Heavy, solid shoe boxes
Somewhere, I’m not sure where, there is a heavy shoebox I carefully packed some years ago. I’m not keen to find it as I don’t want to open it. The shoe box is full of rectangular yellow boxes of colour slides. Forty years ago, they were my treasure. I still value the images. It’s the hassle of viewing them that discourages me. Back then, taking a pic was only the beginning. Then to the Chemist or Kodak shop and waiting 7 to 10 days. It was easy to sort the duds by holding the pics up to the light. But to really view the slides, a slide projector was needed. I know these slides will bring back precious memories but viewing them will require equipment I no longer own. What a hassle!
Nowadays we are spoon fed. Pictures fly though the air into our devices and any hour of the day and night. I have thousands of them. A programme I know nothing about sorts them into date and event categories and every now and again, screens a mini slideshow, with appropriate music.
The worst home gatherings I have ever attended revolved around colour slides. Friends would invite us to dinner and a ‘viewing of their European holiday slides”. When we entered the lounge I could see the cartridges of slides piled up. I would calculate that this screening was going to take two plus hours. I survived by sitting at the very back and dozing in the darkness.
Now I think of it, these were not the worst home entertainment evenings. The very worst was produced by a friend who toured the world with a JCV 8mm Home Movie Camera. He had visited Paris, the Parthenon, airports, museums, cathedrals, grand hotels etc… The films were unedited. We saw lots of footpaths, closeups of gutters, and miles of sky, all accompanied by apologetic commentary. Unwatchable, but we had no choice but to sit it out.
A couple of years or so before Kodak collapsed, we visited the Kodak city, Rochester New York. Kodak was a huge enterprise employing over 64,000 people. Way back in 1975 it was a Kodak engineer, Stephen Sasson, working in Kodak labs, working on Kodak time, who invented the first digital camera. Kodak management thought it was a novelty and took it no further. In 1994, Apple computer had transformed the novelty into a new standard for capturing images. Kodak management was not impressed. But in fact, Kodak was doomed. In 2012, Kodak declared bankruptcy.
The cardboard box of slides set me thinking about my life. At some future time will I be summed up in cardboard box (or computer file) that no one wants to open. Hmm!!! Possibly. Probably. But today I’m still above ground. What to do?
I don’t want to be like Kodak. Stick to my old ways, my old opinions and pretend that nothing has changed – really! I don’t want to keep saying old ways are best ways. How do I get up to date? How do I keep up with changing times? A new haircut? Grow a beard? Get a tat -or two? None of these appeals. I’ve been thinking of the people I will never forget. There’s a lot of them.
Mrs E – I was a young minister in a small town. She was in her late middle age with a reputation for being eccentric. She said to me, “I know your life in this little town must be boring. Why not come fishing with me?” And we did. Over four summers in separate cars – so as not to be spotted – we would journey out to the Goulburn River. On a peaceful bend we would fish for redfin. She would bring a picnic basket with scones and tea. I loved those lazy afternoons with Mrs E.
Bruce looked slightly mad and he was. It was the love of black gospel music that started our conversation. He had known me for five minutes. He saw I needed somewhere to stay. I was “Come and stay at my house. My Mum wont mind”. And I did for four months.
Mary was in my mind the most beautiful woman in the world. Her house was noisy and chaotic, but there was the peace of acceptance in the chaos. She spent her life between the town dump and stripping varnish off old furniture with her children and lots of neighbours children in the mix. Her hospitality which extended to everyone had no strings attached.
Brian was the tallest man in my world. Scruffy, and a terrible cook, a know-it-all on a hundred subjects, but the warmest heart. “Call me anytime” he said. He meant it.
In the passing parade of my life, these are four people I will never forget. I guess I want to be like them. I don’t want to be a shoe box no one wants to open. Who does? The way I see it, the solution is to be kind, generous and a bit mad.