Posts Tagged ‘hoarding’

Throwing it Away

14 October 2010

Dear J-

There’s a pile of electronic stuff in the garage this morning waiting to be picked up: one TV, three CRT computer monitors (including a Zenith ZCM-1490 flat-front one that I still remember marveling over twenty-five years ago), three stereo receivers in wooden enclosures, three CD players, one AM/FM tuner, one DirecTV/Ultimate TV box, four speakers, four cell phones, and four portable computers of varying utility. I thought about taking a picture of the stuff last night but couldn’t find myself doing so: better to just have it gone by the time I get back home. It’s symptomatic of how I think in that I’m still thinking about the Zenith monitor I haven’t used in eight years — I bought it based on a memory of how state-of-the-amazing-art it was when I was young.

They say that the baby boom generation is the one that priced collectible muscle cars where they are now: people don’t buy them because the performance is better than contemporary cars, they buy them because they remember how cool they were when they were a kid. And while the likelihood of Zenith flat-front monitors becoming collectible is questionable at best, it’s because of that memory that one’s ended up in my garage for the last ten years (I know I got that particular one in Davis). I also remember how exciting it was helping my parents shop for an upgrade to their stereo stuff — after months of darkened audio showrooms (this, in 1985, was the way you bought electronics: no internet to guide you, just slick salesmen demoing satin black boxen with buttery knobs, flashy lights, and crisp buttons) we got the receiver my folks use to this day — a Yamaha R-8 — and that feeling has guided every squee of discovery in a thrift store since.

They say that the hoarding impulse kicks in around puberty; I certainly remember having little tin boxes full of trinkets long before then, but neither the means nor the room to scratch that particular itch. And if it has anything to do with the memories we’ve made together, I wonder what activities figgy will associate with her happiest times. It’s completely wonderful and exhausting to interact with her as a real person lately; she’s grown terribly bossy and inventive (the latest game involves flopping onto my back while I’m prone, simulating an asteroid strike as in the beginning of Aliens versus Monsters, then swapping roles at the other end of the room; there’s lots of running and flopping, almost as though we were Karl Malone), charming and aggravating all at once.

This Saturday is our last alone together for a while: theVet is cutting out of work and starting to nest, and we’ll have our full weekends together until she goes back to work in some other capacity maybe six months from now. In a lot of ways it’s easier, as one of us can watch figgy while the other one gets things done. In other ways, though, it’s something to mourn, as no time alone means no focused attention and no distinct memories of us together; it’s important to stand as a family, but it’s at least as important to define ourselves together individually if that makes sense: who am I to figgy, who am I to theVet, who am I to the upcoming baby? And that shouldn’t start and end with the pile of junk in the garage that’s disappearing today.

Mike

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Clean Mind

8 October 2010

Dear J-

Cleanp of the room is going well*: I’ve just got a few things to sort out (should these things go to the dump or the thrift store) and I suppse that if I had the inclination or time, I’d find a buying audience on eBay for even the most obscure treasures I’ve unearthed (Panasonic CF-25 Toughbook? TRS-80 Model 100? TDA1540-based CD player?), but I’m beginning to suspect that without the elaborate justifications I’ve built in my head, there’s really no utility. theVet called an electronics recycling center, who said that if it’s older than five years, they usually can’t find an audience for it.

I will say this: I’m surprised by how durable some of the items have proven: forty-year-old receivers and twenty-year-old CD players are all making music for us even as I struggle with ideas to bring us into a wireless hub-centric model**. It would be nice if I or the house held up as well; still to-do after the room cleanup is repainting the room (though theVet isn’t planning on it, I’d like to do so), changing out the flooring, and maybe, if I play my cards right, a tubular skylight (this depends on whether or not I can get someone experienced in there). Furniture is going to cost some more as well; figgy seems rather attached to the stuff she has, and since drop-side cribs were declared the devil, we’ll need one of those too.

It’s all just money, and it’s worth more to spend it on people you like rather than waste it on junk you aren’t going to touch for years on end. I look at some of the things in that room and remember how happy I was buying it — well if it made me that glad, why didn’t I use it? Pride of ownership is overrated; I’m getting me some pride of divestiture instead.

