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Banbury Cross

a pillow for lost thoughts...

Post details: Scarborough Fair

Scarborough Fair

Old things have a very special charm. They bear evidence of having lived. The little scars inflicted on their skin by Mother Nature are receipts that the toll for the passage through life has been paid. Whether it is the dent on your car's bumper, a monogram cut into the bark of a stately maple tree, a flaky wall in an abandoned alley, or a worn out instep of an old shoe - they all share unique fingerprints of passing events. What a treasure trove of clues for Mr. Sherlock Holmes.

Part of the appeal of old paraphernalia is our tendency to romanticize the past. That scratch on your motorcycle that made you so mad when it was fresh is now the last surviving memento of the party at which you met your sweetheart. That scar on your arm that hurt like hell for three weeks is now the climax, the punchline and the corroboration of a story to be imparted on your grandchildren. We are conditioned to discount bad memories so that history seems a bit rosier in the rear view mirror than it actually was when seen through the windshield. I have quite a few fond memories from my childhood - and hey - I grew up in a totalitarian regime.

Old things are umbilical cords to our memory. One of the things I brought with me to the USA when I moved here 20 years ago was my dad's old leather briefcase, which he used for carrying blueprints into his office in the 1960s, and which I used for carrying textbooks in college after I inherited it. Or rather after I rescued it from the trash. My Mom was appalled when she found out that I am taking that old piece of junk across the Atlantic. But I could not leave it behind - there were too many memories embedded in it. Every little blemish of its surface, every little laceration had a story to tell. A friend of mine had to sow it together 10 years ago lest it would fall apart, but I still have it. No new bag can emulate the appeal of having lived and the bond of having lived together.

When I am sightseeing I gravitate to old quarters that retain their authenticity (or authentitown as the case might be), which invariably leads away from the beaten path, away from the touristy routes inlaid with gleaming stores and freshly stuccoed palaces. My little expeditions through the looking glass of history often wind up in places where you can brush against a wall and grow curiouser and curiouser - did Franz Kafka once lean against these bricks when stricken with one of his depressive bouts? I hunt for secret nooks and inconspicuous recesses. And after I find them, they tease me to try and decipher their scars - those old fashioned memory cards, faithfully recording life as it bites along.

kafka

Comments:

Comment from: Audrey [Visitor]
You just reminded me of my mothers old shredded cigarette case that she used as an eyeglass case.
Permalink 02/15/10 @ 14:36

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