Archive for April, 2013

War On Nostalgia

Somewhere in a basement or an attic or a storage space or a closet you probably have a box. It’s a box of sentiments, ticket stubs and letter jackets, love letters and signed senior photos, wedding invitations and yearbooks. Perhaps it’s not in your basement or attic and it’s still in your parents’. Or perhaps you are the rare bird who has not accumulated too much of that, by circumstance, personality, or selective pruning. Or perhaps you are someone who truly has none of those things. I am sure they must exist somewhere, whether it’s by the same factors I mentioned above or some mystic force. And while I am pretty good about keeping it to a minimum, it’s still there, that box. There are other more tangible things, too, a few t-shirts that definitely don’t fit or are far too beat but conjure wonderful memories. And I suppose that captures why we have those things. Perhaps we are spared the boxes these days, but there’s still a digital folder that tends to be like that somewhere, housing memory upon memory.

Each item in the box tends to conjure a memory and act as a locus, some sort of compass leading back to a specific time and place. And sometimes, I do recall how I felt the day I went to that concert or when I received that postcard. Sometimes I’m convinced I can remember exactly what happened when I got that letter, though I doubt that’s totally accurate. But many times, I just look at the stuff and the memories have eroded. While there’s not necessarily much of a sense of physical decay as they sit in boxes somewhere, there’s still that sense of mental decay. And some are just confounding. I mean, I pull out my letter jacket once every couple years (basically, when I’m moving), look at it, and decide that I somehow cannot part with it? I haven’t used it. And I never will. I can’t bear to get rid of it. And yet I don’t know what to do with it.

I’d love to think that a big move is motivation enough to part with it. But it somehow had to make it from Virginia to Iowa to Minnesota already at some point in my life. And why? What’s to stop me from doing that all over again with a lot of things that I never even look at?

For one, I’d like to think I’m going to leave something fun behind for people to dig through. Certainly we all spent time in grandparents’ houses pulling the strangest of things out of desk drawers and shoe boxes. I want to leave behind something that fills in some blanks on me, or at least something for whoever comes after me to spin a story out of, true or otherwise. Perhaps it’s just ego that leaves me thinking my sentiments will somehow become important. Certainly I don’t revisit the correspondence, but perhaps I exchanged it with someone who will some day become famous (or infamous), but is that really any more likely than me becoming famous? Of course not.

Setting aside things like ego, legacy, and the like, though, I am forced to consider the relative value of what I’m going to attempt to pack into my car. If backpacking has taught me anything, it’s that the less you carry the better you feel. It’s less stress on the body, and it’s pretty common that the things you carry can pull double duty if you do your planning right. Not that this is an exact corollary by any means. But the less I take with me is the less I have to deal with, the less I have to move out of my car and back into whatever place is next. I have no doubt that I’ll manage to fill the spaces in my new place, wherever it ends up being. I have a habit. And there are plenty of nostalgic things that I own that serve double duty, concert shirts that still aren’t falling apart, the MWL sign that still needs to become an end table at some point, you know, the like.

But there are just as many things that I just don’t know what to do with, like that letter jacket. Not that I know what someone else is going to do with it. But c’mon, it doesn’t even have the right name on it now. Right for the time, I suppose. And I still have my box of memories. It’s a finite container, though, and when I look through it, if I can’t figure out why something is there, then what’s the point? If I don’t know why I have it, then it’s quite likely that no one will, now or in the future. And I’d really like to be able to see out of my mirrors on the drive. So, with only moderate rhyme and reason, I’m parsing through the nostalgia and paring it down yet again. Some day, in some basement or attic, in the words of the people, and perhaps in writings like these, there will be nothing more than those bits of nostalgia. For now, though, I have to ask serious questions of value, and space, and I find there’s only so much space for jackets and t-shirts I will never wear again and documentation of events long since past. So fare thee well, letter jacket, wherever you end up. Now I’m gonna put the bags in my car for Savers before I change my mind.

