Sunday, June 12, 2011
At Myrtle Beach, I learned to put myself on a per diem seashell plan. I started out by collecting no more than I could carry in one hand, but that quickly seemed extravagant. Folly Beach brought the more Zen restriction of one seashell each day we walked to the coffee shop. The first three days I collected spirals, but on the fourth, an interestingly porous chalk-white rock attracted me, so I picked it up. Kathy carried a limp, unregenerated starfish that creeped me out. I prefer inanimates.
I blame some travel author I read who said he and his family managed vacations in part by never ever buying expensive souvenirs. Then I heard this guy on NPR who had just published a book of lists he’d found. That summer, 2008, I found a great NY list on the back of a bagel receipt from Heathrow airport, listing all the places the anonymous tourist planned to go. My inchoate desire for restrained and original souvenir accumulation took a nebulous shape.
The list, obviously. A blog entry—“Mistakes you make on vacation” and photos we took of interesting New York outfits, long before I discovered street style blogs, were early ones. In Puerto Rico, the four-star hotel soap enchanted me. I t was square and opalescent, like mother of pearl. One year later, I have a small remnant in the green bowl on the edge of my bathtub, and the scent conjures up the glamorous square glass shower in the middle of the hotel bathroom.
In Blue Ridge, Georgia mountain country, I peeled a poster off a storefront of a circus event that had already passed. The poster featured a clown in vibrant pink and orange; I like pink and orange, and I am one of those whom clowns make uneasy, so I’m ambivalent about the poster. I laminated it and put it up in my class room, where John Everest said the poster looking at him from the wall made him nervous every day, so I took it down and put it behind him instead so the clown could sneak up on John.
Two days ago, searching for a place for my watch-obsessed nephew to buy a new timepiece in Charleston, I found a flier, again posted on a store front on King Street, just south of Calhoun, about an Edgar Allan Poe event, in pleasing black and white, as befits the twisted Mr. Poe. The flier featured a print of a mixed media portrait and advertised Israfel: The Ordeal of Edgar Allan Poe, but my personal Poe ordeal is how to spell his middle name. I always get it wrong, and when I took this photo, it inverted the letters mirror-style, in the most Poe-esque fashion. Anyway, I’ll put him next to the clown in my classroom and hope for another student I can make uneasy. Wesley didn't find another watch for his souvenir, but I sympathize with his desire to collect. One commemorating each trip doesn't add up to excess, as far as I'm concerned.