August 24, 2003

Found Stuff

Posted by shonk at 02:32 AM in Ramblings | TrackBack

That picture, at least, is still in my possession, but even at that it'll eventually get out, because that's exactly the kind of nutty stuff you'll find if you really go through your dead relatives' things. In which case it's both nostalgic and eye-opening. For example, when my grandfather died, my mother made a conscientous effort to go through all of his and my grandfather's albums, books, correspondance, memoirs, quilts, etc. and preserve everything that was valuable or important. Since my grandmother was heavily into geneology, quilting and a number of other creative endeavors, we really learned a lot about the family history. And, of course, old pictures tell innumerable stories of their own. The point is, you can learn a lot about a person from the stuff they leave behind, but, for me at least, you always feel like you're missing something. There are so many pictures that don't make any sense but seem like they ought to (why was this common-looking bridge important? Whose house was this?). If you could ask the person what those pictures or those scribbled notes meant, maybe you could learn even more. But, then again, maybe they wouldn't understand them either, the meaning either having been lost to memory or never having existed in the first place.

There's always that fear, though, that the things you leave behind will tell others more than you wanted them to know. More, even, than they wanted to know. Bill Hicks expresses this viewpoint on one of his albums when he says,

I have this fear that I'm going to die before my parents and they're going to discover that porno wing I've been adding onto for years. My mom'll be looking through a box of old pictures, saying, 'Isn't my baby so cute in his cub scout uniform, with his li'l short pants? ... I wonder what's in this box?' There'll be two funerals that day, and I'll be the only guy in history to go through the gates of heaven with his mom spanking him.

Which is, I guess, the upside to internet porn. No boxes, no VHS tapes.

Okay, so lost or thrown-away notes and pictures can serve as a sort of personal narrative, but industrial and structural scrap can definitely serve as a kind of social or cultural narrative. Most of which is pretty ugly, but the Land of Evermore Park in Wisconsin serves as a rather astonishing testament to the fact that it need not be. Dr. Evermor sounds like a certifiable wack-job, but I would definitely check out the park if I'm ever in Wisconsin. And the Forevertron strikes me as a sort of industrial by-product and re-imagining of a Victorian spaceship - a photographic negative of the Victorian worldview.