A Question Of Balance

There comes a point in any venture where one just realizes there isn’t any time. In some ways, it’s more tangible than others. A book has a finite page count, a record a finite length, a game a finite number of minutes. But everything ends. Not that we want to sit back and think about that too much. But it’s true. And there has to come a time where the mindset shifts not to what one is going to do but to what one can get done. I’m currently struggling between that balance, between trying to make sure I get out to the CC one more time versus getting my things into boxes or up on Craigslist. The responsible part of me knows that I should just keep sitting here, sifting through the possessions and freeing up as much as I’m willing to let go (at least on the first run through). But the part of me that knows this time is finite knows that I should get out there and snap a few more photos of Saint Paul, that I should go play some Galaxy Trucker in a few minutes, or that I should see Bleached and Ex-Cops tonight at the Turf. I obviously haven’t quite hit the tipping point yet, where my days are numbered and I just have to deal with this stuff. It comes in every move, though. Will I structure this one properly so that it comes at the end, like I hope, where the last couple days are me packing things up and I haven’t tried to book them? Will it come a few days before that as I feverishly scramble to rearrange my schedule in such a way that I can still do as much as possible? Will I get Caribou to sponsor my move because it’s going to be integral to keeping me up, packing, trashing, selling, and sorting? These are all valid questions. I’m not really sure. The records are sorted and almost all boxed. The cds I’m keeping are all boxed. The instruments are up on Craigslist. I know what I’m doing with a lot of this stuff, but just can’t quite get around to putting some of it on Craigslist or getting it to the dump. Or rather, I’m finding other things to do. But that’s the thing. You can’t think about any of it too much. Me? I’m just trying to steal a few minutes (or hours) here and there for the things that matter. A beer with friends, or some games, or The Anchor. I will in no way, shape, or form see everyone that I want to or go to all the places I want to. There’s just not enough time. And while I can plan to do some of those things in a hazy inchoate future when I come back to visit, or an even hazier one where perhaps I’m moving back here in a few years? But what if I stay? What if I move elsewhere? What if I just don’t find my way back here any time soon because a lot of other things come up and my life starts taking me places other than the Twin Cities? I can’t think about that too much. But I do know that most of the stuff here is just that: stuff. There’s certainly memories or usefulness tied up in most of it. But they are just things, and if I have to, they can be trashed or donated if I do not find takers for them. Certainly it’s not the most cost-effective way to do something. But there also comes a time when you realize that these things just aren’t what’s important. What’s important are the beers and the pasties and the pastries, it’s the relationships with the people who work the door or the bar at the Entry and the Turf, it’s the chance to have one more wonderful blueberry scone from Isles Bun & Coffee. And all the friends I so often share those things with. So yes, I could keep boxing, and perhaps I should in some world that’s defined only by boring responsibilities. And no, I cannot just shirk many of the things I have to do. But those things, they will get done. And until you come visit me wherever I end up living in the city or I come back to you, we are running out of time for the rest. But before I go play games, perhaps one more box?

This Is Happening

Every time I sign into Lexis Nexis, I’m greeted with a picture of the Bay Bridge (going into San Francisco). There’s something mildly idyllic about looking at it when I can pop my head around a cube wall and see snow falling some winter (or spring) days. Here’s a city where that would never be a problem. Sure, it has its own, but snow is not one of them. Don’t get me wrong. I love snow. But some days, grinding down 94 in a car or a bus (or if you are really brave, down Summit on a bike), I have to wonder. What would it be like to live someplace else? I’ve lived in the Midwest my entire adult life, and Minnesota the entire effective part of it (college was great, but I certainly didn’t feel very adult). And when I look around the landscape, I look at cities that I could see myself in. Some I’ve only heard tales of, or have not been back to as an adult (here’s looking at you, Pacific Northwest). Others, I’ve had the fortune of getting to a time or five in the past few years, like Los Angeles and San Francisco. And there it is again. It’s certainly a city I’ve gotten to know over the years. Not extensively, by any means. I’ve only been there a few times. But every trip I take always leaves me wanting a little more, a bit more time to see what’s a bit further down Valencia or where I might be able to find a better croissant than at Tartine lurking in the city (probable answer: nowhere). I want to spend a bit more time digging through the stacks at Aquarius, and I really ought to see a show somewhere other than the Independent (though that Keep Shelly In Athens show was sublime). Well? Now’s my chance.

