Or How I learned to Face up to the Fact I’m a Nerd
All the writing and reflection I do week to week requires that I clean out a lot of cobwebs, both literally and figuratively… the former being the cobwebs of my memory, the latter referring to the dust that’s gathered on the albums, photos and memorabilia that clutter my music room.
It’s there that I find my fortress of solitude and the cause for my obsession resides, occupying shelves, makeshift storage spaces and teetering crates and cabinets that line the room from floor to ceiling, often jutting out from at unlikely angles just to accommodate the stacks of CDs and vinyl albums that otherwise would have no home. It’s a large room, mind you – more than 400 square feet to be accurate – but after years of fixating on collecting my music, I’ve simply overrun its parameters.
I have no idea how many pieces I have in my collection. At the time of Hurricane Andrew, I had some 12,000 vinyl albums, and the times being what they were, only a handful of CDs. When the time storm hit,, it left my house intact for the most part, and inhabitable as well, unlike the misfortune that afflicted my neighbors whose second stories were left at 90 degree angles and under roofs that were either smashed in or displaced elsewhere.
To be sure, my house was a mess; holes were punched in the walls, windows were shattered and my porch blew away entirely. Three adults, two small children and two dogs huddled in a tiny downstairs bathroom as water seeped in under the door. Still, the full extent of the damage wasn’t evident until the next morning. That’s when we discovered that the brunt of the destruction was focused on the back room housing my albums.
Fortunately, the damage to my records was limited to those albums stacked on the floor, nearly all of which were lost to the scourge of the wind and rain. Those packed on the shelves proved to be only minor casualties, with most of the wear limited to the cover spines. I stashed the ruined wares in the garage and kept them there a few years, unable to sever them from my collection entirely. Eventually it became obvious they were ruined beyond recovery and I placed them in the trash can and bid a final farewell.
Nowadays, CDs dominate my album collection, and while I don’t have an exact count on the number that has multiplied over the past 20 years or so, I’d estimate the number at between 10,000 and 15,000 or so. It’s a lot to pack into a single room, especially when that room also serves as a repository for extra clothing, a set of drums, various games, old newspapers and all manner of knickknacks that haven’t found a home elsewhere.
Consequently, I’ve had to improvise by building shelves out of bricks and stray boards, tacking their contents back to back and constructing storage units that intrude on the floor space, back, behind and in front of speakers, a TV and other shelves. Sometimes I feel like a contortionist the way I have to bend my body and maneuver myself into a tight space just to mine the advantage of every nook and cranny.
To make matters worse, the lighting is less than ideal, consistently mainly of a few bulbs protruding from a single ceiling fan and a couple of overhead florescent lights that rarely if ever light up the way they should. It sometimes seems like mission impossible when I’m trying to track down an obscure album as I grasp a flashlight, press my face up against the shelf and thumb through a stack of CDs I estimate to be in the approximate proximity of what I’m searching for.
When it comes time to file my discs away, it becomes a chore that’s constantly a cause for dread. For starters, when the CD packages arrive, they first make their way to my office, where they’re sorted into various priority piles as I ponder which of them will be reviewed. Unfortunately, they’re not necessarily sorted in alphabetical order.
The office is a repository for those discs I’m not ready to stash away permanently, and as a result, there are different stacks according to category. Several shelves of discs are designated strictly for personal pleasure… albums I’ve received that I simply haven’t had a chance to check out. Another pile is reserved for albums that could be candidates for review. Another stack is a priority pile that will get pitched for regular write-ups.
Likewise, there’s a stack for odd and obscure albums that don’t have a shot in hell in terms of coverage, and still another stack consisting of “maybes.” Then there are several shelves reserved for older albums that were at one time review contenders, but somehow or another, mostly due to an editor’s reticence, never got tapped for coverage and languish in limbo awaiting the day that I have time to file them away.
Some would call that organization. Other might label me an obsessive lunatic. The fact is, when I’m desperately looking for an album and I’m unable to locate it, none of this organization serves me very well at all. Between the piles in my office and the stacks in the music room (which contains not only the main collection, but a secondary accumulation of albums that I deemed not quite good enough for the main collection, and then a third collection kept in postal bins that weren’t quite good enough for the secondary set), it’s a fairly absurd scenario. Suffice it to say that between the two rooms and the various piles, I can literally spend an hour or two looking for a single album if I don’t find it where I first figured I would.
Likewise, redistributing CDs to the main collection can also be a nightmare, because for the most part, I’ve run out of room. Even shifting them around wouldn’t free up much space. As for making the shelves higher… well, that’s not an option either. Three of the four walls in the music room are already occupied entirely and the fourth wall is crowded with pictures, pennants and other well preserved relics that recall my days in the music biz. And as far as the albums are concerned – those of the vinyl variety anyway – I’m proud to say I still have the first discs I accumulated back in the ‘60s, including all the Beatles, Stones, Herman’s Hermits, and Dave Clark Five albums I bought when they were first new.
Yup, you can call me a collector… or you can call me a nerd. My wife will agree with you on the latter. I simply think of myself as being dedicated to my muse. As Jerry Seinfeld would say, not there’s anything wrong with that.
— Lee Zimmerman