I had the day off monday. I usually spend it running errands, maybe getting drunken fried rice for lunch and seeing the latest Adam Sandler movie – and, more often than not, shedding a tear at its sentimental resolution. (The only Adam Sandler I saw that *didn’t* make me cry was REIGN O’ER ME, the post-9/11 stress syndrome picture which was slathered in Very Important Resolution and seemed far less emotionally convincing than LITTLE NICKY). But this monday I spent the day off weeding, and perhaps apropos of Sandler, I went back to my childhood.
I don’t much like the language of twelve-step programs, but to be honest, living in a big house enables the shit out of me. My present and past acquisitions are scattered to the far corners of three floors and an attic, and part of the task of weeding is clearing out one space in my room only to bring in something I’ve left elsewhere in the house, more or less negating the space gained upstairs. It’s like the world’s least inefficient conveyor belt with no chocolate shop at the end in which to sell my irregular samplers. I can work for an hour or two and know I’ve made a quantitative difference, but then take a look at the resultant space and see hardly any aesthetic difference at all.
It goes both ways. Last month, in the early stages of my weeding renaissance, I dragged a copy-paper box full of old New Yorkers out of my room and took it up to the attic. The most recent issue in the box was late summer 2001, and the issues went back to the mid-90’s. That I didn’t just empty the box outright has been gnawing at me, and I pictured its contents, sitting on an old cocktail table in the attic, crashing through the floor and sending decades of clutter and pithy columnists all the way down through to the basement.
So I went up to the attic with that simple goal in mind – to bundle up the spawn of David Remnick and mercilessly drop them in the recycle bin. (If you open up the recycle bin right now, you’d see Gore Vidal’s sour puss, advertising whatever it is they advertise on the back of a 1990’s New Yorker, peering back at you through the twine. Don’t let him sway you, he means no good.) And I did just that, but not before taking a detour into the crawlspace.
I don’t remember the last time anyone went up into the crawlspace, but if you calculate years by the number of seconds it takes for the rattle of dust and dirt to pour out of the corners of the crawlspace door and trickle down the attic stairs and finally come to a stop; clearly it had been decades. Another temporal indication would be the 70’s-era shopping bag from Woodward and Lothrop department store, which had closed in 1995.
The bag contained parochial school papers I’d long forgotten, and if I had remembered them I’d assumed they were thrown out long ago. The cavemen photos, from the Smithsonian Museum of Natrual History, are most likely the first photos I ever made, for a school project on Neanderthal Man. I think they were taken with a Kodak Instamatic 110. Not bad. Although I’d grow into photographic influences like William Eggleston and Martin Parr, in these photos I see a budding Nan Goldin.
On the back of this drawing (the stains under the title at the top of the page are fresh sweat), I wrote “Eleventh Station [of the cross],” which is the Crucifixion. But I’m not sure even the advanced abstractions of what must have been my seventh-grade mind would have made the leap from crucifixion to a puppy caste system. It’s not unlike an Adam Sandler movie.