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The Basement’s Leaking
I’m a proud, self-proclaimed nomad, always looking for fresh pasture. I can pack my essentials and hit 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 have everything any modern day nomad could ever need. A cane St. Croix 9 1/2 ft., 6 pesos, a new laptop, a car and a GPS. Oh yes, some clothes and a few toiletries. But while I and my Camel Buick can easily travel anywhere at a moment’s notice, I have a number of memories stored in my happily divorced parents’ basements. I’ve never seen the TV shows “Hoarders” or “Intervention,” but one of my family members might, one day soon, pitch me to star in an upcoming episode of either.
Now remember, after reading this, you’re going to think to yourself, “I couldn’t have made this stuff up.”
I gave away my Taiwanese, the wooden massage tool in the shape of women’s breasts and the replica ax and the Iranian mail helmet. It would certainly be silly to have things like this lying around for no reason. I only have important shit, stuff worthy of precious storage space.
The other day, while looking for a hammer, I came across my copy of a “registration acknowledgment” from the Selective Service System. You never know, 35 years later, when your military draft status might come up during a job interview. Along with this document are the test results that revealed which career he might be successful in in the near future. “You should consider ‘Truck Driver’.” Damn, this is where I went wrong in life! Stupid restaurants. My DAT (Differential Aptitude Test) test results actually seem a little more on target. Abstract reasoning and verbal reasoning: in the 95th percentile. Spatial relations-30%. I can understand that myself, just don’t be so close. That’s how I read it.
In a treasure box are my teddy bears that I spent time with as a child. Smokey and Yo Yo. 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 all. But Yo Yo? 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 stacks and stacks of elementary school Valentine’s Day cards. There were no transgender cards available then. Everyone gave everyone a card. “Be my Valentine, signed Ralph.” Not being a homophobe there Ralph, but I still have a suspicious eye for you, even after 45 years. As I matured, so did the cards. I kept piles of letters and cards from the first love of my life. And the second And a partner of a younger girl who kept promising me all kinds of immoral acts. I didn’t really like it, but it was a good read. And what a fucking romantic he was as 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 some reason, I have several of my mom’s elementary school report cards. It was probably a leverage/trading tool back in the days when I brought home my less-than-stellar grades from high school. A quick scan of my college transcripts shows amazing success in chemistry and biology classes (thanks to Mrs. Bauserman), but complete disinterest in electives like 16th century music. Heck, in my defense, you had to WALK to the library to hear rocker Hans Neusidler and his orchestra without an electric guitar.
Grandfather Knode was a Freemason. Thomas Jefferson, George Washington and Grandpa. Along with his certificate of membership embossed in the District of Columbia Secret Chapter, I have forever kept his Masonic apron and statute book.
Grandma Knode worked as a secretary for Senator Millard Tydings. The senator gave him a monogrammed wooden box that sat on his desk as a token of appreciation, after he left office in 1950. This wooden box is now in my mother’s basement and contains a recipe typed by my 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 during a 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 him as a monthly reminder by a local gas station; packed ice and gas for an outrageous total of $3.10. Obvious price increase. There are a few birthday cards from Grandpa and Grandma Lambert. And several birthday cards from my Aunt Dot. On her way to family holiness, religiously every year, Aunt Dot sent birthday cards, each with a five-dollar bill, to me, my two sisters, and our 23 cousins. Every year, no matter where you live. “How did she know I was in Savannah for three months this year?” Even if you don’t remember it was your birthday, you did after checking your mailbox.
There is an issue of The Weekly World News, the defunct fictional news tabloid publication that I always found so funny. My live-in girlfriend at the time outsmarted me by leaving our house while I was away at work. He later left this edit as a sort of weird peace offering, knowing that I found the sarcasm very funny. “Redneck Aliens Takeover Trailer Park” The image of a husband and wife, who had witnessed the invasion, was stoically captioned “There goes the neighborhood.” I think the delivery of this gift had a double sarcastic message behind it. She was good at it.
Fishing was always a big part of my life and the basements are full of all kinds of fishing memorabilia. A 40-year-old automatic fly reel that came mounted on my first fly rod is still rigged with the original fly line, forever cured with Shenandoah water. There is an old wicker basket that was given to me by Neil Armstrong. Not the astronaut, silly. The UPS delivery driver who years ago was a bar buddy of mine at The Boston Beanery. His uncle had died and literally gave him the farm. Three ancient bamboo fly rods were discovered in the barn. “Well Neil, these are all Montague canes, you might want to check their value.” A couple of weeks and a couple of thousand dollars later, I received this basket as a referral commission. On a roof rack built by my father are another half dozen fly rods securely secured. Because, you know, you can never have too many fishing rods.
If your phone number was (704) 637-4293 and you lost your phone’s rotary dial, I have it. Call me.
I was almost a father once, but he died in the womb. Hidden in a box in the corner of the basement is a picture of Andrew, which is supposed to help with the grieving process. Out of order. The image is on top of a couple of gifted self-help books, one of which is titled “The Expectant Father.” I wish I had, but I never took the time to read those books.
My little sister got really homesick during her first summer camp experience. A letter I 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 read, “The gum is for Robin and Mary.”
I wonder if I ever paid that parking ticket from Dulles airport. I left the car unattended for two minutes near the airport gates, while I helped my Bulgarian friend Lucy with her luggage, in a hasty attempt to catch her 6am flight home . I guess since I have the ticket, that’s not a good sign. My car wasn’t like?
So one day an ex-wife came to my house, accusing me of possessing a set of fine china that we had received as a wedding present. I wholeheartedly denied any knowledge of the flowery pattern on the plates and coffee cups, knowing that the definition of a fifty/fifty split was fine. She gets one hundred percent and I get zero. One afternoon, years later, I’m looking through my little mountain of memories for something “really” important, when I find box after box filled with old newspapers. The Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star to be exact. Well thanks curious, I used to live in Fredericksburg when I got married. wow I would give this china for free, but the food seems to taste 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 would spend hours playing with my electric football game. For those unfamiliar, electric football games were a small metal playing field that was vibrated by an electric motor, which created the movement of small plastic figures of football players. It was very noisy and very fun for a small child. But being overly 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, which we have written by hand and developed over time; We even kept detailed statistics of the games. Spiral notebooks, the still-functioning playing field, and six plastic bags filled with little players in official NFL team colors rest comfortably in the basement, next to new handouts from the NFL’s football playbook. coach lee we had once a week before math class my freshman year of high school.
There’s the lucky yellow rabbit’s foot he wore on his Little League uniform belt trace. Several engraved leather bracelets and a Saint Christopher necklace. A Happy Turkey Day card, the turkey image created with my goddaughter Rachel’s tiny left hand watercolor. An 8mm copy of ‘I’m a Teenage Werewolf’. I must have lost Mr. Magoo’s.
Wait a minute, is Zeppelin on the radio? Good times, bad times… You know I had my share…
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