by Tommy Gast aka munchiesthemonkey

Like most other card collectors out there, I wake up each day, I make coffee in the morning, I even have a job I have to go to, mainly to support my various collecting habits. Hey it could be worse, I could be snorting drugs or boozing it up Chris Farley style, or even smoking two packs of Marlboro’s a day, all habits much worse than collecting cards. Yeah of course the bills have to be paid, but you need to really understand the psyche of the card collector to appreciate that sometimes the rent or car payment have to wait if the opportunity presented itself two days before rent was due to acquire that coveted multi colored jersey or 1/1 card of your PC guy. What’s a $50.00 late fee or taking the bus to work compared to holding up that 1/1 card triumphantly like He-Man holds up his sword while belching out “By the Power of Panini!” I’m just a regular guy that likes his comics with chromium holographic foil limited multiple variant covers, his football cards with 10 different colored parallels which when all obtained resemble a handful of Skittles, can you “taste err see the rainbow?,” or even toys, specifically super-hero action figures and those peachy keen McFarlane sports figures. I enjoyed setting them up in mock battles Iron-Man Vs. Cal Ripken, The Juggernaut Vs. The Bus Jerome Bettis like we kids did back in the good old days with tiny green army men, only to later knock them all down with a sling shot pull of a rubber band while cheering. Unfortunately my antics and tomfoolery were not understood by all and I had to stop my girlfriend or kids from calling the Crazy Coach, you know that big white Chevy Suburban filled with guys in white that chase you while holding a straight jacket. I just tell them straight up, “I’m not crazy, just crazy for cardboard.”

 

 

I can trace the root of this passion to my childhood long ago. It was 1980. I liked bands like Journey, The Romantics, Survivor, but mostly Def Leppard and AC/DC. Me and my friends wore bandanas under our knees, over our necks, and on our heads like headbands. You were not cool if you didn’t know how to tie a bandana properly or wore at least two or three. But back to the roots thing and I don’t mean Kunta Kinte. Cereal boxes in the late 70s and early 80s had the coolest toys and cutouts on the cardboard boxes they came in. The toys were small, definitely a choking hazard, and had parts that broke off and ended up in kids’ noses or mouths much to the chagrin of Emergency Rooms nationwide. They were so awesome so who cares if you had to dangle your life by a string like suspending a mouse by its tail over a hungry snake that hasn’t eaten for days. The cardboard cutouts featured comic and cartoon super heroes and also current popular sports figures but especially baseball players. I remember my mom buying new boxes of cereal and all I could think about was opening that box, digging my unwashed arms deep into that crispy ocean of sugary goodness all the while hoping to grasp that dusty plastic baggie filled with cereal box treasure. Me and my sister would try to wake up earlier than each other to claim the prize for ourselves and we fought like two starved gerbils fighting over a slippery peanut. I got it!, no I got it ahahaha. Fighting for the treasure made it that much more meaningful if you were the victor.

 

 

1984, The Police were cool! Dune was an epic movie starring Sting! And around that time I started buying Topps baseball and football cards at 7-11 along with candy bars, gum, and Slurpee’s before going to the local Video Arcade. I treated my cards very badly back then. Put them in my sweaty pocket sharing space with coins, a Star Wars or G.I. Joe action figure, or worse a cool shiny rock I found while playing in the dirt. I ran rubber bands tightly around my cards to keep them together. I even taped them to my banana seat bike so the wheel spokes would click and clack like a motor cycle. I also drew pictures and colored handlebar moustaches on my baseball cards giggling at how rad I improved their looks. Not until 1987 did I begin to collect comics, and sports cards actually caring about keeping them in good condition. Unfortunately for football and baseball cards 1987-1991 were the death valley days of collecting, void of any value and deserving to be buried in the desert.

 

 

Adulthood, the death of a hobby. For many years (1991-1997) I stopped collecting sports cards and concentrated on toys and comics wallpapering my pad with toys top to bottom. This began the first of my friends and families problems with my collecting habits. Often I would get teased by everyone I knew. My friends would say “Are you nuts, look at this place, you’ll never get another girlfriend!” My mom would say “When did my son become this obsessive compulsive hoarder of worthless junk! You’ll never find a wife or start a family!” I just shrugged my shoulders thinking to myself about that funny music video by Suicidal Tendencies “Institutionalized.” Everyone is telling this guy this is the way normal people dress act and behave. He rebels by screaming “All I want is a Pepsi and she wouldn’t give it to me, just a Pepsi, I’m not crazy!” Then my Mom looked at me oddly and I realized I acted out loud that part of the song. “You know very well we drink Coke in this family!” OK Mom I was just… oh never mind.

