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What Am I Packing? Mostly Electrons.

July 25, 2012

Tomorrow I leave for the last leg of my time in America, the last place I will live among the dozens of places I have lived in America, Lo! this nearly half a century since my birth.  I’ll be couching with my favoritest friends Jeromy & Vicki in Houston July 25-Aug. 5.  On Aug. 6, I shall depart these United States.

I’m taking a minimum of stuff with me to Houston.  All I should have left is what I’m taking to Europe—all of which has to fit in a suitcase, a guitar gig bag, and a backpack—and about a van load’s worth of stuff to sell.  So it’s crunch time here at mom’s house; everything must go.

The bulk of what remains is personal memorabilia and my creative work, i.e., photos, papers and audio recordings: the residue of a life spent devoted to playing musical instruments and writing in notebooks… my own personal library of Alexandria. So for the past week, I’ve been digitizing like some coffee-crazed Smithsonian archivist, trying to save what’s worth saving—and frankly, much of it deserves to burn—before the fire, or riots, or whatever, of my departure… if I may stretch a classical analogy to the breaking point.

The point is that, instead of packing, I’m mostly scanning papers and converting audio tapes to wav files.  The idea is to get it all on my hard drive, which I can take with me, (and leave a backup somewhere relatively safe.)  I’m not going to get it all, there’s just no way; the audio tapes are a particularly time-consuming hassle.  (Not that scanning a few thousand pages of handwriting is a picnic.)  But I’ll get the bulk of it, the important stuff, and I won’t leave too much behind at mom’s house.

It’s a funny time we live in.  Much of our lives are migrating into computerized simulacra.  (If you read much Philip K. Dick, none of this should be a surprise.)  If, as it seems, it means that less of the natural world is transformed into physical objects, then me, I’m all for it.  It seems to be true in my case.  I buy less and use less than I did a quarter century ago.  Maybe these digital vapor trails are ephemeral—we all know how easy it is to lose data—but then, isn’t the solidity of all our artifacts mostly an illusion?  What do I have that belonged to my grandparents?  Almost nothing.

We’re here and gone.  The less of a mess we leave behind, the better.  So I’m doing my best to live by the old ecological slogan: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.

Well, back to the scanner.

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