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Classified? No… But Interesting Material Nonetheless

There has been a lot of discussion in the press recently about classified documents turning up at the private homes of several political leaders – in their garage … in their basement … and in other odd places.

Not to excuse this behavior, as classified documents deserve to be treated with the utmost care, but truthfully I can understand how documents and other material can be accidentally stored away and easily forgotten about.

In fact, all of this talk about classified documents has recently led me to perform an accounting of my own.  There are several large boxes and drawers of material that we have been storing in our basement for decades, and I decided to spend a Sunday morning sorting through this stuff to see what interesting treasures I might discover.

Unfortunately for our government, there was nothing I found that the CIA or FBI would be terribly excited about retrieving.  But wow … did I locate some interesting material!

From the age of 12 until I was married, I purchased close to 300 record albums of my favorite musical groups and artists.  They provided me with hours of listening pleasure.  Most of the babysitting money and other wages I earned as a teen were spent on record albums.  When CDs became the rage, I slowly replaced most of these vinyl discs with the more convenient compact disc version.  However, I couldn’t throw away my precious albums, even though I wasn’t using them anymore.  I purchased several large plastic cartons and placed the albums inside – and they have been sitting in our basement for decades.

I opened the plastic cartons, and glanced through  the albums, which I haven’t looked at in 40 years.  Suddenly I was 17 years old again!  While I won’t minimize the benefits of streaming music and the advantages of not having to store record albums or CDs, it doesn’t quite compare to the full musical gestalt of placing a disc on a turntable, lying down on the carpet, admiring an album’s cover art, reading the liner notes, and enjoying the music.  The music sounds the same on Pandora and Spotify, but the experience isn’t quite the same.

I also found some of my old report cards from junior high and high school, which I’m not quite sure why I saved.  I wasn’t a great student – and if there was a theme to the teacher comments, it was that Michael Feldstein is a bright young man who does not exert the necessary effort to achieve his potential.  Looking back, I don’t disagree, but I do hope I have made up for this shortcoming later in my life.

One of the real treasures I discovered was an original typed copy of a Purim spoof newsletter I created, circa 1984.  It was composed on a manual typewriter, complete with corrections in pen. (I guess I didn’t have any White-Out!)  The humor is pretty edgy – I did a recipe spoof, where I included a pork lo mein recipe submitted by the rebbitzen!  I likely wouldn’t tread in that area if I were writing this kind of spoof today – I guess when you are 27 years old, you don’t worry too much about insulting congregants, let alone the rebbetzin.  I hope she had a good sense of humor!

I found some additional lost treasures that I had not realized I saved.  I discovered the acceptance letter from the Norwalk, CT, company that hired me out of business school – which was the reason we moved to Connecticut as a married couple.  I also had written many letters to out-of-town friends while I was in high school and college (this was before email and during a time when long distance calls cost a dollar a minute).  I saved all the correspondence I received back – aerogrammes from a close friend who had made aliyah and long, beautifully written letters from a girlfriend who lived in Maryland.  One day, when I have the time, I would like to read them again.

I also found a New York Knicks program autographed by Walt Frazier.  I attended several Knicks home games at Madison Square Garden while I was a teenager (in the Red Holzman days), and while I don’t remember exactly when I obtained the autograph, I must have convinced Clyde to sign my program before or after a game I attended.  And in the same box as the Frazier autograph, scrawled on a blank piece of paper, was a Joe Namath autograph.  I do remember when I obtained that signature – the New York Jets training camp headquarters was located at Hofstra University, which was a short ride from West Hempstead, which is where I lived at the time.  One day my dad took me to see them practice – and I was lucky enough to get Namath to sign an autograph for me.

I don’t think the government will be coming after me to return any documents that might be deemed as classified.  However, it was a great trip down memory lane for me.

What’s lurking in boxes that you still have stored in your basement?

About the Author
Michael Feldstein, who lives in Stamford, CT, is the author of "Meet Me in the Middle," a collection of essays on contemporary Jewish life. His articles and letters have appeared in The Jewish Link, The Jewish Week, The Forward, and The Jewish Press. He can be reached at michaelgfeldstein@gmail.com