The Basement’s Leaking

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I am a proud, self-proclaimed nomad, always looking for fresh pasture. I can pack my essentials and be on the road in under five minutes. A relative once said that it’s easy for me to be nomadic because I don’t actually own anything. But in my eyes, I possess everything that any modern-day nomad could possibly need. A St. Croix 9 1/2 foot, 6-weight fly rod, a brand-new laptop, an automobile and a GPS. Oh yea, some clothing and a few personal hygiene products. But while me and my Buick camel can easily travel to anywhere in a moment’s notice, I do have a menagerie of memories stored in the basements of my happily-divorced parents. I’ve never watched the television shows “Hoarders” or “Intervention”, but one of my family members just might, one day soon, nominate me to star on an upcoming episode of both.

Now remember, after reading this, that you’ll think to yourself, “he couldn’t have possibly made that stuff up.”

I gave away my Taiwanese, woman’s boobs-shaped, wooden massage tool and the replica Iranian battle axe and chain mail helmet. It certainly would be silly to have things like that just lying around for no reason. I only horde important crap, things worthy of precious storage space.

While looking for a hammer the other day, I stumbled upon my copy of an “acknowledgement of registration” from the Selective Service System. You never know, 35 years later, when your military draft status might come up during an employment interview. Along with this document, are the test results that revealed what career in which I might succeed in the near future. “You should consider ‘Truck Driver’. ” Dammit, that’s where I went wrong in life! Stupid restaurants. The results from my DAT test (Differential Aptitude Test) actually seem a little bit more on-target. Abstract Reasoning and Verbal Reasoning-in the 95 percentile. Space Relations-30%. I can figure it out myself, just don’t stand so close. That’s how I read it.

In one box of treasures are my stuffed bears that I palled around with as a child. Smokey and Jo Jo. Don’t tell ’em if you see ’em, but they look worse-off than I do after all of these years. Now the name “Smokey”, I understand. Smokey the Bear. Belt, hat, badge and everything. But Jo Jo? Inspired by Jo Jo White/ point guard for the Boston Celtics? He hadn’t even been drafted into the NBA at this point. Who knows.

There are piles and piles of Valentines Day cards from elementary school. There were no transgender cards available back then. Everyone gave everyone a card. “Be my Valentine, signed Ralph”. Not to be a homophobe there Ralph, but I’ve still got a leery eye on you, even after 45 years. As I matured, so did the cards. I kept stacks of letters and cards from the very first love of my life. And the second one. And a couple from a younger girl who kept promising me all sorts of immoral acts. Didn’t really like her, but it made for good reading. And what a romantic little shit I was as a teenager. I wrote a poem for my first love that dreamed about living in a cave in Bolivia. “Give me a blonde and a bottle of rum and everything will be alright”. Good try, but it didn’t work.

For some reason, I have several of my Mother’s grade school report cards. It was probably a leveraging/bartering tool on days that I brought home my own less-than-stellar grades from high school. A quick analysis of my college transcripts shows amazing success in chemistry and biology classes (thanks Mrs. Bauserman), but a total disinterest in elective courses such as 16th century music. Heck, in my defense, you had to WALK to the library in order to listen to the rockin’ Hans Neusidler and his no-electric-guitar orchestra.

Grandfather Knode was a Free Mason. Thomas Jefferson, George Washington and Grandad. Along with his embossed certificate of membership in the secretive District of Columbia chapter, I’ve kept forever his masonic apron and book of by-laws.

Grandmother Knode worked as a secretary for Senator Millard Tydings. A monogrammed wooden box that sat on his desk was given to her by the Senator as a sign of appreciation, after he left office in 1950. That wooden box now sits in my Mom’s basement and contains a recipe typed by my Aunt B. The recipe is from Grandmother Knode for “24-hour Salad”, which is now a traditional dish served annually at our family’s Thanksgiving Day meals.

Grandad Lambert worked during a period of time when a man’s word and a hand-shake meant more than any written contract ever did. A receipt that I have, hand-written in the 1940’s, was probably given to him as a monthly reminder by a local filling station; bagged ice and gasoline for the outrageous grand total of $3.10. Obvious price gouging. There are a few birthday cards from Grandad and Grandma Lambert. And several birthday cards from my Aunt Dot. On her way to family sainthood status, religiously every year, Aunt Dot would send birthday cards, each containing a five dollar bill, to me, my two sisters and our 23 cousins. Each and every year, no matter where you were living. “How did she even know that I was in Savannah for three months this year?” Even if you didn’t remember that it was your birthday, you did after you had checked your mailbox.

