Soon my wife, Sandi and I will celebrate our 30th wedding anniversary. No one, particularly our folks, ever felt we would get that far. There were many days when I wondered about it myself. But, somehow we have managed to trudge forward.

Sandi is a saint. There are many devilish aspects about her. She told me on our second date these fateful words, “I may burn dinner but that’s not all I’ll burn!” Fortunately (for me) she has never burned dinner. For that matter, she has never made dinner. She also told me on that same date, “My momma taught me to be a Home Wrecker not a Home Maker.” Not quite true either. I, however, got through college on my cooking abilities and had regularly cooked at home for 5 years by the time I graduated from high school. I discovered in college that, if you worked for a restaurant, you might not get a lot of pay, but you generally got one hit meal a day.

Back then (the forgotten early 70’s) I frequently went with less than $1 in my pocket for days. Austin, where I attended school, was regularly considered to be the cheapest major city to live in. When working for the state, I was paid once a month and, after my bills, would live from the 5th to the end of the month on about $20. Somehow I survived and managed to acquire a few books.


When Sandi and I married in 1979, everything I owned fit into a 4’x8′ U-haul trailer – books, TV, clothes, everything. Sandi’s stuff took a little more room – she had some furniture including several bookcases (still in good shape and being used – a big part of why I married her. Who can resist a single good looking woman with empty bookcases? Who?), a bigger car, a bigger TV. She took me for better or worse, in books and out of books.

We have never been out of books. Or records, cassettes or CD’s. VHS and DVD. I amassed them all. She remained patient about it all. She liked to read. She loved movies. Our first date was to Ingmar Bergman’s Autumn Sonata rather than Frank Langella’s Dracula because she had never seen a Bergman film. She’d heard of them but they generally did not play in west Texas or show on TV. And, in those pre-VCR days those were your options (unless you had friends with illegal prints and 16 mm projectors). And, we did see the Dracula film a few weeks later.

I imagine part of my collecting mania stemmed from not having much in those years. When I was able to afford my first hardback science fiction purchase (Philip K. Dick’s “Flow My Tears,” the Policeman Said) I was ecstatic. The floodgates opened and I bought and bought. And bought. I read and read, but never quite at the same level as I bought. For example, last night I read a book that I purchased about 20 years ago. I always intended to read it and I finally got there. The fact that I bought it 20 years ago for 50 cents meant that it was here when I was ready to finally read it. I did not have to go looking for it at 100 used book stores and, if I failed to find it, settle for something else. It was that book’s time to be enjoyed and relished.

And while Sandi is often a saint, she frequently asks when I plan on getting rid of some things. She does not understand the joy of having a vinyl album in it’s full glory, a cassette of the same album (so you can listen to it in the car) and a CD of it also (with some extra tracks and good sound) which I can play at the house since my turntable is currently not working. When I explain it like that, I get the response “Well, since the turntable is not working and has not worked in a year or so, why don’t you get rid of the vinyl?” She makes it sound so logical. But my collecting mind does not work that way. How could I get rid of my Sandii and the Sunsetz album when there are no CD or cassette equivalents readily available. Or my signed Robert Fripp or Joe Ely or Kinky Friedman or even Moon Martin albums. And many of the soundtracks do not have a good (read “cheap”) alternative.

We once bought a minivan just so we could take books to conventions and sell them. Filled that sucker up every time we went to one of those shows and it did not read much lighter on the trips home. When we got ready to sell our home in 2000 I had to move 150 boxes of books from the book room into a storage locker just so visitors could walk into the room and see the carpet.

This is not to say that I am unmovable on the point. When we bought a new house in 2005 and needed a little extra for the down payment. Five books went up for sale. The signed first edition of The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury, the American first edition of His Last Bow by Arthur Conan Doyle, and the first edition of Pierre, or the Ambiguities by Herman Melville (his first book after Moby Dick) did not sell even though they were reasonably priced. Two books did sell and they covered about 30% of the down payment. They were a signed first edition of Stephen King’s Carrie and Robert Levack’s bibliography of Philip K. Dick which had been signed by PKD. I had owned both for more than 20 years and prized them dearly. But their contribution meant we got to buy the condo we were living in rather than moving their 20,000 brothers and sisters by ourselves. Strong incentive there. And, since I was willing to part with them, she argued that I might be willing to let some of the other nestlings flee their home of 20 or so years and fly to new nests where they will be loved and held and stroked and cuddled and called “George”. She eventually proved correct, though it was 2007 before this happened.

Again, Sandi is a saint. Sometimes I want to help with her martyrdom, though. She has passed along a few things to others that I did not intend to give away. Her philosophy is that “what is mine is hers and what is hers is hers”. She thinks this is clearly obvious. I have gone along with some of these donations but, at least twice, I made her get the items back. What’s mine is mine. (Unless she asks first. Then she can probably have it).

What can I say? It works! Everything is hers, if she asks or needs it. I like to think I own it all, but possession is transient and, for the most part, I’d rather have her instead of them.

Other Stuff

What I am Reading – Last night I read Manly Wade Wellman’s Strangers in the Heights (aka Beasts From Beyond). A good fun, light read of menace, telepathy and strangeness in Chile. This was republished as part of the Lost Wellman series by Night Shade Books to help complement their five volumes of collected short stories. All well worth your time but especially Owls Hoot in the Daytime (the collection of his John the Balladeer stories including all the stories in Who Fears the Devil? and some uncollected pieces)

Music – As I write this Sandy Denny and Fairport Convention are singing of Tam Lin and her adventures in love. Great to write by. Just prior to that were two pieces by Ry Cooder from Chicken Skin Music “Yellow Roses” and “Stand By Me”. Great stuff that’s half gospel, half folk, half Hawaiian, and half Ledbelly all at the same time. Also, the 2004 live album from the New York Dolls. Yowza!

DVD – I just got the two disk set of Seasons One and Two of Danger Mouse. I have a fond spot for the rodent with the eyepatch. I’m a sucker for fun stuff and I loved watching these on TV in the 80’s. St. Sandi did not complain much (then). Now she rolls her eyes and tells me not to interfere with the news or CSI.

Filed under: Geek with Lots of Books

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