When our local bookstore downsized their retail space they sold bags of books for five bucks, then, closer to their deadline, two bucks a bag, then, finally, free bags of books. I found this very depressing. A conversation about Amazon selling books for a penny, that’s $0.01, led further to a guy my friend George knows who bought books in bulk, not to read, not even to sell, but to shake their pages out and see what falls from the leaves. Whatever shook out, this was the stuff he sold. Ephemera.
ephemera plural : paper items (such as posters, broadsides, and tickets) that were originally meant to be discarded after use but have since become collectibles.
Yesterday I cleaned out a file cabinet in my office and came across a program from The Mountain Summit, which took place at Snowbird in Little Cottonwood Canyon in 1988. I can’t remember attending, but the participants came down to Salt Lake City where I had some of the luminaries sign a program: Chris Bonington, Jeff Lowe, Yuichiro Miura (the man who skied down Everest!!), John Roskelly, Galen Rowell, Lou Whitaker, Jim Wickwire, and Sharon Wood. Messner is conspicuously absent. I don’t remember collecting a single one of these autographs, except for the surprise of noting that Bonington was not the enormous mythical giantkiller I had imagined, and a long talk I had with Jeff Lowe about Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities. This would have been three years before his sensational and barely survived solo first ascent of the route he would call “Metanoia” on the north face of the Eiger.
Much more interesting (to me) is the ephemera the program held, stuff I had randomly filed within its pages over the years:
A small map of The Vallée de Chamonix. Rather mysterious as to how this found its way here. At the time I had only been to Chamonix once, eight years earlier.
A postcard from my friend Mike from Glencoe, Scotland where he claimed that the Scotch tab was so high he was going to have to sell his soul to the devil for a few more years to pay for it. Can’t read the date, but it was sent to Davis where we lived from 1992 to 1995.
Another postcard, this one from my brother John, dated 1999. It’s from Nazca, Peru and features a photograph of windblown skulls in the desert. He was on his way to the Amazon. We would see him a few months later in Michigan where we celebrated the turn of the millennium with my family.
A receipt from REI dated 2008. I had ordered a snowboard for Macklin from Illinois to be delivered to the Anchorage store for pick-up when we would arrive there in August. I can only guess that this was the last occasion I saw the program, unearthed during our move from Illinois to Alaska, and filed away again until just now. That board is still around here somewhere.
A photograph of me carrying my dog Frances after a 5 K race in Salt Lake City. The story was that this race was a benefit for the SPCA and all competitors had to run with a dog on a leash. Frances insisted she would not be beaten and dragged me though the first mile in first place, inadvertently dragging me to a personal record in the mile. After the first person passed us, not too far after the mile marker, Frances slowed down and slowed down further with every person who continued to pass us until at the end of the race I had to carry her over the finish line. I would be remiss if I did not admit that I was rocking a mullet in this photo. Hey, it was 1988!
Why these five disparate pieces of paper were saved between the pages of a program for summit I didn’t really attend, I can’t say. But I can’t bear to throw any of it away either.