I think I’m an obsessive collector. I tend to latch onto something, and try to collect the hell out of it. Sitting back and taking a real look at it, I can remember it starting way back in gradeschool. When Garbage Pail Kids initially came out, I collected them in earnest. Before that it was Star Wars or He Man figures. In 4th and 5th grade the musical monster within me had been awoken, and I would hunt through record stores to find any Depeche Mode cassettes I could get my hands on. Progressing on to middle school, I met Kyle, and my eyes were opened to real music. I dove headlong into the Beatles (and classic rock in general). It wasn’t long before I had several hundred cassette tapes. The “rarer” and more obscure the band or recorded material, the more I wanted to own it. The obsession only increased in high school when I found out there were such a thing as Beatles “bootlegs.” The idea of owning unreleased recordings, of being among that elite few that have 40 minutes of Paul rehearsing Blackbird, had incredible appeal to me. So, throughout high school I dropped gobs of cash on illicit Beatles recordings, Radiohead “imports,” scarce Prodigy cd-5’s released only in Luxembourg, etc. The music phase of my collectaholism lasted all the way into college, and even trailed me out to California. I continued to trade cd’s online and amass an impressive (and quite relevant, IMO) collection.
The only problem with collecting music is that it was taking massive amounts of my time. I had to burn cd’s, go to the post office all the time, organize the new stuff I was getting, scan artwork, print artwork, not to mention actually find time to listen to the new junk I was getting. Eventually, the time it took to orchestrate trades just got to be too much for me, and I slowly let the habit taper. I crafted a “stock” e-mail which politely declined any new trades, and I pretty much pulled out of the Beatles bootleg “scene” altogether. I still have several unopened mailers full of cd’s sitting on my desk from the last few trades I did do, and several stacks of jewel-case-housed cd’s that are begging to have their artwork printed and be filed. I just lost the drive somewhere along the way. I mean, if a spectacular trade comes along – I might still jump at it (the last one I did was for nearly the entire Woodstock festival on something like 20 cd’s – the real Woodstock, 1969), but for the most part I’m done with trading in bulk.
As the music trading ebbed, I subconsciously moved onto obsessing over other things I could collect. Most of the time, I don’t even realize I’m “collecting” things, I just start amassing things – and for some reason get interested in all these variations, which inevitably leads to me wanting all kinds of something. After music/Beatles it was pipes, I scoured Ebay for estate pipes, buying them, cleaning and restoring them, and then smoking them. I even started collecting different types of pipe tobacco to smoke in the pipes I was collecting.
The phases come and go. He Man, M.U.S.C.L.E., cassettes, cd’s, pipes, etc. Now I’m back around to Garbage Pail Kids again, which is a collision of my collecting fetish and my get-back-my-childhood fetish (the latter of those two being a blog topic all of it’s own). Even the Pac Man project was tainted with my collect-’em-all mentality. I had to have every original game, which meant thousands. My Halloween thing? Just another way to collect and horde cool stuff. I dream of the day I can own every episode of the Andy Griffith Show on DVD. I started collecting the “History of Middle Earth” books that Tolkien Jr. published posthumously for his dad, just to gather very scrap of his writing. My PC at home contains every original NES, Genesis, SNES, and N64 ROM, and the emulators to play ’em. (Yeah, the video game industry outpaced my “gaming” skillz right around N64 and the intro of fighting/1st person shooters. If you have to use more than about 3 buttons and a D-pad, I’m out. Don’t ever ask me to “strafe.”)
Anyway, back to the topic at hand… I suppose the whole collecting thing goes deeper than just straight-up collecting. My theory is that it fulfills a two-pronged need. Prong one being more about elitism, notoriety, renown, etc. “Dave has the coolest music collection!” “Have you seen it, it’s insane!” “Tell us about your Garbage Pail Kid collection Dave!” “Where did you ever get so many pipes?” “This Pac Man machine is so awesome, does it have Galaxian?! It does?! Oh man, this is so rad.” Prong two being about my need to always have a “project.” Hence the Pac Man machine, the Halloween setup, the blog… Something I can work on, perpetually if I’m lucky.
Lately I’ve noticed my collecting has kind of changed shades. I get the feeling that it’s becoming less about concrete objects and more about “remembering” stuff. Probably because, for some unknown reason, my memory is crap most of the time. So I write stuff down, I take pictures, I make webpages, I keep journals. I collect stuff that’s in my head; collect it into words and pictures and stories, and document it all so I don’t forget it one day. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll still be good for a laugh because you heard I’m driving to some gas station 30mi away to get the last new Garbage Pail Kid I need to complete series 18b… but I’m just saying…