Nostalgia, it ain’t what it used to be.

The past few days I have been going through boxes, the lingering process of trying to get unpacked. These boxes were different though, these were the archive; trappings of my past, things I have not been able to relinquish. A large portion of the contents was comprised of old photos. The remainder was a random mix of old notebooks, various baubles and trinkets, unwritten postcards, rocks, feathers, beer coasters from all over the damn place, bumper stickers… you know, the important stuff.

Of course it was the photos that captivated most of my time and in the process I selected many, “scanned” them (took photos of them with my phone and cropped out the background…) and posted them in an album on facebook. Which I then shared with as many relevant friends as possible. It has been super fun to reconnect with folks, to revisit the past, to reminisce. I even sat down last night and started writing a narrative of that time. I may finish that at some point for it could be pretty fun.

The problem with such archives, well there are several, but one of the most poignant for me yesterday was that one particular box, the one full of prints and negatives, had been poorly stored over the years. Long story short, I had to throw out a lot of them as they had suffered the vagaries of years of freeze-thaw processes. Interestingly this was not nearly as difficult as it might have been once upon a time. Most were doubles of various sceneries… I fancied myself a photographer then.

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But I was able to salvage the important ones; that is, the ones with people. The real memories. The pretty landscapes and half-assed artistic shots, well it was fun to review and save some of those as well, but many I could not even recall where they were taken. So much for memories. Many that I did save and could remember, I notated on the backs. Then I moved on to the rest, and initially it was fun, but then I went too far.

You don’t generally take photos of the bad times. Or, often the photos of the good times open doors to memories of what happened next. And then there are the notebooks and journals. Those, for me at least, do tend to record those difficult parts. I knew they were there, but basking in the happy glow of fun photograph memories, I ignored them.

This morning I waded in.

A friend, one featured in some of those fun photos, once upon a time noted that I am “a moody sonofabitch”. And he was right. Is right. I have known it all these years… documented it. Have wrangled with it, tied to manage it in different ways. I used to write a lot more… that is, with a pen. I used to write poetry… not very well, but that is beside the point. The interesting thing in re-reading much of those old pieces is that often I can only vaguely recall what, or whom, they were about… or for, as the case may be. Then there are the depressed essays, the frustrated rants, the agonized sketches…

It is fun to look back into the past and I am very glad that I have kept all of this stuff over the years. It is good to revisit where one has been, who one has been. It is good to retrace one’s path to better understand the journey to the present. But there are dark times along the way that one must confront. Memories of strife, of hurt; to ourselves and worse, far worse, to others. In my case, as with many, of depression and despair. The meds help now, but that shadow will always be there.

This morning I was able to let some of them go and in truth, that started a few days ago when I first opened the archive. What I didn’t expect is the questions. I have faced the past many times. I knew what was there. After all it is my archive and I knew the organization and the structure of it. But the way it has been causing me to face the present, I did not expect.

Anyway, I thought about transcribing one of the essays here, but I think I will go with a couple of poems instead. As noted, I have only vague recollections of writing them, the second in particular. Either way, I thought they were both interesting…

 

I

She lives

in a house

full of spirits

Some self-proclaimed

some discovered, yet

unrealized

some revered

though not

investigated

Time is there

in many forms

and the grains

of its sand

fall

of their own accord

and sometimes

not at all

 

This one is quite a bit longer… It is also quite unlike anything else I have ever written. It is fairly ridiculous.

 

II

Water streams out of old dented pails

while tragic wisdom lies

with broken glass and rusty nails

sad old men sit in their jails

hiding in corners, shedding their scales

A sword lies broken

left dead in the fall

wedged between stones

of the old fortress wall

the wolves howl out their lonesome call

while old women hide

behind their black shawls

Young men of the town, full of dead air

wail out to maidens who simply don’t care

standing on balconies, stealing their share

bones in their wrists and flowers for hair

Chanting and groaning, dead and their pews

sit in their churches gathering greyish hues

while goat’s heads and Pan pipes

are boiling for stew

The lord in his room sits grinning

gnashing his teeth, twisted eye spinning

counting his cash and knowing who’s winning

 while the magi sours, plotting old ways of sinning

The necromancer throws himself into flame

dying with this land he swears has no name

a youth in the street crumples with shame

“Oh stop” says his mother, “you act just the same

as the cat in the bird seat hoping for pain.”

The snow from the rooftops, given in to the heat

falls with a whoosh and a thump to the street

while the cleaner tries only to keep things neat

with holes in his head

from the sports master’s cleat

The town all in smoke, the sky full of birds

Who, screeching on black wings

circle over the herds

as a train whistle gun shot is breaking out

of its cracked skull with a whoop and a shout

a maiden falls to her knees in a pout

for death in the street who is lounging about

Picking his teeth with the point of his blade

his pale horse is shunning the tree and its shade

he thinks about possibly making a trade

with his hood and his title for the young maid

Her crying above him is unlike the rest

for it tells him that riding off to the west

through the colors of sunset would be ‘bout the best

Just as a young bird falls down from its nest

a man walking by in a tie and a vest

calls up to the young girl that is so distressed

to hush up and give his poor ears a rest

when a skeleton hands him a hood and a crest

“I’ll make you a deal” says the smiling macabre

“I’ll take that young girl who so likes to sob,

if you’ll take this sickle, this cape, and this job

For lately I’m longing to be a cowboy named Bob.”

The man in the vest first blinks and then stares

his mind going first to his stocks and his shares

and then to his home and his leather backed chairs

last to his family for whom little he cares

He thinks about life death and all of his sins

knowing the game yet wondering who wins

while this skeleton looks on and goofily grins

then swiftly yet smartly kicks both the man’s shins

“Come on old boy, I’ve not got all day

Let’s make this a deal huh? Whadda ya say?”

Distantly a bell tolls the end of the day

while the dead in the church kneel down to pray

Slowly the man unbuttons his vest

Fastens death’s badge right onto his chest

Shoulders the cape with particular zest

then hoists the sickle to give it a test

Suddenly, life reels in his brain

flesh from his body, begins to drain

onto the ground, leaving bones stark and plain

while our hero Bob regains life without strain

He eyes then the spectre in darkening hues

and says with a chuckle, “Good way to choose

for you sir are now truly King of the Blues

and you’re on your own, for I give you no clues.”

 

So there you have it. Nonsense from the past.

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2 thoughts on “Nostalgia, it ain’t what it used to be.

  1. PhictionandPhilosophy

    I really liked the second poem. It was as if one of the Beat poets rewrote one of the poems/songs from J. R. R. Tolkien.

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