Posted on February 10th, 2017
When my grandmother could no longer live on her own and was moved to the nursing home, I packed up all her photo albums and memorabilia and stashed them in my storage unit. After she died, I put off going through everything because I was in the middle of moving house. Once I was moved, all her stuff went into my garage where it sat for a year.
Every once in a while, I go grab a box and rummage through it. Tonight I decided to tackle one of "the big ones" since I didn't bring any work home with me. The box is a hodgepodge of stuff that ranges from the late 1800's to the early 1900's... all of it interesting.
And if there's one thing I can conclude after sifting through this stuff for five hours, it's that people back then were crazy-weird. I can only guess that it was the non-stop boredom of living in a pre-internet society that drove them to be that way.
And if I open up one more damn envelope filled with hair, I'll be joining them. So gross. I mean, what was the obsession with saving hair? There's hair from babies... hair from birthdays... hair from people who just died... hair, hair, and more hair.
And then there's the letters.
People wrote a lot of letters back then. And they were really creative about it. Take, for example, the letter from my great-great-great-whatever that she wrote from the hospital. It included a kind of poem...
The Horrors of the Bedpan
by Gayle Monroe
I wanted to use the toilet
The nurses don't agree.
They say I use the "bedpan"
That thing's so cold on me.
I ring and ring the buzzer
I say I have to go.
Out comes the old cold bedpan,
I think, again? Oh no!
I sit and strain for hours
and then to my despair,
I think relief is coming,
but tis just a gust of air.
I grunt 'n' groan 'n' suffer
and then with an awful jerk
I let loose with a mighty stream
right over the end I squirt.
I ring again the buzzer
and then with an auful stink,
She wisked away my bedpan
and dumps it down the sink.
And then to my great horror
The job was just a stall
I backfired on a belch, Oh God!
It wasn't a belch at all.
I thought I'd clean it up
with the corner of my gown
That spot? It just got bigger,
A hideous glob of brown.
Most folks have their troubels
As you can by now see
A "slip" can be so treacherous
Just ask my cousin and me.
I mean, crazy-weird, right?
Where did the cousin come from at the end? Had she been there the entire time Gayle was in the hospital?
Maybe one of the other letters will explain it all. But probably not. It's crazier-weirder if it's a mystery.
Posted on January 9th, 2015
Yesterday I mentioned that I've got another batch of family photos that are getting scanned.
This morning I started reviewing the scans in process at ScanCafe. As these are my grandmother's photos, I don't know most of the people that are showing up. I assume they're mostly images of my extended family, but they could be anybody.
All I really know for sure is that there's some crazy-interesting stuff popping up...
And it only gets stranger from here...
Posted on April 8th, 2014
This morning I needed to dig out a software manual from storage (remember when software came with printed manuals?) and had a small blue pressboard binder fall on my head. It looked familiar, but I didn't know why.
Remember when I was lamenting that I couldn't remember my CompuServe ID Number? Well, yeah, the small blue pressboard binder had all my CompuServe stuff in it... including my ID...
Now that I see it... 70717,3107... I can't imagine how I ever forgot it. Those digits flow through my mind like my own name, because it was my name for a number of years. When I typed it just then, I didn't even need to take a second look, my fingers automatically keyed it in. Just like old times.
Somehow, I feel more complete than I did yesterday.
ALSO in the small blue pressboard binder... COMPUSERVE INFORMATION SERVICE RATES: 1984!"
A few things...
All told, I'm currently on the internet for one thing or another at least 5 hours a day. That's minimum 35 hours a week... probably much more. Putting two hours of that in the daytime and three hours of that in the evening, in 2014 dollars I'd be spending $58.76 per day... $411.32 per week... just to get online.
And "being online" then sure ain't what it is now.
How in the hell did we ever make it out of the dark ages of technology?
Posted on November 26th, 2010
One of my favorite blogs is Letters of Note, which is a fascinating collection of letters by famous persons which have been nicely transcribed. I happened across it a year ago while researching Alan Moore's work on Marvelman, and have been a huge fan ever since. Pulling a few recent entries from the webfeed, there's a letter from John Lennon saying Yoko Ono doesn't sweat, a speech for President Nixon if the moon landing should fail, John Byrne's introduction of Kitty Pryde to X-Men, and a letter from J.K. Rowling to a young fan about her plan for seven Harry Potter books. The site is addictive, and there's some amazing stuff to be found in their well-organized archives.
It's all good stuff, but this morning's entry "To My Widow," is particularly touching. It's a letter written by doomed South Pole explorer Robert Falcon Scott to his wife when he realized the expedition party wouldn't survive the journey back...
I became interested in the so-called "Heroic Age of Antarctic Exploration" after visiting Frammuseet (The Fram Museum) in Norway, which is home to a ship used for expeditions to both of earth's poles... including the Amundsen Antarctic expedition which beat Robert Falcon Scott to the South Pole by 35 days...
It's a fascinating period in history, and one which has been continuously reinterpreted since it began. Historians have alternately praise Robert Falcon Scott as a hero, then dismissed him as incompetent. Despite all that, Scott's journal (which has been brilliantly reproduced in blog-form!) makes for interesting reading. Humans are at their best and worst while on the cusp of discovery and high adventure, and first-hand historical accounts are a treasure.
In other news... it's Black Friday today! A magical time for our consumerism culture to run amok!
I try hard not to buy something "just because it's on sale," so this day isn't particularly special to me. But I do need to get a new television to replace my ailing one, so I'll keep my eyes open and see if anything interesting turns up. Hopefully I'll find something before mine dies completely, because television is where humanity finds itself on the cusp of awesome discoveries and high adventure
Or at least it will be until the last episode of Hannah Montana airs early next year.