Junk

I’m determined to leave this world a kinder person than when I came into it.

And if that means leaving some junk behind, well, all the better.

But first I need to tease out some questions.

What is valuable and what is worthless? What is junk to me but may be treasure to someone else? And how can we tell the difference?

In the past dozen years since the ’rents died, I’ve tossed a lot, including some pretty major stuff—family furniture connected to my earliest memories, to books and memorabilia I’ve decided I no longer want. The winnowing has lessened since the pandemic hit in early March, but I need to return to it more forcefully. What I’ve kept are things I would miss if they were gone because they’re useful. The old furniture, however, was kept merely out of sentimentality. The hardest items to toss are my papers: stories begun yet unfinished, poems, plays, lyrics, and ideas for other things—I never know when I’ll wonder: “Hey whatever happened to the source material for that idea?”—and poof—it’s been lost forever as if it never occurred to me.

I sympathize with families now dealing with wrenching changes (especially with aging parents who are reluctant to give up stuff they’ve collected over the years), and the urge to purge is hitting them all at once. It’s exhausting, I know. But maybe now is a good time to reallocate resources, sell what you don’t want, keep what still brings any kind of happiness (joy being a rare commodity these days), while remaining suspicious of familiar things that merely bring you contentment.

It’s time to look at all my junk like I’ve never done before.

***

A calendar entry for Saturday, Aug. 22, 1993, reads: “Flea market? Yes if possible,” followed by the all-caps addition: “RAIN.” I had to backtrack a year or two earlier to hone in on this cryptic note. But I knew exactly what it was about.

You see, my high school “track and field philosopher” buddy Theron Hollingsworth and I started selling stuff at the Medina Ballroom’s Sunday flea market, according to my old sketch pad calendars, beginning in the summer of 1991—June 9, specifically.

So naturally I went to look for a journal entry.

The result? Cold shoulder from the journals. I wasn’t writing much in the late ’80s, early ’90s—only returning with a vengeance in 1994 and beyond. I now know why: writing needs a good table, strong light, and essentially regular habits. The early 1990s were full of personal upheaval—I was getting too far away from myself.

What I enjoyed about Terry in those days was his innate ability to rope me back in: “Hey buddy,” he’d telephone on a summer Saturday. “What’d’ya say we pool together our junk and haul it out to the Medina Flea Market to sell? Maybe make a couple bucks, people-watch, drink some coffee, catch up and chill!”

I guess at that time in my life it sounded like a sweet mini-vacation. I don’t recall anything particular I added to our “booth table,” but it was always good fun. We reminisced about those outings a couple months ago. Terry even shared a photo from that time (above left) taken by his friend Mike Bailey at the aforementioned flea market. Sorta tells you everything you need to know in an instant.

Another valuable thing about the experience was our conversations with passersby. People would pick over items at our table and sometimes all they really wanted to do was chat. Terry and I would squint through our sunglasses, sip our coffees, and ask how they were doing. If that sort of sociability isn’t still valuable, then I sure as hell don’t know what is. Terry was the kind of friend who could appreciate it, too.

Exactly the kind of friend you want to keep for as long as possible in this sad world.

***

So, is my writing “junk”? Or is it as-yet-unearthed treasure?

Time will tell. Like all good journalists, I only know that recording thoughts, ideas, and events from one’s life can lead to insights. I say can because we’re in a world apparently adverse to doing just that. Recording history is a practice that can change lives, possibly moving us toward a more inclusive and inquisitive world. It’s a hopeful attitude to take—one I’m willing to uphold and fight for.

The journal doesn’t bear it out, but I’m fairly certain the summer of 1993 was the last of the flea markets for me and Terry. Eventually he sold his Dodge pickup and we just moved on to other things. At the time I didn’t think those excursions were worth recording into lengthy journal entries. It might’ve seemed like more daily ephemera—you know, junk.

But I was as wrong as wrong can be.

I now realize that it’s in the little things—the stuff we often cast off—that the world is made anew.

~ by completelyinthedark on July 2, 2020.

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