Legends of the hidden temple

Man Under Bridge

I’ve had my desk since I was in the third grade. It’s seen me through all sorts of things: calculus and Jacques Lacan, puka shells and straightened hair, the death of my cat Milton and the ensuing existential crisis.

As desks go, its surface is pretty plain — a natural finish that’s slowly been eroded and two random stickers. At first, the thought of removing the stickers felt rude; it was, after all, a hand-me-down from one of my cousins. Now it just feels like sacrilege.

My most trusted companion, it’s the rock upon which I built a church of term papers and pipe dreams. Those times when the library failed me, when Au Coquelet was too crowded, when everywhere else was closed, my desk wrapped its small frame around my legs and said, “Andrew, I will not deny you, not three times, not once. Shut up. Sit down. Write.”

It’s long kept some of my most prized possessions side by side with things I’ve long forgotten. But as I prepare to move across the country, I know this is it: time to part ways with my mahogany companion. Time to permanently empty its treasure chest, packing what I need most and parting with what I can’t keep. Things I had before the desk, things I got a few months ago: 22 years of erratic behavior stuffed into four disorganized drawers.

And I know you’re dying to know, so here they are, some of the things I kept:

How to be cool. A note I wrote myself when I was in fourth grade. 1. Learn the guitar. 2. Get puka shells. 3. Become good at skateboarding. Well, I learned the guitar, but what white kid growing up on the beach doesn’t do that? I also got puka shells two years down the road, the perfect accessory to bleached-blond hair and my blue Hurley shirt. I even tried skateboarding, but when going down the driveway seemed too extreme, my dreams of one-upping Tony Hawk evaporated.

The Seeger Sessions. My first hangover. I woke up at a friend’s house and felt sick: Why am I such a tool? Without saying bye, I left and drove to Vons. I felt an insatiable thirst, so I bought a Coke, opened it as soon as I left the store and took a huge gulp. Immediately thereafter, the parking lot embraced every ounce of fun I had the previous night as the shame-train continued all the way back to my shitty, now deceased Altima.

The only thing left to do was get out of Huntington Beach. I jumped on the 405 and took it to the Irvine Spectrum. It was still early, and the only place open was Barnes & Noble. I passed aisles of books and found the music section. There it was, in all of its “check me out, I look dated” glory. But it wasn’t dated. It was Springsteen’s latest album. I bought it on impulse, and his rendition of “Shenandoah” soothed my aching body.

Postcards. I met Fredi in Italy when I was a senior in high school. To this day she sends me postcards from wherever she goes because she knows I don’t get to travel much. To this day, I haven’t thrown a single one out.

A care package. Though Sammy was my only friend until I met Alex, the three of us were inseparable from the seventh grade on. We snuck out of houses, formed ill-fated bands and stayed up all night singing “Jodie” by Saves the Day. The night before I left for Berkeley they gave me a care package: a Kat Williams DVD, a framed picture and a card. “Don’t forget us when you’re up there with those people.” I didn’t.

My blue beanie. Knitted just for me, it’s a reminder of poor ice-skating and UFOs. Of the fact that I’d rather be damned doing than don’t-ing. That this column is getting way too self-indulgent.

Enough with these things. You get it, beneath my rugged exterior I’m a sentimental schmuck.

But what’s the point of all this? Why a desk? Hell, why Man Under Bridge? The truth is, I don’t even know; I just wandered into it. And that’s kind of been the story of my life, at least up to now.

My name is Andrew Davis, and I’ve been a wanderer for 22 years. From the mean streets of Huntington Beach, I strapped a desk onto the back of a truck and braved the Grapevine as I headed north.

Wherever I’ve gone, I’ve collected: gifts, letters, pictures — you name it, put away and forgotten, or taken out from time to time to keep my head warm, they conjure up ghosts and tell stories. The hoarder in me takes comfort in that. I might have to part with my desk, but I think I might be lucky enough for those ghosts to follow me out of California.

It’s tempting to look back and tell myself that I want more — more from a time, a place, a person. Tempting, but unfair, because if I’ve learned one thing, it’s that no one ever wants less.