2009 November 16

Monday, November 16th, 2009

A few weeks ago, I fell into a very peculiar time in my life when nothing made sense but Tom Waits.

Food didn’t taste like much, the sky didn’t look like much, the world didn’t feel like it was willing to give too much up for me but disappointment and the memory of soft, white hands. Hours of every Tom Waits album in a random playlist were the only comfort. Making awkward videos of myself playing ‘Yesterday Is Here’ on the guitar. Annoying everyone I know with ‘Nirvana’.

tom_waitsToday, ‘Orphans’ was put up for pre-order. On vinyl. Originally a three CD set divided up according to the nature of the songs that Mr. Waits tends to construct (Brawlers, Bawlers and Bastards), I’ve lately been favoring the Bawlers. The sad songs of love disconnecting, or shifting irreparably like tectonic plates with the sound of broken guitars and pianos full of bones. All of these notes? They became my people. They were at least as human as I was, which was becoming marginal and pale and hirsute.

I realize that it’s disgustingly ‘hipster’ to have a turntable and use it with relative frequency. The thing is that I usurped a disused turntable back in early junior high and slowly progressed through two decades’ worth of LPs that the house had accumulated (just as CDs were becoming a viable medium for music distribution). Frayed wires hung from the back of the turntable and snaked around to dusty, brown-fabric covered speakers that were the size of a human torso, pressed up against my bed and humming. I purchased a Numark PT-01 when it became clear that the old turntable’s needle was no longer serviceable, and that the cost of obtaining a vintage stylus for an obscure make of record player would be more expensive than just purchasing a new and improved model. I also intended to use the machine to capture lost sounds from Voice-O-Graphs, Recordios and anything which had never made into a CD format. I was hunting ghosts.

That old turntable was my mother’s, and it was a relatively new gift to her from my grandparents that she obtained right before she went far upstate into the wilds of New York for college. Immediately after her departure, it was swiped by a jealous brother and abused beyond recognition in a cycle that still repeats to this day with a wide variety of objects. It had a busted 8-track, lots of buttons that didn’t perform any discernible function or illuminate any of the long, orange lights, and an enormous, dusty silver knob that would fall off fairly often.

But there’s a romance to listening to these LPs. Watching them move in a way that any MP3 visualizer could never replicate. The physical forces between two surfaces creating beautiful sounds. It’s not a hipster thing. It’s a ‘born 50 years too late’ thing. It’s a sensual thing.

I cashed in $125 from my PayPal account to pay for this set of records – money that was once all in the form of small, lead figurines of Marvel Comics superheroes that didn’t do anything for me anymore. As if Cable really did anything for anyone, ever, anyhow. Something about hearing ‘Long Way Home’ imperfectly scratching out of a record seems like heaven. But I’ve always had a very strange idea of heaven.

Part of my efforts to clear up the space around me and create a tranquil area to create in is selling old things on eBay that don’t mean much to me anymore, and as a result, I’ve sent out about 15 to 20 pounds of STUFF daily and raked in roughly $1000 over the past month. Don’t think of robbing me because it’s all gone directly into reducing debt. Seriously, it’s so bad that if you rob me, you’ll end up owing Toyota money. Because my debt shifts the natural order of things like a black hole and it will envelop you and you will scream but the air will get sucked right out of your lungs into an unknowable abyss.

But part of this effort to clear space is compacting things. If something can fit into an existing box that’s already been set aside for it in a similar theme, it’ll be torn from its packaging and collected in the box. This is related to the criteria with which I purchase things, also. At this point, anything that consumes space is forbidden.

Last night, I tore into my old C3 figures. If you’re unfamiliar, they were the precursor to Art Asylum / Diamond Toys’ DC Minimates line. Art Asylum could not yet secure a license to produce Minimates as stand-alone figures, by DC Comics / Time Warner / Jesus Christ DID grant them the license to produce Minimates alongside Lego-like construction sets. The laws governing licenses are complex. One company might exclusively secure the rights to produce a Spider-Man action figure with multiple points of articulation, and another might be able to secure the license to produce a very similar figure as, say, a Christmas ornament – as long as it’s sold as a different product. At least my years of attending Toy Fair has told me this much.

So, I decided to free up some shelf / floor space by popping these open. Of course, I’ve always been reluctant to sell these because my tiny Justice League needed a Martian Manhunter to helm it, and before the Minimates line collapsed (after about 60 really great little figures), another Manhunter was never produced. Because I have a strange urge to complete superhero teams like a meganerd.

I catalogued them on Collectors’ Quest.