It’s exciting. It’s terrifying. It’s exhilarating. It’s crazy. But it’s what I’m doing. In late May, I will be working as a Financial Crimes Consultant 2 (oh, the numbers). Still for Wells; just in San Francisco. You know, little things. Now this shouldn’t particularly come as a surprise if you see me in the Twin Cities. It has certainly come up a lot in conversation recently. But this, this is definite. Waiting to sign all the paperwork that comes after it, and all the other shenanigans that go along with that, but I have accepted the offer. And for the rest of you? It shouldn’t come as a huge surprise either. I’ve had my eye on the West for a while; even just internally, there are a lot of good opportunities in the areas I’m interested in working in Portland and San Francisco. There are pretty good opportunities here in the Twin Cities too. And it’d be no surprise to me if one of those opportunities brings me back here one day. But today takes me away from the Twin Cities.

Of course, I’ve already been working on getting ready for this. I’ve made career decisions in the past few years, mindful that they may lead exactly to the kind of opportunity I find myself with. And in the shorter term, as this became more realistic, I’ve spent plenty of time trying to prepare myself for the possibility of moving. That’s why April has been so crazy, with the spotty writing, and the spotting getting out to do things. It’s why I’ve had a bunch of auctions up on eBay and I have a few more to get up. It’s why I look at almost everything in my condo and see an associated number I can hopefully negotiate for it on Craigslist or with friends in need of those particular objects. Hell, it’s why my condo is listed. I’ve had one foot in the door and one foot out for a bit now, trying to navigate this opportunity and make sure it was the right fit. Today, I confirmed that.

Now, I’m left with a few terrifyingly busy weeks to get everything in order (or as much as possible). I don’t really know where I’m going to live, or exactly when I can expect someone to buy my condo. I have no idea how I’m going to get my stuff out of my place, or exactly how I’m going to get everything out here. I’m trying to reduce the load of what everything entails. I wonder exactly how much work it’s going to be to leave things in (relative) order at work. I wonder what my last show will be in the Mainroom and exactly what venue will step up to replace 7th Street Entry in my heart (probable answer: none). I wonder how it’s going to be to not know all the people at the doors of the various clubs. I wonder why I bought good winter boots last year now.

I will cry. A lot. I’m leaving behind so many people and places that I love by doing this. It doesn’t mean I won’t get back to them, or even be back sometime down the road. But it’s still emotional. I am going to miss Minnesota. I feel like it’s the first place where I finally found myself, like all the years before that were just precursors to who I am fully. I may have been born in Virginia (and had many wonderful experiences there) and had a nice stopover in Iowa (with a lot of wonderful people), but I feel Minnesotan. I doubt that will change. But I also know that there will be new places and new people. And some of the old people will pop up in surprising ways. None of that makes it any easier to give up what you know. Perhaps if I hated Minnesota or my life there, I would just find myself saying good riddance and loading up the car to be a simple, if tedious, task. That is obviously not the case though.

So Minnesota, carve out a little time for me to grab one more beer at The Bulldog. Come, buy my Expedit (or really, my entire condo because Lowertown is an amazing neighborhood) or a lot of my other stuff. Spend another couple hours with me at a show at the Entry or the Turf. For my part, I’m due up for one more picture of Minnehaha at least, one more chocolate donut at A Baker’s Wife, and one more of many other things. There’s no way I’ll have time to do it all. But none of us ever have time to do it all. I’ll do my best. You have to give to get. I am giving up a lot, but I know in my heart I’m getting a lot back as well. There will be new bars to find, new favorite beers to try, new favorite places to stand in the local venues, new cake donuts, and new beauty to find tucked in the heart of the city somewhere. See me off well, and make some time for me to come back as I will for you. Let’s all have fun one more time, whether fun is a game of poker or a game of Settlers, a margarita from Barrio or a Margherita from Punch, or whatever else it may be. Whatever it is, it’s gonna be a hell of a time, these next few weeks. Let’s do ’em right.

And California, I’ll be seeing you again soon.

Zoetrope

Sometimes I feel like life is just a zoetrope, spinning faster and faster until someday way it is going to come to rest and there will be no more to see. This has been particularly true recently, where I feel like things have been spinning so fast that everything is blurry. I would like for everything to just reach out and stop it; well, not stop it, but slow it down. But I’m not the one spinning it. And I don’t think it every slows down. Right, it’s perception. Time flows at the same rate (at least as we generally understand it now, so go with me). But every day, we’re one day closer to dying. I’m not saying this to be overly sanguine or to imply that it’s going to happen tomorrow. Though for some people it will. In some cases, it will be normal. In some cases, it’ll be tragic. But the thing is, with this zoetrope, we’re not the ones spinning it.

