I LOVE the idea of time capsules. But I love the idea of time machines better, where I could potentially go back in time and buy all 1950's clothes, furniture and tschochkes I could ever want and then buy lots of other various crap I could sell on ebay for oodles of money. And I'd also like to travel back in time to The Moments Where I Was About To Make a Giant Mistake -- where I could say instead, "No thank you, I would not like to go on a date with you because you are a moron" or "No, thank you, I actually don't need another drink." Etcetera, etcetera, etcetera.
But time capsules are actually do-able, and I love the stories surrounding them. My favorite is the story of Lilly Dache's cornerstone in 1937 in her book, Talking Through My Hats, published in 1946.
The milliner extraordinaire, trying on one of her own creations.
To give a bit of background, Lilly Dache was the most fabulous and famous and successful hatmaker of her time, back when women wore hats every day. (I have a Lilly Dache hat from the 40's but I don't have the complicated hair-do one needs to wear it, so it sits like a sad little crow on the top of my head.) She was so popular and successful she wrote a book about her fame and success. And, well, it reads like a book by one who is famous and successful and Not All That Modest. (But it's not as trying as another autobiography by another Fabulous and Famous and Successful designer, Elsa Schiaparelli's Shocking Life. Schiap actually alternates between first and third person throughout the book, depending on her mood I guess. She would have loved Facebook's status updates: "Elsa Schiaparelli just designed another successful line, using her signature color shocking pink!" I love her, but it's just too too. Lilly Dache, however, is much more likable in writing, but both of them are simply divuun when it comes to fashion.)
Anyway, Lilly Dache, who was even quoted in popular music in her day, became so famous and successful that she built a "castle for hats" at 56th St. and Park Ave in NYC -- very chi chi indeed. And when she was making the plans, she had heard about an old house in Texas that had been excavated and a horned toad in a box had been found, and it had been there for 125 years. It was "as quick and agile and full of pep as the day he moved in," according to Miss Dache, and it had apparently brought good luck. She wished she could have good luck, too, and her friend gave her a little horned toad in a metal box (with holes punched in it)to put in the cornerstone, along with a copy of the first hat she had ever made, the first newspaper that praised her in America, a poem from a friend, and some childhood sentimental mementoes from France. Voila, her extra fancy time capsule!
A few weeks later, as the building was going up, the friend who gave her the little ancient toad played a joke on Miss Dache. She called the SPCA and told them that there was a toad buried alive in the foundation of the building. Gasp. Scandal! It hit all the newspapers and Lilly had to dig it all back up to get the toad out. So much for the good luck toad, though it wound up living in the penthouse in a jewel encrusted glass box. And I guess he wound up being good luck, after all, because Lilly Dache became more popular than ever and went on to design creations like this:
Yeah, I'd say she did okay for herself.
So I guess the lesson there is to never bury a living thing in your time capsule. You can get in a lot of trouble.
But I've been thinking a lot about this Accomplishment, ever since I got this book. And I worried a little. For one thing, we rent -- I have no where permanent to bury anything. If I buried a time capsule in the yard here and came back in 20 years, I think the people living here would be a little bummed. ("Hi, I'm Karen. I lived here a long time ago when I had all my teeth. Can I dig up your begonias to get to a box I left here?") And another thing -- if time capsules are supposed to encapsulate time, well, what means anything to me that is indicative of 2009? Everything I love seems to be from another era, save for things like good shampoo and modern conveniences, and I don't want to part with my laptop or ipod for an experiment. And I need my shampoo. (I haven't used any today, and if you could see me you know that I do need it. Badly.) Plus -- this blog and my flickr and all the other stuff on the internets out there is my time capsule, albeit a flimsy one. (I do wonder what will happen to all those digital photos and all this writing. Will it just stay in cyberspace forever? Who knows.)
I also tend to think that Time Capsules are most meaningful when community organized. One from a town in the 50's was dug up recently, and I thought it was so cool -- the old car was rusted and there was water damage to some of the items (I can't remember exactly what happened), but it really showed how much the town had changed, how life in general had changed and progressed and what families and businesses, if any, were still there. Observers were wistful and nostalgic and amused (the fifties are funneeee!), but a lot of people were happy with progress -- and so many memories were stirred. To me, that's the perfect outcome for a successful time capsule, where many people are affected. All I have to do to dig up a personal time capsule is go on facebook and see that the guy who sat two rows up from me in second grade is on there and his friend SUPER POKED him. (Things never really change.)
I jest, but I have been thinking about it. So I was thrilled when I went to MOMA in San Francisco a few weeks ago and discovered they were doing a time capsule as part of their "Art of Participation" exhibit. "Aha!" I thought. "An Accomplishment!"
There's a van (called the Ant Van) that has a crazy hookah-like thing in it (even the license plate of the van says HUQQAH, and the console is complete with water pipe sound effects) that you can plug your ipod or phone or camera into it, and it takes random songs or images for a time capsule that will be "opened" in the year 2030.
So I handed over my camera, and this was the image they chose. There were a lot of images to choose from because I always forget to delete images, and of course the image it chose was not of me looking foxy (those don't even exist anyway) or with 8 chins (those images do exist), but of my friends from the Mid-Century Supper Club potluck which I thought was rather nice:
Sherry, Christina and Sarah, potlucking out
and my ipod came up with this song:
Frank Wilson "Do I Love You"
(The story behind this song from my friend Bryan Martin, fantastic DJ, collector and history major: "It was a Motown recording. Bit of a story with that tune as it was never properly released at Motown (Frank Wilson was one of the 'house' songwriters for Motown) but there were a couple of test pressings released in the 60's that sat unheard until an early Northern Soul dj (Simon Soussan, I believe) came across it here in the US on one of his record buying trips in the 70's. He sold it for a few hundred pounds back then. Fast forward to today and its one of the rarest Northern 45's around, I believe a copy sold for around $30,000 in the last year or two. Apparently there a three known copies. The 45 has been repressed and bootlegged many times though and the repress can be found for cheap thankfully." Thanks, Bryan!)
So what is great about this Accomplishment is that it confirmed what I suspected: if left up to me to create a time capsule, everything would look -- and sound -- like it was from another era, not 2009. In the picture my friends look like they stepped out of 1965, and so did the song. My contributions are already a time capsule. But I love that in 2030, people of the future might just be a little bit confused. And, I admit, I'm much happier with that. And I would have been bummed if the hookah had chosen the World's Worst Photo of Me or my most embarrassing song on my ipod, which is a toss up between "Point of No Return" by Expose (don't ask, it was for a Specific Purpose) or anything on the Xanadu soundtrack (which I LOVE). (And see? Even those songs are from other eras. And ones with ugly fashion to boot!)
If you'd like to participate as well, you have until Jan. 29th. Here's the link for more details:
And think about it. What would you put in a time capsule? I'd be interested to hear... But remember, no live toads.
Twenty-five down, 72 to go.