Get busy living, or get busy throwing stuff away l Chuck’s World
Last updated 11/28/2018 at Noon
When I was in college, I spent a few days of my Thanksgiving break at the home of my girlfriend’s mother, who lived in Las Vegas.
Vegas has changed so much in these past 40 years, I’m sure, that my experience would be different, if not impossible. As my hosts took me on a tour, my girlfriend arranged it so that I would turn a corner and come face to face with the famous Las Vegas strip.
Again, I don’t know what this looks like anymore. Back then, though, I was immediately overwhelmed by sensory overload, which was the point. It was as if someone had reconstructed Disneyland on a city block and removed all the cuteness, and most of the children.
I only mention it as a perspective point. I’ll never forget turning around and seeing nothing but light bulbs, all blinking in a seductive rhythm that had obviously been designed to dampen good judgment and inspire all sorts of bad behavior.
In other words, this is what I see every time I walk into a shopping mall. Even on a Tuesday morning in April. I tend to relive things.
I suspect that if I live to be an old man, and a young person asks me why we referred to the day following Thanksgiving as Black Friday, I’ll probably explain that it was the one day a year when everyone on the planet got 40 emails from Target. I might have to explain what email was. Maybe Target, too.
So, last Friday I did not leave the house. I was considering not leaving my bed, in fact, but it got boring. I’m pretty sure, though, that I just breathed stale oxygen all day and deleted emails.
And at some point I went looking for something in our linen closet, which I didn’t find, although I found many other things, and so I spent five or six hours on the day after Thanksgiving cleaning a closet, after which my wife filed for divorce.
I’m not able to accurately describe the degree of truth in that last sentence. Let me just say I’m not exactly joking. Not exactly.
At some point in the mid-1970s, or so I’m guessing, someone gave me a present, probably for a birthday. It was a small picture in a frame, an artist’s representation of the four main characters from “The Wizard of Oz.”
I have no idea why this person thought I’d enjoy it, although that was a pretty familiar movie to my generation, since it aired once a year on broadcast television for my entire childhood. It was just a thing, a small gift.
And it has lived, apparently, in the back of our linen closet for many years. I had absolutely no memory of where it came from, or when, just guesses. I tossed it in the trash can, which is when my wife started talking about lawyers.
You’re going to be tempted to chalk this up to differences between men and women, so let me stop you right there. I’m a very sentimental guy. I have strange, romantic attractions to lots of old objects that have little real value.
And we’re going to stay away from the subject of hoarders, or pack rats, or whatever else you think you know. My wife is perfectly capable of throwing away stuff.
After 35 years of marriage, though, 30 of them spent in this house, it’s apparently her wish that our home will eventually be turned into a museum of our lives, with each knickknack having a story and carefully arranged under many, many layers of protective dust.
I, on the other hand, suspect that the crew of “Antiques Roadshow” could examine the entire contents of our home, and the most valuable item would be a box of matches, which could be used to burn the place down.
So we differ on this.
It’s a crucial difference, too, and I think it’s probably pretty common. There are plenty of types of people who hold opposite views on all sorts of things. Milk chocolate versus dark. “Star Trek” versus “Star Wars.” Rock versus hip-hop. Kale versus common sense.
But I suspect this is a contemporary divide, and it’s a real one. There are analog people, and then there are digital people.
I scan, she saves. I print to PDF; she prints out emailed receipts in duplicate, because apparently that makes them more real. I carry a small clip that holds a few credit cards and ID; she hauls around a purse that Mary Poppins would be embarrassed to share a room with (and it would have to be a large room).
Inside that purse, I think, are two other purses. I believe I’m making my point.
This is how you stay married this long, though. You compromise, which means I surrender (always surprises me how people don’t see how simple a solution this is). At the same time, I scan as many photos as I can, and digitize old videotapes, and slowly divest ourselves of 35 years the way Tim Robbins shook the concrete pieces out of his pants leg in the prison yard during “The Shawshank Redemption.”
I watch for guards.
In the meantime, my life has slowly been moved to the cloud (can you buy another cloud? Asking for a friend), and I step over piles of my wife’s books, and we’re still married, and I was kidding about kale.
And the matches are dry, just in case.