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Saturday, February 2, 2013

The State Of My State Address

As most of you are well aware, I have been absent from the collecting community for some time now.  Sure I have had a few moments here and there with posting comments on other blogs but with the exception of two posts of my own, I haven't really been here since October 2012.

From a collecting standpoint, I have been out since the Chicago Sun-Times show in Rosemont back in November.  That was sort of my swan song, so to speak, since I have taken this somewhat-self-imposed-but-not-really-hiatus.  At that show, I picked up some Series I, a few "retro" boxes, and some singles for the PC.  I even shut down the Ebay buying which, for me, is a difficult task.  Not long after that, the wheels fell off. 

Since I have received numerous queries from many of you in the hobby community, as well as others who apparently read the blog but have no interest in the subject matter (I know, weird, right?), I figured I would indulge your requests and clue you all in on the state of my state and why I have isolated myself, hopefully temporarily, from this great hobby.  I know.  It isn't anyone's business but my own.  But I have never been one to not share a good story.  So bare with me because this could get long, and ugly.

Essentially, my train derailed back in November and continued to explode, one car at a time until the whole thing was a fiery pile of twisted scrap metal and charred remains (how's that for imagery?).

ISSUE #1:  Some of you already know this but I am going through a divorce.  There, I said it.  Shockingly enough, it had nothing to do with my card hoardin...er...collecting.  Or maybe it did?  No, I'm sure it didn't.  Maybe...Frankly, without getting into all the gory details of our failures as a married couple, it is safe to say that this was probably over a long time ago and was just prolonged for the sake of being "comfortable in our misery".  Regardless, it is what it is and I have been preoccupied with all the minutia, you know like finding a place to live, handling the children, moving all my stuff, dealing with the holidays, etc. etc. etc.

ISSUE #2:  I was fired from my job at the beginning of January.  Again, without going into the gory details of my untimely departure, lets just say there was an employment contract presented to us that, for lack of a better phrase, bound us to slavery to the corporation.  We tried to negotiate more balanced terms of employment but the owner of the company was unwilling to negotiate and eventually fired five of his income generating employees.  Pretty crazy, huh?  Its been rough going, especially since he has begun fighting everyone's unemployment, started to spread rumors contrary to reality within our small industry's "community", and has begun to threaten us with frivolous, unfounded lawsuits that he won't win but will be able to outlast us with deeper pockets.

We have all stuck together though, eventually forming our own business one weekend (literally it took like a weekend). I can't begin to tell you the difficulty, stress, and fear that goes with it.  Minimal investment capital, threats of litigation, and expenses that keep piling up can take their toll on any business start-up.  But we are not going to be broken that easily.  I, for one, can't be considering my situation with ISSUE #1.  Perseverance is the only way.

ISSUE #3:  Because of ISSUE #1, I have had to relocate my residence.  I moved the majority of my things out of the house.  I have taken most of my personal card collection with me but there is still a lot of it back there.  A lot meaning the Garage is still there.  I have been working on getting rid of it but every time I work something out, it has fallen through.  Mostly because something has occurred where I couldn't be where I needed to be to make the deal happen (again, see ISSUE #1).  There have been buyers on the hook for each of the collections separately (ie. football, basketball, etc.) but no takers on the entire thing.  I have been trying to avoid putting all of it into a storage unit but if I don't get it out of there soon, I fear there could be a bonfire held at my former home.  Good thing it's still winter and we are now buried under some actual snow accumulation.  I assume cardboard is harder to burn that way.

I do have quite a bit of my hockey stuff here with me, including my player PCs, my team PCs (for the most part), and a variety of other stuff.  What I don't have are my bulk boxes and all of my binders.  Those have been relocated to the Garage.  You don't realize how much stuff you actually have until you see it all in one place.  I have a lot.