 

 

 

 

1998, Sonny Bono dies, Will Smith’s son Jaden is born, and the NFL draft had the best group of prospects the football world had seen for a very long while, loaded with awesome players. I listened to local sports talk radio, Jim Rome, watched ESPN, football news, and the entire draft on TV and online. I was deeply involved and interested in knowing and learning about that year’s draft prospects but was interested mainly in two guys Randy Moss and Ryan Leaf. We can all look back and laugh at my choices today but I honestly believed those two were the diamonds of that draft class. Hey one out of two isn’t that bad! It was also after this draft that I began my descent into eBay addiction. I bid on hundreds of Randy Moss and Ryan Leaf rookie cards. The problem surfaced when my apartment’s mailbox would get so clogged full my mailman would either leave yellow pick up slips on my door, or a full translucent white U.S. mail bin full of bubble mailers and small boxes with my manager. At first she was OK with it, but after 2-3 months of constant overload she cracked. “What in the world is going on here, what is all this stuff?” After I told her she said, “You’ll never meet a nice woman having these strange obsessions with collecting everything!” She was already privy to my massive horror memorabilia and movie collection, also my pewter dragons, comic & x-men toys, star wars, Godzilla, power rangers, transformers, lady death, spawn, and boxes upon boxes full of comics. I lived in a packed 2 bedroom apartment with my two daughters and no significant other at the time. It was wall to wall toys, movies, comics and now again sports cards. My mom would occasionally visit to see the girls and every time she did, she would look around my apartment and say, “When are you ever going to get rid of all this (stuff).” Except stuff was another commonly used S word. And then she would once again remind me, “The only reason you’re still single is because you won’t grow up and stop acting like a child, women want a real man, not another baby to take care of!”

 

 

2001: The Year I made contact, and I don’t mean Stanley Kubrick. Years had passed, the collecting (or as my mom would say hoarding) continued. And then one day my apartment manager asked me to look at a new neighbor’s computer, she was a single mom from Ohio with a two year old daughter, my daughters were ages seven and eight. I was the resident computer guru at my complex, the I.T. guy, and electronics wizard who could hook up stereos, VCRs, and could even solder things. I knocked on my neighbors door, she answered. She was 5′ 8″ tall, a long haired blonde, tan and very cute, also out of my league. I introduced myself and she had a broke Dell PC, I gave it a preliminary look through and wow was that machine a mess. BHO’s, spy-ware, viruses, even a root-kit.. Her computer was part of a bot-net, not a good thing at all. I told her I could come back later to fix it and she invited me to dinner. Later when I arrived with my kids and fix-it utilities in tow I noticed something I hadn’t noticed before. A bookshelf full of VHS movies, horror movies. The selection was both good and bad. George Romero’s living dead trilogy… awesome. Da Hip Hop Witch and Killjoy… ROFL. Then i saw a Godzilla toy and comics on a table, o_O? She was everything I thought I wanted and after hanging around with each other friendship became something more.

 

 

Several years later, living together, we upgraded both our two bedroom apartments for an odd 4 bedroom apartment, and that’s when I learned our tastes in decor varied and sometimes that phrase “too good to be true” actually holds some weight. She insisted on minimalism for our place and only nice framed items on the walls. But i had around 14 long boxes of comics, and several hundred toys, and thousands of cards. Where was I going to put all this stuff? We compromised and converted a room to a computer office and it was there that I was able to decorate the walls with my most prized collectibles, Randy Moss memorabilia, and collection of old Macintosh computers, my favorites an LC-520 bought from an elementary school full of educational software, and an awesome Mac Color Classic complete with image-writer dot matrix printer.

 

 

Living with my significant other was full of challenges, but buying collectibles and sports cards was not one of them. In fact we both wore matching Randy Moss jerseys on game-day, although mine was a bit larger and wider. And she bought me unique Randy Moss oddball items whenever she saw something while out shopping. One of my favorite items she bought me was an original framed air brush painting of Moss by an urban street artist in New York City. She picked it up while vacationing with her aunt. Even-though most of my collection was segregated to one room she was never outright hostile or negative about my collecting habits. Jammed packed mailbox and all she was supportive and allowed me room to express myself as an individual and even found humor in some of my quirky collecting habits.

 

 

Present day. I’m sorry to inform you all but things didn’t work out between us as after several years together we split up after a separation. But my friends and mom were indeed wrong when they said I would never meet or find anyone simply because my pad was jam packed with collectibles including sports cards. Love knows no boundaries and always finds a way.

 

 

I’m once again a single guy and a lot has happened recently in my life forcing me to face and endure new challenges. I have been living in a hospital setting since May of 2010. I unfortunately became stricken with a rare disease called Guillain-Barre Syndrome. I was paralyzed from head to toe for months and did not gain enough mobility to use a laptop until October of 2010. My hand used the track-pad as I was too weak to move a mouse. Guess what the first thing I bought was while living in a hospital? A Randy Moss football card. And guess who became very angry and disappointed in me for spending my money on worthless junk. “I don’t understand you, why are you buying cards? I’m sick and tired of all this mail filling my mailbox and more sick that I have to bring bags full of envelopes (cards) to you in the hospital.” I used my mom’s address and she was furious when 50 bubble mailers filled her mailbox a week. She calmed down a bit after I explained to her that I found joy in adding cards to my collection. It’s very hard living with paralysis and even harder finding joy and happiness when you’re living with an illness, in constant pain, with hopes of walking again appearing more grim as time passes. I’m happy to say my mom no longer teases or complains and says everything I buy is worthless junk. She no longer gets angry at me for buying cards because she finally understands how happy it makes me to collect things, and that type of joy and fulfilment is worth more than money can buy. If you can help your mom or dad, or wife or significant other understand how integral your hobby is to your happiness, and no one gets hurt in the process, the mere fact that you’ll be able to enjoy yourself without anyone holding you down with negativity, will make everyday like Christmas, and every envelope opened will seem like a present under a Christmas tree.

 

 

Thanks for reading, god bless, and here’s to hundreds of happy and joyous mail days at SCF! You deserve them and don’t let anyone convince you otherwise.