Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Trashing the Past - Redux

From the Archive of Retort
Original Post July 20, 2011
Sitting here on my big back porch, on a lazy summer, afternoon I can’t help but think that the smell of my neighbor’s BBQ’d chicken smoking on the grill is designed to make me feel pathologically insane. But then again, imagine how the chicken feels?
But I digress…already…and I just got started.
Is that even possible?

The neighbors are having a family party—birthday I think—or else they just LOVE that song. It must be for one of their kids, since aside from the pre-requisite grandparents, aunt’s uncles and family friends, there are about 800 kids ranging in age from 1-10 running around, about 20 feet from my big back porch.

I know it’s not much further than 20 feet because that’s just about the range limit that I can reach them with the hose. But that’s mostly ineffective since it only makes them scream louder, and their parents don’t seem to mind. So where’s the fun in that.

The reason I’m sitting here on my big back porch, right now, is because Z and I have just returned from lugging a couple of old twin mattresses and box springs up to my mom’s attic, which is about 240° this time of year. Do you know what a human being looks like after all of the fluids have been drained from his body? Not pretty…

Anyway, in order to make room for the heretofore mentioned large, awkward, heavy clumsy items, we discovered we had to remove about 40 years and 20 tons of accumulated attic “artifacts”. You know…the stuff you stick up there when you don’t know what to do with it, and its not actually too broken…too much….and it seems a waste to just toss it.

Some of our artifacts included a 20 inch RCA color TV that hasn’t worked in over 10 years but was kept just in case someone needed a TV and was handy with tubes. A 5,000 BTU air conditioner that once cooled off Thomas Edison’s lab while he was inventing the electricity he sorely needed to run the thing.

Edison finally got rid of the dinosaur when he realized he would never be able to keep up with the energy demands it was making. Plus it wanted meals as well.

There are about a thousand empty shoe boxes, leading one to wonder just what happened to the shoes. And why were the boxes retained in the first place…in case they needed to be returned?

There was my first, pre-internet, computer monitor, first laser printer, some old window fans that Columbus used on the trip over, some Christmas paraphernalia and even some cool Mets “decorative” items that once hung in my old apartment, but somehow mysteriously got forgotten in the move to our house. But don’t worry; they now reside in the basement, right next to the treadmill.

Yeah…I know.

But the toughest decision I had to make was what to do with my circa 1965 Motorific Torture Track, which I found tucked away in a dark, dingy attic corner.

Now I know how Howie Carter must have felt when he discovered King Tut’s tomb…or at least how parched he was.

I spent hours playing with this thing. It took up my entire bedroom floor, and was a permanent fixture, much to my mom’s delight. It used these little battery operated cars—which I still have in my old fold down desk, along with about 15 years of Fall Preview TV guides, which I’m certain will be worth about gazillion dollars apiece, one day soon…real soon.

These little, pre super cell, battery operated cars, which ranged from a Black & White 57 Chevy Impala to James Bond’s Aston Martin, would run around this “Torture Track” crashing through brick walls, navigating zig zagging roadways, undulating highways, and even a jumping ramp…just like Rush Hour on the Cross Bronx Expressway. The batteries usually died after about 2 minutes of use, unless you juts parked the cars. Then they lasted about 3.

So there it was, sitting untouched, just where I had left it some 40 years earlier. How forgotten it must have felt, lo these many years. How…tortured.

You know, we always think our old junk is going to be valuable someday. That somewhere there's a “collector” out there willing to pay big buckos for such things. And there are, but they’re usually kept in rooms with soft padded wall paper, and don coats with sleeves that wrap around their torsos.

A quick check of E-Bay would show the going rate for such things is little more than 30 dollars. So a quick windfall and a trip to Barbados is out of the question.

In the end, I did the grown up thing and said, “Let’s just toss it.”

And Z, who is kind and thoughtful, said, “Are you sure?”

And I said, “Yeah, we don’t have room on the bedroom floor for it anyway.”

And I’m not sure but, I thought I might have heard a subtle “Yes!!!” from under Z’s breath.

So the space was cleared, then filled up again with the mattresses and box spring, and body fluids were rehydrated.

The door to the attic was again closed, to be opened another day…a much cooler day…to continue the purge of the past.

Satchel Paige once said, "Don't look back. Something might be gaining on you."

And he was right. The past is always hot on our heels.

But the Torture Track is now in my Mom’s garage, waiting with the TV, the air conditioner and the printer, et al. for next week’s trash day.

So I still have time to let it catch me….



  1. Thanks for this journey into the past- I enjoyed the ride. Today is otherwise horrible, for I had to put Angel down yesterday. I thought he was fine all along, but his vet discovered a large abdominal tumor during our appointment for a minor matter. In short, a future for him was not in the stars. He was my star, a perfect little fellow, who would have been 7 next month.

  2. Joan, I’m so sorry. That’s terrible news. I feel as if I knew Angel, from all your mentions about him. I know he was a big part of your life. Only 7, too. Try to hang in there, and keep taking those long walks as if he’s still tagging along. Somewhere he is. I’m glad, I could offer a bit of a distraction for you….

  3. Thank you. That you knew him (in a sense) and others too keeps him alive still. I walked the seawall this morning at 6:00 and imagined Angel was with me. I walked in the opposite direction at noon, taking pictures for a new painting. But on surfing through the pics in my camera, I saw so many of Angel. Angel, Superstar.


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