“If you ever wonder why you ride the carrousel
You do it for the stories you can tell.”
Every person, place, or thing connected to our lives has a story.
In my last post when describing my old electronic cords and plugs, I said they didn’t have much of a nostalgia factor. While true, if I thought hard enough I could still tell a story about each of them, which in turn would help tell the story of me. You could do the same with any item in any room of your house.
For Days Nine & Ten of the Minimalism Game, I went through closets and drawers and shelves and plucked things at random to purge from my life. Then I looked at them, closed my eyes, and went over each object one-by-one. Thinking about some made me laugh, a few got me angry, some sad, others wistful, and the majority of them brought a smile to my face. And each certainly had a story.
Here are a few:
Instant Italian CD
Purchased in 2009, I listened to this CD over and over for several weeks before I flew to Italy to meet my girlfriend J’Nell. My crash course in the language, it also came with a study guide of useful words and phrases that I tacked up on the wall of my office at the Westin Market Street Hotel. On nights I stayed late I would play it when nobody else was around, following along out loud with “grazie mille” and “Lo parlo un po’ Italiano” and “Vino, per favore”.
I loaded the CD into my iTunes back then, and I remember listening to my Italian lessons while sitting at a sidewalk café in an alley off Post Street in San Francisco. While sipping a pint of beer (from my pitcher), I also had my Rick Steves Tuscany book and a notebook to write down ideas for the trip. On that early evening it was still warm for the city, and as the sun went down the outside lights clicked on, and I did not want to leave that table. But the temperature started to drop with each sip of beer, and with thoughts of Italy buzzing in my head (along with the booze) I eventually took the bus back to the Richmond District.
Miniature American Flag
I bought this flag the day after 9/11. I was living in Los Angeles at the time and working downtown at California Pizza Kitchen on 7th & Figueroa. The first shift back after that tragic day was bizarre. The guests weren’t saying much to each other and there was probably as little conversation between the staff as I’d ever seen in any restaurant. Everyone was still in a daze.
I used to park about a fifteen-minute walk from CPK in a lot that was a little sketchy, but cost a fraction of what it did on the other side of the freeway bridge. On my way back to my car that day I noticed a guy at a makeshift sidewalk kiosk selling American Flags for $10 apiece. At that point in my life I’m pretty sure I’d never bought a flag (American or otherwise), but on September 12, 2001 I didn’t hesitate. I pulled $10 out of my pocket and was soon fastening the flag to the back passenger side window of my car (it’s long since gone, but it came with a holder clip).
Within a week the plastic piece that held the flag in place between the window began to crack, and I took it off and put it in the back of my 1990 Passat Wagon. I remember thinking at the time that although displaying a cheaply made American Flag on my car didn’t in any way help, it felt good to do so that week. When I finally got rid of that car in 2004, I kept the flag and it’s been put in various boxes and bags and drawers and cabinets over the last 12 years.
Pink Bicycle Playing Cards
It was a Saturday afternoon sometime in the Spring of 2008, and the Red Sox were playing the Yankees on the Fox Game of the Week. My buddy Bradleigh, who had just moved to San Francisco, came over to my little studio apartment off Lake Street watch it. We bought beer and had pizza delivered, and I was looking forward to hanging with Bradleigh and watching some baseball.
Sometime after the pizza was gone it began to rain . . . in Boston. The game got postponed, and while we waited for it to start we reminisced about our days in LA, had a lot of laughs, and knocked back our beers. When the rain delay began to drag on, Bradleigh went to the corner store for smokes (and more beer if I remember correctly). Upon his return he also took out a pack of pink player cards from the bag.
When I made a quizzical face, Bradleigh said with his trademark gruff voice, “These might be the worst fucking cards I’ve ever seen, but it’s to support breast cancer, bro”. Then he lit a cigarette, took a long drag, and coughed. I couldn’t help but laugh, as it was just a perfect ironic juxtaposition of the pink cards and the cigarettes. We ended up playing heads-up Texas Hold ‘Em (Bradleigh won more hands than me, as he always did), and at some point the game resumed.
Bradleigh passed away less than two years later, and that afternoon we spent together remains one of my favorite memories of him.
Pen from the Intermission Tavern
In 2011 I was living in San Francisco, but I was lucky enough to be on a work assignment in Boston that June. The Bruins were in the Stanley Cup Finals, and I watched all the games after work either in my hotel room at the Park Plaza or else at the Sweetwater Café at Boylston Place. I would have loved to have seen at least one game at the Garden, but I wasn’t able to get tickets.
Although just being in Boston during the Finals was pretty special. As a huge Boston sports fan, I’d either been in Los Angeles or San Francisco when the Red Sox, Celtics, and Patriots had won their championships. This was my first chance to witness one just a few miles from where my team played their home games.
For Game Seven I met my friend Brian and we walked over to the Sweetwater Café (where I’d seen all three of the Bruins’ wins). No seats anywhere. I was a little worried about messing with the mojo, but after going into a couple other places close-by that were packed, I just wanted to get a seat.
We finally found spots at the bar at the Intermission Tavern on Tremont Street just before the game started. It turned out being a great place (atmosphere, food, service), and Brian and I would celebrate the Bruins’ first championship since 1972 there. When paying my tab, I signed the credit card slip with a pen that read on the side: “This pen has been stolen from the Intermission Tavern”.
Like I’m sure many before me and many after, I took the pen home as a souvenir of that night.
Plastic Midori Lizard
I was working at Pizzeria Uno’s in Lynnfield, and the year was either 1993 or 1994. Our drink menu featured a Midori cocktail where we had to attach a plastic lizard to its side. I find Midori to be green, sweet-tasting dishwater, but I always liked that little reptile. At one point I probably had about twelve of them, but through the years the number dwindled to one. And for whatever reason, during several moves I would always put it on my desk as a sort of good luck charm for writing.
As the years (and decades) past the lizard moved to the drawer and then to a box during one of my moves (it ended up not being very lucky at all). I’m pretty sure I had never even seen it the whole time I lived in the Bay Area (2004-2012). And it wasn’t until about six months ago I came across it in one of my plastic storage bins. The green creature wearing the sunglasses brought a smile to my face, and ever since it’s been on my desk in my apartment.
For most of these nineteen items, I could still easily keep them. They’re all small except for the DVD player, and could continue to be stored without much of an impact on my space. And of course there’s no shortage of memories attached to these objects.
But I have hundreds of such knicknacks, and keeping too many of them contributes to the clutter (whether I see them every day or not). I’m a self-confessed nostalgia junkie, and I admit it’s not easy to part with the stuff I described above. But what I’m coming to realize is I can still keep the stories, even if I no longer have the objects.