As part of our ongoing effort to perform Spring Cleaning out-of-season, my wife and I have been harassing each other in and effort to open up boxes and look into closets, and reassess our belongings with regard to 2016. In a box beneath our bed that we had not opened in over a year I found this blanket, and for a brief moment I launched into all the reasons why I should keep it. However – and I’m very proud of this, I might add – I shook my head, added it to the Goodwill pile, and since then that pile has remained stagnant in our house, waiting for the day when one of us turns to the other and says, “Seriously, we need to take that shit to Goodwill.”
Well, at least it is a start.
Even in High School, I was referred to as a pack rat, and this was brought into sharp relief when I was first thrown out in my Senior Year of High School. Not only was it impossible for me to move by myself – I had no car, no truck, no friends with a car or truck, no license to drive, and more stuff than I could fit in a single vehicle anyway, even at 18. While I have had tenures in homes that lasted a decent amount of time – I managed to clock only three years at The Blitzhäus, and kept an apartment in Portland for about the same length of time – between 1993 and 2010, I was never in the same house for very long. Most of my stuff resided in boxes that I would open periodically, remove or add to it, then close it up to store it somewhere again. To this day, in spite of being married and living in a house with a full basement and garage, I still have several of these boxes in storage at my old roommate’s house, and why he hasn’t had them all thrown out yet is a testament to our friendship and my own laziness.
Part of the impulse to keep things came from a collector’s mentality. As a young child, I collected CocaCola paraphernalia, and I still have a few relics from that collection in my toy trunk in the basement. But once I found comics – a hobby that can have pack-ratted-ness at its core – I started to see the value of keeping things to be read and looked back on later. This only amplified when I started making ‘zines; almost anything could be potentially photographed, xeroxed, or re-typed for a future issue, and it was easy enough to say, “I’ll use this someday,” toss it into a box, and never look at it again.
How exactly I came into possession of this blanket is a little lost to the ages. I believe – and I could be very wrong about this – that is was left behind at The Blitzhäus by Captain Morgan, a drinking buddy and carnie who used to make a lot more appearances in our lives, until he fully embraced the carnie life, and hasn’t been seen much since. The Blitzhäus was a huge four bedroom apartment in Eugene that became our party pad between the beginning of 1997 and the Spring of 2000, located above a fancy bar that closed early and never complained about the filth or noise. In the time I managed that apartment, nearly 17 people paid rent, and ever more slept on our floors and couches, staying with us for a few days or weeks or months, depending. The turnover was very high, but the memories were great, and while I would never choose to live in a “punk house” again, I often think fondly of those days.
When I set out to make a life for myself on my own, one of the hardest problems to solve what finding a place to consistently sleep. I had never slept well, even as a kid, but my late teens were full of meeting friends for coffee, and staying up all night to write, so not only was sleep more and more elusive, but the places I would end up sleeping were becoming more and more random. At one point I had a twin mattress (nothing else) that I lugged around when I had a place to put it, and then traded up to a futon which I used for a bit longer. I was gifted two different queen sized mattresses over the years (each of which had seen better days), and then finally, in 2007, I used part of a financial aid check to pick up a bed frame at Ikea.
Blankets and pillows were often a problem. Being a cheapskate and largely poor, I never even bought used stuff, but would occasionally find myself in positions where I had been gifted this or that. Between High School and The Blitzhäus, my bedding was always in flux, but once I found this blanket (and, more importantly, the owner no longer seemed interested in it), I took it to the laundromat, cleaned it, brought it home, and used it until I met my wife. It became the only source of warmth and comfort at night during a period of my life that was at my most lonely.
There is nothing special about this blanket, to be sure. It is thin, and there isn’t much material within it to insulate you. It is just big enough to spread over the area of a queen sized mattress, but isn’t really big enough if you would like to cover both you and a guest. And while I never gave it any thought when it was just the only blanket that I owned, when I see it now, all I can think about is the years that I spent carrying it with me, like some adult version of Linus’ blanket, sometimes the only thing that could keep me warm.
There is no reason for me to keep this; we have a full complement of bedclothes in our house, with extras to spare for when we have guests, and other lap-blankets and warming devices that makes this old and somewhat useless piece of material completely irrelevant. And it is definitely not valuable. If it was, indeed, once something that belonged to Captain Morgan, he never wanted it back, and it can’t be any older than the ’90’s in terms of its “vintage.” And the period of time in which it got the most use was a desolate time, where I was single and miserable, drunk and unhappy about most everything, and would come home from whatever I’d been up to, ragged, beaten, confused, and would crawl beneath that green thing to try and find some sleep – that most elusive of experiences – for a few hours, anyway.
So yes, it goes on the Goodwill pile. I don’t need it. I don’t want it. And I hope that, someday, the memories that flood into me from seeing it will slowly get thinner and thinner from overuse, until I no longer feel the nostalgic warmth they once brought to me. It is time to move on, into a world with heated mattress pads and thick comforters that I can share with my wife.
Yes, I don’t need that blanket anymore. So why is it still in a pile in my house?