It's been five months.
Here's a list of Tank's stuff. Of course, he shared furniture and appliances and dishes and pans, so they were left behind. And I'm convinced that if--a year ago--he'd moved to another house in Morro Bay, he would have ditched half of this stuff. If he'd moved farther--to Port Townsend, to Sandy--he would have ditched 90 percent of it.
Detective fiction: 17
Other fiction: 5 (including a gorgeous hardcover Joseph Conrad)
Word origins, quotes, writing, speaking: 12
LA waterfront: 11
Movies and showbiz: 7
Philosophy, history, science: 23
Controlling diabetes: 4
Jokes: 1 ("Beyond the Far Side")
There were two duplicates: "The Best of Sydney J. Harris" and Eric Hoffer's "Working and Thinking on the Waterfront."
62 items of clothing
Woven-cotton shirts: 6 short sleeved, 1 long sleeved
Polo shirts: 4
Cotton-knit lounge pants: 5
Sweat pants: 4
Khaki shorts: 2
Khaki slacks: 4
Socks: 4 pair
Shoes: 4 pair (3 white tennis shoes, 1 gray tennis shoes)
Skivvies: 7 pair
Gloves: 2 pair
Hats: 4 (2 baseball caps, 1 canvas bucket hat, 1 narrow-brimmed straw hat)
Bathing suits: 2
Scarf: 1 (bright red wool, fringed...probably packed inadvertently)
Fleece jacket: 1
Poster (Lakers, a couple decades ago)
Poster (aerial view, Port of Los Angeles)
Posters (3, Tank's writing)
Wooden sign ("Live well, laugh often, love much")
Pencil drawing (small, matted, 1910)
Pencil drawing (framed, San Pedro)
Modern art (by Tank, on glass)
Modern art (by Tank, bark glued on styrofoam)
Sign ("Pay Attention, LL" by Tank, 3 feet by 3 feet)
Sign (Tow Away Zone on one side, an invitation to a party at Tank's on the other side)
Sign (Spencer's Market "proudly sponsors" Tank's radio show)
Painting (large, framed, yellow lawn chair and a bucket of red flowers)
Painting (framed, sailboat)
Blank canvas (1 foot by 2 feet)
Over-sized birthday card (from the Alexanders, 1 foot by 2 feet)
Lots of cassettes, VCR tapes (movies, Tank), CDs (music, Tank on the radio), DVDs (movies, Tank)
"Laugh Lots!" written on a piece of fencepost with black Sharpie
Paper (large stack, assorted sizes and weights)
Life magazines (about a dozen)
Duffel bags (4: 3 canvas, 1 leather)
Blankets (2, both small)
Towel (large, brown, embroidered with the word TANK and several small military tanks)
Crockpot (olive green, without a lid)
Eyeglasses (2, readers, brown plastic)
Baseball glove (well worn)
Rope (coiled, clothesline type)
Checkers game (plastic)
Chess game (plastic)
Picnic basket (wicker, small)
Utensil crock (blue)
Puzzle (in original package, "What Movie is That?")
Boom box (with a Gipsy Kings CD)
Large box of empty coffee cans with lids
Attache case (black with red-and-black-checked interior)
Paper cup filled with nuts and bolts
Tape (packaging, Priority Mail)
Tape (2, Scotch)
Tools (4, assorted)
Bird feathers (3, assorted)
Flashlight (in working order)
Ruler (NFL theme, plastic, 12 inch)
Wine corks in a gallon Ziplock bag
Metal bracelet ("Live well, laugh often, love much" on one side, "Live the life you have imagined" on the other side)
Tiles (about 4 inches by 4 inches; "Dance like there's nobody watching" on one, "Sing like there's nobody listening" on the other)
Eggs (4, stone)
Eggs (2, plastic)
Dominoes game (very old, in box)
Box of white chalk
Box of crayons (only 6 left)
Shoelaces (45 inches, new in package)
Antenna ball ("76")
Bottle of Tums
Hospital bootie (1)
Ink-filled stamp with home address
Drawing pad (18 inches by 24 inches, spiral bound)
There were several items that had been gifts from one of Tank's kids, so those items were returned to the gift-giver. (One was a wall hanging that defined the word Dad, making reference to the guy who pushes you extra high on a swing, allowing you to see things that you might not have seen otherwise. Another was a pencil sketch--beautifully done by Anna C., who worked from a photo--of a young Tank working under the hood of a sports car.) There was also an American flag, which was sent directly to Peggy from the navy, and she kept it as her first-choice item. There was also a large sepia photo (with a rigid backing) of early San Pedro, which Tank told Peggy she could have.
