Friday, November 24, 2006

Clothes & Stuff
"There's no present. There's only the immediate future and the recent past." - George Carlin
I feel like a new man wearing old clothes.

For the last two years, I've been constantly on the road spending anywhere from a week up to a few months in one place. My wardrobe was severely limited as I intermittently lived in hotels, on people's couches, in different crash pads in Las Vegas like the Redneck Riviera or Grubby's apartment in a gated community up in Henderson, or staying with Nicky in the slums of Beverly Hills.

And lucky for me, no one made fun of me for having the same rotation of clothing for the last year or so. Friends of mine who also cover poker tournaments might have noticed that I wore the same blue short twice a week, whether I'm in Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Atlantic City, or Connecticut.

I adhere to the Senor rule of travel... travel light because there's nothing you need that you can't buy where you are going. It's a nice gamble... you get the luxury of swift travel... rushing through airports with relative ease having less luggage to haul around. And if by chance you need something, you fork over the few bucks to buy it.

Due to luggage limitations, I pack one pair of dress shoes, three dress shirts, five t-shirts, two weeks worth of underwear and socks, one pair of pants, one pair of jeans, and a jacket of sorts. I wear a suit jacket, pants, sneakers and a dress shirt on the plane in order to save space. That's been my standard packing gameplan with a few exceptions and deviations. For example, traveling to warmer climates like LA or Las Vegas would dictate less pants and more shorts and short-sleeve dress shirts. Colder climates like Colorado or Amsterdam in November would require more heavier clothing like an extra fleece or sweater.

I'm fortunate that as a writer, I can get away with wearing dirty jeans, a wrinkled dress shirt, and a suit jacket to almost any function and be considered properly dressed.

My old backpack has become my on the road storage facility and I know every inch of that backpack so I can eye ball a pile of clothes and know if it's going to fit or not. And this past year I have been overachieving at underpacking. I've been only using 75% of the capacity of my bags due to my propensity to acquire random items and books while on the road.

My toiletries kit has become a mini-drug store with plenty of cold, sinus, and flu medication both non-drowsy and nighttime doses. There are plenty of pain killers too, both perscription and over the counter some of which are used both recreationally and to help me sleep. Motrin is my best friend.

My carry on piece is simply my laptop bag and necessary plugs with reading and writing materials. I'm always discovering new ways to maximize that space and minimizing the amount of equipment I can take on the road. Storing plugs and wires in see through ziplock bags not only protects your items, it's easy to access if you need to quickly find something or just in case you get you bags searched by overzealous $8/hour rent-a-scanners.

When I'm in NYC, I specifically wear different clothes than when I take on the road. Since I'm wearing the same few outfits over and over due to the limited choice... I take advantage of access to my full wardrobe in NYC and wear clothing items that just missed the traveling cut. I almost feel like a new man wearing old clothes.

I used to store clothes at Grubby's apartment in Henderson, specifically summer type wear that I'd need when I was in Las Vegas. After we moved out of the apartment, I moved a few of those items to Nicky's closet in LA. She was kind enough to give me a hanger or two so when I travel to LA, there are a few less items that I don't have to worry about bringing with me.

Ideally, I'd love to be able to travel with no luggage and have clothes and a laptop waiting for me in the cities I spend the most time... which in the past 12 months have been LA, Las Vegas, and NYC.

Traveling voraciously the last two years made me realize that most material items are luxury items and for basic survival, I can get by with every thing I carry on my back. Who needs a TV, VCR, or DVD player when I can buy/watch/download shows and flicks and view them on my laptop? With the advances in digital music technology, I no longer need to have an extensive stereo system with hundreds of CDs and tapes. All of that has been reduced to a slim iPod which slides in and out of my shirt pocket, which has more hard drive space than my first three computers combined.

All of my life's work can be uploaded to a mini flash drive. No more bulky manuscripts to lug around. For the first time in my writer's life, I am no longer paranoid about losing my work. Flash drives have made it possible to store all of my data (screenplays, photos, manuscripts, short stories, poems, journal entries) at a very small price.

The only thing that can't fit on a flash drive are my physical paintings which are stacked up in a dark corner of my old bedroom in my mother's apartment. I've done my best to give as many away as I can. But even though I get the occasional request for a painting, I'm too selfish to part with the remaining. And those are the bad ones.

In the last few months, I've been throwing out old clothes, selling old books, and finally tossing away boxes of items which I collected over the past 15 years that had a faux-nostalgic quality to it. I've been having mixed emotions regarding some of those items. At first glance, the item is worthless... a ticket stub to a movie nine years ago, or a pamphlet to an art exhibit in San Francisco from 2002. But in some ways, those items are the trigger for flashbacks and memories. If I toss out those trigger items, will I be throwing away maps of those memories forever?

That's the philosophical mental wrestling match that I have every time I sort through a box of old shit. Keeping those material items are a way for me to retain an attachment to the past, while the realist in me is preaching to live in the now, where the past and future do not exist. Living too much in the past causes depression (either the past was much better than the now, or the past was so horrible that you are revisiting old wounds).

You can't take anything material with you into the after-life whether it exists or not. And a few days after you die, the vultures that you consider your family and friends come and tear apart your things looking for more useless stuff. The rest of your shit they throw in the trash and it gets hauled off to a landfill where it will be buried for all of eternity next to your neighbor's unfinished carton of General Tso's chicken.

In the end, all of your possessions at some point become trash. Better to clean it up now, then leave a big mess behind and make one of your grieving relatives clean it up for you.

This post reminds me of that old George Carlin bit, "Your house is just a place to keep your stuff. If people didn't have so much stuff, they'd be walking around all the time."

Which sort of sums up the last two years of my life.

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