Yesterday morning I came home and unburdened myself. I filled two shopping bags with old T-shirts, and when I was done, I still had five drawers full. If I started wearing a different shirt each day and then simply discarding them it would take me several months before I had nothing left to wear.
Then why didn't I get rid of more of them? I have an absurd attachment to simple things. I have a history of being a bit of a pack rat that was mediated, in large part, by moving to California just after my thirtieth birthday. A great portion of my youth was boxed up and hauled across the country, but an even larger portion met with the dumpster. I was fortunate to have another smaller fraction of my stuff end up in storage at my mother's house, but when she moved into a smaller place, even the Twinkie I had been saving in her refrigerator as part of an elaborate experiment finally got tossed.
But when I got to Oakland, I still had Hefty bags full of T-shirts. Some of them no longer fit me, but I had a story that went with every one. Many of them came from concerts I had attended in various states of awareness, and were my most solid links with those experiences, since my own memory was not quite as reliable as the Hanes Beefy T that I managed to drag home with me. One in particular, a souvenir from the J. Geils "Freeze Frame" tour, has been lost to the ages. It was significant primarily because it helped me stay focused on the fact that I was attending a rock show with other humans even though at times my mind and the chemicals I had ingested had me watching "Macbeth" in a sea of swirling lights. That shirt was my link to reality. The fact that it has gone missing tells me that either I have lost that connection for good, or I no longer need it. The irony of that particular shirt is this: I never once wore it.
All of the others were well-worn. Some more than others. I still have a few very tired shirts that probably should have been let go. One in particular is a shirt I liberated, with the help of my older brother, from the dumpster behind the field house at the University of Colorado. It was used when I got it, and I've been running in it for more than twenty years. The fact that it has held together after weekly washings and other abuse is a tribute to its maker, who I can only guess at since the label has long since been worn away. A few of the shirts that were in line to be purged were rescued by my son. It will be a few more years before they fit him properly, but by then I should be able to part with a few dozen more.