By Dan Valentine
Everywhere in America now you’ll see homeless pushing shopping carts filled with their last remaining possessions.
Yesterday I saw a disheveled-looking older gentleman, straggly-hair and all, right out of one’s worst nightmare, pushing a wheel barrel down a very busy highway here in Ensenada, two large black plastic bags filled with his remaining stuff.
Very, very sad.
He would push it, rest for a moment, then push it some more, going somewhere/nowhere with it.
Humans! We’re collectors.
When my friend and I sold our home in Texas, and I went off to Austin to start anew, we had a garage sale. Paintings, furniture, knickknacks, etc.
On a table in the driveway, we laid out trinkets. I had a large bag of refrigerator magnets from almost every place I’ve ever been. Vietnam, Scotland, New York, Philadelphia, South Dakota, Denver, St. Louis, New Orleans, Paris, Rome, Barcelona, Capri, Berlin, D.C., Geneva, Amsterdam, London, Glasgow, Cambodia, Hong Kong, Japan, Guam, Micronesia, Belize, Cuba (twice), Charleston, Seattle, Las Vegas, etc. One time my friend and I were in Kansas City. I had her drive me across the border to get an Arkansas magnet. It really irked her. To this day I hear about it.
Well, anyway, an older woman purchased them all for $5 and came by the next day to say how much pleasure she had had that night. She had laid them all out on her living room carpet and simply looked at them, and it gave her great joy.
Where is this going? When I left for Austin, I had to put all my personal effects in storage. Some 60 boxes.
(When we bought the house in Friendswood, the movers came with my stuff–it had been in storage in Salt Lake–and my friend didn’t talk to me for three days.
In Nashville and Austin, I was paying $64 a month for storage. When I became broke, my friend picked up the tab for a while. Ron, at the Music City Hostel in Nashville, picked up one month for me, tho’ he looked at me bewildered as if to say: Why are you hanging on to it? You’re old, broke, homeless, your life is over.
Anyway, when my friend bought a place, and I returned to Houston, we got my stuff out of storage.
Two weeks ago–two days before I was to leave again–she said her I had to do something with my boxes or her parents, who were moving in, would.
What to do? Get a grocery cart? A wheel barrow?
The boxes were filled with files. My dad’s letters to me when I was in Vietnam, my mom’s letters to me, photos, all my by-lines, hundreds of thousands of words I had written and had been honing for decades. Plays, songs, screenplays, musicals, my dad’s unfinished shorts stories, poems, etc. Everything I treasured. Every piece of writing I had been working on and polishing for years. I went through each file in each box the first day, thinking to my self, “Well, I can’t throw that away. I can’t throw that away. I can’t throw that away.”
Next day, with no time remaining, I had to toss it all. Three car trips to the dumpster down the road.
Earlier that week I had to sell all my books. One signed by Richard Nixon, a hundred or so first edition books of musical plays. One I had paid $65 for. At Half-Price Books, I got $85 for ‘em all. There’s not a big market for bound musical plays in Texas!
After tossing everything, my friend said: Don’t you feel like a gigantic weight has been lifted off your shoulders?” Noooooo! But she knows how I feel. As I kid, she moved a lot and she was forced to give up everything through the years as a result. She has a few cherished photos from her childhood, and that’s it!
I’m slowly getting over my grief of losing everything, tho’ in the middle of the night, I’ll wake up and go, “Oh, no! I threw that away? Oh, my god, I tossed that?”
People lose everything all the time. In fires, earthquakes, in wars. You move on. I guess.
I have a small travel bag. I have my laptop. Hopefully, some of the printed stuff I tossed is on my computer. I’m afraid to look.