A Flood of Collections

The storms that pummeled New England in July disrupted the lives of thousands of Vermonters as rising waters damaged or destroyed homes and businesses. In New Hampshire, flash floods washed out roads and prompted evacuations in some southern towns.

Mike Cote HeadshotWe suffered minor flooding in the basement of our home in Manchester, but it was more than we had ever seen, with water flowing into the bulkhead. For the second time this year, I had to pull up a corner of carpet and set up fans and a dehumidifier to dry it out.

This time, the water crept farther than usual, and I began to question the wisdom of storing 500 vinyl LPs in cheap wooden crates stacked on the floor. With stereo equipment and a 40-inch TV sitting on top, they cannot be moved without heavy lifting.

My man cave essentially recreates my basement bedroom from high school, when my record collection was a quarter of what it is now. The cave is also home to more than 2,500 compact discs, most of which line the entire wall on one side of the basement. Three bookcases hold an assortment of CD box sets, music DVDs and a bunch of books, including a dozen Library of America volumes with cloth bindings that should not be subjected to so much humidity.

There have been periodic purges to the collection. From many years of reviewing records for newspapers and magazines, I’ve accumulated a ridiculous bounty of promo (free) music and would have needed a couple of more rooms to hold it all if I hadn’t done some pruning.

And I’ve tried to enforce self-discipline with my books — how many do I need to keep after I’ve already read them? But those Twain and Melville Library of America editions aren’t going anywhere.

While I possess enough music and books to last multiple lifetimes, I do spend a lot of time with them. As I write this in the cave, Mick Jagger is singing “Criss Cross,” an outtake included on a double-LP clear vinyl edition of “Goats Head Soup.” (The 2020 reissue of the 1973 album has a dumb new cover: a goat’s head floating in a vat of tomato soup.)

When I think of collecting, I recall “Everyday Use,” a short story about Black heritage by Alice Walker that I read when I was an English major at the University of New Hampshire. The conflict about whether a handmade quilt should be displayed for its artistic value rather than spread across a bed for comfort has always stuck with me.

What good is an object if it never gets used? I don’t own a single record that remains unsealed. Even the rare white label promo copy of the Kinks’ 1967 “Something Else” — which I watched Ray Davies autograph after a solo show in Boulder, Colorado — deserves a spin on the turntable.

The basement includes other odds and ends collections, including my wife’s storage tub full of Beanie Babies and my box of mostly Marvel comics from the mid-’70s that are in good condition but nowhere near mint quality. I’ve read them all.

The comic collection once included a stack of “Sad Sack” titles. I used to ride my bike all over town to find the latest adventures of the hapless Army recruit at corner stores, including the long-departed Post Office Fruit.

I had forgotten about “Sad Sack” until Darren Garnick wrote this month’s feature on New Hampshire people with quirky collections, which includes Upper Valley radio DJ Chris Garrett, who has collected more than 300 “Sad Sack” comics.

When Darren stopped by our office to talk about his progress on the story (check it out on page 52), I got the sense he would be interviewing a bunch of geeks who obsess about hunting down obscure artifacts. Now I know why it sounded so familiar: I’m one of them.

Time to buy a sump pump for the basement.

Categories: Editor’s Note