Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Downsizing Part I

     Between the spring of ’90 and the winter of ’97 I produced a tremendous volume of work on a certain topic. I accumulated, literally, suitcases full of essays, journals, and observances, all relating to a central theme.
     Unsatisfied with the amount of information I was able to generate, I leased the storefront next to my Gallery and installed bookshelves. I filled these shelves with thousands of volumes of texts on subjects with a related subject matter.
     One night I sat at my desk, with the books all around me and my suitcases at my feet, confident that I had all the information I needed to assemble the understanding I sought. I bought a stack of legal pads and a bag of Bics. I took four days off work at the newspaper to get a good start. Then I realized I had no idea how to assemble this information. That led me to realize I had no idea how the elements of this body of knowledge even related to each other.
     Haha! Imagine that.
     I toyed with the idea of declaring the whole project a monumental tribute to failure. I had several truckloads of puzzle pieces and no idea what the puzzle was all about, or even if they were pieces of the same puzzle. All I had was a hunch that there was a commonality. Seven years, and I hadn’t thought it through enough to even know what I was collecting.
     So I shoved the suitcases under the bed and carved faces into stones for three days.
Then one night while I sat at my desk shaking my head in disbelief it came to me. It was all about being. There were medical books, psychology books, sociology, sexuality, group dynamics, religion, philosophy, self help! It was all about ME. It was all about being human. I had, in that room (before the internet got to me), every curiosity I might have about the human condition.
     I typed sixty pages that night and called it “Welcome To Planet Earth”. None of it came from my suitcases or library, but it was finished. It was brilliant too, if I may say so. Exhausted, I slept for 24 hours. When I awoke I knew better than to read my new manuscript. I put it away and went back to the newspaper.
     I waited a week, and it wasn’t easy, before I read my novelette. Then I started to make additions to clarify some of the presumptions. I revised until I hit a hundred pages, then I realized I needed another two hundred to back up my additions. I spent months editing and rewriting until what I had was completely unintelligible. I realized that I wouldn’t be finished until I had written all the books and suitcases that I had started with.
     Again, Imagine that.
     So I packed it all back into the suitcases (and additional milk crates), and placed the original 60 page manuscript on top. I slid it all under the bed.
     Every couple of weeks or month or so I would pull out the original and read it. It was perfect.
Then one day while I was reading it I decided it was useless. Not only was it something I understood from the beginning, but anybody who it might benefit already did as well.
     Imagine that.
     For reasons I don't understand I carried the original manuscript and the most coherent of the notes with me into the forest. Maybe I was afraid to let go. I don't know. So while I was downsizing, I buried the lot of it behind the Shakedown camp on a hill in pickle buckets. Seven years later I returned to Shakedown camp for the first time. I smoked a fatty and played some of the same songs on the guitar as I did years before on that spot. It was really a mind blowing experience to be back there and reflect on all the miles in between and where they have taken me. My recollections intensified with my buzz and I began to wonder if I could find those old pickle buckets.
     I found my buried treasure on the first try; halfway up the hill and centered between the triangle formed by three stumps. Seven winters of freezing and thawing had cracked the plastic buckets and let water in and the papers were a solid unidentifiable mass. Deep in the second bucket I found a surprise I had forgotten I had included in my time capsule: two shirts.
     I had an old blue dashiki that people in Muncie knew me by, and a shirt Jack Herer gave me that said “Hemp for Victory” on the front and had boxes all over it with excerpts from his book. I remember not wanting to burn them with my other clothing, so I buried them out of respect for who I had once been. The shirts were in tatters when I unearthed them, and it was a little weird to see this stuff again. It was kind of like digging up my own grave.
     I returned the manuscript and notes to the earth (this time without the buckets) and brought the shirts back to Muncie for re-interment. I figured it was right to take them home. I have them stored at Lucky Tailor’s place until I decide on where to bury them.

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