A few weeks ago I decided it was time to tame the archive of my life. I’ve been something of a collector over the years, accumulating all kinds of things (papers, notes, writing, letters, books, music (especially records), baseball cards, coins, etc.). Most of them I never use, but keep in closets, only pulling out when it’s time to move from one apartment to the next. I don’t want to do that anymore. I want to harvest and organize my possessions, strip them down to a more essential and portable collection, to decide what I plan to use and delight in and what I’m able to jettison and live without.
Step 1 involved culling my record collection. I started buying records when I was 14 years old. At that point in my life I had become something of a thrift store connoiseur, buying all of my clothing, most of my reading material, and just about everything I listened to there. I also developed a collection of tapes, and even 8 tracks (along with machines capable of playing all of them), but these were not as assiduously cultivated and developed as my record collection. Part of the thrill was finding tremendous music on sale for just a couple of quarters, and another big rush was finding something outrageous or ridiculous (like just about any Gino Vannelli record or the SINA spoof album or some many others that I found, bought, and enjoyed in some form). I’ve culled the collection a few times, including the last time I moved, but I still had three huge boxes full of albums, most of which I hadn’t listened to in more than 5 years.
For a few years now, I’ve toyed with the idea of selling my collection (either in pieces through eBay, or in bulk through an auction service or at a local indie record store), but in the end I felt like I’d much rather give the records away, especially if I could be sure they’d find good homes. So I sent out a message through Facebook a few weeks ago asking if anyone was interested in providing a good home for any of my old records (mostly folk, funk, and classic rock). In the end, two friends from grad school responded (Hi Julia and Katie!) and the the two of them came by and claimed probably 150-200 records. We went through the ones I was willing to part with one by one, letting each of them say “Oh, I want that one!” and making a pile of records claimed in common that we sorted through after we had finished.
Once we were through digging through both crates, I was left with only about a dozen of the records that I had hoped to find a home for (including, inexplicably, both of these beauties: Dr. Hook’s Greatest Hits(how could anyone say no to “You Make My Pants Want to Get Up & Dance” & Loggins and Messina’s Full Sail (one of the women told me that if it had been “Footloose” she’d definitely have wanted it, but otherwise, she was going to pass on Kenny Loggins. Big mistake, I told her. And it was.).
Here’s a little gallery of some of what they left behind (just imagine all they gems they claimed!)
It felt wonderful to unburden myself of so many memories, particularly when it meant that two friends would be making their own new memories (or renewing old musical memories) through these thin grooved plastic discs. The night before they had come to claim the records, I had stayed up late with Christine and Jim, Laurel’s mother and step-father (they were in town for a surprise birthday party for Jim’s son) pawing through all the records and seeing if there any that they wanted to claim first dibs on. Jim only ended up taking about half a dozen, but he convinced me to hold back a couple that I was prepared to give away and we spend a couple of hours laughing, singing, telling stories, and remembering our lives, joys, regrets, and musical experiences. It was a rare and beautiful kind of evening, and made me grateful for having built the record collection.
This is the first post in a what I hope will be a long series. Many, many more to come, including the next post, which will be about some of the things I found in boxes of papers, notes, and school projects that span the past 28 years of my life.