Sometimes I think I’m too sentimental. The Pink Panther, who watches me sleep night after night, tends to agree.

The Pink Panther is a 3-foot-tall stuffed toy I won at Old Orchard Beach when I was 7 or 8 years old. A real space gobbler is the pink one, but what am I going to do, throw it away? Just toss into the recycling bin this thing that has been with me, through hell and high water, since I was a wee lad? The very notion of it feels like betrayal. Worse, it feels like something that could bring down a kind of cosmic jinx from which I might never recover.

The weird coil of wires that resides on my newsroom desk agrees also. For all practical purposes, this multicolored tangle is pure junk, something that should have been burned or buried at the landfill two decades ago. But those wires came out of the ceiling above my desk when the newsroom was remodeled in 1994, the year I started at the paper.

Isn’t there at least a dim possibility that this talismanic knot of wires is responsible for every good thing that has happened to me here? Isn’t it likely that I would have been fired many years ago without its presence? Or killed on the job or drowned in the canal?

Better to keep it on my desk and use it as a place-holder in my desktop Rolodex. And who uses a Rolodex in this age of cloud-based contacts? A guy who believes, in a nebulous way, that because the Rolodex was the first thing he bought for his desk, it can never be parted with.

And how about these boots, huh? This ugly, faded footwear with the oil stains and tongues that look like dead things clinging to my feet. These boots have been submerged in bogs and swamps from one end of the state to the other.

They have soaked up so much chain grease and motor oil that a few OPEC nations have inquired about drilling into them. The boots are hideous: dogs howl, babies wail and Catholics cross themselves when I walk by, but what do you suggest? Throw them away and get a new pair? Bury them in the backyard or honor them with fire?

Heretic! These Wolverines were bought for nine bucks at the Salvation Army; procured for the express purpose of taking the abuse and punishment of dual-sport riding. I got them the very first week of riding back in 2009 and as far as I know, the boots are responsible for my survival. Everything I have seen, they have seen.

Every time I’ve gone down in the deepest puddle Turner has to offer, the boots have suffered squishy discomfort right along with me. For five years, those Wolverines have walked the crime beat, silent and slightly stinky witnesses to the horrors and hilarities of the street.

Their soles had holes as big as golf greens by the end of it to prove their worth. Toss them out? Not a chance, brother. I spent twice as much to have them fixed as I would have paid for a new pair and I regret nothing. Someday, I’ll be buried with the boots upon my feet and the worms can have us all.

And then there’s El Mechon, the most beloved relic of all. It has 32,000 hard miles on it now and it sometimes creaks like an old man. It leaks oil, struggles to start and occasionally loses a random bolt which I can never quite identify. When something falls off, I dutifully pick it up, wipe it down and keep it for luck and posterity.

Hanging among the El Mechon shrine in my writing room (I had to take down pictures of my wife to make room) is a worn handlebar grip, a tattered shoelace, a sprocket whose teeth are worn down to the gums, fragments of a shattered hand guard, gloves with gaping holes in their fingers and a few shards of assorted metal that caused me flats. There’s also a small piece of granite upon which we landed when the odometer rolled to 30,000 miles, and half a dozen tires worn bald during our travels residing in the backyard garden with herbs growing out of them.

Nothing that was once attached to El Mechon can be thrown away, including sticks and dead insects.

Above my desk are trinkets representing every book I’ve written, from a Strawberry Shortcake snow globe with busted glass to four cards out of a random deck. I still have the keyboard upon which I tapped out the first book. The letters have rubbed off and the backspace key doesn’t work, but I keep it anyway.

Sentiment? Superstition? Extreme hoarding? Don’t know. Don’t care. I figure if I ever feel compelled to hang on to old socks or underwear, that’s when I’ll seek help.

Although, when you think about it, every grungy pair of underthings has a story to tell, so maybe that’s not such a bad idea. I could make space on another wall to hang those things and label them appropriately with a magic marker.

You’ll visit my museum, right?

Mark LaFlamme is a Sun Journal staff writer. You can share those underwear anecdotes at [email protected]


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