by Thomas Day
Since I started this column, I’ve asked a variety of questions about old guys and old bikes and bike collections. I wasn’t being a hardass about this. I really didn’t get it. I didn’t understand why old guys who barely ride anywhere need a garage full of mostly useless motorcycles, either in primo shape or a hoarder’s trash pile. I did not understand the fascination for stuff that was state of the art when I was state of the art. It all just evaded me. Until this week. Now, I get it.
My wife and I are imagining ourselves retired, footloose and on the road for a few years or more. We bought a motorhome and started looking at what it would take for us to be able to pull this off as effortlessly as possible. The poor choice is to keep the house (not quite paid off, yet) and treat the motorhome like an extended vacation. That option is expensive, complicated, and makes the whole “on the road” idea pretty much a part-time property management job (for me). My wife seems to be inclined toward this choice and I am dead set against it. If we still have a house full of crap in October, I might hand her the keys and say, “Have a great trip and don’t forget to write.” The second option is to sell off all of our crap, sell the house, store the little bit of stuff we “can’t live without,” bank the cash, and go on the road unencumbered. You can probably tell that this is clearly my choice.
This clear winner of a second choice has some drawbacks. We have to unload a lifetime of stuff and we need to do it in the next three or four months. The motorcycling aspect of this downsizing task is not a big deal. I have two bikes and I’ll only be taking the WR250X on the road. I can store or sell the V-Strom without much agony. I’ll probably sell it. Where I have too much in common with the guys I didn’t get is in my music gear. I have a couple dozen microphones that I’ve lovingly collected, cared for, and used for the last ten to forty years. I have a guitar collection that has to go. I have a whole recording studio nicely stocked with gear I’ve carefully picked and setup that will have no place in our new mobile life. It all has to go. All of it.
Two things became apparent, right after I sold off the most valuable, hardest to find, easiest to sell microphones. One: when I let go of this stuff I’m telling myself this part of my life is over. All those years of wanting to make a perfect record, looking forward to firing up the gear to working on fine-tuning that perfect record, are in my past. Once this stuff goes, I will not have the time, motivation, or energy to recollect it. Two: I have more emotional attachment to this stuff than I realized. When I boxed up a couple of the first microphones I sold, I held them in my hands and remembered setting them up in front of a variety of musicians whose work I love and who I was sure my recording techniques would make popular with people who have still never heard them. It’s a mess of emotions that I can barely contemplate, let alone explain. I don’t love the microphones, but I loved what I could do with them. I have $14,000 more cash in the bank, but they are gone and I won’t luck into a set of tools like that again in two lifetimes.
Our situation is a little more drastic than most. We’re eliminating a large household worth of stuff and memories in exchange for the hope that a whole new world will open up to us. Make no mistake, though, this is not an easy trade-off. We’re comfortable with our stuff in its place, surrounding us with memories and opportunities. We’re not doing squat with the stuff, for the most part, but we could be. Once it’s gone, we can’t turn that clock back.
I’m boxing up a dozen favorite microphones for sale this weekend. Next week, I’m calling a friend who wholesales “collector” guitars and I’m going to hand over at least four guitars that have been in my “family” for more than 30 years. I don’t play enough to justify owning even one guitar, but I could if I really wanted to. Once they’re gone, I’ll never own anything like them again. Damn, this sucks. All of a sudden, I have a whole lot in common with collectors and hoarders and I’d always thought we were completely different animals.