Closing up shop
- Wednesday, Aug. 02, 2006

It may be time for a change
- Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Entry in the air
- Friday, April 21, 2006

Still here
- Thursday, April 20, 2006

Music of the moment
- Wednesday, March 1, 2006



101 in 1001
American Road Trip, 1998


Dancing Brave
Fugging It Up
Kitty Sandwich
Mister Zero
Sideways Rain


My crew
Our host

2000-11-13 - 20:23:09

Priceless artifacts

So I cleaned my room today, and I came across some things ...

First I found some old letters in a folder. They were of grade school friends who had moved away, and our correspondence has faded to nonexistent. A few of the grade school yearbooks are in there -- signed, of course, by people I haven't seen in oh-so-many years, and many I haven't thought of in just as long.

And I came across one letter that didn't belong, a long, four-page letter written out in hand by a former college girlfriend. It was written over a summer, when we were each at home, a continent apart. And the date told me it was about a month before I broke up with her ... over the phone, a continent apart. I felt bad about it at the time, felt bad about it when we got back to school, felt bad about it when I graduated two semesters later, felt bad about it the few times I ran into her over the next year. I still don't like the way I handled it; but she also said and did some things that forced me to get mean, just so she'd get the point.

Anyway, I found this letter, filled with her thoughts and emotions, some of which may have helped me make my decision; others which reminded me why I'd wanted to date her in the first place. It was tough to read it. I skimmed it, slowing down at the parts that made me smile, skipping over the sections that made me cringe with a knot building in my stomach. I don't know what this all means, but I was just a little sad when I threw it out.

I'd kept it, I guess, for moments like that one this afternoon -- when I'd come across it years down the road, having forgotten all about it, nearly forgotten about that relationship. I'd read it, and remember.

But that's why I had to clean my room today: I keep everything. I can't throw anything out. Maybe it's my intense love of history, in that I can look at anything and see it as historical in some way. Not famously historical, museum-worthy historical, profitably historical, but historical to me, a piece of my life or my past that I've kept that can remind me of earlier days.

I hold onto newspapers like they're printed by the U.S. Mint. To still have the entire edition of the Asbury Park Press from the day a crippling nor'easter hit the Jersey Shore and closed the schools for two days (really four -- a Friday and a Monday on the other side of the weekend) is to remember witnessing the awesome power of nature first hand. I remember getting together with my friends a few days later and driving around the various towns, seeing yards still flooded, boats on people's lawns, debris lining the roads. It was fascinating.

I hold onto this stuff so that in three years, when I go through it again, or move and come across it, I'll find the four different New York and New Jersey papers I saved featuring the Mets NLCS-clinching win over the St. Louis Cardinals last month. I'll smile, and remember that I was there, in the upper deck at Shea Stadium, feeling the 46-year-old building rocking beneath my feet.

I think, too, that some day I'll live in my own house and I'll have rooms to spare, or a basement with walls lined with framed mementos of my trips, my photographs, my newspapers. I'm probably kidding myself with all of this, but for now, I've reduced the pile of newspapers, cut down on the number of magazines, and rearranged all of them into nice, new, neat piles.

Finding those letters got me thinking, too. Some were between me and my best friend, who would go off during the summers in elementary school to a sports camp on the shore of Lake Champlain in upstate New York. Others were from twin sisters who moved away, and the correspondence we kept up for a few years. Another group was from my high school girlfriend, from the summer she spent taking some kind of course at a college in Virginia. I have these letters, but there are so few of them. Out of all this stuff I hold onto, there's very little I have that says anything about me, other than, "He was a big Mets fan," or, "He loved to take photographs."

Thomas Jefferson wrote something like 20,000 letters in his lifetime, providing quite a priceless archive into the mind and life of one of our country's greatest men (the slave holding and other stuff aside for the moment). What will the historians of the future have? What will the biographers of 2080 have to write about me, should I warrant it? What will they write about my generation, the one that grew with America through the development of e-mail, the Internet, satellite television and mobile telephones? We don't write letters anymore. I get, if I'm lucky, one personal letter a month in the mail; I'm guilty of writing less than that. I couldn't even get out all the Christmas cards I'd intended last year, because I didn't have the discipline and patience to sit down and do it all.

Letter writing is a dying art, and the historians of the future will curse us for it. What will they use in 80 years? Will they be able to hack into the Diaryland archives and glean an image of us from our posts? Will they go to the personal websites people set up, or start with our college transcripts? Will they use our television shows to come up with a general composite of the early 21st Century American?

I don't know, but I hope I can do my part to help them. I'll have to leave all my computer disks clearly labeled.

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