The basement is leaking
I am a proud, self-proclaimed nomad, always in search of fresh pastures. I can pack the essentials and be on the road in less than five minutes. A relative once said that it’s easy for me to be a nomad because I don’t really have anything. But in my eyes, I possess everything that any modern nomad could need. A 9 1/2 foot 6 peso St. Croix rod, a new laptop, a car, and a GPS. Oh yeah, some clothes and some personal hygiene products. But while my Buick dealer and I can easily travel anywhere at any time, I have a collection of memories stored in the basements of my happily divorced parents. I’ve never seen the TV shows “Hoarders” or “Intervention,” but a member of my family might one day nominate me to star in an upcoming episode of both.
Now remember, after reading this, that you will think to yourself, “possibly he could not have invented those things.”
Present my Taiwanese wooden massage tool in the shape of a woman’s boobs and the replica of the Iranian battle ax and chainmail helmet. It would certainly be foolish to have things like that lying around for no reason. I only keep important junk, things worthy of valuable storage space.
While looking for a hammer the other day, I came across my copy of a “registration recognition” from the Selective Service System. 35 years later, you never know when your military draft status might show up during a job interview. Along with this document are the test results that revealed what career you might be successful in in the near future. “You should consider ‘Truck Driver.’ Damn, that’s where I went wrong in life! Stupid restaurants. My DAT (Differential Aptitude Test) results actually seem a bit more accurate. Abstract reasoning and verbal reasoning: at the 95th percentile. Spatial relationships-30%. I can figure it out myself, but don’t stay that close. This is how I read it.
In a treasure box are my teddy bears that I patted with as a child. Smokey and Jo Jo. Don’t tell them if you see them, but they look worse than me after all these years. Now the name “Smokey”, I get it. Smokey the Bear. Belt, hat, badge and everything. But Jo Jo? Inspired by Jo Jo White / Boston Celtics point guard? He hadn’t even been drafted into the NBA at this point. Who knows.
There are lots and lots of elementary school Valentine’s Day cards. There were no transgender cards available at the time. Everyone gave everyone a card. “Be my Valentine, Ralph signed.” I don’t want to be homophobic, Ralph, but I still have a suspicious eye on you, even after 45 years. As he matured, so did the cards. I kept stacks of letters and cards from the first love of my life. And the second. And a couple from a younger girl who kept promising me all kinds of immoral acts. I didn’t like it very much, but it was a good read. And what a romantic little shit I was when I was a teenager. I wrote a poem for my first love who dreamed of living in a cave in Bolivia. “Give me a blonde and a bottle of rum and everything will be fine.” Nice try, but it didn’t work.
For whatever reason, I have several of my mother’s grade school report cards. It was probably a leverage / barter tool back in the days when I brought home my own less than stellar grades from high school. A quick scan of my college transcripts shows astonishing success in chemistry and biology classes (thanks to Ms. Bauserman), but complete disinterest in elective courses like 16th century music. Hell, in my defense, you had to WALK to the library to listen to rocker Hans Neusidler and his orchestra without electric guitars.
Grandpa Knode was a Freemason. Thomas Jefferson, George Washington and Grandad. Along with your membership certificate embossed in the secret chapter of the District of Columbia, I have forever kept your Masonic apron and your statute book.
Grandma Knode worked as a secretary to Senator Millard Tydings. The senator gave him a monogrammed wooden box that was on his desk as a token of thanks after he left office in 1950. That wooden box is now in my mother’s basement and contains a recipe written by me. Aunt B. The recipe is from Grandma Knode for “24 Hour Salad,” which is now a traditional dish served annually at our family’s Thanksgiving meals.
Grandpa Lambert worked for a period of time when a man’s word and a handshake meant more than any written contract. A receipt I have, handwritten in the 1940s, was probably given to you as a monthly reminder by a local gas station; bagged ice and gasoline for an outrageous grand total of $ 3.10. Obvious price increase. There are some birthday cards from Grandpa and Grandma Lambert. And several birthday cards from my Aunt Dot. On her way to family sanctity status, religiously every year, Aunt Dot sent birthday cards, each containing a five dollar bill, to me, my two sisters, and our 23 cousins. Each and every year, no matter where you lived. “How did she know I was in Savannah for three months this year?” Even if he didn’t remember it was his birthday, he did so after he had checked his mailbox.
