I was going to tell you my life flashed before my eyes this weekend, but really, it was a slow unfurling, the opening of a time capsule as I continued my obsession with emptying boxes of paper into file cabinets of paper.
This weekend, after trying to go too many directions at once and finding myself in a familiar spot, standing uselessly in the garage, looking at too many projects that all need to happen at once — or never — I decided to jump the gun and not just stuff more papers at random into assorted file cabinets, but to sort into mega piles what I already had.
This is a sorting technique I use at work, where I really enjoy bringing a sense of order to the chaos of a heap of shirts. I take one big pile and break it into not-very-organized but more manageable piles from which I can start to bring order.
For instance, once in an early day at Pat’s we had shirts getting four separate prints on them, and instead of finishing all of the first print and moving onto the second, we somehow had shirts with one print, two, three or even four, all rolled into one giant heap at the end of the dryer. I put them into piles based on which prints each shirt still needed — a task that required many hours — and then, pile by pile, sorted them into sizes so that we could move forward with printing.
Saturday, from my files, I took all the random papers I had just put in the cabinets, handful by handful, and set them on a table where I parceled them into broad categories: household accounts, reference and reading materials, materials from assorted jobs, projects I’ve volunteered for and with, school and education (although I just now realized I didn’t put any of my dance-class materials under “education”), personal mementos, and writing.
By Sunday evening most of it was back in file cabinets, another box had been emptied, and a semblance of organization has begun to take shape. Along the way, I encountered at least 50 of my 59 years, starting with my first foray into the world of journalism, when my friend Beth and I put out a newspaper, the Sweeacy, at age 9. We boasted a coast-to-boast circulation: copies were sent to her aunt in Connecticut and my uncle in California.
We were bankrolled in large part by my grandmother, who provided product after product designed to mass-produce our masterpiece. I particularly remember one contraption which came with some cold, sticky gel-substance that was supposed to provide a copy when a piece of paper was pressed against it, but I think it mostly came up in globby pieces like some sad, smelly Jell-o.
Ultimately we defaulted to copying finished stories onto ditto pages that my mother would run off for us while doing otherwise official work for Western Then State’s history department, of which my dad was a member.
We are not all children of the digital, or even photocopy, age.
I found the covenants to the Palisades subdivision where I lived in two houses for most of 50 years. These rules were filed with the county in July 1956, but by the time my family moved in 13 years later there wasn’t any effort to distribute them, and I didn’t know they existed until sometime in the ’90s, I think, when one neighbor took umbrage at another neighbor for parking their work vehicle — a trash truck — on the street.
There isn’t anything in the covenants about parking trash trucks on the street, unless you want to apply the loose anti-nuisance clause: “No noxious or offensive activity shall be carried on upon any lot.” I lived next to my share of college students over the years who carried on continuously, both noxiously and offensively. (Others were quite nice.)
The covenant kerfuffle didn’t last, since to do anything there had to be a will of two-thirds of the residents, and since none but a select few of us on Irwin Street even got worked up about this, nothing happened except a few neighborhood clean-ups, in which the trash-truck neighbors did most of the work and donated the use of their truck as well as paying dumping fees, which I hope rather shamed the instigator.
Then the covenants became once again unknown, until I unearthed them. I doubt they’re worth keeping, and now I live someplace with more covenants, some of which are actually followed, but I did find it amusing that both sets of covenants under which I have lived, one knowingly and one unknowingly, are concerned with impressing the neighbors.
In the Palisades, in 1956, it was terribly important that “no dwelling shall be permitted on any lot at a cost of less than $8,000.” Here in Riverwalk in the 2000s they moved away from dollar figures to minimum square footage, and good thing, since I saw an ad on TV last night for some gambling concern where you could win half a million dollars, “so you can buy your dream home!” In Gunnison these days, you can buy one of those $8,000 quality constructed tract homes of the Palisades for half a million dollars. Maybe: one on Quartz Street recently listed at $649,000.
I turn out to have saved a lot of programs from concerts I’ve attended, too, and even at least one from a concert I didn’t go to, when my almost-sister Kris played at Carnegie Hall when she was a harpist with the Eastman Philharmonia. She later made a very brief appearance in Dumb and Dumber, as a harpist in the background (I’ve never seen the movie), which was easily the most lucrative thing she ever did as a musician, since her contract as a Colorado Symphony union member provided for residuals. Even if she did have friends she dragged to the movie, and just as they’d had enough and turned to ask her when she was going to appear, missed her moment on-screen.
I also have a program I’ve saved from 1997, when a bronze medalist from a Van Cliburn competition came to Western Still Then State to present a recital of three Beethoven sonatas. I’ll just let the program speak for itself: “Irish pianist Barry Douglas has gained world recognition as an artist of prodigious intellectual gifts and a comparably prodigious technical mastery of the keyboard. He has been acclaimed for his commanding interpretations of the piano repertoire’s most challenging masterworks . . . and his brilliant performances of established showpieces.”
Well, yeah, but was he in Dumb and Dumber?
I don’t know whether to save this “treasure” or not, because what I remember most about the evening was waiting afterward to thank him for coming to Gunnison and for the concert, which was probably quite good even if I don’t remember it, but he turned out to be a prodigious jerk who obviously regarded his entire tour of Wyoming and Colorado as completely beneath him.
Van Cliburn medalist or not, do you suppose he would be heartened to hear that I remember his utter disdain for the people who just wanted to tell him they enjoyed his performance but not one whit of his sublimity as a “brilliant performer”?
It was quite the trip, this weekend, in what I hope will be a continuing journey — I realized I haven’t come across some notebooks, and I’m running out of boxes, although I am sure you will rejoice to learn that I did, at last, unearth my SpongeBob piggy bank, along with the copper piggy bank I inherited from Lynn’s mom. Both of them have money in them, although I already feel richer just having my papers in some semblance of order.
One thought on “From the Mixed-Up Files of TL Livermore”
I still have my copies of the Sweeacy! You are not alone in saving them.