Everyone is telling me to throw stuff out because I’m old.
Millennials don’t want Grandma’s china. I’ve read that a million times. I pitched my baseball cards. I put my 1950s and 1960s cards in a roller suitcase and wheeled them into a trading-card show and got $4,000. I had my “star” players in plastic sleeves. I had five Mickey Mantles. Most of my other cards – “commons” – were worthless. My kids didn’t want the cards. They didn’t even know who Harmon Killebrew was. My mother had saved my cards because I often reminded her, even when I was off at college, not to touch my Rocky Colavitos.
I was a collector, and she respected that.
But I’m trying to throw stuff out now. This month I’m attempting to offload 33 years of my klezmer band’s paraphernalia. That’s harder than selling Mantle cards. My band, Yiddishe Cup, has played 19 states and abroad (the Windsor, Ontario, Jewish Community Center). We’re almost “almost famous.” A local Ohio museum, the Western Reserve Historical Society, will take the band’s VHS concert tapes. The museum has a Jewish archives. The associate curator said he also wants my set lists, contracts (“band must have hot meals”), posters and program notes.
But the historical society won’t digitize the VHS tapes. That’s on me. I saw a Frank Zappa documentary; he had a warehouse of VHS and reel-to-reel tapes of his shows and recordings, and he had art projects from his childhood. He didn’t throw anything away. I’m like that, but not as weird.
Digital vs. analog
There’s a library branch with a do-it-yourself VHS-to-digital setup. You have to sign up for a workshop first. That seems like too much work. I’m looking for a pro to digitize my tapes. I need a conscientious person. For instance, what is the value of my 2001 tape of my then-13-year-old son on drums and my mom – who died three years later – in a crowd shot? Not Mantle level, but maybe Vada Pinson.
I found a VHS-to-digital guy online who wanted to meet at the Starbucks parking lot across the street from his apartment building. He said his name is Kley. He’s from Europe. Albania, he said on the phone. I asked for a business reference. His reference, Emmanuel, said to me that Kley is unbelievable quality! Emmanuel is a liquidator, by the way. He buys and sells anything. Did I have anything to sell?
No, I didn’t. I was too busy thinking about this: Do some people hold VHS tapes hostage for ransom? That’ll be an extra $300 to see Grandma again. I canceled the Starbucks meeting.
Also, I should never have sold my baseball cards. My Pee Wee Reese card (Brooklyn Dodgers, 1957) was a thing of beauty, and gone. To get my mojo back, I went into my garage and threw away some bike locks with forgotten combinations.
I just found a tape-transfer person with a real office and solid references. He said he could put all my concert tapes on a flash drive, and I could give flash drives to my adult children and the historical society.
I’m adding my kids’ hockey games, gymnastics meets and senior-class speeches to the flash drive. By the time they are purging their own homes and culling their flash drive drawer, the historical society might find that more interesting than my band. After all, you never know what will make a comeback.
Bert Stratton is the leader of the band Funk a Deli, formerly Yiddishe Cup. He writes the blog Klezmer Guy: Real Music and Real Estate. He lives in Ohio.