by Erik Deckers
American Reporter Humor Writer
January 29, 2006
IT BEATS COLLECTING DECORATIVE SOAPS!
SYRACUSE, Ind. -- What's your most prized possession? What object, other than your children, pets, or big screen tv, would you save first in a fire?
We all have our own special items that occupy a place near and dear to our hearts. But it usually doesn't stop with one item. We're all packrats to some degree. We have collections of things that inspire us, whether it's first edition books, leather shoes, or limited edition Elvis Presley collection plates.
Collections are an analogy for our own lives: they create enjoyment and fun, they become more valuable as time goes on, and everyone else pretends to be interested in it.
For many collectors, there is a need to have a "complete set" of the object of our desire, like having every Beatles album or every 1977 Cincinnati Reds baseball card, including Johnny Bench (will accept all reasonable offers).
Whether it's a few items that hold great sentimental value for us like a ticket stub to the 2001 Super Bowl, or every single Beanie Baby ever made, we all have that near-obsessive urge that drives us to amass huge amounts of, well, junk. I started thinking about this a few weeks ago, when going through one of my old collections.
A couple of years ago, my dad dropped off a few boxes, declaring "you're not really an adult until all your stuff is gone from your parents' house."
My wife groaned in disappointment that I was bringing more of my "old crap" into the house, but I was secretly delighted. I had just been reunited with my prized boyhood collection: dozens of empty beer cans.
To answer your questions: 1) Yes, I said beer cans; 2) No, not just any beer cans, these are special hard-to-find cans; 3) No, I'm not the one who emptied them.
When I was eight years old, my family was visiting some friends, when their son, John, showed me his new beer can collection, about 20 cans total. He pointed out all the various brands, styles, and sizes.
As I stared at the brightly-colored display, something awoke in me. I had to have my own collection. I somehow thought that I could actually amass a complete collection of every beer can in the world. There had to be about 50, tops, I thought. Surely, it can't be that hard to collect them all, right? (I found out later that there are literally thousands of breweries around the world.)
"I want to start collecting beer cans," I told my father. He was sitting with John's dad, Gary, drinking Budweiser. He looked at the empty can in his hand, and without considering the potential ramifications of a nine-year-old boy collecting alcohol-based paraphernalia, said, "Okay, here."
My first can! My head spun, my palms got sweaty, and I felt like I was floating. It was the collector's high I'd heard so much about. Or maybe it was because I took a big whiff of the can right then. I took the can home, rinsed it out (having identified the cause of the earlier dizzy spell), and plonked it onto my shelf.
From there, my obsession knew no bounds. I prowled busy streets looking for strange cans. People who visited our house were urged to drink up to grow my collection. I even begged my parents to drink all sorts of new and different beers, which given my typical boy's behavior, was probably not too much of a sacrifice for them.
I finally had to curtail my mania though, when in the same week, I received a key to the city of Milwaukee, Wisc., followed by a cease-and-desist letter from Alcoholics Anonymous.
After four years, my collection totaled over 300 different cans - quite an accomplishment for a young boy, considering I didn't start making my own contributions until I was 16 ... er, I mean 21.
My collecting craze finally stopped, and when I left for college, I weeded out the cans I didn't want anymore, and reduced the collection to my top 50 cans, including that first Budweiser. I still have them.
I forgot all about the collection until my dad brought the boxes to my house two years ago. The collection was finally returned to me by the man who helped me start it in the first place. And even though I don't collect cans anymore, I'm sure my parents had fun helping me create it. So I know there's only one thing I could do to repay them for all the work they did for me all those years ago.
I'm going to help my dad start his very own porterhouse steak bone, beer bottle, and cigar band collection.