For the Love of Things

Photo: Brock N Meeks

If we are lucky in life, we find someone to love who loves us back. Unconditional, accepting, “in it for the long haul” type of love. But there are many other types of love we experience. “Oh… I just LOVE [insert whatever here],” is a tossed around phrase, aimed at food, TV shows, movies, animals, etc. Too often the phrase is merely blurted out for expediency, rather than reel off an informed opinion.

But I believe we can have a true, heartfelt “love of things.” Like true, romantic love, this “love of things” is equally rare, in my experience. I have loved a few things during my lifetime. My most ardent current love affair is with my acoustic guitar, a Collings D2H. She is all of 21-years-old and is all grown up. By that I mean the wood used to make this guitar has mellowed, has settled in, and its tone is like no others I have ever owned. I love to play this guitar, to listen to it; it inspires me. I spend at least an hour a day, often more, playing it. I feel different when I play it and I miss it when I’m away from it for a day for whatever reason and can’t play it. It was expensive and worth every penny paid.

As I said, the Collings is my current love affair, but I have loved other things along the way…

I have never loved a computer… I got close, once, with a Kaypro II, it’s “ammo box” styling aside, the computer was a stud workhorse. This was in the early days of computers. It had a nine-inch built in monitor; the background was black and the text green, no other choice. All command-line driven via an operating system know as “CP/M”. I pounded out article after article on that machine — storing everything to single-sided, 5 1/4” floppy discs, which I believe held a total of 140 kb (NOT megabytes) of data each. I had no hard disc, those were a luxury “back in the day,” out of my reach as the sole bread-winner — and nascent freelance writer — trying to feed a family of five and keep a roof over our heads. Of course, my word processor of choice at the time, “Wordstar,” only took up all of 64k of memory. Like I said, this was a lean and mean, writing machine.

The only thing that kept me from a true love affair with the Kaypro II was it’s keyboard, a clunky, tick-tack-tick-tack-tick-tack affair that I never got used to using.

I did, however, fall in love with a keyboard. It was on the very first IBM ThinkPad laptop computer. I loved that keyboard; I would sit and just type nonsense characters on it because I loved the feel and response of it so much. It damn near made having to use the Windows operating system worth it. (Okay, that’s a lie, nothing was worth that tortured affair… )

I also loved my 1969 VW bug, which I bought used and owned in 1974. I tore its engine apart when I was 18 years old, using a picnic table as a workbench, because I wanted to “soup it up” and customize it into a “street racing machine.” I spent every day after school working on it and every night working a job at the Del Monte catsup factory in Oakland to pay for the parts and custom machine shop work I needed done. When finished, the engine started on the first turn of the key (much to my doubting father’s surprise). Five hundred miles later, as I was gunning the lil’ bugger over a big hill heading to my night job, it threw a rod and demolished the engine. Heartbroken, and broke, I rebuilt it, yet again, but this time back to factory specs. I still loved everything about it, even though I’d never street race again (in that car anyway, but that’s a whole other story…). There was nothing I didn’t know about how to make that car work and it gave me the confidence to take it anywhere at any time. It was a sense of freedom that was vital to young psyche. (Oh… I did hate the cheap-o 8-track tape player I installed in it, the beast feasted on my best tapes, but it was all I could afford at the time.)

I loved an old single-shot .22 rifle of my dad’s. It a broken rear sight, so it took some getting used to in order to shoot correctly. My dad had had it since he was 12-years old. He taught me about gun safety and how to shoot using that rifle. I mostly loved it because of all the stories my dad had told me over the years about going out hunting with it when he was a kid. I believe my brother is in possession of it today. The rifle is damn near 80-years old now…

I loved my first professional digital camera, a Nikon D1. I loved that heavy, clunky beast as if it were my own child, mostly because using it opened me to the world of being able to shoot “RAW” digital photos. Raw images contain all the digital data contained in a photo, unlike JPEGs, which are a compressed format and therefore toss away a lot of the rich detail found in raw images. Pulling up my first raw images on a computer screen felt I was literally diving into the scene. It gave me chills. As camera bodies began to advance I felt prey to the lust for more pixels and sold it to get enough money to buy a newer body, but it killed me selling it off.

Along with the D1 I had a lens I loved, a Nikon 85mm f/2.8. I shot the world with that lens. People, places, things… nothing escaped it. I shot it mostly “wide open,” and that f/2.8 aperture melted backgrounds into such a glorious blur, nothing I’ve shot since has touched it. I sold it off too, at one point, when I quit using Nikons and switched to using Canon’s… I still regret not holding on to that lens.

And finally, I loved a small Swiss Army knife that my dad gave me at age 10. A simple, utilitarian tool, fit in the palm of my hand. It was an “everyday carry” for me (in those days you could carry such things to school with you). Shortly after the TSA came into existence — in the days when they were still confiscating tweezers from people at airport security checkpoints — I made the mistake of having it in my pocket while trying to board a flight. I had no choice but to surrender it… I nearly cried…

What things have you loved?