Monday, April 13, 2009

Cathartic Cleaning

I cleaned my desk today.

No, really -- this is a big deal. I'm a bit of pack rat when it comes to my desk space. In the vicinity of my desk I've got not only all the usual desk cruft, I've also got a mountain of old computer hardware and software. I've got install disks and hardware left over from my old Pentium I bought in 1994. It's not my fault that I hold on to this stuff. I've been conditioned to keep it around forever. Every time I throw something away, I find out a few days (or even hours) later that I need it. The obscurity of the item I discard seems to have an inverse relationship with how long it'll be until I need it. Last time I cleaned, I remember thinking, "when am I ever going to need 3 1/2 to 5 1/4" drive rail adapters?" Answer: about two hours after the trash truck came. Soon after, I threw away a Windows 98 install disc, almost sixteen hours before Laura needed to install an offline editor for a light board. Which only ran in Windows 98. So the fates have told me not to dump this stuff.

But today I did. I filled two grocery sacks with junk. The computer software and hardware was easy, and I threw away an amazing amount of stuff. And I organized what I kept -- I've got neat ziplock baggies with labels like, "Laura's laptop restore discs" and "obscure but useful drivers". I even threw away old games. And I've resolved to not worry about throwing away anything I might regret. It'll be less than the regret involved with keeping all this crap in my workspace.

On the other hand, I feel odd about throwing away my stack of audio cassettes. I had live recordings of theater shows I did fifteen years ago. I had mix tapes made by friends in high school. I had Dweezil Zappa's first album. I had live recordings of the Indiana Ragtime Festival, old Prairie Home Companion joke shows, compilations I made to listen to while driving. And it all went in the trash. I've got some good memories attached to a lot of this stuff. But I'm in a cleaning mood, and I haven't listened to anything on cassette in at least four years. Getting rid of old mix tapes from friends I haven't seen in years was a bit difficult. But when they were here, I didn't listen to them. It occurs to me that maybe their value has less to do with the music on them, and more to do with their totemic power: here are (somewhat) handmade expressions of friendship and love, always there to remind me of the people who care about me. So maybe I'll dig through the bag and save a few. But the old show tapes of "Decades!" from Glacier National Park -- those can go.

The part I haven't finished involves sorting through the huge stack of unlabeled CDs and DVDs which were piled on the floor and the desk and in boxes. I might be able to assume that if I haven't needed it yet, I probably won't; on the other hand, some of it might be of interest, if not actually important. So the plan is to do a few a day until the pile's gone.

2 comments:

Jennifer B. said...

I have the same difficulty in throwing away audio cassettes that are mixes from friends. The solution I came up with was to go through my mp3s/digital files and try to recreate the playlists to the best of my ability (ok, ok, I supplemented with a few iTunes purchases). Now I can listen to most of the tapes you made me, but through digital playlists. :) It's not exactly the same, but I don't have a tape player anymore, so it is the closest I can get.

Jeff Mountjoy said...

You might be on to something with the mp3 mix-tape playlist. And, as befits any professional sound guy, I've got an impressively large, broad music library. I shouldn't have to buy too much tuneage from iTunes. Which is good; tax day, you know....

Two of the mix tapes I saved were from you, Jen! I had more, but they were in my car during the two years it sat unused. They were in the slotted carrier next to the driver's seat, but I had a rubber fake fish (prop from a show) on top of them, and the fish melted down into the cassettes. I think they're a lost cause. Bummer! I also lost my Guns & Roses "Appetite for Destruction" cassette, which, while dated, is great driving-fast-late-at-night music....