Physical. Let's Get Physical...Media

I own both nothing and a ridiculous amount of things. To explain. There are no pots nor pans in my home, but over a hundred new old stock sealed audio cassette tapes. There are three vintage chairs in a space not much bigger than my work cubicle, but no condiments in my refrigerator. There are literally thousands of tapes, VHS, records, CDs, and DVDs under my bed, but nothing in my freezer except a Wintersmiths ice cube mold contraption. It took my two years to figure out how to make perfectly clear ice.  

I've been doing some arm chair (1977 Selig Leather Egg Chair with matching ottoman) psychology and trying to figure out why I've been collecting since I was 12.

Come with me, Marty, and let's go back to the future.

It's 1995 and I'm going through my little black book. Nary a teenage girl is to be found within the pages of this tome. Neigh. Rather, it contains the names and phone numbers of every toy store in Reno.

A spiritually accurate transcription: "Hello, KB Toys, I'm looking for Luke with a short lightsaber in the long tray. Oh you have it? Fantastic. Can you confirm for me the there is blank space between the lightsaber and the plastic packaging? No, I understand there's a lightsaber in the plastic molding, but I'm looking for the one with the short saber and the long tray. Is the cardboard surrounding the action figure mint? Is it free of bends, creases, or dents? Can you hold it for me for two hours? Fantastic. Thank you."



Cut to home a few hours later.

I am putting a drop of Zippo lighter fluid on the price tag to dissolve the adhesive without damaging the card. I ask the clerk of the original shipping box and wax paper dividers so I can re-pack the figures in the future. To this day, none of my action figures are opened. They are still in those boxes in the attic of my Dad's house. 

:::Temporary break to pet the neighborhood cats who poked their heads in my window::::

After toys it was comic books. After comic books it was records, CDs, and tapes. And that pretty much brings us up to speed.

I've been collecting records since I was 15. I've never sold one. I'm eternally grateful to my pubescent self for obsessively caring for them, lightly dusting them with a Discwasher D4, and dutifully utilizing the dust jacket. Not much has changed in the last 25 years. Except I upgraded to the vintage 70s black Discwasher kit and Mo-Fi poly bags. There is a magnificent irony to caring for punk records in this way.

* Photos of my collection intentionally omitted. I ain't looking to impress no one. A collection ain't about size. It's about which records you choose not to get. All killer. No filler.*  

I love stuff. I fucking love it. I despise collectors who flip things for money. The stuff is the reward. The stuff is the stuff. I refuse to pay collector prices. When my friends and I used to tour, we'd keep lists of all our white whales. Life was long and the record stores were plentiful. It was shameful to shell out $30 for a record on eBay (oh how I yearn for the halcyon days of $30 LPs). It was practically sacrilegious. The hunt was everything. Any asshole with an AMEX can buy out Discogs and get a killer setup on Amazon. Cultivating slowly over a lifetime is where the real juice is. Finding a copper chassis Pioneer Elite CD player on Facebook Marketplace for $25 and driving to a Panera in the middle of Indiana means my gear and I are bonded. If you are not mine yet, you will be. I am patience. I ain't goin' nowhere. 

For those who come from a time when not knowing someone who owned the record, mean you didn't hear it, owning a rare record was a badge of honor. But more than that, it was proof you were there. It was the humble brag IG post before cell phones existed. And, somewhere in the depths of my adolescent mind, I conjured a time when a woman gingerly flipped through my record collection and was impressed by its carefully curated girth.

Like many of the white whales, those dreams are out of print and never been seen in the wild. 

And as I went to watch one of my comfort movies that recently disappeared from Netflix, I am reminded why my collection will always trump streaming. I'll never remove Seinfeld. I'll never edit out a sketch because the studio lost rights to the soundtrack. I won't only have a couple of the Tarantino movies. I'ma have 'em all. In the best resolution. To be enjoyed at my discretion into perpetuity. I subscribe to Spotify. It's fine. But I don't explore with it. Everything is too much. I don't even know where to start. And I end up listening to like five bands. When I thumb through my collection, I'm reminded of things I'd forgotten to want to listen to. 

But all this is pre-rational and doesn't explain away the enduring persistence of collecting.  I didn't have a philosophical defensible argument for collecting when I was 12. I've been relentlessly, tirelessly, and exhaustingly me my whole life. I'm wired to collect, database, and analyze. It's in my bones. And the spider-webs of a perfectly innocent and harmless hobby intertwine with a dangerous cocktail of my obsessions, compulsions, and maladaptive personality traits. But unlike Doc's assessment of Marty's presence in 1985, this is not heavy. My love for physical media can only be properly demonstrated via my profound and inverse hatred for moving. Over a dozen moves later, across three timezones and four states: stuff remains. Stuff remains. If that's not love, I don't know what is. Here's to another 25 years together. I just bought a dehumidifier to ensure mold doesn't rob us of a future.      

If you ever want to listen, watch, or experience with me, it would literally be my dream to host you and share my ferocious love of stuff.

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