Then again, life is not a zoetrope. Or it’s that, and simultaneously many other things. We are all constantly grappling with ways to describe it, ways to try and make sense of something that desperately want to make sense. I’m not all that certain that it does sometimes, but perhaps that is more reflective of my level of understand. Me? I am not having a lot of luck figuring it out right now. But I think that starts with the supposition that anything is supposed to make sense. And why should it? Just because we want something to be a certain way does not mean that it’s going to be. I am sure you’ve also had occasion to discover that yourself.

It can have a negative net effect, all the constant effort to figure out what the hell is going on. My mind casts back to the song I probably revisit the most of of Lifted, “Nothing Gets Crossed Out”. “The future’s got me worried such awful thoughts/ my head’s a carousel of pictures, the spinning never stops”. Which I suppose could be construed as a zoetrope as well. I don’t really have awful thoughts either. I just worry sometimes if I’m making the right decisions. Which is foolish. Right and wrong, that’s retrospect. And in the present, they’re just decisions.

It’s like sports. Certainly, if you are around the same age as me and you watch sports, you’ve had a chance to watch a lot of ESPN. And ESPN is in the habit of condensing something that takes many hours into sometimes tiny segments to reflect the outcome. The effect of putting together any sort of highlight is that someone is choosing to show what they think is the most important. So we ascribe a bigger sense of importance to the small bits shown (they were chosen after all). And if you didn’t watch the game, you wouldn’t really know better. But if you did watch the game, you might think, it’s strange that they didn’t highlight this particular play. Which may have been an oversight or a time constraint or any number of things. You have your own reasons for assigning importance to it. But in the grand scheme, all those plays are important. They all constitute the game. And each one has an effect. We may magnify things that are at the end of the game more than those at the beginning, but they all have a net effect on the outcome.

But it’s a bit misleading to say that something that happened in the first minute is less important than something that happened in the last. After all, those things that happen at the beginning can dictate the flow. And in retrospect they might have mattered. But in the present, we are all just making the best decisions we can with the information in front of us at the time. Sometimes they work out well. Sometimes terrible things happen. But the spinning never stops. Or at least it hasn’t yet. And we’ve just gotta keep making those decisions I find that this is the feeling that has informed several of my more recent entries I’ve written. I’m trying to figure out the importance of future decisions based on present information.

What does feel particularly acute right now is the spinning. Everything just feels like it’s moving by so fast right now, and I would love to reach out for something tangible to hold onto, but it all goes by too fast. It’s neither pleasant nor unpleasant. It just is. For my part, I have to fight through my still natural response to shut down in the face of this. Or perhaps not shut down, but to just sink into whatever. Final Fantasy V or entire seasons of television shows or what have you. And instead I have to fight through because I’ve got shit to do. It’s not really pleasant to do that part, struggling with eBay listings and questions and going through a bunch of stuff that I should have gotten rid of years ago when I still cared or understood it. I’m not the person who played Magic that I was all those years ago, and while I still have a great deal of understanding (and savvy with eBay), I don’t really get it anymore. What I once enjoyed now feels more perfunctory as I catalog things and try to move them along to their next stations.

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve gotten better with coping. Haven’t we all? But as I get better, it seems like the spinning gets faster and faster. That is probably perception. After all, a day when I was 10 lasted the same amount of time as a day does today. But they are different. Certainly today can’t inform my past, but my past informs my present and future. And something could have happened on that day that had a great effect on me. Of course, plenty of things can still happen today, or the next few days. And the responsibilities I have now are a bit different than the were when I could spend most of my time being concerned with whether my Nintendo was working properly. Now I only care in as much as I want to see if the games work so I can sell them, and I can’t really spend too much time getting into them. Most of them are ghostly to me now, old images that I vaguely remember. My timing is off when I try to guide Mega Man through Gutman’s level, and I die quickly. It’s probably for the best. The cartridge works, and I can note that and move onto the next one without getting too into the game. Because somewhere, in an almost vestigial way, those skills are still there. But as I’m fond of noting, it’s not like I can put “Can beat Super Metroid in 58 minutes” on my resume. Besides, I doubt I can do that any more.