ISSUE #4:  This issue is probably the same for many hockey collectors out there.  The NHL is finally back on the ice and playing the game we love.  Having been without the game since October and not being able to watch the games and cheer on my Pens, I've been less than thrilled with the idea of putting any effort into my collection.  They want to fight about how my money is spent, let them fight.  I just won't give them anymore of it in the form of purchasing new product.  Add to that all the issues from above and you have a general malaise that has come over me toward our hobby.  Even when I wasn't blogging everyday, I still would check the blogs, read the posts, read the articles by the industry players, watch the tweets, you know, stay up with what is going on in cardboard.  But that hasn't happened for quite some time.  The NHL finally breaking the lockout and getting back to what they do best has actually put a glimmer of hope back into me.  Believe it or not, I pulled out a box the other day and went through it just to try and inspire something.  It really didn't work but it was a good effort.

Then, as I walked in to see my kids the other day at my former home, there was something familiar on the counter.  A little yellow envelope that all of us in the collecting community have come to know and love was perched on the counter top  fresh from the days mail.  But as I mentioned, I stopped my Ebay feeding frenzy a while ago and I know I hadn't ordered anything.  My redemption cards had all been fulfilled and I hadn't traded with anyone in quite some time.  What could this be?  I looked at the return address and saw a familiar name.  It was from Card Boarded.  We all tout the generosity of the blogging community all the time and this time is no different.  Inside the little yellow envelope was a variety of Pittsburgh Penguins that he had "lying around" and figured they could use a home.  Well, I'm glad they found there way to me.  I have looked these things over about a hundred times now and even went as far as scanning them.  I'm not saying that totally brought me back from the grave but it definitely ignited a spark that had been missing.  Thank you, my friend.

ISSUE #5:  As some of you know, I am also a musician of sorts and play in a band.  Well, I actually play in two bands.  Since December, we have been playing out more and have been getting paid for it.  Paid!  I know it's weird to get paid for something you enjoy but nonetheless...Most of the gigs have been with my original band but we have had a few with the other band too.  We are still trying to get our sea legs under us in that one.  So hobby time is becoming few and far between.  We have practices on Friday nights in one band and Saturday nights in the other.  Some of those nights are our gigs which means we forgo practice of course.  Because of ISSUE #1, every other weekend is spent with my kids and that is as close to a full time job as anyone can have.  That leaves Sunday nights every other weekend for "me time" and much of that is spent preparing for the week since ISSUE #2 has me doing quite a bit of work outside the "office" so to speak.  Playing music that I love has taken away some hobby time but it is definitely not something I'm going to complain about.  One hobby for another isn't necessarily a bad trade.

ISSUE #6:  When it rains, it pours.  Since all this has been taking place at the same time, it was only fitting that twice since November, my truck has run into some kind of mechanical/maintenance trouble.  First it was the tires.  I had to replace all four of them (not an expense I expected).  Then as the breaks had been doing some weird things, I had them checked too.  Of course they needed replaced but so did rotors, calipers, and tie rods.  Then, as a gesture of good faith, I picked up a large order of water softener salt for my ex-employer while I was still there.  I believe it was 50 bags.  My truck now has some serious shock/strut squeaking and creaking.  I had it looked at...I'm not going to tell you what the cost for repair will be because I don't think the truck is even worth that much.  Add to that the fact that this sub-zero weather we have been having has reeked havoc on my battery and caused quite a few starting problems and you have a recipe for vehicle disaster.  My "new", non-income generating job requires about 80 miles a day of driving in my vehicle.  With gas prices soaring back up to almost $4/gallon, new tires, old shocks, and a weak battery, I'm probably sitting on a time bomb.

I'm sure there is more that I am leaving out but I'm also sure I've already lost many of you.  I don't mean to sound like I'm complaining because I'm not.  I just wanted to set the record straight on why I haven't been around.  Plus, it's good therapy to write sometimes.  Right now it may seem like it but I haven't given up entirely on the hobby.  I will still be here doing my thing.  I have some interesting ideas for posts going forward and I hope to get those going.  I have a feeling that once I decide to revive myself, I will be more introverted toward my collection rather than focusing on accumulating.  The funds just aren't there anymore (hopefully not permanently).  I just need to get some things straight.  Get my house in order, so to speak.

I will end with something that my 12th grade English teacher used to say.

"That which doesn't kill me, makes me stronger."  

I don't know where she got that from.  I know she didn't make it up.  It was probably some philosopher or scientist.  Frankly, I don't care who said it.  I just hope Mrs. Miller was right.