This past Memorial Day, I did not feel like BBQ’ing. Instead I was struck with the idea that I should tackle a task that has been on my To-Do list for nigh on five years: transferring a dozen VHS tapes to a digital format so that the tapes could be discarded.
This entailed purchasing a converter box and accompanying software, borrowing a PC computer (the software doesn’t work on a Mac) and a working VCR. There was a false start about three years ago when the VCR only played with a time-code window that couldn’t be turned off without the remote, which we did not have… The computer returned to its owner and I lost momentum… for about three more years. But the power of list is strong, and a vaguely guilty sense of obligation can push when passion does not, so for the last week I have returned to the cause.
The recording process entailed watching much of the content on the tapes — which ranged from boring-to-watch, to embarrassing to emotional. My mom looks like my sister. My brother has more hair. My father was alive. But everyone was also so… them. So exactly the people I know that it kind of stabs you in the heart.
I, too, sound the same and look like a younger version of myself, which is… I don’t know. I think without any evidence to the contrary, one can begin to think that one has progressed from some mild stupidity in youth to wisdom–but the person I see on screen doesn’t seem to be in need of any great advice that I might now possess…
One tape is a “video portrait” I did for my first ever video class. I interviewed a friend for the portrait. In the interview, he says “I have lists for everything–you can ask me my favorite songs, movies, television shows, friends–anything. I probably have a list for it.” This was true — he was (and remains) someone who has always amazed me with his ability to categorize and rank his preferences for all sorts of things.
I, on other hand, do not have those kinds of lists. I’ve taken part in a dozen writing workshops where we are asked to introduce ourselves and mention out favorite books or writers. Despite having experience that has taught me this will be the first question, I often come up blank. I despair as password authentication questions trend away from the factual: “What is your mother’s maiden name,” toward the subjective: Who was your favorite teacher?” I don’t have a favorite song or a list of favorite songs…
I do, however, have a list of things that at some point I thought would be good to do and have become part of mental To-Do List that keeps turning up in my brain like that pair of florescent sunglasses you bought at a gas station a decade ago on the way to the beach and now keeps reappearing under the car seat.
I don’t know how many items are on to-do list, or which items are at the top. But today, the list is one item shorter. Small victory.