Thursday, March 25, 2010


I am a collector. I have the bug -- just not the space and the money. And the thing about collectors is that we all understand each other, no matter what it is we collect. My friend Jannah's husband collects lanterns -- camping lanterns, train lanterns, road-work lanterns -- and I totally get it, even though lanterns are not my thing. My uncle collects Chinese cookbooks.

My first good collection was postcards, and unfortunately they are gone, lost in the Great Storage Loss a few years back. (We put a bunch of stuff that couldn't fit into this small apartment into storage, which we really couldn't afford, and eventually got behind in payment and lost some 80 cartons of belongings.) I used to buy postcards at antique stores and flea markets, and especially liked the ones with beautiful buildings, from New York State, and from Florida. When I lived in Binghamton, I used to lunch at an upscale bar called the Beaugart, and often chatted there with an older guy who had a disability, a withered arm. I must have mentioned that I collected postcards, and he said he had a shoebox full of cards that his brother brought back from World War II. He gave them to me; they were amazing. This was in the late 70s.

My next good collection shaped up in the mid-late 80s, and that was baseball cards. I quit cocaine in 1986, and without a cocaine habit, I felt so rich that I used to go to a baseball card shop out in Brooklyn (had a crush on the owner, too) and spend about $75 every couple of weeks. I liked to save favorite players and was starting to buy some older cards from the 50s. The collection, filling about four looseleafs, sat unattended for a long time, and was also lost in the Great Storage Loss.

In the mid-90s, I caught a collecting interest from V.: bottle caps. (V., as you may recall, is a close friend I split with a couple of years ago. He was kind of my other significant other.) I had known that he collected bottle caps, but hadn't really seen any. In the mid-90s, he came back from an antique shop with a big haul, and I finally "got" the extreme beauty and design sensibility of bottle caps. By this time, there was eBay. There was also an association of American collectors who had a weekend meeting/sale/swap every year, and I went to them with V. for several years. This collection did *not* go into storage but is now dormant. It's hard to spend money on things that don't do anything, at this point. V. is a lot more well-off than I am and lives in a much larger space, so he collects all kinds of things.

During the bottle cap collecting phase, I also got into soda and beer labels. I was online and saw a posting of amazing South American beverage labels for sale. I e-mailed the guy and offered him a flat price for the lot. My cap collection is mostly American sodas before 1972 (corked-lined caps rather than plastic), but my labels have a lot of non-American and beer labels, and are in a few looseleafs. The big expense with those, oddly enough, are the pages to keep them in, which are the pricey ones that stamp collectors use.

Now I have a cheap collection that I adore: fruit stickers. I have a little blank notebook and put in one of every sticker I get on fruit, whether bananas, plums, apples, mangoes, or whatever. I like to eat fruit so it costs nothing.

eBay is deadly for people who have the collecting bug. I found roller rink labels on it which I wanted so badly to start collecting. Roller rinks used to give out labels to stick on your skate case! I used to save the pictures on my computer before the last crash. I would collect them if I had more money. Also fountain pens. Back in the pre-email days, when I actually wrote letters and a journal, I used to use a fountain pen pretty exclusively. I liked a Pelikan but also have a couple of nice Mont Blancs.

Went to the dentist today for my last fitting, I think, for the first two bridges. (The third will wait a while until the area where he pulled a tooth some weeks back mends a bit more.) If I'm lucky, the three bridges and a crown for one molar should be my last big dental work for a while.

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