22 November 2006

Archaeology


Yesterday, two boxes arrived posted from Sadistic College, shipped by Skanque Huore via parcel post. In the face of the almost continual financial crise since my move to Cold City, my pitiful possessions have been slowly making their way out here over the course of the last year and a half. Originally, there were grand plans for a Pod to schlepp the detritus from Sadistic College to Cold City, but the financial burden of the move itself precluded such an easy and grownup solution. In fact, the last two months Mr. Gordo and I shared our casita were spent in a strange haze of dread and avoidance, a countdown to the inevitable moving day that we blithely ignored until the last possible moment, like the proverbial elephant in the middle of the room.

We decamped for Montréal for a last, lovely, long weekend with The Voice for Canada Day, and then had to return to our dacha to begin the agonising process of packing. Skanque Huore came over and we began boxing all together willy-nilly and uncatalogued, as this was when the Pod idea was still financially possible. But in the end, I was unable to ship anything, only pack the car to the gills, and store the rest in Skanque’s garage. The books, papers, and research materials (hit or miss, based on weight and feel) were pretty much shipped by the end of the last calendar year, after a special day spent right before the New Year (for tax purposes) retaping and labeling in a very cold garage then more schlepping to the post office. What remained after this uneven process were 8 boxes of personal effects remaining on a forlorn card table in Skanque’s garage.

Slowly, over the past year, and perhaps as a sign of her own frustration with garage clutter, Skanque has been sending, out of her own generosity, a couple of boxes now and then, which arrive at the office beat up and dusty, like talismans from Atlantis set in the ultramodern Petri dish that is my office. And so it was when I arrived on Monday: two boxes, unceremoniously placed in my office. Skanque rarely notifies me anymore when she sends a box, so it’s sort of like Christmas, in a twisted, strange way. And even though I had a whole raft of things I was meant to accomplish, I immediately put them aside to see what exactly had arrived. My flip cases of CDs? Tchotckes? My leather file boxes?

I opened the boxes with an Exacto knife, and quickly discovered that both boxes were filled with household tchotcke, various things that had once defined the personality of the casita with Mr. Gordo: a white ASA vase purchased when I lived in Montréal, an English porcelain dog (a gift from The Printmaker, Big Sis’s husband), a wooden bowl and several small carved wooden star fruit from Venezuela, one tube of Labello lip moisturiser, a framed picture of Bette Davis with the glass shattered in transit, one large wooden bowl which held candles (a gift from La Zeez), a large pink dish I had used to hold cologne bottles on a shelf in our old bedroom, two brass Hands of Fatima from Egypt (another gift from La Zeez), a piece of coral that Philosopher Mom had brought me back from Hawaii, a sample of Clarins Men hand lotion, a yellow jar filled with pencils, pens, and rulers, wrapped in bubble wrap, evidently grabbed whole from the shelf where we had kept it at the house. Little things, inconsequential things, useless things (“What am I going to do with all this shit?” was the initial thought I had).

There was a small paintbrush with a long lacquered wooden handle packed on top of one of the boxes, and because I have perhaps an irrational fear of Brown Recluse Spiders (the boxes have been in a garage for over a year, after all), I used the brush to remove items one by one from the boxes and dust off the Styrofoam peanut packing from each piece. As I moved from item to item, and from box one to box two, brushing and poking with great care, making sure nothing was missed among the peanuts, I felt ridiculously like an archeologist, unearthing the symbols and treasures of a lost civilisation. After unwrapping everything, cleaning up the spilled peanuts, then dumping them in a trash bin, and cutting down the boxes for recycling, I suddenly felt like I couldn’t breathe, and had to step outside of the building for a cigarette (natürlich, the obvious response) and a brief phone call to Mr. Gordo.



After last Thanksgiving, I sent an email to my nearest and dearest, whose subject line was “Reflecciónes sobre la fecha de Acción de Gracias.” I wrote:

In post-partum retrospect, I have been thinking of Thanksgiving, and the "meaning" of the holiday for our society, which generally is the rush to produce an enormous amount of food, stuffing oneself until ill, sleeping it off in a sugar coma, then rushing out like hysteric lemmings to buy all the "perfect" gifts that no one quite needs. A sickening gluttony in the face of overwhelming yet ephemeral abundance. Gluttony, of course, is a cardinal sin, a point seemingly lost in our ever evangelical society. Some sins, apparently, are better than others. Of course, the original myth of Thanksgiving, if indeed such a supper actually happened on the brisk shores of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, speaks more to survival, to modestly marking the continuance of life in spite of deleterious and horrific circumstances for the nascent and embattled English Colony. As well, it speaks to cooperation and expansion of kin networks and knowledge systems, if we think of the event as a promising meeting of different and not as of yet divergent world views, the Indigene and the English.

Thanksgiving is a controversial holiday for many intellectuals, but I would rather appreciate it as this moment of contact, cooperation, and modest appreciation of life, rather than the beginning of the end of a particular Indigenous world (although it was), or indeed the slide of the English, the Indian, and the rest of us brought or come to this hemisphere, into the plastic and artificial world (the vaunted "machine in the garden") we (occasionally with great joy) inhabit today, many years later, in our cultural and racial mestizajes, uneasy yet curious inheritors of a series of events both violent and wonderful that have led us to the now.
I know many of you think of the Thanksgiving holiday as I do, as a time to be thankful for what we have, and what has been given to us- not in the material sense, but in the realm of the emotive, or perhaps existential. And for me, one of the greatest things to be thankful for is love and friendship, of which you all have offered me, some of you for many years, some as mi nueva vida como un parte del mundo venezelano-estadounidense, some as new and old friends in my new home in [Cold City]. So, in this spirit of reflection I offer this mestizo missive. I am thankful for your presence in my life. ¡Palante! Juntos con amor y cariño

These thoughts seem as appropriate now as they did then. So, in this spirit of survival, may we be thankful for what we have, what remains, what has been saved, and what is to come, not what we’ve lost.

4 comments:

Horace said...

Oh, yes, gluttony is a sin, but really, what good is having sins if you don't have days to break them? I , for example, prefer wrath on Mondays...seven deadly sins, seven days of the week...Gluttony is obviously Thursday. But perhaps lechery should get more than one day, non?

Professor Zero said...

!Que' hermoso!

JoannaO said...

When I moved here long ago, I could only afford to mail things to my office address: 35 boxes of books, a few boxes of clothes and a box of kitchen utensils. I also shipped my computer, which was broken en route, but I had insured it, so it got fixed. What broke my heart was that I couldn't afford to ship my records (this was 1988) so I left them in my mother's garage in SF. She eventually got rid of them, when the garage cleaning itch hit her.

Re: gluttony, I have now had Thanksgiving dinners three times this weekend, including the traditional leftoever cleanup feast. But I really wish I could have just gone home and had my mom's cooking.

La Suegra said...

Did you get the nice Archie Johnson vase (amphora shape) dug up and dusted off from the Styrofoam (tm) layers of time? Or is it still sitting in storage in Sadistic College Village?
La Suegra