Day 131: The Story of a Desk
At some point in the early ’90s, I’m not sure of the year or whether or not it was a Wednesday, my Uncle Denny bought a computer. Instead of going for the ever-popular Macintosh, he took a gamble on a Windows computer. It was an IBM PS/1, running on an Intel 80286 microprocessor. There was a modem that had the capacity of going up to 0.3 kb/sec [for reference, 56k modems were, well, 56kb]. The hard drive had 512kb, or the size of a 30 second song on Napster. The printer was dot matrix and made the most shrill sound when printing. Most of all, the package was gargantuan. Denny needed a desk that could comfortably house all of the components. He chose a light brown run-of-the-mill Sauder desk, one that he left some of the part stickers on so that people will always know that it’s a Sauder. There may have been better options out there, but it was compact, sturdy and probably on sale at Art Van.
When Uncle Denny suddenly passed in 1995, it came as a bit of a shock to me. It was the first time I had known somebody to die and I always wished that I had known him better. He was my favorite uncle because he just wasn’t like the other Turnwalds. He actually watched TV, so he was already extremely relatable at face value. Our time spent with him seemed to be limited and when I heard the news, even my 7 year old brain could regret not cherishing those moments more. A lot of his possessions got passed down to the family. I inherited a Rubiks Cube [even though I was really gunning for the vintage TV Guides, which would’ve provided me way much more joy]. But the grand prize of his estate [in my opinion] was the IBM PS/1. I still remember the moment that the lights turned on in his office. My immediate reaction was “She’s a beaut!”. I may have been ogling the computer, but the desk provided immaculate presentation. It was as if the furniture was custom designed for it.
The PS/1 and accompanying desk was the centerpiece of our kitchen for a very long time. In fact, it was the centerpiece for way too long. The computer was already dated when it arrived. It ran on Windows 3.1 [later, 3.11], so most modern applications weren’t even compatible. There was no CD-ROM drive, so I couldn’t play any new hit games. I was stuck with Paint, Minesweeper, Solitaire, a watered-down DOS version of Where In The World Is Carmen San Diego and this weird application that records all of the computer’s movements and then plays them back on a timer so that you can convince your sister that the computer is haunted [which is literally it’s only purpose because with the small hard drive, it couldn’t record for long]. It didn’t even have enough memory to runs Windows 95. It was DOA, but I made the most out of it. Finally, after years of begging, we got a new computer in 2001. The specs are unimportant. What mattered was that we used the same desk to house it.
That didn’t last long. My family quickly got sick of its cumbersome design and opted for a more modern desk. It sat unused for years, collecting dust, saving memories, but somehow still not dumped. In 2008, I ventured into the great unknown and moved into a one-bedroom duplex in the scary city of Grand Rapids. I pondered aloud that I need somewhere to house my new iMac and my Dad immediately told me to take Uncle Denny’s old desk. And so I did. It was a shell of the desk that it was before. The shelf was taken out on the bottom, because there was literally no use. There was also a hinged, angled board that I assume was used for placing documents to transcribe. That was already removed because it served literally no purpose. But now the lower base that the keyboard sits on moves back and forth to accommodate the phantom board. To the unseeing eye, it was just a space to put a computer on. But it became the place where everything happened.
I fell in love with writing on this desk. It was where I sat that I realized that I had a knack for it. And some of my best stuff was written there. It was where Baseball For Dinner started and “thrived” for many years. I moved it to Brooklyn with me and it was my home base for a while. Every night, I would sit at the desk and watch TV on the iMac, mainly because there wasn’t much to watch in the living room. At some point, the age of the iMac started to show. It just didn’t run as fast as it used to. Meanwhile, Joe had upgraded to a new Macbook and sold me his old one at a decent price. It effectively moved my home base to the living room, where it remained for years. Instead of being a source of inspiration, the desk became a place to put piles of junk and gather dust. When I moved in with Rachel, I was still too stubborn to get rid of the desk. I didn’t want to let go of the great gift that Uncle Denny had inadvertently provided for me. I tried my best to convince Rachel that I would write at the desk again and she somehow believed me.
In August of 2018, I wrote a baseball roundup at the desk. It felt good to be home again, but I didn’t know that it’d be the last time. While I was finishing, Rachel came in with a new nose piercing. A few days later, it started bruising and we suspected that something was wrong. Then everything fell apart. Every time I thought of writing at the desk, I was reminded of the last moment where everything felt normal. I became afraid of it. Much like its previous fate, it became a place to store piles of junk and gather dust [& fluff]. Even after things got better, I was still scared of the desk and the bad memory that it held. When it came time to move again, Rachel was really confused about why I still insisted on keeping the desk. But she resigned to knowing that I’m a very sentimental guy and the desk is the most historic thing that I own. And luckily, it fit perfectly in the corner of the bedroom.
Now the desk has a new life. It sits nestled next to the window and it watches the trains go by every 5 minutes. I adorned it with 2 bobbleheads and I’m determined to keep it clean. This will be my home base again, I’m sure of it. Something about writing here just feels right. And every time I type, Eric Gagné nods in agreement. Uncle Denny had it right all along. He bought a desk that has seen much more life than it was designed to. Much like the iMac I’m writing on. Clocking in at 14 years, this thing is still running strong. It somehow helped to go into hibernation for 3 years. The desk is as scratched and moldy as the computer is rusted, but it’s still home to me. Together, they’ve trapped in many great memories and after today, they’re going to trap in much more.