9 March 2005
Well, this is an entry my children--and probably a few other people--aren't going to believe.
Let me go back some 30+ years to our days in Oakland, before we moved here. I finally convinced Walt that it would be really nice to have a VCR. I think we still have that machine, gathering dust in the linen closet upstairs. It was a Panasonic, I think. Very big. Very clunky. But it had the capability to record.
If I'm not mistaken, blank videotapes were then selling for $20 apiece (seems incredible now, doesn't it?). Walt's biggest fear was that I'd go hog wild and run us into debt by buying video tapes. That seems so funny, in retrospect!
We agreed that we would have two and only two videotapes. One was to record, one was to watch and as soon as we watched what was on the first tape, we'd erase it. That way we'd just alternate back and forth.
But there came the night when Beverly Sills retired from the Metropolitan Opera. There was a gala celebration for her, which I recorded. This was history! And it was history that Walt wanted to watch again some day too, so that became the very first thing that I recorded for posterity. Now we had to buy an extra videotape. We were up to 3.
Slowly, I began to find things that I simply couldn't erase. They were movies from my past that I loved, or more special events that were "historic."
Remember, this was in the days before Cable TV, before DVDs, even before the proliferation of movies on VHS tape that you could buy. It was before Blockbuster and Netflix and video rental places on every streetcorner. Those where the days when you leaped at the chance when a movie you loved came on late night TV, because who knew when you'd ever be able to find it again. Those were the days when we thought VHS tape would last forever, not deteriorate over time.
Well, I never do things by halves. Slowly, I began to collect things on tape that I had always wanted to have for my own. I always bought VHS tapes when they were on sale, but I bought them. I became obsessed with amassing a huge collection of movies on videotape.
It escalated from recording things that I had always wanted to have, to recording things that it might be interesting to have, and then, as people began borrowing them, it became a collection that I could loan to my friends.
The number of tapes grew and I carefully labeled and numbered each tape and kept a catalog of all the tapes so I could find them when I needed them.
By the time we moved here, we had enough tapes to fill a two-sided cabinet. And the collecting continued. They now fill that original cabinet (two deep on both shelves), another smaller cabinet (two deep), a huge cabinet (three deep), and several little shelves here and there, as well as just hanging around because I've run out of place to put them.
Never mind that almost nobody ever asked to borrow a tape. Never mind that I realized that if I were to suddenly stop recording, sit down, and begin with tape #1 and watch everything on every tape, I would never be able to finish watching before I died. Never mind that nearly everything that I really cared about is now on DVD or shows up regularly somewhere on Cable.
I stopped cataloging around 650 videotapes, but continued to record. Most of the tapes have 3 things recorded on them, so something like 1800+ movies. I had more than some small video stores. And I had a larger variety of movies as well. Who has Driftwood, a forgotten movie with Natalie Woods as a child star? Who has Somg of the South, the Disney movie that Disney will never release because its content, in this more enlightened day and age, is admittedly racist (thanks to my contact who was able to get me a blackmarket copy).
I realize now that I was beginning to think of this collection in the way my father thought of his 78 records--they would be valuable someday. The last episode of M*A*S*H, Carol Burnett and Julie Andrews together, all of Jacque Tati's movies (I just discovered that his Playtime is so rare that to buy it will cost $189.00 at Amazon, which seems to be the only place where you can get it. Other than in my collection, that is!)
I have every single episode of Star Trek: The Original Series, every single spisode of Northern Exposure. Most episodes of the short-lived, now forgotten I'll Fly Away, and the same short-lived, now forgotten Brooklyn Bridge. I was very proud of my collection.
But as my father's 78s became obsolete as 33-1/3s, and then CDs came in, so my videotapes started to become obsolete when DVDs appeared, when so many of those things I thought were "historic" moments I needed to record have now been remastered and come out on DVD.
In all honesty, the VHS tapes have become an albatross around my neck. I have tapes of every performance that our kids were in, most of the Lawsuit performances, and countless home movies that I wouldn't part with, but the professional movies that I recorded...what in the hell do you do with more than 600 videotapes that are quietly deteriorating?
The upcoming carpeting of the family room, which will necessitate moving everything out of the room has given me my answer.
Yesterday, I discovered there is something called the Yolo County Freecyclers, which is a yahoo group where people in this area can offer things they have for free to anybody who wants them, and people can also post requests for things they hope to find free.
Thinking I didn't have a snowball's chance in hell of finding someone who wanted this mountain of videotapes, I posted a notice yesterday, describing the number of the videotapes. I also listed the 78 records, which I also want to get out of here.
Within 30 minutes, I had not one, but TWO people who are interested in the videos, and one of those people is also interested in the records.
Be still my heart!
So today I began packaging up the videotapes. I'm keeping a few, not not many. Walt doesn't want me to give away the Jacques Tati's, but I ordered him the DVD of two of them, and when I come across it, I will save "Playtime." There are also a handful of videos that I'd like to keep, including Song of the South and that tape of Beverly Sills' retirement party.
But the rest are slowly going into boxes and soon they will belong to someone else. They can watch them, or burn them for all I care. They will be out of my house and the room is already starting to feel much more "manageable" with this first step underway.
PHOTO OF THE DAY
Another one of those gorgeous Australian sunrises
for the Lawsuit Song of the Day