Relics

by Joey deVilla on June 28, 2005

As the last remaining occupant of my house, a place that has seen many housemates come and go — my sister and brother-in law, Dan, Paul, Kenji, Samantha and finally Robertson — the responsibility of cleaning up any junk left behind by the other occupants has fallen to Yours Truly.

Among the left-behind junk:

  • Some old computer books left behind by Kenji, including the Myst Strategy Guide.
  • Various bits of Dan’s esoteric computer gear, such as a Sparc laptop (encased in steel, heavy and non-functional) and a Symbolics Lisp Machine (even heavier, equally non-functional).
  • A banker’s box of jewel cases for electronica CDs. They are all empty.
  • One large bag of cotton stuffing.
  • The shelf from the desk I have loaned to various housemates. It looks as though it was removed from the desk using a crowbar as opposed to the proscribed screwdriver.
  • “The Chick Stash”: a collection of various herbal teas kept on hand for those visits from charming lady friends.
  • One empty bottle of girly hair care product.
  • A small ziploc bag containing a set of fine-mesh metal discs — presumably filters of some sort — of unknown purpose and provenance.
  • One bordering-on-disturbing manga.
  • A badly-scratched unlabelled CD-ROM containing two smutty videos: one titled facial_table.avi (a surprisingly descriptive name once you view the file) and the other containing a short clip of Alyssa Milano removing her shirt and going topless.
  • 6 boxes of cake mix, 10 cans organic beans. I know that Paul is a big fan of both these foods, but this is too much for even him to eat. I suspect that he has somehow found a way to turn cake mix and beans into crystal meth because that’s what people who buy suspiciously large quantities of seemingly innocent household products (for example, Sudafed) do. There’s something about crystal meth that turns people into MacGyver.

Although the aforementioned finds do tell some interesting stories, they don’t hold a candle to another find. Deep in the farthest recesses of the crawlspace storage area of the basement were two banker’s boxes full of “memories” — things I’d collected between 1985 and 2001.

Some highlights include:

  • A notice from small claims court telling me and George to cough up the money we owed to the silk-screening company for our failed attempt to become rich by selling “Frosh” t-shirts.
  • A cardboard star wrapped in blue foil: a decoration from a particularly memorable Havergal College semi-formal.
  • A ticket to a New Year’s 1991 GWAR concert. I somehow managed to convince Robertson to come see the show with me. I believe he had a good time. That concert changed the way I looked at live rock performance forever.
  • Security clearance to be part of the press scrum for the Prince and Princess of Wales’ visit to Crazy Go Nuts University, Fall 1991.
  • My “licenses” from Crazy Go Nuts University’s 1987 engineering frosh week: a necklace made of five beer caps and a purple string.
  • A $150 mini-bar bill from Labour Day Weekend 1986, when I rented a suite at the downtown Holiday Inn to throw a party. It seemed like an impossibly large amount of money back then (I was 18).
  • A collection of notes left for me by various people throughout my university career:
    • A note from Stacy telling me to get in touch with her if I’m not feeling too “laid back”. I can no longer remember the context. Do you, Stacy? (She reads this blog from time to time.)
    • Another from my engineering classmates Lois (a.k.a “Snowbunny Number One”) and Heidi inviting me to help them with their surveying homework.
    • A guest list for a party to be held at Terry’s, Brad’s and Drew’s house, Spring 1992. One group of invitees on the list is simply referred to as the “House of Annoying Women”.
    • A message from George that reads “happy birthday, you old poop”.
    • A request left for me during one of my DJ shifts at Clark Hall Pub. The top entry is in girly handwriting and is a request for ABBA’s Dancing Queen and Boney M’s Rasputin. Below it, someone has written “For the love of God, please ignore above requests”.
  • A carbon copy of a summons written up by a police officer, dated July 1985. The charge: “fouling the sidewalk”.

Strangely enough, I’m planning to throw away the most interesting things: the letters from “exes”. I’d already tossed out those I’d found in a box of mementos I kept in my room, but the lion’s share are in these boxes. These go back all the way to the end of high school.

I read each one. Some made me laugh, others made me wince and one or two just made me sigh.

Most of these letters date from the years spanning 1987 to 1997, after which email took over and any handwritten was relegated to greeting cards. While email is quicker, the medium of “snail mail” allowed many of my exes and those who didn’t quite fall under the category of “girlfriend” (“dalliance”, perhaps?) to show off their creativity. Many of the letters and notes were written in multicoloured ink, on the backs on interesting posters or other unique scraps of paper or had drawings in pencils, coloured pencils, ink and pastel crayons. A few had photos pasted in; some were letters composed entirely out of phrases cut from magazines, and a number were embellished with stickers.