This has had a bit of a rambling quality, but I suppose that makes sense. I’m just grabbing the bits I catch glimpses of as they go by. The spinning never stops. I’ve stopped for a short bit by sitting down and writing, but there’s so much to get back to now that I think it’s time I sign off. And I’m not worried. I’m just anxious. I wonder if I’m making the right decisions. And I haven’t even made those decisions yet. But I suppose it’s only natural to worry about the future. In the meantime, I’ve got some present to take care of, and that includes glamorous things like getting light bulbs. And snapping a lot of photos to get stuff up on eBay. And meanwhile? The zoetrope keeps spinning. Or whatever the hell it is.

The Spring Catalog

Anyone who knows me knows that I own a lot of stuff. I’ve always owned a lot of stuff. Baring a sudden change of heart, I will continue to own a lot of stuff. The level may fluctuate from time to time, but my love of media is just too great. I of course understand that there’s something compact about the fact that I have 20,000 songs and they fit on much smaller things than my record, tape, and cd shelves, but that’s just not how I roll. Or at least at this stage in my life. And where I’m currently at, I actually have plenty of space for all of my stuff. I know 650 sq. ft. might not sound like a whole lot to some people, but for one person, it’s more than enough. Still, there are a lot of things that I keep lugging from apartment to apartment and now finally into this condo that just need to go. Unfortunately, this runs up against another one of my tendencies.

I love to catalog things. Of the years I have made lists and lists of things. Not lists like my dad makes list, but still, I am his daughter. My lists are not action plans by any means, but long, endless compilations of data that may or may not be useful some day. I have over the years kept track of the shows I have seen (since stopped, much to my chagrin…that was an interesting one to track over the years), the cds I have own, the records I own, and many other things. My current major project is cataloging all the various Magic cards I have collected over the years just to get rid of them. You can see how this can be a problem. Obviously, someone should explain opportunity cost to me again. But I know there’s value there. Of course, how much time I spend on it is a different question entirely. When I can sit around and watch hockey and have nothing to do for an evening or a day, it’s not so bad. But that’s pretty rare. Of course, I know I can just get rid of them, but I won’t feel good about getting them off my hands unless I extract the money there out of them (and yes, it’s there). But it has got me to think about the relationship I have with my stuff again.

To be clear, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with having a lot. It’s not exactly spartan living here (well, in some regards, it is), and I’ve never been one that feels the need for it either. I can pack light when I absolutely have to, but I’m always the person who brings one or two more things than I need. Because I’m a big believer in potentiality. It’s seldom I pull out my board games, but when I do, I always seem to grab the same 5 or 6 even though I probably have about 25-30 sitting around. I own about 500 records and probably pull out 25 of them with regularity. The cds don’t even leave their shelf anymore unless I’ve replaced ’em on vinyl or someone is interested in hearing something I have on cd. But I never know when I might want some of that stuff. I love options, and I love knowing what’s here (see how it all fits together?). When I’m putting a mix together, it still might take me a while to winnow down the list, but I have a pretty good idea of what’s hiding on the shelves and in iTunes.

On the other hand, perhaps I just need a swift kick. In addition to the potentiality that’s stored up in Mega Man X2, there’s also $60-70 if I get some lucky bidding. And I never play it. I own an admittedly beat, but still worthwhile Candelabra of Tawnos. Repeat that over and over, and if the breaks go my way, I can free up a couple thousands dollars doing nothing more than moving my possessions into the hands of people who are actually going to use them right now. They are all great signifiers of who I once was. By no means am I ashamed of who I once was. I am still, in many ways, that same person. But now I pour my money into shows and beers and carving out times for good dinners with friends between work and kids and all the other things that we all have to worry about a lot more now that we’re in our 30s instead of our 20s. I just don’t have the time to see if I can get back to top form and beat Life Force without dying. But I’m guessing someone out there does.

I received some motivation. So I’m putting it to use. That means hopefully someone finally gets whatever small piece they are missing for that deck or they get the pride of saying they too cannot figure out how the hell one is supposed to beat Order Of The Griffon other than grinding out a lot of awful, awful level-building. They can perhaps enjoy the challenge of Quinto (the 1964 edition). And me, I can be done with this stuff; the money’s nice too. These are all sunk costs, in some cases the sunk costs of my parents from when I was a kid. And it’s pretty amazing how much better my place looks with a few less things in it. Perhaps there is something to that Spartan living that some are much better at than I am. But as I do it, I’d be remiss to note that I’m not cataloging it on the spreadsheets or at least taking a look on eBay first to see whether it’s worth anything or just worth getting rid of. Perhaps I’ll keep it up. But I doubt it. You never know, though…you never know.

 
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