From time to time or when the spirit moves me, whichever comes first, you will read here not an account of bygone days or friends, nor of old schools or streets or the cars that motored down them, or that insipid little six-year-old squirt on his Schwinn pedalling all over town scribing how it used to be, but the opinion of the scribe who posts this column, the scrivener who labors long nights in the lonely writer’s garret while others are out cavorting about the village. This is one of those posts…
Permit me to bring an old friend into the text, whose name is Tora Bengochea [pictured below]. Tora emailed me a couple of months ago, with an offer of some stuff I’ll elaborate on shortly. Having her permission I’ll post an early email from her, to get all the readers into the mood:
OK, here’s the gist of what Tora’s original email contained. She, like many of us, is cleaning her house of “stuff” – stuff it’s taken a lifetime to accumulate, stuff we can remember the night we purloined it out of a restaurant or won in a raffle or found in a hockshop in Seaside, Oregon and couldn’t do without. She wrote, I have a set of Lancer salt and pepper shakers, a 1968 Verdi commemorative cookbook, and the grail sought by many young housewives several – awright – five decades ago: “Reno Also Cooks” – Washoe Medical Center Womens League’s highly collectible cookbook – highly desired not necessarily for the recipes but by the daughters of the then-young women who entered their recipes in the book (and a few men, also). One of the most popular columns I once ran was a selection of those recipes, right here, I’ll put a link to it at the end of today’s Labor Day rant. And another link to my “Tombola Days” site. If I can find them.
Tora asked, “Can you find a good home for these things? They’re my treasures, and don’t belong in a garage sale or Goodwill store…?” Uhh, yeah, Tora, I think I can do that…
So she sent them to me from her home in Oregon.
I have found homes for the treasures. A lady friend of mine who grew up in Verdi has the Verdi cookbook, and a waiting list of friends who want to see it. The Lancer shakers are with a youngish friend of mine, the son of my contemporary at the Sigma Nu frat house, who now entertains often in his home (with his bride, I should add!) and dozens of his friends will see them in the coming year, and conversations will ensue. And the Washoe Med cookbook? A tough call, but it went to a lady who has an abundance of daughters and whose mother entered a recipe in the book 40 years ago, so the little book is assured of being around and enjoyed ’til perpetuity.
OK, now let the rant begin: We all have “stuff” that we’ve accumulated. In yakking this column-topic up with some friends, all agree that most of our children wouldn’t give house room to most of the “treasures” we cherish. In my own writer’s garret I look up from the paper in my Underwood standard at a cast-pewter bear from my grandmother’s house in Petaluma, Calif., that came ’round the Horn in the 19th Century from Ireland; I see a dozen cameras of all age and stripe and description – movie, still, box, better 35mm. film cameras that no one wants now; a mahogany model of a PBM Navy airplane that no one remembers; a Deitz lantern I brought home from New England on a family motor trip in 1952, and a brass spittoon embossed with an Indian chief tobacco brand that I stole from a bar downtown when I was in college, when I could still write “Indian” and spittoons hadn’t become “cuspidors” in polite society yet.
These will all go in the dumpster upon my demise, but somewhere there’s a person who wants a pewter bear from the Berne, Switzerland zoo, there’s one of the hundred men who flew a PBM in WWII, packed a Bell & Howell camera before digital cams existed or a bachelor like me who’s a bachelor because he reveres his spittoon and lantern. Somewhere, but where…? ) I gave one of my Underwood standards to Lt. Emerson Marcus, a remarkable young guy who’s the PIO for the Nevada National Guard and in my opinion if not selected as a future governor of Nevada or an Air Force four-star, someone’s missing the boat. Plus, his mommy’s cute…
So, I write today: Look around your house. Focus on one of your favorite gadgets. Cherish the memory. Then, try to picture it lying alongside a pewter bear or a spittoon in a 14-yard dumpster, because that’s where it will wind up if you and I meet our Maker around the same time frame. As I said, our kids don’t want it. Mine have my whole garret – a whole lifetime – to deal with, and don’t want my treasures. But – somewhere, someone is itching to get that trinket of yours, and that PBM airplane of mine. Let’s make it easy for all. Look back upon the happy times that gadget has brought you, then say, “How can I be assured that it will find a home as good as the one I gave it?” Give it some thought. The Nevada Historical Society can’t find what they have now. I was offered eight old phone book cover artwork paintings, framed, that came from a friend’s dad’s office. The NHS turned them down. I found them a good, public home, where they’ll be seen and enjoyed by many, for years to come with the artists’ names affixed to them. The City of Reno, while we have a whale in our Believe Park, a Lear Theater falling down around itself, unmanned and empty fire stations and pretty murals gracing vacant buildings, does not have a museum. All wide spots in the Nevada roads have a museum. Sparks has a great museum. But don’t plan on your stuff going to the Reno Museum, ‘cuz we can’t get one together. Hell, this lonely writer’s garret is the beginning of a museum, only one of many inadvertent ones in Reno. But I’m divesting, not collecting. Anybody want a PBM bomber or a Dietz lantern?
A hat-tip here to Tora Bengochea. She did what we all should be doing. I know it tore Tim and her up to wrap up those cookbooks, and the Lancer tableware. But, many are already enjoying them, as they once did.