Posts Tagged ‘junk’

Throwing it Away

14 October 2010

Dear J-

There’s a pile of electronic stuff in the garage this morning waiting to be picked up: one TV, three CRT computer monitors (including a Zenith ZCM-1490 flat-front one that I still remember marveling over twenty-five years ago), three stereo receivers in wooden enclosures, three CD players, one AM/FM tuner, one DirecTV/Ultimate TV box, four speakers, four cell phones, and four portable computers of varying utility. I thought about taking a picture of the stuff last night but couldn’t find myself doing so: better to just have it gone by the time I get back home. It’s symptomatic of how I think in that I’m still thinking about the Zenith monitor I haven’t used in eight years — I bought it based on a memory of how state-of-the-amazing-art it was when I was young.

They say that the baby boom generation is the one that priced collectible muscle cars where they are now: people don’t buy them because the performance is better than contemporary cars, they buy them because they remember how cool they were when they were a kid. And while the likelihood of Zenith flat-front monitors becoming collectible is questionable at best, it’s because of that memory that one’s ended up in my garage for the last ten years (I know I got that particular one in Davis). I also remember how exciting it was helping my parents shop for an upgrade to their stereo stuff — after months of darkened audio showrooms (this, in 1985, was the way you bought electronics: no internet to guide you, just slick salesmen demoing satin black boxen with buttery knobs, flashy lights, and crisp buttons) we got the receiver my folks use to this day — a Yamaha R-8 — and that feeling has guided every squee of discovery in a thrift store since.

They say that the hoarding impulse kicks in around puberty; I certainly remember having little tin boxes full of trinkets long before then, but neither the means nor the room to scratch that particular itch. And if it has anything to do with the memories we’ve made together, I wonder what activities figgy will associate with her happiest times. It’s completely wonderful and exhausting to interact with her as a real person lately; she’s grown terribly bossy and inventive (the latest game involves flopping onto my back while I’m prone, simulating an asteroid strike as in the beginning of Aliens versus Monsters, then swapping roles at the other end of the room; there’s lots of running and flopping, almost as though we were Karl Malone), charming and aggravating all at once.

This Saturday is our last alone together for a while: theVet is cutting out of work and starting to nest, and we’ll have our full weekends together until she goes back to work in some other capacity maybe six months from now. In a lot of ways it’s easier, as one of us can watch figgy while the other one gets things done. In other ways, though, it’s something to mourn, as no time alone means no focused attention and no distinct memories of us together; it’s important to stand as a family, but it’s at least as important to define ourselves together individually if that makes sense: who am I to figgy, who am I to theVet, who am I to the upcoming baby? And that shouldn’t start and end with the pile of junk in the garage that’s disappearing today.

Mike

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Junk Pacific

14 December 2008

Dear J-

When I was little I didn’t know the difference between Taiwan and mainland China; I knew that my parents had come to America via Canada and Taiwan, but not much beyond that.  We would get copies of the Free China Review (now the Taiwan Review) every month, shoved through the slot in the door, and full of pictures of a world I’d never seen.  I remember thinking that everything was so lush and green; maybe that’s why mom was so adamant about keeping plants in the house, and kept them going, even heating rooms that usually fell cold and unoccupied just so that the plants wouldn’t all fall dormant.

Consider that in 1949, the estimated population of China was 450 million people — this is roughly one and a half times the current United States population — and of those, half a percentage point (two million) flees to another country and sets up shop there.  But wait, it’s not just any half a percent; it’s a good chunk of the military, to say nothing of the intellectual and business elite knowing that life under Mao was going to become uncomfortable.  Plus, the government manages to smuggle out a fair amount of the national reserves backing up currency and commerce.

In this time, you do everything you can to remember and publicize the idea of a democratic China; newspapers, magazines, stunts — although you have the official sympathies of governments, you want to win the hearts of the public.  In this world, you hatch the idea of sailing across the Pacific to America, and then participating in a race across the Atlantic pitting a traditional Chinese junk against modern yachts.  Never mind that the rest of the world has considered Chinese technology a sad second-rate bunch since the Opium wars a hundred years ago, never mind that recorded history doesn’t include the voyages of Zheng He.  They nearly make it, but for the inexperienced crew and poor luck; the ship still exists, laid up on blocks in Sacramento, but for how much longer?  Sailor stories — tales of adventure — are always a good read; who will preserve this one for our children?

Mike

Interruption Station

29 October 2008

Dear J-

Spend enough time with us and you’ll see just how little I seem to live at home; up at four and out the door — the main thrills seem to come when the routine is disrupted for some new place, something new.  It may explain the inveterate poking about for new things (junk) to bring into the house, the bookshelves groaning under the weight of thrift store bargains, and the multiple drawers of Atari cartridges sitting somewhere in the shed (not too worried — those things are indestructible, after all).

Problem is that we’ve got too much stuff — make that I’VE got too much stuff — more than I’m ever going to have time to play with successfully.  Half-finished projects litter the spare bedroom (it looks like a stereo repair shop), just as half-completed work is piled all over my desk.  I dunno.  Eventually.  Someday.

It’s not necessarily procrastination; I have no problem starting something.  It’s in the follow-through — I still have yet to put together that movie from figgy’s first birthday, despite having captured more footage since then.  I fear my attention span has been shortened by lack of diligence, to the point where I can’t even accomplish tasks requiring more than a half hour of concentration at work (to be fair, it’s hard to get an uninterrupted half hour at work, though).

Mike