Monday, June 23, 2008

Overheated Nostalgia

The picture is from last June which, it seems to me, was not as hot. In any case, it was provided by a junk shop on South Lamar.

I have spent the last twenty-four hours or so at the old house, Shoal Creek manor, the burbs. It reminds me of my younger days of drifting around, making lots of use of other people's couches and spare rooms and hospitality; of sometimes being left alone in a space not exactly mine (maybe the parents' house, an aunt's, my sister's, maybe a friend's place) and being welcomed to use, consume, read anything I liked. Last night Forrest and I sorted through some food that was left here and found an unopened package of mild cheddar and some Saltines. I made coffee with the one cup French press, boiling water in the tea kettle I retrieved from the condo. When I flipped on the flame, I thought, "pretty soon you won't be cooking with gas." We found a couple of frozen entrées in the old refrigerator's freezer and had them for dinner. I found a bit of small batch bourbon in the bottom of a bottle to go with mine.

Today I'm goofing off around two areas of the house while the floor guy works diligently on the old 1951 floors. I should be doing something useful. I took a box labeled 'sort!' into the big room at the back of the house. I watched some Wimbledon, snacked on some Boursin I found in the frig unopened (barely beyond its 'best by' date) and got interested in an article in an old New Yorker that was in that box. Also in the box was an abacus I bought in San Francisco's Chinatown in 1966 along with the crudely translated guide to using it. (The latter still had its price tag: twenty-five cents. "You can be sure...........if you've got ABACUS You don't need a paper or pencil. It releives you of intricacy of tedious ciphering.) The summer of 1966 my sister and I took a languid trip west to Sacramento where she left me with some people who were parents of a friend of hers and took my VW Beetle off to visit with her husband at his temporary duty station at some Air Force Base. I welcomed the solitude, really. The couple seemed lonely as their daughter was grown. They went to work each day, but left lots of snacks and they treated us to that trip to San Francisco, I think. I would go out in the backyard and 'work on my tan' for a while, reading. Then I'd sit in the AC and watch TV and eat snacks. (Those little Goldfish crackers were a favorite that summer.) I taught myself to add long columns of numbers on the abacus. I never bothered to master multiplication but I could fly through adding up a big sum. I walked around the neighborhood and took what I thought were artsy pictures of houses and cars. I wrote long letters to my friends and, if I remember correctly, got some answers while I stayed there.

That staying around my own house of thirty years now gives me this feeling of scrounging, of life put on hold but full of possibility, is, I think, amusing.

I worked out today in the gym at my club. Back to the house to check on things, I pondered which place to take a shower in. I feel dislocated, distant and yet wonderfully able to concentrate on my old abacus and remember that old self, seeking adventures in the junk of a Chinese souvenir shop. It was impossibly exciting in its own way.

The guy doing the floors has been marveling at the accumulated gunk that has built up in fifty-seven years (we don't think they've EVER been refinished). There is some of that gunk in my brain, too, and I keep hoping that cycling through the junk again and again will finally sand it down and I'll find the person I'm supposed to be in my seventh decade on earth. It won't be a moment too soon to figure this out.

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