Have a Merry (Socially Distant) Christmas, this year

Hearkening back to the time when I was in school, during various history classes, I don’t honestly remember going over the period where the Spanish flu was raging through the country in particular and the world in general.  Certainly, there was some mention of it at some point, either in high school and/or in college, but I don’t recall seeing any pictures of people wearing masks, or at the time didn’t put any import to it had I seen them.  This makes sense, there wasn’t any current correlation to the practice, perhaps it was just something that happened at the time, and it was glossed over in my mind as just another picture of a time in history.  Not like pictures that are rooted in people’s minds of landmark events, like the attack on Pearl Harbor, the first atomic bomb test ‘Trinity‘, and the portrait of the three CSA soldiers outside of Gettysburg.

Battleship Row during 1941 attack
Trinity atomic bomb test, 1945 New Mexico
Three Confederate prisoners, outside Gettysburg, 1863

I wonder if in 60 years when kids are in school (or learning remotely still because of the precedent of what occurred this year) will they be seeing pictures (or holos?) of people in 2020 wearing masks, keeping a distance from one another, and attach any meaning to it all?  Will there be nostalgic shops online that sell overpriced vintage KN95 masks so people can recreate what happened back then, play ‘pandemic’ like they recreate battles of the Civil or Revolutionary Wars nowadays.  Will there be another pandemic in 2120?

Old Neighbors

I grew up in a rural part of New York State.  At that time, there were some transplants from New York City (90 miles south) that had purchased houses and lived there on weekends and vacations, but certainly not the way that they have transformed the town in the intervening years since.  In my own neighborhood/cul-de-sac, there was at least one family that fit this description, as the house was not often occupied during the week, but came to life on the weekends and in the summer when school was out and the weather was much warmer.

The family had two children, but neither of them was educated locally.  Even so, the family was pretty subdued and didn’t make much of their present or past significance in show business.  There was a persistent rumor that the father did voiceover work in commercials (the one I remember vividly was that he was the voice of Starkist’s ‘Charlie the Tuna’ from television, [which I recently discovered turned out to be false]) and that he had acted in a soap opera or two in New York City.  As neighborhoods go, ours was pretty seemingly uninterested in things that were considered sensational so this information was left to rumor and innuendo and nothing much was ever made of it.

I have a small fixation with the neighborhood I grew up in, in that I keep tabs on the house and the surrounding area, even though we sold the property in 1992 and it’s gone through several owners since then.  I did visit the property two years ago with my birth mother, to show her where I grew up and for me it was a possibility of seeing the house where I spent 27 years living and supposedly maturing.  The current owners of the house weren’t amenable to us going through it, since the elderly father of the woman that owned it lived there with an aide, so we were relegated to walking the grounds outside. I was able to peek into the windows of a few of the rooms to see if much had changed, some things did, others haven’t.  But that isn’t the topic of this entry.

A couple of nights ago I was looking at Google Earth and thought to check out the street view of my neighborhood (if indeed it was available) and discovered a Google car had indeed made it to my cul-de-sac.  I just happened to be checking out some of the other properties and decided to look at the cluster of mailboxes near the intersection of two streets.  Lo and behold one of them looked strikingly familiar.  The family name of the ‘famous’ family was still on one of them!  It was the same size and shape that I remember, and the little brass and black stick on letters I’d remembered seeing there were still present, spelling out the last name.  So I was intrigued that perhaps they still owned the house and property.  Only a couple of the original residents of the area are still in their houses, all of the others have either died or moved elsewhere.

Doing a little Internet digging I discovered the tax records (they’re publicly available in case you were wondering) and sure enough the property is owned by their Limited Liability Corporation, but it has the family name attached to it all the same.  From that I discovered the father had died in 2015, but the mother still lived mainly in California, and apparently the son now lived in the house as he was apparently retired from his former work at CBS Sports (he was a producer).  There was a police blotter report from a couple years ago where the son was ticketed for DWI by the local yokels, and it listed his age.  From there I came upon the obituary of the father, and it listed his accomplishments and among them were his voiceover work, as well as acting in a soap opera from the 1950s.  A serial called Young Dr. Malone that apparently had started as a radio program but morphed into a television one when tv became the norm and housewives needed distraction during that era.

As it turned out, the rumors were partially true.  We had a somewhat celebrity living in our midst.  They were very nice people as I remember and didn’t make much of their celebrity.  Of course, we also had a millionaire living in our neighborhood, but that’s another story for another day.

 

Reversing an old habit

The adage goes ‘Old habits die hard’, and they do. Certainly one of the worst ones I have is the need for clutter around me. Well, I can’t say it’s a need necessarily, it’s just what I’ve become accustomed to, what’s easiest and it’s certainly what I grew up with.

My parents were pack rats. Today they would be branded as hoarders, but the result is the same. Granted this condition probably stemmed from growing up during the Depression years of the first third of the  20th century where families were losing fortunes, property, and their life savings as well as their possessions every day. You held onto whatever you had as long as you could. Too, things were built to last longer, not like today when items you purchase might not even last a season, let alone a year.

With all that in mind, I’m reminded that I have a house chock full of stuff. Every room has piles of things that just sit and take up space, they don’t move for weeks, sometimes months and quite often years. Add in the fact I have a storage bin with boxes of items, old furniture, and antiques from my parent’s house. Much of it hasn’t been touched in close to 30 years, certainly, much of it is still in the same boxes they were packed up in, in 1992. As I get older, I begin to worry about what will become of it when I’m gone. I don’t have children to pass it onto, so more than likely it will either be auctioned off or tossed in a dumpster somewhere. Or a landfill. That’s a sobering thought.

With all that in mind, I’ve come to the conclusion something needs to be done before that scenario may come to pass.

The way I figure it, there are 12 rooms/sections of the house (not counting the storage bin, but definitely counting the garage) and there are 12 months in the year. It’s not to the point where there are newspapers and junk piled in every room, but there are things, and boxes, trash, and just stuff cluttered here and there that can be dealt with. I’m not going for a ‘hoe-out’, where things get tossed en masse, but we do need to cut down on the crap and minimize in many cases. Donate some, sell others, toss what’s broken, can’t be fixed or is beyond salvage. When we cleaned out my parent’s house in ’92 we filled 5 long construction debris bins with things they had accumulated over the years, and a lot of stuff was still left behind even so. I don’t want a repeat of that. That was hellacious.

So that’s my goal for 2020. 12 months, 12 rooms. I’ll be updating this as I go. If I finish a room early, I can start on the next, I think that’s fair.

Wish me luck.