To my mind, the most desirable possession of Tank's was the chunk of fencepost with "Laugh Lots!" written on it. I didn't get it, and it was no one's fault but my own. I was distracted...maybe by grief, maybe by the over-sized cookies Sally brought to the divvying-up event. Kelly got it, and it's displayed prominently in his house. "I love it," Susan gushed, when Sally and I visited recently. I thought about grabbing it, and running to the Fit, and driving until I crossed into Canada. But I took a deep breath and thought about the cool things I did score: a long-sleeved plaid cotton shirt that I can wear like a cocktail dress, a container of Tums that I keep in the glove box, the suitable-for-framing piece of tree bark, the three feathers to which Dan attached pens and keeps on his desk, and one of the Sydney Harris books, in which Tank wrote "Please return to: TANK." He included his address and offered a polite "thank you." The book smells of his house...like seawater, like sunshine.
Peggy made me a beautiful bracelet for my birthday. It has a don't-blame-don't-complain theme. When I wear it, I spend slightly less time blaming and complaining.
I was chatting with a friend recently, and I said--of a mutual friend--"He's never been allowed to be himself." Once we're adults, though, "being oneself" doesn't require the permission or encouragement of others (although many of us get confused and think it does). Tank--especially the last dozen years or so--was very determined to be himself, and he derived great pleasure from doing so. He didn't always manage it, of course, and a case could probably be made that "being himself" wasn't always in his best long-term interest. Few achieve and maintain the level of clarity that allows one to express the self of today without harming (to some degree) the self of tomorrow.
But even so... I always got the impression that Tank was trying to get the most from a moment by making it uniquely his own...by turning off the voice that told him what others expected, what tradition dictated, what was standard operational procedure, what was prudent. Tank understood that much of what we take to be mandatory is actually optional.
I know that my effusive praise of Tank sets him up for criticism. He would be the first to assert that his mistakes would fill the back of an F-150 to overflowing. And that--if lucky--one acquires wisdom with age, but one still makes mistakes at an alarming rate.
In addition to Tank's bulkier stuff, there was a huge box of story ideas, notes-to-self, and correspondence, which I divided among the four of us, shamelessly keeping the best for myself (sometimes, I made copies). Eventually, I'll blog about each and every scrap of paper. Like me, Tank was comfortable throwing away correspondence once it was read, so I was surprised when I found a Thoreau quote that I sent him, cut from a magazine and inserted in a letter. It reads: "There is no remedy for love but to love more."
I had a credit at Amazon.com, so I recently ordered five Simon and Garfunkel CDs, because I only had albums. I've been listening to them in the car, and today--it was inevitable--I suddenly heard the unmistakable first notes of "The Boxer," one of Tank's favorite songs. Besides its musical perfection, it's clear to me why Tank loved this song. After 9/11, when normal TV programming resumed, Paul Simon was the musical guest on "Saturday Night Live," and he sang "The Boxer." It's an ode to resilience. "In the clearing stands a boxer..." The song takes a while to end, with just enough lie-la-lie's to suit me. But this time, as I listened to the song end, I imagined Tank turning and walking away from me, with that football-injury gait, his arm up to wave a final time. As he waves, his face is already turned away from me, in a posture that would seem dismissive if it weren't so familiar and affectionate. Try thinking about that while you listen to "The Boxer." "I am leaving, I am leaving, but the fighter still remains."