Dead Letter Office
The Nightmare



dead 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.


Jimmy:

Hey chief—you remember Lisa Oliver, right? Shit what am I talking about—of course you remember Lisa Oliver.

Well, anyway, about a week ago, she called me up all upset. She was home visiting her family in upstate New York, and she went to look through her vinyl record collection. She hadn’t been there when the family moved into this house, and obviously she didn’t want to lug all of it over to England with her. And it was gone. The whole fucking thing, just vanished, and no one had any idea where it was or even if it had made the move a few years previous. She was really a bit distraught as you can imagine.

Sympathetic as I tried to be to her awful situation, I couldn’t help but think about myself and my own massive music/book/comic/movie library. (And Jimmy, if you’re shocked that I could somehow turn someone else’s massive heartbreak into being about me then you haven’t been paying attention to me very well all these years, have you?) I mean, I couldn’t think of a worse thing happening to me short of death of a loved one or something.

The one reassuring thought that kept me from laying awake worrying about this for a week was the fact that, hey, no one could possibly steal my collection without a really large truck. And even then, you’re looking at an all-day job. Just ask the people who helped me move last time. Oh, wait, you can’t—they all refused after helping me move the time before that. But you see my point there. The only way I could possibly lose it all would be to a large natural disaster like a fire or something. Or a really vindictive wife, I suppose.

I remember both of us used to poke fun of Dave T. a bit, who in his manic ways and geographically challenged lifestyle (his collection was spread over, what, three different cities? Four? And he kept buying more everywhere he went!), but the scary thing is I see myself becoming more and more like him every day. I remember that whenever Dave couldn’t find a record or thought he had loaned it out or given it away (he never seemed to be sure), he would just go out and buy a new copy, right then and there, no questions asked. I haven’t quite gotten to that point yet, but I’m getting there, and even worse, I am starting very much see the logic behind that move. Don’t let any moss gather on your losses—replace immediately before you forget about it, or end up moving on to some other holy grail, or the item becomes unavailable. Hey, better to have two than none, right? I sure do miss Dave. If you hear from him, tell him I said hello.

But let’s just assume for a minute that I really did somehow lose it all. What would I do? How could I possibly ever start again? Any sort of insurance settlement would never come close to covering the actual cost of my collections, and that’s assuming that I might be able to even replace it all, which I think we both know I couldn’t. Would I just start over and go one by one, buying things as they came along? Should I look into more insurance? Is this all a compelling argument for me to finally start that computer database of my entire works? And fuck, what should I say to Lisa for that matter? She must be a total wreck, and here I am just too dumbfounded to be of much use or support.

All of this raced through my mind in roughly one second. I’ve never had my life flash in front of my eyes really, but this must have been what it’s like. I quickly came to the conclusion that if my collection dies, I will likely die with it, in some misguided attempt to rescue something or worse, clinging to them screaming as whatever disaster was hitting claimed us both. I have never really been able to figure out a good way to take it all with me, but that seems like about the only solution, albeit a stupid, suicidal one. And I’m pretty sure someone would have the common sense to pull me out anyway, and I’d probably resign myself to going anyway. But Jesus, man, I really can’t think of a torture worse than this. If you come up with something, I don’t want to hear it. The guilt and self-loathing that might arise from you pointing out what a selfish, possessive bastard I am might just do me in right there. And you’d love that, wouldn’t you, because I’m sure you’d be the first one to come over here and lay claim to all my goodies, wouldn’t you? It’s all mine! MINE!

If you have any good ideas on this, let me know. If not, I’d like your word to never mention it again. I’d just as soon forget all about it and go on living in blissful ignorance. Shouldn’t be too hard, right?

Your man in the Midwest,
Hutlock

P.S. Before you go sending sympathy cards or anything, Lisa’s collection turned up a few days later. Her friend Norm had taken them (and I’m still not sure why) and they were all safe and sound and apparently all was right in the world. Go figure—she ends up with the happy ending, and I get to live with even more rampant paranoia than I already had, if that seems possible at all. Nice, eh?


By: Todd Hutlock
Published on: 2003-12-10
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