There's something about the approach of a new year that sets a man to thinking - sets him to looking back over the year past and forward to the year ahead - to where he's been and where he's going. And to put each of them into proper perspective, past and future, he need also assess where, and what, he is today. It's not always an easy thing to do. Fortunately, this year I have my bookshelves.
You can lean a lot about someone by looking at the contents of their bookshelves. And it’s not just the book titles, though they are important clues, but it’s the mementos and pieces that a person chooses to place in constant sight that bear the inklings of identity. And my inklings are fresh. Our new abode is appointed with a space I can call my own – a man cave, if you will, though I dislike the term – and its pair of bookshelves - more display space than library - are newly populated. They're still neat. What do their contents reflect?
The stuff on top takes me back. The Fender acoustic was given to me many years ago by my then best friend, now my wife, and still my best friend. I'd put the axe down years before but always admired the instrument, and she knew it. The gift awakened my interest and confirmed how much she understood me. Scary.
The photo, of course, is of Mr. Jimi and is particularly relevant in that it was captured on April 11th, 1969 at Dorton Arena in Raleigh, NC. Relevant, you see, because I could have taken it. I was that close. Fourteen years old, first rock concert, third row, stage right, blown away. Nothing like starting at the top. The print was a Christmas gift from my stepsons who share my love of music and, despite his being years before their time, also appreciate the Voodoo Child. How could they not?
The top shelves are "display" shelving and the right holds a vintage Time-Life Series book on the camera. It seems to me that there's a bit of obtuse circular logic about pictures of cameras, but that's for another time. The book's images are fascinating and its photographic advice - though predating the digital revolution and in-camera metering by decades - is what separates the point-and-shooters from real photographers. Just because the camera's smart, it doesn't mean you should let it do all the thinking.
The plaque is a new acquisition - a memento from this year's high school squad. You'd have to look close, but the next-to-the-bottom-line reads 2011 NC 4A State Champions.
On the other side is some very special literature. Calvin and Hobbes. The pages are dogeared from hours spent sharing with my two young sons, some thirty years ago. There are cartoons in these books that, even today, make me laugh 'till I cry and there are memories saturating the faded pages that make me cry 'till I laugh. In Calvin I saw each of my boys and in Hobbs I saw myself. Still do. No one has captured the raw energy and creativity of a young manchild any better.
Well, I see that getting through these bookshelves is going to take a while. So, with your permission, I'll stop here and return to it in future posts. One must do something during the cold winter months. I hope you don't mind the glimpse into what makes Mike tick.
And before I return, take a look at the bookshelves of your life. Appreciate what you find. Decide what they say about you - where you've been, where you're going, what you are.
Let that self knowledge lead you into a Happy New Year.