As I mentioned, I’m moving to a new apartment soon and it sucks (and shortly after that I turn 30, which is cool – ask me why). Moving has prompted me to dig through stacks of stuff around my apartment to see if they’re worth moving. I’ve gotten somewhere between two and three hundred bucks at the used bookstore and carted bag after bag of printed out stuff to the recycling dumpster behind my building (I’ll remember this when my grandkids ask me what trees looked like).

When I had just turned the corner from teens to twenties I would sometimes say that I tried to keep a horizon of about 6 months in both directions – not plan more than 6 months out and not remember much more than 6 months ago. I think that’s still a pretty good idea, if what one wants is a basically shallow level of attachment and a sort of haphazard floating through life (which, let’s be clear, is not the worst one could do). I certainly was digging around well before the 6 month horizon this afternoon (and my wife and I are happily planning well beyond the next 6 months as we try to get pregnant and talk about different aspects of having a kid; glad to be beyond the 6 month thing).

This afternoon I sorted through stacks of old mail. I used to be quite the letter writer and correspondent. I did a zine for a few issues over a few years – a while ago n0w – and before and after that I just wrote a lot of letters. My friends in non-electronic life will know that my handwriting is atrocious so it’s funny that I wrote so many letter by hand for so long.

I found a great many letters, of course. I found a postcard written to me by a friend of Jawbreaker in response to a fan letter I wrote them in 1993 or 1994. The friend was answering mail for them while they were away touring again. (I saw them for the first time when they opened for Nirvana, I thought this was in 1994 but apparently it was 1993 – either October 23rd or October 25th according to this list of the shows they played.) I found some letters from acquaintances and strangers who read my zines, and a couple of newspaper clippings from stuff I was part of that got press (including a happy birthday ad from some high school friends when I turned 18). I also found a lot of letters from good friends.

And I found a lot of correspondence that I don’t want anymore. I threw a lot of it away. I had very mixed feelings about doing that. There was some stuff from people I’m no longer friends with because of ugly falling outs. Keeping letters from before those falling outs feels weird and brings back bad memories.

There was also some stuff from people I’m no longer friends with because I’ve simply lost touch with them. That stuff divided into two categories. Some was people I missed greatly (even though some of them I haven’t thought of in a while) and the memory of whom I was happy to have back. Some was people who after I was reminded of them I was like “oh, oh yeah, them. Whatever.” I threw those letters away too, not least because my present indifference to past friends was even more unpleasant than remembering falling outs. Both of those are things where I don’t like some things about myself, but the past falling outs are not liking me in the past, the indifference may involve that same feeling – boy did I ever have dumb ideas! I definitely don’t connect with those ideas anymore! – but even worse there’s a sort of “I don’t like that I don’t have a stronger reaction right now to those old relationships” which is a clear not liking things about me here in the present. I don’t need that, so out with the old.

I also pitched some old punk rock flyers. I kept the flyers for shows I went to or for bands I love(d). Beyond that, I’m not keeping old flyers for posterity. In with these flyers was one for the first punk show I ever went to. Sifting through the flyers was a funny thing. Punk used to be a huge part of my identity and my life, how I thought and what I thought about and what I did and how I did it. It isn’t anymore. I still love a lot of it, but I also think a lot of it is pretty silly, and I’ve gotten way less narrow minded. There was stuff in there from bands I was in too, I kept almost all of that. Not ready to pitch that yet.

Among the other things I found were drawing from the middle of my two younger brothers, the one I talk to less (I talk to both of them way too rarely, that makes me sad and makes me wonder what the fuck I’m doing with my life), including a lizard he made from ribbons and beads in a jar along with more ribbons and beads and instructions on how I could make my own. He drew a label reading “jarred lizard” with a lizard playing guitar. I need to call him and tell him.

The other thing I found was some old political stuff, including a flyer I put up all over my college campus headed “College – ticket to nowhere?” I didn’t write it, I got it from some party people. I found some other similar literature. I kept all that. I’m still embarrassed about some of that, but that’s a good reason to keep it. It helps with assessing where I’m at now. We measure progress by the distance between two points. Having stuff from points a long time back allows for a more accurate assessment of how far one has moved (or not moved). Maybe part of why I pitched some stuff was because I don’t want to make an assessment – I’m nervous about what the results would be – about some things, in that maybe I’ll find I’ve been walking in place on some things.

Politically, though, definitely improved. 🙂

Other thing I found – a skit two friends and I wrote when I was 17 or 16. I may type it up and throw on this blog. It definitely had some clear flaws – which is good, as that gives me hope that I’ve progressed – but it was surprisingly not terrible – which means I’ve not progressed as much as I’d like.

Oh yeah, on getting rid of stuff – I even managed to weed out some stuff from my pamphlet collection because a friend told me the group of people he lives with is starting a lefty library (and my wife and I went through our zine collection pretty ruthlessly as well, because we found a place that accepts donations of zines locally). It’s much easier to give some things up when it means they won’t be destroyed, just that other people will keep them. Some stuff I had to keep, though, like some of my old CLR James pamphlets that I found at lefty spaces here and there, and my copies of Cometbus. I’m not sure if I’m keeping those things and some of the other things because I want a reminder of who I used to be, or because I want to stay who I used to be, or it’s a promise or chance of who I might use that stuff to turn into, or if it’s none of that … maybe it’s just the physical format: the mimeograph and the photocopying … these are objects made out of wanting these objects to exists – the objects themselves, not some additional reason like selling them for money – and I find that sensibility – the temporal urgency and the deliberateness and the sense that this stuff matters – very compelling. Gotta keep that.

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