On Memorial Day my wife's uncle - and there's a clunky term, but uncle-in-law is no better - came through the gate bearing two square boxes.
I brought luggage, he said.
If it's nothing you want, you can just give them to ARC, Aunt Jill said.
What is this? I asked.
He pointed to the big box: that's a slide projector. This - he patted the smaller one - is some slides of Minneapolis in the Seventies.
He's a realtor, and this was from some big project designed to lure people to the Twin Cities, show them what things looked like. I was . . . happy with this. As it turned out, they weren't from the 70s; when I was going through the slides later I saw some buildings that put the date in the early 80s, but that's still fine. The collection toured the neighborhoods of Minneapolis, and I found a slide of a house just up the block. I'll select the best and take them to the slide-scanning place up the street. Because yes, there is a slide-scanning place up the street.
The problem is the projector. It's huge. It's not a domestic Carousel for travel snaps. It's a commercial-grade machine with all sorts of automation built in.
I cannot keep it. I have no use for it; I will never use it. It's dead tech. But without these devices, the media cannot be displayed as it was originally intended. No one can throw these pictures against a bright white wall.
Seriously, so what? Sometimes it doesn't matter; sometimes you have to let it all go and just write off a playback medium as too damned bothersome to maintain. The slides, the necessary information, can be transferred and digitized. There's absolutely no reason to fetishize slide projectors and lovingly maintain them. I cannot imagine why anyone would be a slide projector hobbyist. Why? To relive the tedium? The bother? The annoyance of saying "Sorry" and stopping the show because the slide's upside down, and even after you get it right-side up it's a grainy shot of Copenhagen and your friends and relations in the rumpus room are nodding and saying "yes, that's Copenhagen, I suppose" and then it's ching-chink on to the next one.
It had its time and it's DONE. Oh, there are the collectors and the enthusiasts, some of whom insist that there's something pure and true about this, but they just connect the machine with a particular time and want to experience the sights (grainy) and sounds (ching-chink) and smells (the burnt perfume of dust and hot glass) and hope it all braids into an experience they reminds them of something.
It's like being a collector of overhead projectors.
Clunky tech. Let it go.
But save the slides. I have a box of my dad's slides, taken in the first few years we lived in the hallowed Turquoise Rambler, and they are precious - prelapasarian pictures whose situations I remember in the most vague and indistinct form. In one picture I am squinting unhappily and holding up a dead pheasant. My dad shot it, brought it home; we ate it. We spat shot onto the plate. In another I'm in the turquoise inflatable pool in the backyard, Mom in a lounge chair, and while I don't remember the moment I remember everything about that pool, the feel of the plastic seam, the pink bricks that paved the patio by the back door, the tall thin trees at the end of the lot, the clothesline - the more I think and drill down the more I recall, and the slides are doors into rooms at the far end of a corridor, way back behind me. The backyard was summer. One year I dug canals in the dirt back by the tall trees, filled it with water; there was a story, a plot, an afternoon spent alone finding some drama in this ration of dirt.
My Mom looked out on those trees from the kitchen sink - a great green wall. One year they all came down, and I never knew why. I think it was after I left. Now she looked at the back end of the house on the other side of the block. Strangers.
There were also rhubarb plants spaced along the back; pies were made. The rhubarbs unnerved me - thick purple stalks, broad leaves. From this they get pie? I've never had it. On Memorial Day my sister in law brought some rhubarb pie. Ancient revulsion: no.
"How old is Nat-a-lee now?" said French bro-in-law on the way out on Memorial Day, calculating the age of his second daughter. "Sixteen at the end of Joolay?" He exhaled. "When we came here, she was this tall."
Indeed. When they came here to stay after moving from France, we had been living here for a month. His daughter from a previous marriage, born and raised in France, was with them; she spoke no English. Now she's grown, speaks English like a native, did two tours in African relief agencies, and is moving to DC, a confident adult. She remembers coming here when she was Daughter's age. Daughter will remember the summer feasts that bracketed the season, the fireworks and the badminton and the dogs running around on the broad green lawn. From waking to grilling to dessert to coffee to the last dish put away and the last guest bade good night, a day of endless detail. No picture can capture its essence, but you take a few shots now and then. Uncle Gary brought a box that had 300 pictures, and measured one foot by one foot. Some day Daughter will hand over a sliver to her cousin: here's all our summers, pictures and video.
Decades hence? They will pass a grain of rice that contains first-person views of the times they spent together.
It might be viewed, once. See also, slides.
From 1942, the women of the Miss Subway beauty pageant. This year-end compliation ran in Life to tell everyone around the country what they missed by not sitting in an underground tube looking up at the ads.
Elaine Kusins probably got heard "Kissin' Kusins" a lot:
I'm trying to remember what took me to Ft. Dodge. It's usually a matchbook and you'll probably see it in a year or two and think "why does that sound familiar?" There's no grand scheme to this feature, although I wish there was; it would make things easier.
This one's interesting. Twenty-five thousand souls; the county sea. Right on the Des Moines river.
It may look bland and featureless to our eyes, but - well, it is bland and featureless, but it's also a symbol of a certain era of confidence and Newness.
The streetlights on the right make me suspect they tried the old Downtown Beautification idea. Let's make modern ones with big names and THEN people will come back downtown.
I've no idea what this used to be; I wouldn't be surprised it it was a department store remembered by people over 40. Under 40, not so much - except perhaps as something Mom mentioned, or a name on a box she kept.
Three generations of facades: the original old brick with terracotta accents, the 30s - 50s porcelain or metal panels, and finally craptastic Waltons-era wood over bunker-grey brick.
What's inside? I don't know. Do you want to find out?
Oh, Seventies. You were so proud of yourself.
Just looking at this thing, with its vague historical references, makes me hear mid-70s Tv show music and see men with sideburns and thick sportcoats with thick lapels and wide ties looking for Michael Constantine, who stole something.
"Can we wait a few years until they come up with better-looking panels? There's something about it that doesn't reflect the true soul of the -"
The windows up above look original. Which is good! And not so good.
This wasn't an immediate decision; it took a while to deaden the ground floor.
Raw wood; always a good look. And I guess they were all plumb out of matching bricks.
Around the corner, a reminder that fire escapes used to be much more common, and made for some interesting views. This seems to be a working fire escape; the counterweight is still hanging on a wire on the right.
That was once plate glass, I'm sure. A corner restaurant? A drug store? did that shadow fall across a counter, draw lines on a placemat or menu?
Yes, I think I was right about Downtown Beautification. Brickwork sidewalks! Why, they'll be lining up to shop.
I like the jaunty angle of the window. It would be better with some goods for sale. I wonder if it had the standard trajectory - an old shoe store closes, something goes in that represents someone's retail dream (cookies! Flowers! Crocheted stuff!) and then dies.
Ah, a classic palimpsest.
Is the Coke sign on top of an older one? I think so.
Now and then, a survivor, still at work with bright pride:
Their website says it opened in 1963. Brother, is that 1963.
Ft. Dodge could stand some business, frankly.
Maybe there was a flood.
At this point you might think you'd gotten the flavor of Ft. Dodge, and you're thinking it's a small weary dive.
That's because I've been selective. Next week? A completely different look. Same place. Same camera. Different choices.
Oh, er, ahem:
There you have it - one more day until the weekend comes around again. Four day weeks are odd; I never feel like I earned Friday. Yet somehow I manage to enjoy them anyway.