Saturday, June 02, 2007

dead people's stuff

You've been to them, yard sales selling off everything that's left. Sometimes they're called estate sales, as though something of value besides the house remained, but rarely is anything left but evidence of a life. They should call them Life Sales. The accumulation of one person's life. What is disconcerting is that stuff is still in the drawers, the bread still in the toaster; and each one has the terrible Christmas corner, with faded plastic poinsettias and garish gold garlands, squared and flattened now from being boxed for a thousand years. I'm exaggerating, of course, but you can still smell the person, picture her making her little twin beds with the pale yellow chenile bedspreads-- the kind of beds Lucy and Desi slept in before they could show couples sleeping together on television -- White Shoulders perfume bedside with that bumpy dotted milk-glass bedside lamp with the ruffled shade. You can tell she hasn't been gone all that long. The hardest things for me are the boxes and boxes of photographs. I will burn all of mine before I die. If I remember. Note to self. I have this one picture, this great picture, of a girl holding a robin in her hand. I'm sure I've talked about it before, here in blogworld. I may be related to her, I don't know. I'll never know.

But there she is, with that bird just sitting in her hand and she looks neither pleased nor shocked, just aware that something extraordinary is being recorded. That she is unknown drives my need to make a photograph album and label everything. Everything. Tell the whole story. Make up what I don't know. Fil in the gaps, for posterity, and yard salers.

We drove and drove, yard sale to yard sale. From a living person sale I got these metal grid cubes that link together to make storage space. They are in primary colors, but I don't really care. If I had my way, they'd be black, but they're in the basement, so, who cares? Not me. I always think that more or different storage will make my life better, but it rarely changes anything. I just end up selling it all at my next yard sale. And in a neighborhood like this, I think the same shit just keeps cycling around and around. We live the same life in different houses here in SE Portland.

I sorted through my clothes some more and now I have a cube of turtlenecks, a cube of black t-shirts, a cube of levis -- you get the drift. I think I would do well in one of those lofts you see in the movies: one big room where you can see everything all the time at the same time. As it stands, if my belongings are in boxes (which they often are as I am prone to reorganization in various new storage devices) they may as well not exist. If I can't see them, they don't live in my memory for long. Thus the shopping and replacing. Seems my hard drive erases itself about every 8-10 hours, so when I open the storage boxes after six months, its like Christmas. I recall a psychological concept called Conservation of Mass (Psych 101). Like the child who plays peek-a-boo. Prior to mastering this concept, the child covers its face and believes she has disappeared. I'm a little like her. It transfers to most areas of my life.

We went on a motorcycle ride this evening. Up Germantown Road and back down 23rd to Music Millinium to find an old Youngbloods cd, High on a Ridgetop. I love She Caught the Katy and Left Me a Mule to Ride. Still caught up in the emotion of yardsaling at dead people's houses, many of the houses we passed, original country houses, embedded in fern and ivy, sat decomposing in the dank jungle of Portland's West side. The smell of decay was strong as we flew by these crumbling monuments to human occupation, reminding me that somebody started each one. Each home represents someone's big plan for permanence, back in the day when people built houses for themselves. To stay. To pass along. It is a big hive we have on this planet, and we seem to favor hillsides. Always standing on the shoulders of those who came before us. Whethter we are blocking their view or seeing even further I guess remains to be seen. We are the next and I wonder who will stand on my shoulders and take my place and what of the photographs?


msb said...

I'm gonna have a yard sale in my yard, at e-bay, on my blog, living yard sale. All the dead stuff I can't part with.

Anonymous said...

I wish you knew the story behind the girl and the bird. That is the coolest picture. It's almost like she is looking through the camera into the future at you, thinking, here, future person, figure this out.

Anonymous said...

That was me.

Anonymous said...

what a rich post. i am sure she is your relative.

asha said...

Great photo. She does look a bit like you. Probably your great grandmother. That's it. Direct line.