Monday, January 13, 2014


I’ve been mentioning here off and on how Vera and I recently moved. We’re still in the process of making the move, actually, which is only about 15 miles but seems like a much larger step given how we’ve left the city for the country, moving to a house on a larger piece of land on which we can keep Vera’s horses.

I’m still making frequent trips back and forth to gather the last of our stuff, which now is down to many less-than-essential items a lot of which we’ll probably be taking to the dump rather than bringing out to the new place. I’ve already written about how the move has forced me to do a lot of self-assessment as I toss out certain items and keep others, including having several instances of lingering over this or that letter or photo or notebook or other memento carrying this or that personal meaning.

This past weekend I found an old envelope full of photographs, quickly recognizing it as representing the product of a couple of rolls’ worth of shots taken way back in my late teens, a time that well predated the advent of digital cameras. Taking pictures was more involved then, and generally speaking people were a lot more selective when it came to using up the 24 shots or whatever you got on a given roll of film.

The pictures were mostly from a very cool trip I took with my grandfather who passed away about a dozen years ago. I can’t remember how we came upon the idea for it -- I think he might have suggested it -- but together he and I had driven across half of the country visiting various baseball parks and some relatives, too, along the way. We saw games in Cincinnati, St. Louis, and Chicago, I remember, the latter at Wrigley Field where he had gone to games back when he had been a young man in the 1930s.

It was one of those special trips that I ended up recounting a lot afterwards to others and which after his passing I valued even more having had the chance to take. When I came across the photos, then, you might think I was excited to relive it all again.

But I wasn’t. Not really. That’s because without even looking at the photos I remembered them and what I would be finding there.

Don’t ask me why, but I had used up all of the shots taking pictures of odd, unlikely objects and various landscapes without any people in them. There were a few crowd shots from the ball games mixed in there, though the only people in the photos were strangers. In other words, there wasn’t much of anything in there at all that could be used to indicate that I had actually been the one taking those photos.

That’s right -- there wasn’t a single picture of my grandfather in there, nor one of me, either.

I guess I was thinking at the time of taking photos that were somehow more “artistic” in nature, avoiding what to my still-developing teenaged brain thought to have been the mundane business of simply documenting our trip with a bunch of “selfies.” My adult self now laments that decision somewhat, though in a way I still understand it.

With Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and other forms of social media, a whole lot of us are now constantly chronicling our lives and publishing our activities for all to see. In fact, there’s a whole generation of people now who have essentially grown up in such a world, and thus can probably access photos, videos, and other evidence of themselves and their friends and family from just about every week of their conscious lives.

Such is not the case for those of us who are a little older. For us much of what we experienced from, say, the mid-1990s and before only remains in fading memories. It’s a little like the difference between poker players of that earlier era who only played live and kept records of their play manually and thus often in a very intermittent way and the online players who have every hand they’ve ever played stored in databases to review over and again.

I think my favorite -- and most absurd -- photo in the bunch is one of the back of a road sign. What in the world was I thinking? What is this a “sign” of, other than a missed opportunity to capture something a little more lasting, a little more meaningful?

Then again, I guess it is a “sign” of me in some way, too, though to read it that way requires some knowledge of context.

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