… Where’d I Leave That Stinkin’ Basket?
By Jeff Salter
To blog about things I’ve misplaced – or had misplaced FOR me (by someone else) – would take-up the space of the old Encyclopedia Britannica. So, I’ll just focus on a few.
Over these six decades of my life so far, I’ve written quite a bit. Those little rhymes or couplets of my childhood initially may have all fit neatly into one folder, and later into a one-ream box. But as years went on, my poetry began spreading [at least 1000 completed poems, plus as many unfinished ones]. By then, it was boxes-full. And, yeah, I kept the rough drafts too. [Just because when you cull a line from one poem, doesn’t mean you won’t need that gem in a completely different poem!]
When I began writing non-fiction books (two published), I found that my research, notes, and drafts for each monograph could fill a 10-ream ‘copy paper’ box. [I know, some of you are asking why I kept research, notes, and drafts. If you’re rolling your eyes … you wouldn’t understand.]
My point? In writing, I have produced mountains of paper, which (prior to the advent of personal computers) was the only means of preservation. Did I say ‘preservation’? Ah, there’s the rub: sure, those early paper works are ‘preserved’ … but WHERE the heck do they currently reside? I knew where they were when we lived in LA. But we’ve moved twice in the past six years and lots of our stuff went directly to storage. I wasn’t here when 90% of it was unloaded, so I didn’t SEE where things went. Long whine, short: I can’t find most of the paper copy of what I’ve written.
For writing I began AFTER about 1990, I probably have an electronic copy somewhere. But that, too, is fraught with ‘misplacement’. I never imagined, in those early years of automation, that things should be stored in electronic folders, or housed on thumb-drives, or backed up by external drives. In the early days (which actually go back to the early 1980s when I had access to computers at work) I had a single 8 inch floppy disk on which I stored everything I input. But where did that content go? Did I take the time and trouble to transfer it to the 5 inch floppy … or, later, to 3.5 inch diskette? Did I transfer all that stuff to the newer forms of word processing software? [Some of my earliest computerized writing was on the antique IBM 5150 series PC AT (or XT) using a proprietary system called “DisplayWrite” — try finding a conversion from THAT!]
Well, I think I’ve whipped this horse enough. You understand my fretfulness: a goodly portion of my early writings (including nearly all my short stories) are on paper and I don’t know where those pieces are anymore. And, that writing I’ve done with computers has been on some dozen different machines, with possibly that many different software components … and in the early days, I didn’t comprehend the need to back-up my files.
Get the picture? Yeah … I’ve misplaced a LOT of my life’s work [i.e., creative writing].
When I’d completed 2.5 years of active Air Force Reserve, after 3.5 years of active duty Air Force – i.e., my total six-year enlistment ‘obligation’ – I hung-up my cleats, so to speak. I sold a lot of items in garage sales … then stuffed all my remaining uniform components into boxes and put them in dusty storage. I didn’t think to set aside my dogtags … or if I did, I can’t remember WHERE I put them. Later, in the Army National Guard, I presume I got a new set of tags. Can’t recall where THEY went either.
Among the items I treasure from my Dad’s (and my favorite uncle’s) WW2 years are their dogtags. When I came into possession of those, I began looking for my own. Nope. Can’t find them. I’ve looked every place which may have been logical spots (at the time) … and still come up empty. Therefore, I conclude that my tags ended up in some illogical place. Ever search for something that’s almost certainly in an illogical place? Impossible.
You think I’ll ever find them? As hard as I’ve looked, I can’t imagine any place they could be. Yet I KNOW I did not toss them away. And I’m positive that nobody would have knowingly discarded them. Which means they must be inside something, somewhere. And it will likely be my own kids who finally locate them … long after my passing.
And that saddens me, because I’d like to hold them again.
When I was in grad school, I served a semester as president of the student association. As a parting gift, my colleagues took up a small collection and presented me with a gold-filled Cross ballpoint pen. That pen meant a lot to me. I carried it in my shirt pocket practically every day for the next 20+ years. You could hardly find me anywhere – if awake – without that gold pen.
Then came that fateful day as a library conference was ending and I was about to check-out of a motel. A friend and I were discussing my collection of militaria and I pulled out my pen to write a short list of items I still wanted to acquire. I guess I laid the pen on the bed instead of replacing it in my pocket. When I stood, it must have rolled under a fold in the blanket.
I checked out and left for home … some 250 miles away. About half way home, I reached for my pen to make a note of something. Gone. I immediately flashed back to my last use in the motel. In those days, we didn’t have cell phones, so you had to actually GET to a phone before you could make a call. So when I finally got home that evening, I immediately called the motel and asked if anyone had turned in my gold-filled Cross pen. Nope. Would they check the room for me? Yeah, begrudgingly, they’d check with housekeeping. Or so they said. I said I’d call again in the morning. I did. No pen.
I know for certain that pen was left on the bed. Assuming the housekeepers made up the room, they HAD to see my pen. I conclude somebody liked my pen so much that they kept it. It made me sad to lose that pen — a gift and my constant companion of so many years. I later tried to replace it on eBay … but the one I bought was the ‘silver’-color and didn’t look or feel ‘right’. Soon I stopped carrying a pen. My entire pen-universe had been disrupted!
All because I hurriedly wrote down that short list and placed my pen on the bed.
Don’t keep all your PAPER rough drafts.
If what you wrote on paper is worth keeping, SCAN it into electronic form.
Keep all your electronic writing files ORGANIZED … and properly labeled.
BACK-UP your files!
As far as personal belongings: either (A) take better care of them, or (B) don’t get so attached.
Finally – and this will get a laugh from people who know me (since I’m a clutter-bug) – get RID of excess clutter. Your clutter makes it much more difficult to keep track of that small percentage of important items.
What have YOU misplaced that you really wish you still could find?