Operation Clear Path

The office reached critical mass over the weekend. The approach of China Syndrome became clear when I had to shovel a path from door to desk. So I started excavating. The whole process became a fascinating archaelogical dig. Here are a few of the surprises unearthed in Operation Clear Path:

  • a Christmas gift I forgot I bought. The recipient got a better one, so I don’t feel guilty about keeping it.
  • Isis’s medical records from 2008.
  • a clipping from 2004 about web sites devoted to literature. I’ve set it aside to see how many of them have survived. Bookslut is still hanging in there, but foetry has gone the way of many of the fake poetry writing contests it exposed.
  • a gift certificate from 1999 (!) At least Barnes and Noble still lives.
  • unspeakable piles of dust bunnies. Did you know they have their own web site? Alternative names: sluts’ wool (from my otherwise proper Grand Aunt Anna Louise James) and from “A Way With Words,” house moss, beggar’s velvet, ghost turds. I thought ghost poo referred to those packing peanuts that jump out of cartons when they’re opened.
  • a journal from June 1994. Had intended to finish reading it before I finished writing At Home Inside out but got as far as October.
  • (these two items were toward the top of the pile and not a surprise): Dreams From My Father, which I bought just recently; and One Drop by Bliss Broyard, which I bought before Christmas because I was fascinated that her father, Anatole, could pass for so many years. After word spread that he had outed himself to his children just before he died, I often wondered whether my parents knew he was black. Mom didn’t write anything directly in the journals, though she did clip many of his Times book reviews. If I had to guess I’d say she did know. The only substantial quote that she highlighted in all those clippings was from one of his “reading and writing” columns entitled “Dancing Steps”: This was Ralph Ellison [who did not dance awkwardly], the black novelist who wrote ‘Invisible Man.’ Ellison often talks about the black cultural tradition, which he uses much as a jazz musician uses melody as a basis for improvisations. For him, rhythm is one aspect of the black writer’s irony. … When the word changed from ‘Negro’ to ‘black,’ he once said to me, an element of mysticism slipped in that I’ve never felt comfortable with.” NY Times Book Review, Jan. 17, 1982. Broyard of course wasn’t comfortable with either word or with the state of being that either described.

The excavation project has cleared the north wall of the office, not counting the bookcase which contains several files on current projects, several books, a ream of copier paper, some atlases and some other stuff that I haven’t investigated yet, two (or more?) drafts of At Home Inside, and my Obama memorabilia collection of newspapers and magazines from the day after his election and from the inauguration.

Next dig site will be the shelf against the east wall, which promises a number of surprises. I think that’s where I put the folder titled “blog topics.

The big down side to all this is that the pile of stuff on my desk has grown about a foot since I started digging.


One Response to “Operation Clear Path”

  1. Harv Goldstein Says:

    Wow! Now I don’t feel so bad. I spent Sunday cleaning my space and the oldest piece of paper I found was a restaurant receipt from 2004. Are you sure you’re not a Gemini, too? Nancy is sure that’s why I save things.

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