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On the road in "Sharemerica": The long goodbye

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Bryan McCormick

Moving on

Editor’s note: Local photographer Bryan McCormick recently left Las Vegas on an open-ended journey into the nation’s “sharing culture,” which he plans to document in words, pictures and a variety of other media. These are the ongoing chronicles of his adventures. In this installment, he comes to terms with the emotional consequences of his long goodbye.

“That’s just prospective grieving.” My friend Dayvid countered my observation that in the last few weeks in Las Vegas I’d never been more suddenly popular. He went on to explain that in time I’d be forgotten, as have so many others who have left town for good. He and a group of the usual suspects had once tried to make up a list of all the people they knew who had left, and quickly vowed never to do it again. And, by gods, he was right. When Melissa and I attempted our own list, which Melissa had labeled something like “My Worst Year Ever,” we’d already forgotten people in a ridiculously short amount of time. And yet the list was so very, very long. It was not unlike a really shitty yet interesting episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation, in which Beverly Crusher keeps losing her colleagues one by one, with no one who remained remembering them at all. The general fog of unknowing combined with the ennui of shattered social bonds. Is that what might happen? Yes, it might. In Vegas, departures are expected and inevitable. And it all helped me make sense of the knowing, sideways glances I had gotten when I announced to people that I was new in town six years ago. I had an expiration date on my back then, even if it wasn’t visible yet.

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My concern wasn't helped by hearing Terrence say that once gone I’d be as good as dead and our relationship would end when I crossed the county line. He wasn't entirely wrong, I knew. Long-distance friendships sometimes are just as difficult to maintain as long-distance romances. Distance changes things. And that is of course why saying goodbye can be so damned tough. But, I knew, too, that the bonds that survive distance are the ones that really mean something. I consoled myself with that.

Was I really sure about doing this? No. Not at all.

At the end, I did get to say goodbye to a good chunk of folks. But not to everyone whom I’d have liked to see once more before taking off. There were some surprise guest appearances right at the end. And those were wonderful. Some memories I think are so strong that even if we lose the details in time, we don’t forget the feelings. And that last night in town was one of those rare times.

 

THE STUFF: UPDATE

The rapid eject from the house was completed with the help of many friends. I had managed to get my worldly items down to three grey totes. Documents that needed to be kept, project drives and the Polaroids I’d taken over the course of two-and-a-half years. That was it. That is, for now, what would be left behind in Vegas. It wasn’t quite the goal I had set of one tote’s worth. And really I wanted it to be none. I blame Bondi for talking me out of setting fire to all the Polaroids.

Everything else I had had was sold, given away or trashed. I took photos of the letters and things people had given to me over the years. And then I burned or shredded what couldn’t be given away or sent back. I will tell you if you start down the road to radical simplification, you might be a little disappointed at having anything left at all. I definitely feel that. I’d gone from having a 1,400-square-foot house packed with books and objects down to almost nothing. I had converted from borderline hoarder to minimalist in the course of months. Just as I had obsessively accumulated, I fanatically disposed. I remembered all the many hours of work that had been needed to get and maintain all this stuff that meant nothing to anyone. In the end, not even me. Stuff, though it may comfort, was also a sticky trap. Never again.

To put some data around it, I had shredded 15 boxes of documents I didn’t need to keep but had lugged across the country. In my last six weeks in town I threw out something like 12 trash bags full of junk each and every week. That was what got me, because I had no idea where all that had come from. The infinite clown car of things kept producing at an alarming rate. Right until the end. 

What I had with me after all was done, all I really had materially in the world, was a duffel bag and an equipment case. Just as I had promised myself nearly a year ago, it was done. And now, it was time to finally decamp. Time to see if I had just made perhaps the most colossally dumb move of my life, or maybe the smartest one of all.