Monday, March 07, 2011

Inspecting The Death Bags at Mother LaBrea

by James Jarvis

    My sister Marie likes to go to estate sales and storage room lien sale auctions here in the piney woods of east Texas. That's how she makes her living: off the misfortune of others, grabbing their stuff for pennies on the dollar.

     I used to go to estate sales in Bell, California. It was pretty interesting to see what people acquire in their lifetime but then the true tragedy of the situation struck me. Some people had passed on and all that was left of their lives was spread out before me: unused bubble baths, pointless baubles & beaded glassware twisted into shapes of passing interest. Meaningless bits of merchandise someone had invested a lifetime acquiring. 

    I used to get that feeling when I inspected The Death Bags at Mother LaBrea. When someone died at the Park LaBrea Apartments where I used to live, the relatives threw all the crap they didn't want into large black trash bags and left them next to the dumpsters in the basements (17 basements). I'd dig through that stuff and find fascinating things: a 1905 New York City Fireman's ID card, a 25-year IRS service pin, old style drafting tools, 1930's head shots of actresses who never made it, etc, etc.

    Looking at the Mother LaBrea Death Bags really made me think about the load of burdensome crap I was hauling around from city to city. Homelessness helped me unburden myself of a lot of junk. A LOT! I was so proud of my mobile, almost crapless life then. Now it's starting to pile up again, and I think the only way out is to sneak out and grab a freight train straight out of town in the middle of the night while my crap is sleeping.

    What did Janis Joplin say? Freedom is just another way of saying 'Nothin' left to lose'? I can tell you first hand there's a lot of truth in that. Not ALL truth, but a lot. I even told my kids not to save my body in some overpriced box when I'm done with it. Just dig a hole, throw my remains in, pour some gas over it and burn, baby, burn. I don't need the damned thing where I'm going and a grave site is just another piece of worthless junk you can't eat, sell, or even take out of the box once in a while to play with.
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