In the spring of 2008, upon breakup with TheEx, I moved back home with my ‘rents1 for the first time since my early 20s. This was to be a temporary arrangement, a stop gap until I moved to Detroit in January of 2009 to finish library school. All of my belongings, consisting mainly of books/journals but excluding furniture which I had given away, were boxed up in the bottom of their basement. Somewhere to the tune of 40 boxes, almost 2/3rds of which were stuffed with paper goods (re: books/journals).
For those of you who can recall, the winter of 2008/09 was one of the worst in recent memory. Upon packing for my move to Royal Oak in January, 2009, I discovered that 18-20 boxes, mainly said paper goods, were destroyed in some fashion whether by being waterlogged, dampened or mildewed. The boxes were all stacked along the north wall in the basement with almost all of the bottom boxes and several second and third row boxes damaged. Because it was not a case of pipes bursting or water heater exploding or an Act of God2, insurance would not cover the damage either on my policy or my brother’s.
What had happened was that due to all the rain in the fall and blizzards and snowstorms nearer to winter, the snow/rain seeped ground and eventually into the “waterproof” basement, along that northern wall in which my entire life sat. I lost A LOT of books.*
But this is not about the loss of dear friends, but rather, about the finding of old ones. My brother recently dropped off the remaining boxes that were still sitting in his basement, 18 months after I moved. What remained were stuffed animals and storage boxes crammed with treasures3 I had not seen in a very long time. These items were affected, minimally, by the mildew and dampness so I was not in a big hurry to worry about preservation upon their initial discovery. Which is probably why, after being moved to a safer spot in the basement, they stayed there for the last 18 months. Or I was just too goddamned lazy to get them to Royal Oak, you choose.
These boxes have been sitting in our living room for the last month or two, waiting to be organized. We decided that since we are more then likely moving before winter4, now would be a good time to get this stuff sorted: keep what I can, recycle what I can and toss out what is neither keepable or recyclable. We know that there are a large number of items5 not making the trek with us to our new home, no matter where that home may be. Instead of, as before, waiting to the last minute to pack and sort, my idea is to gradually do it over time so when we figure out WHERE we are moving to, the big move will be a lot less cluttered and a lot less of a pain in the ass.
Also, I’m unemployed thus I like to give myself projects. Many of the items in the boxes were beyond repair or preservation of some sort and those got sadly tossed into the garbage. What I could save, I did and re-boxed those items up. In one of the boxes was a decorative storage box containing letters and paper items I’ve kept since high school like MY PROM ANNOUNCEMENT FROM 19886 that remained unscathed from water damage. Other papery examples included love letters from old boyfriends (back when writing on paper was still the thing to do), post cards from friends all over the world and a series a post-marked letters from “Bob Smith,” of which one of them I conveniently scanned for you at the beginning of this post.
The back story to this letter, more then likely, is that from 1995-2000s I ran a mailing list of friends and acquaintances that I met on IRC/BBSes/mailing lists that I consolidated into one general list. I think the idea I had at the time was that so many of us were cc’ing the same people, why not create a mailing list to keep it simple. I am going to assume, by the date, I may have mentioned my birthday (June 12) was upcoming and I’m also going to assume that many people asked for my home address.
Another possibility is that I owned a domain at that time and he WHOIS my domain information to get my home address. I don’t think I ever found out WHO “Bob Smith” is/was but I did receive a number of letter from him for quite some time (which are now re-boxed up) as I found a few of them while flipping through the decorative boxes content. That decorative box contains a lot of memories of high school and my early 20s, much of which I haven’t thought about probably since that time but that I swore to NEVER FORGET!!!!!7
Flipping through some of the material last night broke my heart in some places – there were people, times and events that for reasons I seemingly can only understand, should never be forgotten but unfortunately were.
So who is Bob Smith? I don’t think I ever found out and if I did, I don’t remember who he was or what happened after the letters stopped. But now, 14 years later, I do have to wonder: Did he end up becoming a 34 year old douchebag or did he grow a pair and become a flaming liberal?
I remarked to a few people recently that the digital divide is not so much about digital literacy but in reality about those who have moved their lives almost entirely online versus those who have not. These days we’re doing so much checking in, status updating, tweeting and so-called communicating we’ve STOPPED relating. Hypocrite that I am, I can be just as bad if not worse as the aforementioned, but it’s becoming painful to go out with people now to spend the entire event watching the back of their smart phone. If I had wanted to have have conversations with you via Twitter/Facebook/IM/Texting, I would have stayed home in my jammies and done so instead of slapping on war paint and dragging my ass out of the house.
We’ve stopped personalizing our experiences with each other unless it includes a badge, RT, pin, sticker or a like. This bothers and depresses me at the same time. In 1996, Bob Smith’s letters probably elicited simultaneous freaking out and giggles and now, I would probably still dismiss it as nothing. I think that right in and of itself says a lot on how drastically our culture has changed within the last 14 years and me along with it. So Bob Smith, here’s to you and wherever you may be and thanks for the memories.
1. ‘Rents comprised of my brother and Mumsy, as they live together. Explanation warranted since my father has been dead for a decade, thus saying “‘rents” might confuse people.
*. I have a list of books that I lost of which one day I’ll eventually publish as many people were too kind to tell me they would help me replace them.
3. Read: crap.
4. More foreshadowing that was started here.
5. Justin moved in with me with only a carload of stuff and much of my furniture has been shuffled from apartment to apartment over the last 10 or so years and needs to be replaced. A number of electronics, like our TV, is on the verge of dying so those items will be given or recycled upon move day.
6. I was 15 going on 16. Sadly, the hair has not changed much in the last 22 years.
7. Just imagine a drunken Lisa swaying to “Never Tear Us Apart” by INXS, with a lighter in my hand trying to light a cigarette but in reality, singeing my hair.