Monday, September 08, 2008

Personal archeology of the not-too-distant past

Science has shown junk reproduces at will in the garage.

It’s now been three Sundays in a row that I’ve spent all day cleaning out the garage in preparation for its demolition and replacement. The first Sunday was probably the most fun because I unearthed all this cool stuff I forgot I had—I especially liked the photos, what’s left of my old train set and the vast collection of obsolete and/or defunct bike parts.

The second week, things got a bit more business-like, but still fun-ish…listening to eons-old mix tapes, enjoying the unique cast of characters that having a free yard sale attracts (try it and you’ll see what I mean) and throwing pieces of wood javelin-style across the yard were the highlights. There was also lots of blocking and tackling…organizing, reorganizing…trashing and recycling, as you’d expect.
There was another 'f' originally, but somebody took it.

The third week…well, you just want it to be done with. You keep asking yourself how come that box of junk doesn’t sort itself out? How many times am I going to trip over that rake before I pick it up? What the fuck did I ever need a 10 pound bucket of hot-dipped galvanized nails for? Is it healthy that my snot is black from dust when I blow my nose?
Need any paint? Sealer? Raid? Fertilizer? Stain?

But still, fun manages to rear its awesome head even when you’re over the whole thing. I unearthed an unmarked cassette, dusted it off and snapped it into the mono portable tape deck that plays at delightfully random, variable speeds and hit play. The next four plus minutes I spent blissed out spinning in circles in the middle of the garage listening to Yo La Tengo’s “Detouring America With Horns.” I had goosebumps the entire time. I completely forgot that song existed and that I love it. And that it reminds me of my first trip to California.

I also found my favorite trophy ever. It’s from the 1989 Pontiac (Ill.) Triathlon, a rather untraditional team triathlon that has one person run, the other bike and both canoe (yes canoe—only in Central Illinois).
Pontiac '89: A trophy with a purpose.

I did said race with Steve Speckman, a dorm mate of mine at the time, and after the first two stages, we looked like Olympians. Steve won the run, turning in a sub-18 minute 5k and by the time I got done with the bike we were ahead of the entire field by 10 minutes.

Then we got in the canoe.

For whatever reason Steve and I never really talked about the canoe part before the race. Steve grew up on the Kankakee River—one of the best paddling rivers in the state—and it was my natural assumption that he knew his way around a J-stroke. Steve revealed to me post-race that he thought I had been a Boy Scout (nope) with mad outdoor skills, canoeing among them (nope). Though my mom and I used to rent rowboats and go fishing, I’d never ever been in a canoe. I quickly learned how much easier a rowboat is to handle.

As the crow flies, the canoe portion was two-and-a-half miles to the turn-around and another 2.5 back to the finish line. I’m fairly certain we paddled at least twice that far. Heading upstream in our clapped-out behemoth of a rental canoe, Steve and I zigged and zagged against the current with little control. We yelled at each other like a pair of magpies as we ran aground to the left…and to the right…and to the left again.

It wasn’t long before boats began passing us—beautiful opaque fiberglass boats with pilots that made it all look effortless. At first it was just a boat every now and then…by the turn-around we were getting passed wholesale.

At one point, I’d actually considered jumping in the river and pushing the boat with a whip kick. It certainly would have been faster, but given the cold weather, so would hypothermia.

Miraculously we made it back to the finish—and without tipping over. Because all the real canoeing talent was in nice boats, we managed to place second in the stock boat division and were presented with the coolest trophies ever—home made benches straight outta woodshop with our achievement painted crudely on them.

Though it’s been buried in the garage for a while now, the bench brings a smile to my face every time I step on it to reach high shelves or take a seat on it to work on a drivetrain. Though I’ve been in purge mode throughout the garage process, this is one item I think I’ll hang onto.
I'll miss this hosebib.
Given the sheer volume of photos and curiosities, I imagine the garage contents will provide blog fodder for some time, assuming I make the time to chronicle it all. Expect more weirdness.

1 comment:

Green Laker said...

What are your garage plans?