In the summer of 2017, we drove west. Chicago faded slowly because we drove slowly.
I didn’t have time or space to double-down my focus or attention on the magnitude of the moment. Whatever attention I could muster was used to keep us safe, sense the car’s performance, and navigate traffic. I wanted to live, to bear witness to the flowing changes in our lives. The urge to live over-rode any inner-reflection.
Perhaps, now? Am I able to bathe in the results of our efforts? Maybe. Moments of here and there reflections. As the local inhabitants say, “Once in a while.” In a rare moment, I remember I am in Tremedal. I live in Spain. We bought a home on top of a mountain, and it’s quiet. The loudest sound? Birds singing, followed by flies flying passed and, thirdly, bees buzzing.
I can’t. I just can’t congratulate myself. Maybe I don’t know how? Maybe, I am just following the next thing? I don’t own a pair of slippers.
We drove west, and the connecting webs of Chicago began fading.
I believe our first night was spent somewhere in Nebraska. I have a picture of my wife drinking a cheap can of beer in a local restaurant. Well, restaurant was one of its functions. The establishment served three functions: bar, food, and celebration hall. We ate in the bar and watched car races with the locals. Our waitress was African-American.
I remember her because it was Nebraska, and Nebraska is white. Anomalies. I best recall what is unusual or differently patterned. Unexpected. I don’t recall the food.
Near us was a set of older couples. Their conversation was easily over-heard. One couple was sharing stories of the their children’s successes in life. While that is common, the topic lured in my attention: eBay. Calling-up what I remember, the daughter and her husband had a small antique shop in whatever city we were eating. They collected discarded items from the prairie town and resold them in their shop. They discovered eBay. With the internet’s fair reach into unknown communities, they began to make more money through digital sales — eBay surpassed the sales of their physical shop. The parents were proud, and their coupled dinner partners impressed. The shop owners had found a niche. This entrepreneurial niche inspired the proud couple’s younger sister, who had earned a college degree, and was living in the incredibly large city of Omaha. She, inspired by her sister’s success, gave up her college aspirations and began an online eBay shop, selling Nebraska’s unwanted items.
The eBay conversation resonated with us because as we organized our Chicago departure, I had a lot of stuff to disperse: record albums, books, wall art, video game consoles, meteorites, crystals, Hi-Fi equipment, and so on. Lots of stuff, really, I’m not joshin’ you. Furniture, kitchen appliances, tools, gardening equipment, house paint, office supplies, and, oh, yes, our apartment building.
I spent hours listing items on eBay, craigslist, and discogs. I have to say I was making a surprising amount of money. What I could not sell on the internet, I gave away or donated.
The most lucrative items were my record albums from the 70s and 80s. I had cared for them and carried them throughout my life. They were my credentials. I could prove that I once was a cool guy with good taste by showing my collection of punk and new wave records. Hundreds of them. Sadly, I could not imagine a way to take them west or eventually to Spain, leaving my personal history and street credentials to be passed on to others.
Some of the strange 45s that I picked up along the way were sold on discogs for hundreds of dollars. Odd promotional copies from Indiana punk and power pop bands of the 80s were easily sold. I had few recollections of how I came to possess these records. Bands called “The Jetsons,” “The Dancing Cigarettes,” and “The Panics” – they sold quickly to happy collectors, and with each sale I let go of a memory or a forgotten experience that may never be retrieved.
The records were more than a prop to show off my cool character, they were portals to other moments. As I packaged and shipped each sale, I would play it one more time. Each 7 inch or 12 inch recording reminded me of who I used to be. A wormhole to my past — a past that had been buried underneath other experiences. They too would now fade and be lost in my collection of experiences.