Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar —Sigmund Freud
My collections are under attack by those closest to me. I suspect my editor (JoAnne) is behind the plot. She has been encouraging me to ask friends and family members how they really feel about my stuff. This is a touchy subject. I have always taken their feigned indifference for petty jealousy. Now everywhere I search for an ally I hear the same thing: A clear differentiation between their feelings for me (lukewarm), and their impression of my “hobby” (stifling, excessive). I am warned to not take their pointed criticism personally, which is difficult as they are my CDs, books, and old radios.
These inquisitions/interventions give me pause. Could I possibly be this shallow? Have I no soul? Didn’t I understand Citizen Kane? Why do I need a non-operational Grundig Majestic radio looming over the family room? When is the last time I listened to a Tijuana Brass boxed set? Am I likely to watch Hill Street Blues DVDs, or re-read Jimmy Breslin’s account of Watergate? My friends intones words such as public library, Internet, Netflix, Kindle, and Pandora, all rational solutions.
For decades I have enjoyed collecting media and odd bits of Americana like an autographed picture of Miss Rheingold 1951. The hunting has been fun, but I have also unknowingly been constructing a two-way Rorschach test. My insecurities fairly screamed, “Look at all the cool stuff I’ve got… won’t you like me?” If my sparkling wit did not make me friends, perhaps my Hot Tuna album, or my Lone Ranger board game would. It cuts both ways. If someone were too unhip to get the joke of a prominently displayed autographed photo of Henry Kissinger, perhaps we were not meant to be friends.
I have reached the age and stage when I do not feel the need to attract new friends. The message that I am getting from those closest to me is that they care for me despite, not because of my Frankie Avalon albums, and Hopalong Cassidy lunchbox. They say my stuff is weighing on me and wouldn’t a much smaller collection be more practical and easier to appreciate? They warn that I am drowning in stuff.
I may be ankle deep but I am certainly not drowning. All the constructive criticism begins to blur and soon I am in a buzz of friends all nude, they are led by my 3rd grade teacher Mrs. Reese. Chanting and dancing, they implore me, “Break free!” “Throw away your crutches!” “Break free!” (Repeat incessantly). I have to admit it is catchy and with the drums and the bonfire I find myself caught up in the frenzy.
Tom H. Cook is a formerly local writer and garage sale habitué. A current home renovation project is calling into question all that he holds dear.