ead Letter Office is a column of letters written by Todd Hutlock to a friend named Jimmy, who may or may not exist. The column details real-life experiences regarding work, life, and how Hutlock's obsession with music runs them both.
Dude, I am broke.
I mean, don’t worry or anything—it isn’t like I can’t pay the bills or eat or whatever. But once you get much beyond that, it ain’t so pretty. I buy maybe two or three records a month now, and never at full price (of course I still get a lot of promos, so hearing new stuff isn’t a big problem). My comic collection has suffered immensely, as I’ve dropped many titles and I usually only make it into my local to pick up books once a month now, because of cash flow/disposable income issues. Like I said, I’m not starving or anything, but I do find myself eating a bit more peanut butter and jelly sandwiches than sushi nowadays. My springtime shoe options are looking sort of slim.
So yeah, things are tight, and I am sliding by, but really, just by the skin of my teeth right about now. A lot of this is fallout from the divorce and the fact that a lot of expenses I used to share with someone else are now my burden alone—like, I have to pay for my own health insurance now. My car insurance rate has gone up now that I am single. Things like utilities and phone bills that used to be split in half are now all on me. And I think you can probably toss my Xmas shopping blowout into the mix, as well as this lovely laptop that I’m typing this to you from. Obviously I’ve known these things for a while now, but it all just seems to have caught up with me a bit now. It isn’t like they snuck up on me—I just somehow let them get a bit more on top of me than I feel comfortable with. And sadly all those years of accumulating credit card debt because I wanted to own the latest imports and the nicest hardcover archival comic collections have come to call.
My collecting ways have changed now-because my collection is built to a degree where I don’t have to fill as many holes now anyway, but also because I can’t afford to have them stay the same. Don’t get me wrong, I am still a collector and I always will be when it comes to certain things. I always find a way. But not nearly as many of those things as before, and I think that is a very good thing for a large number of reasons.
Anyway, it seems that whenever I mention this to people who know me to any degree, they get this puzzled look on their faces. They look at my apartment full of stuff—and I mean literally full—and they wonder how I can have any money troubles when I am sitting on literally a million (maybe more) dollars worth of records and comics and other collectibles. In this day and age of the Internet sales boom and eBay, how can I be sitting of this stuff, a lot of which I don’t even want or need, and be complaining about having no cash?
Well, therein lies the problem. See, when you have a collection of stuff as large as mine, it isn’t too hard to skim off a layer from the top every now and again to sell and make a quick buck. I’ve been doing that for years—partially to get money to buy more stuff, of course, and partially just to maintain my sanity and general space requirements. And after years of doing it, and with now far less stuff coming into my shelves on a monthly basis, it gets harder and harder to figure out what I genuinely want to part with and what I might regret later.
I can honestly say that considering the amount of shit I have let go over the years, I am pretty happy as far as regrets go. Oh sure, there are a few things that stick out in my mind—the Wilco promo-only 10-inch All Over The Place, a handful of vinyl things that I bought on CD and wish I had kept the originals of, all of the hundreds of cassettes that I just threw away when I moved out of Oberlin because I couldn’t be bothered to pack them all up. But I think I’ve done okay so far, and hence, I’m worried that I might make a misstep now and not have the capital (or available credit) to replace it later like I might have a few years ago. How do you separate the wheat from the chaff when it all looks like wheat from where you’re standing?
The things that really steam me are the things where I sold some shlocky item I didn’t want for like a dollar to some used CD store some time back, and then I find out a few years later that it is worth literally fifty times what I sold it for back in the day, sometimes 150 times more even. But how can you avoid that stuff? If I’d kept everything I’d ever bought or been given, I’d need at least two apartments just to hold it all. At some point—and I am at that point now, finally—it needs to start paying for itself. But you can’t fault me for wanting it all to pay for itself in the most efficient and lucrative way possible, right?
So if you have some magic formula for me or some criteria I can safely apply as the great sell-off slowly ambles on, you just let me know. In the meantime, I’m gonna get a bunch of this Sin City junk of mine up on eBay while it is all shit-hot in the wake of the movie opening. Wish me luck—if I do well, maybe I’ll come visit you this year like I’ve been threatening for so long.
Your man in the Midwest,