Friday, May 11, 2007

Fates Worse Than Mine

Admit it, one reason to read the newspaper is to see who you're glad you're not. Great not to be a spoiled Yalie named George W. Bush. Good not to be a soldier in Iraq or Afghanistan. But a little close to home, my nephew was just injured in Afghanistan saving one of his men from a burning Humvee. And he was happy being him, and went back to duty instead of to a hospital in Germany. Still, I wouldn't want to be there.

This is a round-about way of getting to the guy in the news I definitely wouldn't want to be: the young man who was driving the car in which David Halberstam died. Christ, it's sad. The thoughtful and generous Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, the man who first exposed Vietnam as the quagmire it was, died in a crash in San Mateo County two weeks ago after giving a talk at UC-Berkeley. Driving him to an interview was a 26-year-old grad student in journalism named ... well, no name. He's got enough troubles, and now a lawyer.

How would you like to be the journalism student who killed David Halberstam? The guy who did what the Viet Cong couldn't do and the U.S. Army wished it had?

That may be a bald way to put it, because fault in the crash hasn't been found yet. But still. It will be the invisible ink on the young man's resume. Worse, it will be etched on the young man's mind forever. Should he have made that left turn onto Willow Road when he did? Should he even bother to stay in journalism?

Best to simply read the newspapers, the Cliff's Notes of the Fates, and be glad we're not in them.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

A Cardboard-Based Life Form

Long delay between posts again. Excuse: Moving.
Selling a house and buying a house in a month was stressful enough. (Unemployed and getting a mortgage, you bet your Fannie Mae.) But moving in a week was a test of body and mind. Fifteen Subaru loads, eight U-Haul van loads and one giant truck load of stuff.

You really get to see the ugly truth about the possessions that possess you. You have to face the fact that you're still packing and unpacking things that you haven't used in twenty years. You measure your cardboard footprint.

Right now every room is filled with cardboard boxes. We're living out of some, but most are just sitting around waiting to be unpacked so we can see just how useless their contents are. Just as we did when we packed them.

There are three categories of junk parasitically attached to us (or we to it).

One: Sentimental junk. I wore that lumber jacket every day when I was in high school, and it still sort of fits. My grandfather made that boot jack and it might work on sneakers. For four generations my narcissistic family shot all those photos and someday I may sort through them, for future generations I'm not spawning.

Two: Junk the dump won't take. I've got paint cans from two houses ago. Hey, those were nice colors. No more said about other hazardous wastes. One accomplishment: This move I paid the local sanitation company 35 bucks to shred four Hefty bags of documents and old pay stubs dating back to 1989, or three houses ago.

Three: Junk that you might use sometime. This is the largest category of junk in my house and probably all of America, because we all have unrealistic aspirations. That old Mac SE might be a collectors item someday. I might buy another Velocette motorcycle and use those old manuals and tank badges. Ice cream, we might make ice cream.

Sure, there's the two-year rule. If you haven't used it in two years get rid of it. Ha. It takes us two years just to figure out if we might want to make ice cream with the ice cream maker, even though we don't eat sweet things or frozen things besides daiquiris.

No, the rule in our household seems to be: If you haven't used it in two years, that still gives you the rest of your life to use it. The significant other might find a good recipe for savory or pickled ice cream. If you know her, you know I'm not kidding. So the ice cream maker stays with us, periodically disappearing into cardboard and then emerging in a new location.

This location is our first with a yard fit for a yard sale. But you know how yard sales are. You hate to have people pawing through your junk, and then not offering enough money for it.