So, we thought it would be cool to go somewhere and treasure hunt, just like the dudes in Picker's do. What better place to start then my friend's grandma's basement (with permission of course)! Things got real, fast. It is amazing the kinds of things they had stored down there. Old Jukeboxes, old books, old coins, old cash registers, old lunchboxes, old clothes, old clothes, old clothes, old clothes, God help us, old clothes. We were literally digging through stratified history, discovering things like old blowtorches, cameras, and flash bulbs. I had truly never experienced anything like this. Originally our objective was to find stuff to turn around and sell, but, honestly, it was just fun surfacing some old forgotten gem of a person's unique history and experience of life, like a St. Louis school lunch coin that must have been used when it wasn't worth more than an actual U.S. coin. Also, it was a testament to the luxury of American life. We have so much stuff! What are we going to do with it all? Worse, what is the next generation going to do with it all? Probably throw most of it away. Henry David Thoreau wrote in Walden that farmers may feel enslaved by inheriting the futility of farms and farming from their parents, a way of life that was oppressive for one's ancestors, and will be oppressive to the progeny doomed to inherit this dubious 'gift'.
"I see young men, my townsmen, whose misfortune it is to have
inherited farms, houses, barns, cattle, and farming tools; for these
are more easily acquired than got rid of. Better if they had been
born in the open pasture and suckled by a wolf, that they might have
seen with clearer eyes what field they were called to labor in. Who
made them serfs of the soil? Why should they eat their sixty acres,
when man is condemned to eat only his peck of dirt? Why should they
begin digging their graves as soon as they are born?"
On the other hand, maybe it's NOT that we're trying to save stuff for others; maybe we're trying to forget-not-forget it ourselves. Maybe basements and attics and garages are a way of burying what we would rather pretend we don't already have and which hasn't satisfied us yet so we can keep buying more and trying to feed spirit with matter. Well, whatever it is, when I see the stuff people leave behind, I think about the mountains of stuff I'm accumulating for posterity. I hope I leave something more than 'stuff' behind. Maybe that's why I'm glad I picked through someone else's basement, someone else's humanity, someone else's problems, someone else's answers that didn't quite clear the atmosphere or even make it out of the basement. Or maybe I'm just a garage-sale rat. Yeah, I think it's the last one.