when i was young and we lived in colorado my dad had a friend he played music with. his name was jim-bob. jim-bob was every bit as affable as you'd expect from a guy with such a feel-good moniker. the only detail i recall about jim-bob, other than his persistent grin, was his academic career. he was enrolled at colorado state university so long his credits started aging off. the problem was he was a professional bluegrass banjo player and traveled often because of this.
a detail i learned about jim-bob after we left the state was that he had a barn full to the hay-shelf of random possessions, none of which originally belonged to him. jim-bob, wanting to avoid the bustle a city of 60,000 brings lived outside of town on a farm in the rocky mountain foothills. this farm came with a barn and because jim-bob was not a farmer the barn was completely unused. i believe it was his parents who first approached him. they were downsizing their house in their retirement years and wondered if they could store some things in his barn. having no plans for it he said yes and the barn was partially consumed with the material possessions of a retirement age couple. some years later another friend or relation approached him with the same request. he again agreed to hold the stuff. many years later the official owners of the barn's contents died or moved out of state, intentionally forfeiting what was there.
this barn of things came to haunt jim-bob because he knew he was one day going to have to deal with it. at this point jim-bob was still playing music but now also had two children the older of which was an aspiring geek, of the home-schooled variety. the boy mentioned a website called ebay to his father. at the time of this conversation ebay was off the ground but not yet a household name. the father kindly thanked his son for the suggestion with everything but a pat on the head but explained that everything out there was nothing but junk and no one would want it. the boy persisted, arguing that people buy 'anything' on ebay. anything!
some period later and in a run of boredom jim-bob went into the barn. he did not do this often as the neurosis heightened when he could see the warehouse of possession that had come into his care. he walked the stacked corridors noting the crazed variety of it all. he paused at a one of the many stacks. on top of some cartons, on top of a nightstand on top of the dirt floor sat a side view mirror to some old-model car. he picked it up slowly turning it in his hands. his mind said the single word, anything.
he returned to the house and set the mirror on his son's desk, "how would i sell this on that ebay thing?" the boys eyes brightened and he said he'd take care of it. five days later the mirror sold for $87. over the next five years jim-bob worked through that old barn until it was as naked and dusty as the day the first box was set down.
when jim-bob told me this story i asked him if there were any things hard to part with. he said only one. when jim-bob was younger, he and his father restored an old car together. i can't remember what it was but it was one that would catch your eye if it passed you on the road. he said they had visions of driving it cross-country together but instead life happened and children came and illnesses were discovered and the father-son trip never got underway. after his father's death jim-bob thought perhaps he would drive the shiny spectacle in local parades in memory of his father but even that didn't happen. jim-bob then talked about when he finally sold the car. he described the conflicted emotions he experienced in putting it online and then when someone actually bought the car and then when the buyer knocked on his country screen door ready to collect. jim-bob calmly conducted the transaction and watched this strange man slide into he and his father's pristine automobile and slowly roll down the driveway. jim-bob said when that car turned the corner and left his view it was as though a giant burden and guilt came off his shoulders.
i then asked jim-bob what the most he got for something was. aside from the car he said the next biggest item was a painting. in the back of the barn was a very large painting (taller than him perhaps) facing the wall. the original oil painting portrayed a medieval setting with a king on a throne occupying the right part of the scene. then in the center was the most angelic, virginal maiden done up as if she were the king's own daughter. in her hands she held a large sword and beneath her was a broken and frightened man. he was being held down by some soldiery types and the young girl was about to bring the conan-worthy dagger onto his exposed neck thus depositing his head into a woven basket waiting beneath. i asked jim-bob if that was hanging in his house growing up. he said no and that he thought it came to the family through some relative. after a three second glimpse his mother cast the relic to the basement where it sat beneath a tarp before occupying a spot in the ebay barn. jim-bob almost didn't post the painting thinking it not worth the trouble and thought he'd be better off to just burn it or put it out for the trash. but remembering his project's mantra, "anything", he went through the motions. days later an art dealer in california won the contested item for several thousand dollars.