My wife Cat and I are visiting my family in Oregon.
There is something wrong with our car, so we are borrowing my grandmother’s Toyota van. It is dark gray, beat up, and missing about a third of the front bumper and nose. The handicapped front grill has been repaired with cardboard and duct tape.
While we are driving through the country from one family function to another, Cat drifts off to sleep at the wheel, and we veer off the road and into a cornfield. As we run over hundreds of corn stalks, I gently nudge Cat awake. We manage to stop, but not before the van’s front cardboard makeshift grill has been severely compromised.
We carefully drive the van to a nearby grocery store to pick up some fresh cardboard.
The store aisles are abnormally wide – thirty feet between one aisle and another. We pick up some cardboard, duct tape and several palettes of canned goods, mostly soup. Our shopping cart is missing several spokes along its left side, which have been shored up with cardboard.
We check out and go back to the van and unload.
I feel the need to locate some music for our trip. I head across the street into a massive aircraft hangar-sized building.
Inside are several walled off areas, each devoted to a room I have spent a great deal of time in my life. There is my childhood bedroom. Across a walkway is my teenage bedroom (same room, just decorated differently). Across another walkway is my first college dorm room. On and on.
I check out the college dorm rooms first. Southern Oregon State College, tiny space – open the closet, poke through clothes that are not mine. No musical tapes. Check the second closet (after all, I had a roommate) I recognize a partially eaten dusty birthday cake from my eighteenth birthday (German chocolate). Some underwear, but still no musical tapes.
I head out into the walkway between rooms. I am talking to myself, “I don’t think the van even has a tape deck. Perhaps a CD is the way to go.”
I pass by other rooms. First apartment. First girlfriend’s apartment. Second apartment. I am not alone, there are a lot of people milling around the walkways, examining things as if this were some sort of museum exhibit. I catch glimpses of animatronic figures of past friends and lovers and talking heads on projected video screens: Anne R., Heather C., Mike P., Christine S., Jason H., Squid (Gyan), My sisters Melinda and Deborah.
I stumble into an area focusing on my years at Maharishi International University. The four dorm rooms I lived in have been organized corner to corner. Just beyond that I see the room for my best friend and muse Modia C. (easily recognizable with the cow print microwave) – I go into each room and look around. I find huge banks of cassette tapes, but no CDs.
Also on display are wall calendars I had used, or considering using for each year (Ansel Adams, Vintage Cheesecake, Dali, Betty Page, Hellboy, Frazetta). Art I had done; drawings, paintings, lost pieces of computer animation. Old “God of Joy” DJ posters. A sign urging people to check out the gift shop.
I look around a little more and end up following a line of people, who might be headed to the gift shop. Or outside. This building is so big.
Even though this building seems to be dedicated to me, none of these visiting spectators appear to recognize me.
I end up in an oversized laundry room. It has the look and smell of a college laundry room: water damage, bleach, sesame oil, fabric dye, sweat, and hormones. The museum patrons are standing around as if they are at a cocktail party, in small clusters. I try and find my laundry soap, but it is not where I left it. I look around in the crowd…and see Jessica W.
Jessica is radiant; movie-star, red carpet, perfectly cultivated and lit beauty. Her skin is a clear milky white, her hair a beautiful wavy auburn with blonde highlights. She is a natural, healthy slim, and is at least a foot taller than when I last saw her. Wearing a gorgeously flattering velvet dress: chocolate brown with red accents. She is with three other pretty women I don’t recognize.
I come up to her and say “Jess!” Her eyes meet mine and–
I wake up before I can compliment her or ask about the laundry soap.
As always, comments welcome. What do readers think is the significance of stumbling into a museum dedicated to one’s self?
Cross platform (ooh, fancy) listen to my personal history soundtrack on Spotify