There’s an issue of The Weekly World News, the now defunct, mostly fictional news tabloid publication which I always found so humorous. My live-in girlfriend at the time had out-nomad-ed me by moving out of our home while I was away at work. She later dropped off this edition as some sort of strange peace offering, knowing that I found the sarcasm very funny. “Redneck Aliens Takeover Trailer Park” The picture of a husband and wife, who had witnessed the invasion, was stoically captioned as saying “There goes the neighborhood”. I think the giving of this gift had a double-sarcastic message behind it. She was good at that.

Fishing was always a big part of my life and the basements are speckled with all sorts of fishing relics. A 40 year-old automatic fly reel that came mounted on my very first fly rod is still armed with the original fly line, forever cured with water from the Shenandoah. There’s an antique wicker creel basket given to me by Neil Armstrong. Not the astronaut, silly. The UPS delivery driver who was a bar buddy of mine years ago up at The Boston Beanery. His uncle had passed away and literally gave him the farm. Discovered out in the barn were three antique bamboo fly rods. “Well Neil, those are all Montague rods, ya might want to check on their value.” A couple of weeks and a couple of thousands of dollars later, I received that creel basket as referral commission. Safely secured in a ceiling rack built by my Dad are another half dozen or so fly rods. Because, you know, you can never have too many fishing rods.

If your phone number was (704) 637-4293 and you’re missing the rotary dial off of your telephone, I have it. Give me a call.

I once was almost a father, but he died in womb. Tucked away in a box in the corner of the basement is a picture of Andrew, that was suppose to help with the grieving process. It doesn’t work. The picture lies atop a couple of self-help books given as gifts, one of which is titled “The Expectant Father”. Wish I had, but I never took the time to read those books.

My one younger sister had some serious home-sickness during her first summer camp experience. A letter that she had sent from camp, addressed to me and my other sister, was written on the second day at Camp Strawderman. The now empty letter once contained a single stick of chewing gum. The letter read, “The gum is for Robin and Mary”.

I wonder if I ever paid this parking ticket from Dulles airport. I had left my car unattended for two minutes near the airport’s front doors, as I helped my Bulgarian buddy Lucy with her luggage, in a hurried attempt to catch her 6 A.M. flight back home. I guess that since I’m holding the ticket, that’s not a good sign. Wasn’t my car no how.

So an ex-wife came yapping around my house one day, accusing my of possessing a set of fine china that we had received as a wedding present. I whole-heartedly denied any knowledge of the flowered pattern of plates and coffee cups, knowing dammed well the definition of a fifty/fifty split. She gets a hundred percent and I get zero. One afternoon, years later, I’m looking for something ‘really’ important in my small mountain of memorabilia, when I came across box after box stuffed with old newspapers. The Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star to be exact. Well, thanks funny, I used to live in Fredericksburg back when I was married. Whoops. I’d give that china set away for free, but it seems to make the food taste sour. (But a little revenge tastes sweet) So in the basement it sits.

Before the days that OCD and ADD were invented, my childhood friend Stan and myself would spend hours playing with my electric football game. For the unknowledgeable, electric football sets were a small, metal playing field caused to vibrate by an electric motor, which created movement of the little, plastic figurines of football players. It was very loud and a lot of fun for a young boy. But being overly competitive, even at a young age, Stan and I took it to a whole new level of intensity. I have the spiral notebooks, filled with the plays and formations, that we hand-wrote and developed over time; we even kept detailed statistics of the games. The spiral notebooks, the still-functioning playing field and six plastic bags full of little players wearing their official NFL team colors, are resting comfortably in the basement, next to Coach Lee’s new football playbook handouts that we received once a week before math class in my Senior year of high school.

There’s the yellow lucky rabbit’s foot that I wore on my Little League uniform’s belt loop. Several engraved leather bracelets and a St. Christopher’s necklace. A Happy Turkey Day card, the turkey picture created with the tiny, water-color stained left hand of my Goddaughter Rachel. An 8mm copy of “I am a Teenage Werewolf”. I must have misplaced the one with Mr. Magoo.

Wait a minute, is that Zeppelin on the radio? Good Times, Bad Times… You know I had my share…

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