I’ve been carting around a chaotic jumble of ribbons, string, paper, plastic and metal in a ratty old box for most of my adult life. Entirely useless yet absolutely essential, it sits in a closet waiting to be hauled out and dusted off whenever I feel like a wallow through the muddy ruts of memory lane. It’s way better than a photo album. It’s my life in a box.
Most have a story behind them, some of which I might even get around to one day.
1 New Year noisemaker, ca. 1968
1 metal sugar scoop made in Grade 8 metalwork shop, 1972. I hated that class. The teacher was two metres tall and had a horrible temper he let loose with a booming voice. He once humiliated a classmate to tears by smashing his work flat with a sledgehammer.
4 gold Molson Mostar ski racing pins won at Whistler Mountain, BC. They were fun ski races. A ski instructor or patroller would weave through the gates, with his timing used as a benchmark for yours. If your timing was less than 10% slower than his, you got a gold pin.
1 Canadian flag, made of cloth and sewn on backpack for trip to Europe and Middle East in 1980 – 81.
1 square of leather cut away from the long-discarded boots I wore on that trip.
On the Pyramids at Giza, with sweaty socks:
1 Eurail Pass. Expiry sometime in September, 1980. After first validation two months before in Calais, France it became worthless in Lisbon. Not a good idea if you want to get to Greece.
1 Melkweg membership card, valid until Nov. 1, 1980 – from Amsterdam nightclub memorable for what I probably don’t remember of my only evening there.
1 t-shirt remains from Mount Hermon ski area in the Golan Heights, Israel, where I worked as a first aid ski patroller in the winter of 1980 – 81.
1 can of Elite instant coffee, bought in Kiryat Shmona, Israel, 1981.
1 shell casing from the Boer War, picked up by my maternal grandfather and passed on to me.
Spare keys to the only three cars I’ve ever owned. All bought used. The ’85 Honda Prelude was the best of the bunch.
1 Canadian Ski Instructors’ Alliance pin. Best and worst job I ever had. Low pay, deep tan.
Via Rail uniform buttons, lapel and a souvenir pin from definitely the worst job I ever had. I still refer to it as Vile Rail.
1 roll of splicing tape and razor blades for editing tape for radio reporting. I can’t believe it was only 15 years ago they were teaching this in journalism school. Now it’s all done digitally, of course. A bit of a loss, really.
1 photographer’s press pass to see Canadiens hockey games at the old Montreal Forum, 1993. Never got to go interview the players after the game, but free entry to Canada’s most revered hockey shrine was priceless.
1 deck of Donruss original 1992 Toronto Blue Jay Championship Season baseball cards, sealed. A press package gift. Is it worth anything?
1 deck of Donruss original Montreal Expos 25th Anniversary Edition baseball cards. Opened. Another goody-bagger for journalists. Please ignore the McDonald’s logo.
1 Little Red Book. Bought in Beijing, 1997.
1 book of postcards depicting glorious and commendable revolutionary dance drama theatrical production Red Detachment of Women flying the red flag.
1 Hong Kong cent note. Value: next to nothing.
About 20 Hong Kong dollars worth of bar coupons to the Hong Kong Press Club.
A slew of identification cards, including:
1 Vancouver Expo ’86 season’s pass. I swore I would never go to that circus, but ended up actually working there for a time.
1 University of British Columbia library card with some longhair who must have showed up for the picture sometime after 4:20pm.
1 Concordia University library card.
Not shown: 1 Whistler Mountain season’s pass. Price in 1978? $165. You might squeeze two days out of that much today.
1 Quebec driver’s license, expiry 1994. No photo required. Guaranteed to induce derisive laughter in California Highway Patrol cops.
1 Canadian Association of Journalists membership card
2 Vancouver Polar Bear Swim Club buttons, Jan. 1, 1990 and 1995. Best hangover cure other than waiting 36 hours.
1 guest membership card to Hong Kong Foreign Correspondents’ Club.
2 Canadian National Railway pins
1 Queen Elizabeth silver jubilee medal. I really do love the queen. Honest.
1 Canadian Red Cross blood donor card, now useless. Because I lived in France in the early eighties, they think I might pass on Mad Cow Disease to recipients, so I am no longer allowed to donate blood in Canada.
See those coins in the sugar scoop? I used to collect coins, and so people gave them to me from time to time. I’ve got piles of them, hundreds from all over the world. I look at them and tell myself I should find out if any of them have value or at least put them in an album instead of having then crammed in the bottom of a box, but I’ve been dragging them around forever and never get down to doing it.
I will retire someday, though.