston Celtics? He wasn’t even drafted into the NBA at this point. who knows
There are piles and piles of elementary school Valentine’s Day cards. Transgender card was not available then. Everyone gave everyone a card. “Be My Valentine, signed by Ralph”. Not a homophobe there Ralph, but I still have a gray eye on you after 45 years. As I matured, so did the cards. I kept stacks of letters and cards from the first love of my life. and another. And a couple of little girls who kept promising me all kinds of immoral acts. Didn’t really like it, but it was a good read. And how romantic was a little weird when I was a teenager. I wrote a poem for my first love that dreamed of living in a cave in Bolivia. “Give me a goldie and a bottle of rum and everything will be fine”. Nice try, but it didn’t work.
For some reason, I have my mom’s grade school report cards. It was probably an advantage/bargaining tool back in the days when I brought home my own less-than-stellar grades from high school. A quick analysis of my college transcripts shows surprising success in chemistry and biology classes (thanks Mrs. Bauserman), but complete disinterest in elective courses like 16th century music. Heck, in my defense, you had to go to the library to hear rockin’ Hans Neusiedler and his no-electric-guitar orchestra.
Grandfather Nod was a Free Mason. Thomas Jefferson, George Washington and Grandfather. I have forever kept his Masonic apron and book of by-laws, along with his engraved certificate of membership in the secret District of Columbia Chapter.
Grandma Nod worked as a secretary for Senator Millard Tydings. A monogrammed wooden box sitting on his desk was given to her by the senator as a token of appreciation after he left office in 1950. That wooden box now sits in my mother’s basement and contains the recipe typed by my Aunt Bee. From Grandma’s nod to the “24-hour salad,” which is now a traditional dish served at our family’s Thanksgiving Day meal every year.
Grandad Lambert worked in a time when a person’s word and a wave of the hand meant more than any written contract. I have a handwritten receipt from the 1940s, probably given to him by a local filling station as a monthly reminder; Got ice and gas for a total of $3.10. Apparent price increase. Here are some birthday cards for Grandpa and Grandma Lambert. And many birthday cards from my Aunt Dot. On her path to family sainthood, every year, religiously, Aunt Dot would send me, my two sisters, and our 23 cousins a birthday card with a five-dollar bill each. Every year, no matter where you live. “How did she know I’ve been in Savannah for three months this year?” Even if you don’t remember when it was your birthday, you did after you checked your mailbox.
There is an issue of The Weekly World News, now defunct, a tabloid publication of mostly fictional news that I always found very humorous. At the time, my live-in girlfriend had made me a nomad by moving out of our house while I was at work. She later dropped this version as a kind of awkward peace offering, knowing that I found the sarcasm very funny. A photograph of a husband and wife witnessing a “redneck alien takeover trailer park” invasion was captioned “There Goes the Neighbors”. I think there was a double sarcastic message behind this gift. She was good at it.
Fishing has always been a big part of my life and the basement is full of all kinds of fishing relics. A 40-year-old automatic fly reel mounted on my very first fly rod still equipped with the original fly line, forever cured by the waters of the Shenandoah. I have an antique wicker creel basket given to me by Neil Armstrong. Not an astronaut, idiot. A UPS delivery driver who was my bar buddy years ago at the Boston Beanery. When his uncle died, he was literally given the farm. Three antique bamboo fly rods were found in the barn. “Okay Neil, they’re all Montague rods, you might want to check their prices.” A few weeks and a few thousand dollars later, I got it as a Creel Basket referral commission. A ceiling rack my dad built holds another half dozen or so fly rods safely. Because, you know, you can never have too many fishing rods.
If your phone number is (704) 637-4293 and you miss the telephone’s rotary dial, I have it. call me
I was almost a father once, but he died in the womb. In the corner of the basement is a picture of Andrew in a box, which is supposed to help with the grieving process. It doesn’t work. The picture is above two self-help books given as gifts, one of which is titled “The Expectant Father”. I wanted to, but never took the time to read those books.
One of my younger sisters got some serious homesickness during her first summer camp experience. The letter she sent from the camp, addressed to me and my other sister, was written the next day at Camp Strawderman. The now empty letter once contained a single stick of chewing gum. The letter read “The gum is for Robin and Mary”.
I wonder if I ever paid for this parking ticket from Dulles Airport. As I was helping my Bulgarian friend Lucy with her luggage, I left my car at the front gate of the airport for two minutes in a rush to catch her 6am flight back home. I guess I hold the ticket, not a good sign. I didn’t have a car.
So an ex-wife came walking around my house one day accusing me of having a set of china that I got as a wedding gift. Knowing the definition of a fifty/fifty split well enough, I wholeheartedly disclaimed any knowledge of floral patterns on plates and coffee cups. She got hundred percent and I got zero. One afternoon, years later, I was digging through my little mountain of memories for something ‘really’ important, when I came across a box full of old newspapers. The Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star is accurate. Well, thanks Funny, I used to live in Fredericksburg when I got married. oops I would give it to China for free, but it seems to make the food taste sour. (But a little revenge is sweet) So sits in the basement.
Before I was diagnosed with OCD and ADD, my childhood friend Stan and I would spend hours playing my electric football. For those unfamiliar, an electric football set was a small, metal playing field that vibrated with an electric motor, causing movement of small, plastic figurines of football players. Too loud and too much fun for a kid. But being very competitive, even at a young age, Stan and I took it to a whole new intensity. I have spiral notebooks, full of plays and compositions, that we wrote by hand and developed over time; We also kept detailed statistics of the games. Spiral notebooks, a still-running playground, and six plastic bags of little players wearing their official NFL team colors rest comfortably in the basement, next to Coach Lee’s new football playbook handouts, which we received once a week before math class. My senior year of high school.
The yellow lucky rabbit’s foot I wear on the belt loop of my Little League uniform. Several carved leather bracelets and necklaces of St. Christopher. Happy Turkey Day card, my goddaughter Rachel’s left hand drawing of a small, watercolor stained turkey. An 8mm copy of “I’m a Teenage Werewolf” must have been a mistake I made with Mr. Magoo.
Wait a minute, is that on Zeppelin Radio? Good times, bad times… you know I’ve had my share of…
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