16 June 2007
Was just surfing back along the years of memory waves available to someone at my ripe old age of 38 and I remembered "The Stick." I was in Chicago going to school, maybe 19yrs old, and had moved into a North-side 3 bedroom apartment built in probably the teens or twenties with paneled doors and transoms, 10in floor and ceiling moldings and all hardwood floors. The wood was magnificent, aged and varnished without a flaw. One bedroom was actually a double pocket door with each door weighing a couple hundred pounds. The bathroom was a gem with claw-foot bathtub and metal shower curtain ring hovering above, stained glass window, porcelain everything and the hot and cold sink taps being the 4 pronged type with the ceramic "hot" and "cold" in bold century font printed on top. The whole place smelled like an old library. Especially the staircase that creaked beneath the stair carpet roll and brass rod cinchings on every stair. True class. The staircase rose to the second floor lit only by that one impossible-to-change lightbulb hanging way up there in all it's amber yellowness. A place more fit for a Harvard English Major than an Art Institute BFA student.
The day I moved in, I brought the first box up the stairs and dropped it in the living room. I then inspected every room, every closet, and every nook and cranny. The kitchen was new and had track lights. Nice! There was not one thing left in the apartment except the "stick." Beyond the kitchen there was a place for a table and chairs. Propped up in the corner of this room was a stick.
The stick was about 3 feet long. It could have come from a tree out back, a tree out on the street or perhaps one from a nearby park. It was not carved or ornamented in any way. There were no bite marks say from a favorite dog. It was just a stick. I was fascinated by it. In the coming year that I lived there, when I would pick it up and examine it, I always replaced it exactly as it had been set in the corner, not wanting to change the initial intention of the stick being placed there.
When the day came that I had to move, I made sure that everything from the apartment was gone, except the stick. The stick came with the apartment. It was part of the apartment.
Looking back on the memory, I wonder how long the stick had been there and if it is still there. There are plenty of people I meet on a daily basis that are the kind that would throw the stick away immediately. Is it possible that the apartment, over an entire century would be inhabited by people that would not throw the stick away?
(In the voice of Colonel Kurtz via the motion picture "Apocalypse Now") "If I had 10 legions of men that would not remove the stick, this war would be over."