There’s an issue of The Weekly World News, the now-defunct tabloid news publication, mostly fictitious, that I always found hilarious. My girlfriend who was living at the time had outnumbered me by moving out of our house while I was at work. He later left this issue as some kind of strange peace offering, knowing that I found sarcasm a lot of fun. “Redneck Aliens Takeover Trailer Park” The image of a husband and wife, who had witnessed the invasion, was stoically captioned saying “There goes the neighborhood.” I think the delivery of this gift had a doubly sarcastic message behind it. She was good at it.
Fishing was always a big part of my life and basements are dotted with all kinds of fishing relics. A 40 year old automatic fly reel that came mounted on my first fly rod is still armed with the original fly line, forever cured with Shenandoah water. There is an antique wicker basket that Neil Armstrong gave me. Not the astronaut, dummy. The UPS delivery driver who was a bar mate years ago at The Boston Beanery. His uncle had passed away and he literally gave him the farm. Three ancient bamboo poles were discovered in the barn. “Well Neil, those are all Montague rods, you might want to check their value.” A couple of weeks and a couple thousand dollars later, I received that fishing basket as a referral commission. Securely secured in a roof rack built by my dad are half a dozen other fly rods. Because, you know, you can never have too many fishing rods.
If your phone number was (704) 637-4293 and you don’t have the rotary dial for your phone, I have it. Call me.
I was once almost a father, but he died in utero. Hidden in a box in the corner of the basement is a photo of Andrew, which was supposed to help with the grieving process. It does not work. The picture is on top of a couple of self-help books that are given away, one of which is titled “The Future Father.” I wish I had, but I never took the time to read those books.
My only younger sister had some serious nausea during her first summer camp experience. A letter that she had sent from camp, addressed to me and my other sister, was written on the second day at Camp Strawderman. The now empty letter once contained a single stick of gum. The letter said: “The gum is for Robin and Mary.”
I wonder if I ever paid this parking ticket from Dulles airport. I had left my car unattended for two minutes near the main gate of the airport, while helping my Bulgarian friend Lucy with her luggage, in a hasty attempt to catch her flight home at 6 in the morning. I guess since I have the ticket, that’s not a good sign. Wasn’t it my car in any way?
Then an ex-wife came to my house barking one day, accusing me of possessing a fine china set that we had received as a wedding gift. I wholeheartedly denied any knowledge of the flower pattern on coffee plates and cups, knowing full well the definition of a fifty percent division. She gets 100% and I get zero. One afternoon years later, I was searching for something “really” important in my little mountain of memories, when I came across box after box full of old newspapers. The Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star to be exact. Well thank you funny, I used to live in Fredericksburg when I was married. Whoops! I’d give that china set for free, but it seems like the food tastes sour. (But a little revenge tastes sweet) So in the basement he sits.
Before the days when OCD and ADD were invented, my childhood friend Stan and I spent hours playing my electric soccer game. For the unknown, electric soccer games were a small metal playing field that vibrated with an electric motor, which created the movement of plastic figures of soccer players. It was very loud and a lot of fun for a kid. But being too competitive, even at a young age, Stan and I took it to a whole new level of intensity. I have the spiral notebooks, full of plays and formations, that we write by hand and develop over time; we even kept detailed game statistics. Spiral notebooks, still-working playing field, and six plastic bags filled with little players in official NFL team colors rest comfortably in the basement, alongside Coach Lee’s new soccer playbook brochures. that we get once a week before math class in my senior year of high school.
There’s the lucky yellow rabbit foot that I wore in the belt loop of my minor league uniform. Several engraved leather bracelets and a Saint Christopher necklace. A Happy Turkey Day card, the image of the turkey created with the tiny watercolor stained left hand of my goddaughter Rachel. An 8mm copy of “I’m a teenage werewolf”. I must have lost Mr. Magoo’s.
Wait a minute, is that Zeppelin on the radio? Good times, bad times … You know I had my share …