Gerald K. McOscar discovers that his bedroom dresser holds his past

Posted: July 15, 2010

THE ASSOCIATED Press recently reported that the Vatican had used lasers for the first time to restore the first known icons of the apostles Peter and Paul in the catacombs beneath Rome.

Vatican officials say this new technology could open a window into the early days of the church. Closer to home, researchers interested in opening a window into some of my earlier days need look no farther than my bedroom dresser.

Each night, I act out my own religious ritual: I empty my pockets of keys, wallet, money, ticket stubs, receipts . . . on the top of the dresser.

Each morning, I grab my money, wallet and other essentials, leaving the detritus behind. Undisturbed and unnoticed, these remains of the day slowly ferment to produce a remarkably well-preserved narrative of my life.

On the whole, I'm a bit of a neatnik, except for that dresser top. Oddly, it can avoid the touch of a Swiffer for years at a time, until, suddenly - after two years, or five, or a decade - a tipping-point is reached. The clutter must go. The most recent occurred during a spring-cleaning offensive a while back.

The excavation unearthed several artifacts of interest: a cache of collar stays of assorted sizes, a backscratcher of uncertain origin, receipts for two 2005 Christmas Eve purchases at Victoria's Secret (don't ask), a stub from a $200 check from the Washington Post for a fall 1996 article I wrote, the names of the group of 25 friends and acquaintances who attended a 2002 Phillies game.

But it was the cache of ticket stubs to long-ago sporting and theater events that caught my eye.

Sorting through the pile reminded me of how quickly time passes. Can it be six years since my snake-bitten attempt to rendezvous with a friend at that June 17, 2004, Thursday afternoon game between the Phillies and Detroit Tigers? It seems like only yesterday that a protracted court hearing, hellish traffic, nonexistent parking and the unfamiliar maze of Citizens Bank Park all conspired to frustrate my arrival at my seat until the eighth inning of a Phillies win.

And how can it be that it's approaching 11 years since my one and only Bruce Springsteen concert (mezzanine level, $67.50, terrible acoustics) on Saturday, Sept. 25, 1999, at the First Union Center (rechristened the Wachovia Center in 2003, and Wells Fargo Center as of July 1)? I shuddered at these reminders of the fleeting years.

But it was comparing the pre- and post-9/11 relics that evoked the most visceral reactions. That terrible date draws an ugly, sulfuric, jagged boundary between two vastly different worlds, the world before the Department of Homeland Security, terror alerts, the TSA and full-body scanners and today's post-9/11 world where they are commonplace.

Compare a July 2, 2000, game between the Baltimore Orioles and Toronto Blue Jays and a Sept. 21, 2001, concert with Joe Cocker and the Guess Who at the First Union Center.

Two tickets came my way early that July Sunday, and, by game time, my buddy and I were ensconced in Left Field Club seats in Baltimore's beautiful Camden Yards. I recall the Maryland crab cakes, the carefree crowd, the cloudless sky and Will Clark's game-winning home run in the bottom of the eighth. No pat-downs or metal detectors in sight.

No one in attendance at the half-filled First Union Center was in a party mood 10 days after 9/11. I recall talk of canceling the event.

THE PARKING lots were eerily devoid of tailgaters, police and barricades were everywhere, and, if memory serves, ticketholders were patted down on entering. Although a pall enveloped the evening, I brushed away tears as both performers, Mad Dog Englishman Cocker and the Guess Who from north of the border, expressed heartfelt sympathy for America and its people.

The Vatican researchers may have their high-tech lasers, but whenever I want to open a window into my past, I need only rummage through the top of my dresser.

Gerald K. McOscar is a lawyer who lives in West Chester.