To the vault

Yesterday I took my hard drive to the vault.

I hadn’t visited my safe deposit box in years. Couldn’t remember exactly what was inside… passport, birth certificate, car title? No, they’re still in my old gray file cabinet, awaiting transport before the house burns down.

But now I had this precious digital media. Four-plus days of filming My Shanghai translates to 92.4GB of data, preserved in highly compressed AVCHD format. It had to be backed up, copied, locked away. I just hope I won’t need to use it ten years from now, when 2012 will be the technological equivalent of the Pleistocene.

But back to the vault. I opened the long, skinny box and found some odd paper certificates called U.S. Savings Bonds (Mesozoic?), our wills (c. 1997) and a cocktail ring (c. “Laugh-In”). I stowed the hard drive and the signed originals of Virginia’s life story rights and video releases. Then I rang the bell to be let out of the vault. I don’t know what other banks are like, but in my little branch of U.S. Bank there’s only one place to examine the contents of your safe deposit box, and that’s inside the vault. You’re locked in. Behind bars. It’s a weird feeling, especially when you ring the bell and no one comes. You stand there, looking through stainless steel bars at people on the other side… and for a moment you are a prisoner, if only of neglect…

The past is like that. The past awaits transport, but it only waits so long. We can compress and preserve it in the name of history. We can try to lock it up, deluding ourselves with some notion of being free of it.

Sometimes, though, the past combines with new experience to create new meaning. Here, memory plus time equals story. And if you’re lucky, you get it on film, and take it to the bank before the house burns down.


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