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June 22, 2007

cleaning out my father’s basement part 1

There was a point in my life, not too long ago, when I pretty much still owned everything I had ever owned, from grade-school lunch boxes to college history notes to grunge-era flannel shirts. Does that make me a pack rat? Maybe. Emotionally immature? Perhaps. Desperate to cling to the comfortable certainties of an over-romanticized past rather than deal with the unsettling notion of an unknowable future? Possibly. A sad, pathetic commentary on… wait, where was I going with this?

Oh yeah, short of purchasing another house just to store my stuff (I did work the numbers) I’ve had to start throwing things out. Currently my most pressing mission is to help clean out my father’s basement before he sells the house.

I arrived on a sunny Friday, a little before 6PM. My father had left me a note: “Call as soon as you get in!” with an unfamiliar number written underneath. The exclamation point meant one of two things as far as I was concerned: The hospital or the morgue. Okay, so the morgue seemed unlikely since he had written the note but still, that would have been some impressive foresight.

The number got me the answering machine of his fiancé and I remembered they were out having dinner with some friends. It still being early I could have plunged into the dark basement and started working but I like to think of myself as a live-in-the-moment carpe diem kind of guy (which sounds way better than a self-centered narcissistic jerk kind of guy) so I went to the refrigerator in the garage and grabbed a very very bad Michelob Ultra. My brother had purchased a case of this unfortunate brew a couple of trips ago in a moment of madness and we’ve been choking it down ever since. (It’s a moral obligation I explained to my father later.)

I brought a chair out to the back patio, lit a cigar and opened up “A Farewell to Arms” having gotten on a Hemingway kick after finding a copy of “The Sun Also Rises” on my first trip to the basement a month earlier. I then spent the remaining daylight hours immersed in the tale of an American officer serving in the Italian army during The Great War, my reading interrupted only by occasional gagging fits as I worked my way through the detestable Michelob. 

I should point out here that in order to fully appreciate the motivations driving the characters in a Hemingway novel (if not the author himself) it is important that one consumes alcohol in quantities commensurate with the historical context of the work. 

So, you see I’m not just sitting on the back patio getting drunk. I’m being literary. (God bless you Ernest Hemingway.)

After a couple of hours I decided to go get something to eat. Fortunately there is a local convenience store a ten-minute stagger from the house. 

I studied the menu board by the sandwich counter carefully looking in vain for an Italian sub. Well, fine, I thought, they have a bunch of cold cuts. They could improvise. Actual conversation with sandwich lady: 

Me: I want something like an Italian sub.
Sandwich Lady: We have Italian subs.
Me: Well then, that would work.

Of course, this being central Pennsylvania I was required to specify provolone over American, but the sandwich was quite good (as you will usually find in PA) and hit the spot. 

Back at the house, I had had enough of the Michelob Ultra for the evening and wanted something else. Now, my father doesn’t really drink (he’s not as “literary” as I am apparently), but for the occasional wine or beer, but he is of that generation of men for whom a perfectly acceptable (if not outright expected) holiday gift was a bottle of whiskey.

And that, my friends, is why they call it “The Greatest Generation.”

Among his collection was a bottle of Canadian Club that had already been opened. The label read “aged 6 years.” More like 26 I’d guess but it had a fine, familiar aroma. Naturally the house was not well stocked with mixers, but there is always some ginger ale on hand which meant I had the makings of a fine whiskey highball.  Now all I needed was ice.

No ice. The ice maker in the freezer was empty. The ice cube trays were empty. What kind of insanity was this? I felt as if I’d been brutally shorn of the trappings of civilization, standing there as my ancient ancestors must have with little more than bear skins, crude flint tools, and a bottle of aged Canadian Club blended whiskey.

But no, I would not allow circumstances to strip me of my humanity. I went to college, after all. I had an education. I’d think of something.

I left out the ice.

Later my father came home and turned on the icemaker (I never said I was an “A” student) and a short while later I heard the familiar “plunkety-plunk-plunk” and had ice for my last drink of the evening.

0616071759 How did my basement expedition go the next day? Well, In Part 2, I’ll have some of the items I found, but for now I will point out with no small measure of pride that I successfully polished off the last of the justifiably maligned Michelob Ultra. “Our long national nightmare is over” my brother texted me.

Indeed it was. And yet another one was just beginning.

He had bought some Rolling Rock too.


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June 22, 2007 at 09:42 AM in Weekend Leisure | Permalink


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I consider it encouraging that I bothered with the ginger ale.

Posted by: Planet Moron | Jun 28, 2007 12:10:20 PM

o, the drunken sot.
the depths to which the man has plunged becomes evident when once we read that he dast consume a highball without the required ice.

a cad and a sot. my my.

Posted by: Huh? | Jun 25, 2007 8:17:50 PM

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