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The Basement’s Leaking
I am a proud, self-proclaimed nomad, always looking for fresh pasture. I can pack my essentials and be on my way in less than five minutes. A relative once said that being a nomad is easy for me because I don’t really own anything. But in my eyes it has everything any modern nomad could need. St. Croix 9 1/2 foot, 6 weight fly rod, brand new laptop, car and GPS. Oh yes, some clothes and a few personal hygiene products. But while me and my camel Buick can easily travel anywhere at a moment’s notice, I have a menagerie of memories stored in my happily divorced parents’ basements. I’ve never watched the television shows “Hoarders” or “Intervention,” but one of my family members might, one day soon, nominate me for a starring role in an upcoming episode of either.
Now remember, after reading this, you’re going to think to yourself, “he couldn’t have made that stuff up.”
I gave away my Taiwanese female wooden chest massager and a replica Iranian battle ax and chain helmet. It would certainly be foolish to have such things just lying around for no reason. I’m just a pile of important shit, stuff worth precious storage space.
While looking for a hammer the other day, I came across my copy of the “certificate of registration” from the Selective Service system. You never know, 35 years later, when your military service status might come up during a job interview. Along with this document are test results that revealed what career I might succeed in in the near future. “You should think about ‘Truck Driver’.” Hell, that’s where I went wrong in my life! Stupid restaurants. My DAT (Differential Aptitude Test) scores actually seem a little more on target. Abstract reasoning and verbal reasoning-in 95 percent. Space relations-30%. I can figure it out myself, just don’t stand so close. That’s how I read it.
One treasure box contains my teddy bears that I used to sit 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. I understood the name “Smokey” now. Smokey the Bear. Belt, cap, badge and all. But Yo Yo? Inspired by Joe Joe White/ Boston Celtics point guard? At this point, he wasn’t even drafted into the NBA. Who knows.
There are piles and piles of Valentine’s Day cards from elementary school. There were no transgender cards available then. Everyone gave everyone a card. “Be my Valentine, signed Ralph”. Not to be homophobic, Ralph, but I still have a crush on you, even after 45 years. As I matured, so did the cards. I kept a pile of letters and cards from the first love of my life. And other. And a couple from 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 romantic little piece of crap I was as a teenager. I wrote a song for my first love who dreamed of living in a cave in Bolivia. “Give me a blonde and a bottle of rum and I’ll 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 use/trade tool back in the days when I was bringing home my less-than-stellar grades from high school. A quick analysis of my college transcripts shows amazing success in chemistry and biology classes (thanks Mrs. Bauserman) but complete disinterest in electives like 16th century music. Hell, in my defense, you had to walk to the library to listen to rocker Hans Neusiedler and his orchestra sans electric guitars.
Grandfather Knode was a Freemason. Thomas Jefferson, George Washington and Grandpa. Along with his embossed certificate of membership in the secret branch of the District of Columbia, I have forever kept his Masonic apron and book of by-laws.
Grandma Knode worked as a secretary to Senator Millard Tydings. The monogrammed wooden box that sat on his desk was given to her by a senator as a thank you gift after he left office in 1950. That wooden box now sits in my mom’s basement and contains a recipe typed by my Aunt B. The recipe is from Grandma Knode’s “24-Hour Salad,” which is now a traditional dish served every year at our family’s Thanksgiving meals.
Grandpa Lambert worked during a period when a man’s word and a handshake meant more than any written contract ever did. The handwritten receipt I have from the 1940s was probably given to him by the local gas station as a monthly reminder; packed ice and gas for an outrageous total of $3.10. Obvious price gouging. There are several birthday cards from Grandpa and Grandma Lambert. And a few birthday cards from my Aunt Dot. On her way to family saint status, religiously every year, Aunt Dot would send birthday cards, each containing a five-dollar bill, to me, my two sisters, and our 23 cousins. Every year, no matter where you live. “How did she even know that I was in Savannah for three months this year?” Even if you didn’t remember it was your birthday, you did after you checked your mailbox.
There’s an issue of The Weekly World News, a now-defunct, largely fictional tabloid newspaper publication that I always found so witty. My live-in girlfriend at the time outdid me by moving out of our house while I was away at work. She later dismissed this issue as some kind of weird peace offering, knowing that I find sarcasm very funny. “Trailer Park Taken Over by Redneck Aliens” A picture of a husband and wife witnessing the invasion was stoically captioned “There goes the neighborhood.” I think giving this gift had a doubly sarcastic message behind it. She was good at it.
Fishing has always been a big part of my life, and the cellars are dotted with all kinds of fishing relics. The 40 year old automatic fly reel mounted on my first fly rod is still armed with the original fly, forever cured with Shenandoah water. Neil Armstrong gave me an antique wicker basket. Not an astronaut, dumbass. A UPS delivery driver who was my bar buddy years ago at the Boston Beanery. His uncle passed away and literally gave him the farm. Three vintage bamboo fly rods were discovered in the barn. “Well Neil, those are all Montague rods, you might want to check their value. A few weeks and a few thousand dollars later, I received that basket as a referral commission. Safely secured in a ceiling rack my dad built are another half dozen fly rods. Because, you know, you can never have too many fishing rods.
If your phone number is (704) 637-4293 and you are missing a dial on your phone, 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 Andrew’s painting, which was supposed to help with the grieving process. Does not work. The picture rests on top of several 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 younger sister was severely nauseous during her first summer camp experience. The letter she sent from the camp, addressed to me and my other sister, was written on the second day in the Stravderman camp. 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 left my car unattended for two minutes near the front door of the airport, while helping my Bulgarian friend Lucy with her luggage, in a hasty attempt to catch her 6am flight home. I guess since I’m holding the card that’s not a good sign. Wasn’t my car okay?
So one day my ex-wife chatted around the house, accusing me of owning a set of fine china that we got as a wedding present. I wholeheartedly denied any knowledge of the floral pattern on the plates and coffee cups, knowing full well the definition of a fifty/fifty split. She gets one hundred percent and I get zero. One afternoon, years later, I was looking for something ‘really’ important in my little mountain of memorabilia, when I came across box after box full of old newspapers. Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star to be precise. Well, thanks funny, I lived in Fredericksburg when I was married. Oops. I’d give that china away for free, but the food seems sour. (But a little revenge tastes sweet) Well, it’s sitting in the basement.
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 the uninitiated, electric soccer sets were a small, metal playing field that caused an electric motor to vibrate, which created the movement of small, plastic soccer player figurines. It was very loud and very fun for a young boy. But being overly competitive, even at a young age, Stan and I took it to a whole new level of intensity. I have spiral notebooks, filled with plays and formations, that we hand-wrote and developed over time; we even kept detailed game statistics. Spiral notebooks, a still-functioning playground, and six plastic bags full of little players wearing their official NFL team colors rest comfortably in the basement, next to Coach Lee’s new football textbooks that we received once a week before math class in my senior year of high school.
There’s the yellow lucky rabbit paw I wore on my little league uniform belt loop. Several engraved leather bracelets and necklaces of Saint Christopher. Happy Turkey Day card, turkey image created with a small, watercolor painted left hand from my goddaughter Rachel. 8mm copy of “I Am a Teenage Werewolf”. I must have forgotten the one with Mr. Magoooom.
Wait a minute, is that Zeppelin on the radio? Good times, bad times… You know I’ve had my share…
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