Beware of the Dark Abyss

(Writer’s note: This blog began in 2010 with a great deal of excitement and inspiration. It had a great first effort, but quickly got sidetracked by an unexpected life event that took a while to get through; quite simply the “joy of writing… just to do it” wasn’t there — so, today, I am asking for a “do over”! And I’d like to begin it with something old-something new.  I found this entry, which was started in mid-July 2010, but never finished.  I guess you could say it was sitting in a box in the Blog Basement, collecting dust and, let’s face it, not feeling any love. Well, it’s finally time to put it out there to see the light of day…)

Basements can be rather creepy places.  I guess that’s why they make such perfect backdrops for scenes in scary movies — it’s something about that dark abyss, the stairs that always creak, the unusually cold temperatures, that odd, musty smell… and, oh yeah, the dead bodies and big monsters that are lurking down in that pitch-black hole. When you put all of it together, you don’t have to be Stephen King or M. Night Shyamalan to really scare the pants off someone.  And, if it’s nighttime, the lights are out and your flashlight doesn’t work – that basement is often like stepping into a haunted house.

Whenever the random service guy  –plumber, air conditioner repairman,  cable guy… (you get the idea)–  asks to enter the dark and dangerous dungeon at my house, I often find myself apologizing profusely that it looks, well… like a basement.  And each time, with an uncanny, almost parrot-like repetition, they respond the same exact way, “Oh, don’t worry, they all look the same.” And every time they pause in careful thought just a moment longer, then quickly add, “some are worse.”  Really?  There are basements more frightening than mine?!  I hate to admit it…. but I always find that strangely comforting. Scary, isn’t it?

What actually resides in basements, besides your deepest childhood fears and monsters that go bump in the night?  After some extensive scientific research, I have found that many will include giant LED/LCD “Game Day”-style (55-inch or larger) plasma screens, theater-style seating, gaming systems, surround sound, wet bars… the works!  Not mine.  Not yet, anyway.  In fact, a quick census of the assorted knick-knacks, must-keeps, real honest-to-goodness treasures, and instances of “what on earth prompted me to keep this?” has yielded a vast and varied spectrum of… well, stuff.  Oh yeah… and a dead frog.

In one corner: my kindergarten scrapbook, carefully and lovingly assembled by my teacher – Mrs. Sylvia Morgan – filled with the whimsical drawings, crafts and impressive report cards of a five-year-old that still lives, breathes, and is mindful of her “Happies” and “Grumpies” in those carefully crafted pages.  Depending where you look next, there are also several boxes of Christmas decorations collected during my 10 years in Germany, piles of good books, framed pictures that still haven’t found their way to my walls upstairs…  and my dad’s old Army trunk, which is overfilled with a cornucopia of childhood memories. Look in another direction and you find camping gear. Over there? Old dolls.  And there? Stuffed animal friends… really, no matter which direction you look, there is something to be found.  On the shelves? Old vinyl albums, and games — lots of games.  We’re talking hardcore, too, like several different editions of Monopoly, Scrabble, Kniffel (the German Yahtzee)…. and Operation.

I never did get Operation as a child, despite my secret pleadings with Santa Claus – so, I bought a retro version… as an adult.  Thank goodness for Walmart.  I would NOT be denied a date with “Cavity Sam” ….and his funny bone!

Old vinyl albums?! I just had to say that again. Now let me spell it:  V-I-N-Y-L!  I no longer even have a record player to my name, but there they sit – scores of them. A few are now framed “wall art” in my home office — where else to display the musical masters, the Picassos and Van Goghs of a generation — mine were Peter Frampton, Boston, Fleetwood Mac, and KISS!  Somewhere on those basement shelves you can even find Walter Egan (remember him?), England Dan & John Ford Coley (ha!)…. a gorgeous Live set from Chicago… and, yes, Gino Vanelli.  If you didn’t already know it, I will tell you a secret…. Gino was HOT and I couldn’t even drive yet, but I did go to a concert…. did I say HE WAS HOT?! Click this link and you’ll see!  Okay, I just looked…. I guess he does sorta look like Tom Jones with big, big hair. But what did I know? That was way before my crush on 80s hair bands… and Metallica.

I know that most of my old vinyl albums can be downloaded on iTunes today for less allowance money than my “vintage” vinyl treasures originally cost — I’ve actually downloaded a few of my favorites — but doesn’t everyone long to hear that distinct crackle of a needle on vinyl, when one side of an album lasted about 15 minutes and you could stack several on the spindle for virtually non-stop play? Can Nat King Cole’s Christmas Song ever sound “the same” without that crackle?!  Some may see those albums and think yard sale — I see nostalgia…. and my eBay retirement!

An archeological dig in my basement can also yield lots of old newspapers… doesn’t everyone save pieces of history – or is that only a quirk of journalists and writers?  There’s the Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel that has a headline in the biggest Font size ever – SNOW!  How about the front section bearing the news that Elvis died… the Miami Herald that my grandfather saved for me because it had the full transcripts of Nixon’s Watergate Tapes, plus Munich papers celebrating the reunification of Germany… and more.  There are also a couple boxes stuffed with old letters and correspondence – as in, handwritten notes and cards.  Yes, you read that right – handwritten! A letter from my grandfather to a college freshman who missed home, another from a doting dad to a daughter who questioned her future and her place in the world. There are cards and even a drawing or two from a little sister who grew up after big sis left home.  Anything done with pen to paper these days is considered a dying art in an age where social media rules. Not only must we reduce our thoughts to 140 characters or less… we have to be wildly clever to boot!  If I had to Tweet about my basement right now, it would be:  Cold, dark & mysterious seeks new memories and adventures – can also do laundry! #inmybasement

It appears that my entire life I have been gunning to be some sort of archivist…  I could be sitting on a gold mine! And maybe not…