Dead Letter Office
The Room

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.


Hey man, what’s up? Anything good going on this weekend?

My lovely wife actually got me this great chair for my upstairs CD/Book vault (as opposed to the vinyl vault, which is the whole basement) for my birthday, which is cool because now I can actually spend some quality time in there. I spent all day last Saturday clearing the room up to make room for the chair, but also taking the opportunity to shelve some unfiled books and/or CDs while I was at it. Hell, I even busted out a Swiffer on the shelves at one point, so you know I meant business. She also got a new coffee table for our living room when she bought the chair, so I now have the old one in the vault. So if you’re keeping track (and I know you aren’t), I now have in the upstairs vault: 1) a nice chair, 2) a good sized coffee table, 3) that cool wall mount Muji CD player I scammed out of AP, 4) a shitload of books and CDs (not to mention clothes), and 5) a small collection of vinyl. Not a bad set-up.

Now that my DJing days are pretty much over, I figure I’ll also bring my spare Technics 1200 upstairs so I can have that up there as well. I always feel guilty walking by my old DJ coffin, knowing it’s in there, suffering from disuse. Of course, I have no speakers or amp to run it through, but I figure I can also bring up my mixer and just plug into the headphone jack. Eventually, I think I might buy one of those kick-ass little portable Japanese turntables that they sell at Dusty Groove that has its own speaker, and can run on batteries. It would complement the Muji well, which is similarly self-contained, and can even hang on the wall and play records that way (don’t ask me how, but it can). Plus, you can take it around to garage sales and whatnot and test out rare old records. I think I need to invest in one ASAP.

Anyway, in my rampant organizational drive, I started asking myself the tough questions. Questions of real importance. Questions like... why do I have these few pieces of vinyl (maybe 60) up here, while all the rest of it (like 6000) is in the basement? Well, I think I worked that one out: the vinyl upstairs is the stuff that I spent big bucks on and don’t want to get damaged by potential flooding (although I’d be fucked if the 6000 pieces down there got flooded anyway), or even the humidity. These include my copies of all the original UK mono Rolling Stones LPs and EPs, my vintage Beatles shit, Neil Young catalog ... you know, the classics, and the really expensive stuff. Don’t get me wrong, there’s some shit in that basement that is worth a mint. But I have to draw the line somewhere, right? And anyway, my basement hasn’t seen a drop of water since I moved in.

Drawing that line, however, through me into a state of emotional upheaval that, frankly, I’m still trying to work out. Why, for instance, is the Bunnymen vinyl catalog upstairs, while New Order is in the basement? That one was easy—it’s because the Bunnymen stuff is a complete set (well, pre-breakup anyway), and the New Order collection has some holes in it—but you see what I’m getting at.

But following that logic, why isn’t my Smiths vinyl up there? I couldn’t come up with a reason to keep them in the basement either, so this weekend I’ll be combing through the 6,000+ records in the basement in order to find the 20 or so pieces of Smiths vinyl and promote them to the upstairs. Something tells me I could be doing something more productive with my weekends—and so does my wife...often.

Of course, I inevitably manage to stumble across some cachet of records by some band I forgot was down there, and I end up with a whole new set of listening habits for the next few weeks. Last time down there looking for something, it was all those “Young Sound Of Scotland” bands—Orange Juice, Josef K, Fire Engines, etc.,—which then led to their spin-offs—Win, the Nectarine No. 9, Paul Haig and Edwyn Collins solo records—and so on and so forth. Finding a great record you forgot you owned beats the hell out of going out and spending money on something you already knew you wanted. My predictions? I’m thinking something like World Of Twist (“Sons Of The Stage” rocks!) will end up crawling from the wreckage this weekend. Or maybe some old Transmat singles. Possibly one of the 15 or so Creation Records compilations I have sitting down there.

Who knows? I sure as hell don’t, and that’s half the fun. And people ask me why I don’t have them alphabetized...

But isn’t that the beauty of trawling through records, whether it’s in your home or in a store or someone’s apartment? That feeling that the next one could be that hidden gem? That the next record will be that super rare 12” that you saw one week and didn’t have enough money for and when you came back to get it was gone? If they were in order, it would be just like going to a library, where you just go in and find what you want and leave with it. In my massively disorganized mass of vinyl, I never know what I’m going to flip to next, much like a garage sale or the 50-cent bin at the Record Exchange. Isn’t it always more fun and interesting to go through that stuff than it is to just flip go directly to the “F” section, pick up your Foo Fighters (or Fabian, or Felt, or Fall, or Georgie Fame, or whatever) album and leave?

Well, I sure as hell think it is. But then again, I’m pretty sure that’s how I ended up with a basement full of records, a spare bedroom full of CDs, and a whopping amount of credit card debt.

If you don’t hear from me by Monday, send a team of divers down after me.

Your man in the Midwest,

By: Todd Hutlock
Published on: 2003-07-30
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