Riding Bitch

The daily musings of a writer.


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Touchstones and Purging

After three weeks of packing, sorting, moving and saying goodbye, Ruby and I are FINALLY on the road. The last time I moved across country was exactly 19 years ago (August 1995). I remember it being hectic, but not quite as massive as this current move from Los Angeles to upstate New York. This moving process has been nothing short of revelatory.

In sorting through journals, letters, cards and photos (many of which pre-date my move to Los Angeles), I revisited past loves, relationships, friendships, as well as periods of grief, mourning, anticipation, travel, professional highs and lows, new beginnings, family milestones and family strife. Some of my friends suggested getting rid of these mementos. “Who needs them? They’re your past! You’re embracing your future!” Another friend reminded me, “There is only now.”

I did throw out a lot, but none of the journals and only a fraction of the letters, cards and photos. As a writer, especially one attempting to write a memoir, I feel like these touchstones are important, like little flash cards of life. This is when you did this. This is how you felt about that. This person loved/hurt/confused/helped you. When I get to NY, I plan to organize some of these items into chronological order. This way I can easily access my original recollections of specific time periods, people and events.

Other things I kept: favorite books, artwork, coffee mugs, office supplies, paperweights, notebooks, DVDs and clothing. I also kept several items of Kaz’s. Some things I plan to give to his family. Other things I plan to hold onto as long as it feels right.

I’m proud to say that I got rid of much, much more — over half of my belongings. Whatever I couldn’t sell, I either donated to a local church or threw down the trash shoot. It felt like a great purge.

Not ironically, within an hour of driving out of Los Angeles I started experiencing body aches, exhaustion, fever and nausea. Was it psychosomatic or something more serious? “Patient checked for Ebola in Sacramento!” a friend texted me. I told myself it was food poisoning. In any case, I couldn’t keep driving. I pulled over in Lost Hills, a tiny, dusty town off the 5 Freeway, and checked into a Motel 6. I slept for 14 hours, waking only once to walk Ruby and puke my guts out.

That was the day before yesterday. I’m feeling better now, and currently in San Francisco visiting my father for his 85th birthday. The road trip officially begins when we leave here this weekend.

I decided to take the Northern route: Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, South Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York. I’ll be visiting Redwood National Park, Yellowstone National Park, Badlands National Park, Mt. Rushmore, and many more places. If you have any other suggestions, please chime in. I’ll be blogging the entire trip, and meeting some bloggers along the way.

One more update: the Vegas production gig has been postponed (for the third time). I’m not going to mention it again until they send me a ticket. 🙂

Looking forward to sharing the journey with you!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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Dealing With a Loved One’s Things

In anticipation of the big move, I’ve begun to sell some of my stuff. Smaller items so far: DVDs, CDs, books, shoes, clothes, etc. Soon I will sell the larger items: bed, couch, entertainment unit, etc. I want to travel as light as possible, and I don’t have any emotional attachment to things. I never have actually, with a few exceptions: my mother’s watercolors, a ceramic mug she made, a wooden cutting board (shaped like a pig) that my brother made when he was 11, a wooden step stool that he made when he was 14, and a small piece of art by my sister.

Other than those few sentimental items, my computer, journals, clothes and several books, I couldn’t care less about much else in the apartment — unless it belonged to my late husband.

Kaz was very attached to his things and, not surprisingly, had a lot of really interesting stuff. His things represented who he was — or rather what his interests were. If you didn’t know him personally, you could tell a lot about him just from his collection of books, music, clothes and artwork. For example, you could tell that he liked heavy metal and rap music, tattoos, graphic novels and comic books. You could tell that he loved Pam Grier, the blaxploitation era, certain television shows, science fiction and chess. You could also tell that he had an appreciation for voluptuous women and alcohol (he collected shot glasses and flasks).

When I redecorated the apartment shortly after he died (because I wanted to stay here but not have it look exactly the same), I kept most of these things around to both represent and remind me of him.

I also gave some of his things away to his family and friends almost immediately. I had this overwhelming urge for people to have a ‘piece’ of him, as represented by a belt, a pair of his beloved Nike sneakers (he had dozens), a t-shirt, a sweatshirt, a DVD he loved, or his favorite hat. I gave his small collection of toy cars to my brother to give to his two little boys, who were 5 and 3 at the time. My brother later told me that before he gave them the cars, he explained to them where the toy cars came from, and why they were receiving them. The boys were so moved by the story of the man who had gotten sick and died young that they cried.

But what I gave away was only a small fraction of what Kaz owned. Now, three years later, on the eve of leaving the apartment and starting anew, I am facing the dilemma of what to do with the remaining items.

Do I pack and ship everything to his family? That would be extremely time-consuming and expensive (but I probably will end up doing with certain things).

Do I give stuff away to his friends and/or Goodwill?

Do I sell things? This feels like the most practical and fastest, but also the most controversial.

There are some things I know for sure I’ll take with me, mostly artwork, books, a bicycle, his motorcycle gear, two heavy glass tumblers (for drinking scotch) –  and, yes, maybe the shot glass collection. Everything else, I’m not sure.

Like I said, I have never been one to place much importance on things. But dealing with someone else’s things is different, especially if those things were important to them. I just don’t know how long to hang onto stuff. I also worry that if I get rid of too much, I’ll have nothing left of him. It’s a tough call all around.

Have you dealt with this issue? How did you handle your loved one’s things?

What would you want your surviving spouse to do with your things?