(Whenever a male geek gets annoyed at email written in HTML rather than plain text, I suspect that he never got letters like these.)

Mail attachments in those days were different. One girlfriend sent me some sand from a beach in Spain with a note saying “we’ll do this next year.” Another who worked in a biology lab sent me her DNA sample (I returned the favour later, but without the benefit of lab equipment).

Some of these letters very clearly showed the state of mind of the author when written. One note from a girl at McGill University was written while drunk in blue hi-liter and large letters. Another letter had its writing blurred by a couple of tear stains, although knowing her, she deliberately wept over the paper for effect. Another was a blank Valentine’s day card that a rather clingy one had sent to me to fill out and send to her. She’d done everything but send a self-addressed stamped envelope.

A couple were prolific writers: I counted over 40 from two. They’d both written them over a one-year period.

One particularly good one was a poem from a rather gifted English major. I normally run in the opposite direction as fast as I can when approached by a university-age woman who wants to read me her poetry, but this one was quite good. It’s a damned shame that the poem is a searing indictment of me.

All in all, this stash of letters, cards and notes made me realize that although I often had absolutely no clue of what the hell I was doing, I didn’t do too badly with the ladies. (I became way more clued-in later, right around the time I started playing accordion.)

As I mentioned earlier, I’m trashing these. I’ll keep a photo or two, but those missals with lines like “a part of me will love you until the day I die” or “you’d better pick up your clothes before I throw them out, jerk-face” are going.

The combination of moving and an impending new life as a married man have motivated me to do this. I think that when you get married, you should put away those old love letters, especially if you’re still friends with one or two of these exes (or dalliances, as the case may be).

Although I’m sure that some of the stories behind those letters may end up as blog entries, I can’t see any good reason to keep them around once I’m sharing a home with a woman to whom I’m promising me for the rest of my life, especially when she’s leaving so much behind to be with me. I had the experiences, I have the memories, and I’ll have a future with her with which to gather new mementoes.

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Anonymous June 28, 2005 at 5:22 pm

Great post! It (almost) made me want to move just so I could find cool old stuff like that 🙂

Sarah

Anonymous June 28, 2005 at 5:26 pm

Now I’m half-curious to read the searing indictment…

Anonymous June 28, 2005 at 8:34 pm

This post demonstrated that it’s always fun to look back. While now you’ve probably had your fill of the old letters, in the future you might regret tossing away so much of your history. In thirty years you won’t remember them nearly as well, and you’ll wish that you never threw them away.

Trust me, I know; I did something similiar.

Anonymous June 28, 2005 at 9:14 pm

Why throw ’em out? Are you & W going to be that pressed for storage space? They’ll be just as entertaining to read a couple decades from now. Make a time capsule!

Or better yet, figure out a way to insert them into the walls of your house. Then 200 years from now when the house is demolished to build a condo or renovated for the Xth time some contractor will find your treasure trove…

Anonymous June 29, 2005 at 4:45 am

“presumably filters of some sort — of unknown purpose and provenance”

Um… fine metal mesh circular filters? Like the kind that go in a hash pipe?

Thats another reference that’ll soon be antiquated… who smokes hash anymore…

Anonymous June 29, 2005 at 5:45 am

I questioned Joey’s decision to throw them all away too. But it’s what he wants to do, and I’m certainly happy he wants to focus on me. 🙂 I have very few old letters myself, but I think I will keep the printout of an email from my old boyfriend Mike which misspells “drunk” a few times. Nothing mushy, just amusement.

No comment on the filters.

I love you my honey.

Anonymous June 29, 2005 at 5:14 pm

On the subject of miscellaneous stuff left behing, the cloth Internet World trade show bag is mine… I used it to carry the Elvis paper plates — and, ok, some beer — to your birthday party, then forgot it there. It’s not a treasured memento; more of a souvenir from the good ol’ heady days.

Anonymous June 30, 2005 at 2:05 am

Letters cut out from magazine text? Joey — are you saving ransom notes?

Anonymous June 30, 2005 at 7:38 am

So what version Symbolics machine is it and is it salvageable? 🙂

Anonymous June 30, 2005 at 5:29 pm

Hey Joey:

I think it was during the time that Dhimant was crashing with you, and I was visiting from time to time. You all were on your wine kick and I was sadly waiting to go to McGill! Crazy that it’s still in yer little box!

-Stasia

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