The Baystate Objectivist

The Baystate Objectivist

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Odd Object

I knew it was going to be one of those nights as soon as we left the theater. Andy called the black and white European film we saw "a fascinating study of the subjectivity of reality."

I called it a plotless bore.

Later at the Haymarket Cafe in Northampton, Andy wanted to sit way off in the corner, and I wanted to sit more in the middle of things, where there was more energy.

"I don't want your fans bothering us while we're trying to talk." Andy says.

"Fans? What fans?"

"The one's from the Internet who are always coming up and asking you questions."

"Dude," I say, "the only thing my fans ask me for is spare change!" But I can see that it's hopeless and so I follow Andy to a table off in the corner.

Metaphorically he is ready to get his list out, my accumulated sins of recent weeks, and I'm not in the mood for it. I put on a grin that I hope is part apology and part plea for mercy.

"Andy, it's Friday night and I'm feeling mellow and I don't want to talk about anything that isn't funny or sexy."

He ignores me and plows ahead. He's been planning this, choosing the words on the ride home from work I'm sure, and is not to be deterred. This conversation I know will require a level of intellectual and emotional focus I don't think I'm capable of just now. Can't we postpone this until another time? Like about a year after I'm dead?

I'm trying to tune in, but my mind is wandering. I notice an odd object hanging on the wall. It is old and dirty and broken and made of grey, sun-faded wood. In complete contrast to it is everything surrounding it, small lights with elegant holders, an antique mirror, a cheerful flower picture. But what is it? It is obviously a wooden box, one with a large space on top covered with a battered door and a smaller open space below. Eureka! It strikes me all at once - it's an old handmade mailbox!

The top part is for magazines, small packages and other larger things that would fall out if not held in place and protected by a door. The lower section is for mail in normal size envelopes. Someone has left a penny there.

"Hey Andy, look at that old handmade mailbox!"

"Tommy are you listening to me?"

Many people wouldn't care about a decrepit wooden, half-wrecked mailbox. After all, it has long outlived its usefulness. But I belong to a special breed of people, or is it a curse, who are fascinating by anything old, such as that ruin of an antique mailbox. It is not the box so much that interests me, but the past that it represents.

Who knows what letters arrived in that mailbox? I can't help but wonder. What was delivered to that box over God knows how many decades? Of course there were bills and ads and such. But there must also have been postcards from vacationing people now dead. How about acceptance letters for college? Rejection letters for a struggling writer? Were there draft notices? Were there love letters? Was there a letter about somebody who wasn't coming home? To some people it's just an old box battered by time. To me it is the silent witness to the endless possibilities of the drama of human life, the last remnant of stories that will never be told. All old things haunt me in that way.

"Tommy, haven't you anything to say for yourself?"

"You win."

"What do you mean?"

"I mean everything we're arguing about, you win."

"I'm not trying to win anything!"

"Oh good!" I quickly say. "Then just let me take some pictures of this box and let's go home."

Today the Massachusetts Democrat Party was having its yearly convention at the Mullins Center at UMass. Of course I didn't attend, but I did spot these Draft Gore activists in front of the Campus Center.

Shouldn't we be grateful to have dodged that bullet back in 2000? Why tempt fate again?

At least I found that some Democrats share my immature sense of humor.

Finally, I leave you with this cautionary tale.

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