Mike

* You know what would make it go better? If I didn’t keep finding reminders of the past: there are boxes upon boxes of photos, like everyone else has, that really need to be scanned and archived instead of taking up space all throughout the room; I could spend days going through those alone, to be honest.

* Okay, so here’s the plan: since I’ve ripped all my music to MP3s anyway, why bother with discs when I could serve that information to clients around the house? Problem is finding the appropriate client (although used gen 1 Apple TVs are almost dirt-cheap, though not by much versus a new gen 2) and a sufficiently robust server, as the iMac we’ve been using for the past five years is getting pretty glitchy. The real win would be in serving video (or, with an gen 1 Apple TV, getting one with sufficient local storage): no more worries about scratched discs.

Candy Hand

21 September 2010

Dear J-

Despite already owning both a good camcorder and a cheap one (think cell phone-quality) I find myself toying with that evergreen Flip versus Kodak debate in my head. Here, though, it competes with reality, like whether or not I want to eat this week, or other interesting purchase possibilities, like saving money towards another lens, maybe, or I don’t know, SOMETHING. It’s nothing I can’t live without, and it would only add to my hoarder’s curse: nothing is ever discarded, only added to the pile of questionable collectibles (anyone interested in an HP-34C for the blind?) I’ve managed to rescue over the years.

figgy is remarkably good at the vague misdirection when asking for candy: “I want a snack.” We suggest, which is usually met by an outraged howl of “NO! I want something ELSE!” Various other choices are made and rejected until finally we’re left pointing at the bag of pinata candy we’ve been doling out since the last party. I understand the inarticulate need to get stuff, like knowing there’s candy in the cupboard but not bold enough to ask for it out loud. For me part of the fun is the selection process: figuring out the pros and cons, what you can live with versus what you gotta have. Actually getting it is a bit of a letdown. Sometimes I wonder if figgy feels the same, but one look and you can tell that the candy is just as good as she’d hoped.

Somewhere between now and then your expectations get realigned. I’ll go through cycles of needing to have some kind of package on the doorstep when I get home, like a junkie hoping for a fix: maybe I’ll be as excited about this widget as I remember opening presents when I was six. Not quite, so rinse and repeat, throw another gadget on the pile for posterity. Living in the present and being thankful for what you’ve already got is a lot harder than it looks. I just need to look to figgy for validation: there will be candy tomorrow, but don’t worry about it and concentrate on the candy in hand.

Mike

Live Without

5 August 2010

Dear J-

Sorry; lately it’s been all about work, whether the job or the secondary effort to achieve a professional engineer’s license. I’m only going to mention this — if I had to drive every day there would be no chance that I would get any studying done, as the last three days I’ve driven the vanpool and, not so coincidentally, I haven’t cracked the books once in that time frame either. I say I’ve got better things to do but what it’s really telling me is that I have better things than TV: we watch a little with figgy in the evenings and then it stands around like a mute glass monolith.

Living in Berkeley and then Cambridge you have no idea the number of “Kill your TV” bumper stickers I used to see, and their smug sanctimony always drove me nuts, much like the exercise snobs and granola preachers. “Adopt our lifestyle, or else you’re a terrible person.” Once it’s over I’m sure that I’ll be back in front watching pixels dance, but I’m just always surprised what I can live with and without, given the need. There are literal piles all over the house, of books, of magazines, of electronics, all of which I haven’t touched in years and yet I keep them around just in case.

I recognize all the classic signs of hoarding. I’ve mentioned it before, but that just in case is a pretty insidious one, and it dates back to some of my earliest memories. I would pick up little bits of metal off the ground not because I needed them but because I might need them later; a couple of weeks ago we were walking by the Zoo and there were complete sets of bolts, nuts, and washers strewn about (I’m still thinking about going back, that’s how deep this goes) on the ground. I stooped to pick them up and then I saw figgy doing the same, so I stopped. Habits can be broken; traits need not be encouraged.

Mike