Protected By Steel In a Private World

By Pat Woods, 15 January, 2023
An open CD booklet and a bunch of audio cassettes piled on top of each other.

For this post, I wanted to give flowers to my neighbor Carrie. But, not just Carrie. She was participating in an online group of community members known as Buy Nothing, but focusing on her allows me to stay true to my own rules here. There are many variations of this type of group. There are online communities brought together through a mutual geographic location with a shared goal of reducing waste by connecting people who have something with a need of it to people without who have a need or want of the thing. 

I’ve benefited from my local Buy Nothing group multiple times. I built a fence using fence post braces that reduced both the labor and materials needed for the fence. I escaped the realities of that first summer of the pandemic by grilling on a charcoal grill left at a house by the former owners. The new owners already had a gas grill. My creative daughter’s many art supplies are organized in a shelving unit a neighbor no longer needs. My daughter got into Calico Critters at the perfect time as a neighbor’s daughter was no longer using the large collection she amassed over multiple years. After getting stitches in my finger for the 3rd time in about 18 months, I was relieved when a neighbor offered up a homemade bagel slicer. And these are just some of the items I remember by way of looking around my house while typing this up. 

I’m the youngest of 4, born in a year that makes me a Millennial, growing up in a house of Gen Xers, raised by Boomer parents raised by Depression Era parents. We all felt the effects of my grandparent’s residual anxiety brought on by their experiences during the depression. A common response, especially from people whose experience was living in an age of abundance, was to not think twice about putting things to the curb or whatever the easiest way to get rid of them. Otherwise, it would have felt like hoarding. 

As we all learn more about global warming and the effects of large landfills on the environment, I’ve found many people want to be more intentional about how we handle the debris of everyday life. That could be paying for composting services or being more amenable to recycling what we have and purchasing items made from recycled materials. There seems to be more of a conscious effort to think about the lifecycle of materials, both before and after we use and consume them. 

In that situation, steps Buy Nothing. My experience of interacting with this specific group is through Facebook groups which aim to find unneeded or unwanted items in one house a home in a neighbor’s house nearby. The premise and execution are rather simple. You post something, and if someone else wants or needs it, you discuss how to get it via private messages. 

What made the gift from Carrie extra appreciated was that it allowed me to tap into other stuff taking up space in my house, but stuff that brings me a lot of joy: music on physical media. Carrie gifted a boombox which I jumped on for the CD player, not realizing it also had a working cassette player. 

I consider myself an amateur music collector. I have more recordings than many people, but I wouldn’t be someone I would consider a big music collection.To me, it’s more about discovery and holding onto the important bits.  I often would sell music to get money for more music when I was in high school. I only hold onto the meaningful-to-me recordings and shed the ones that I don't like or think someone else would enjoy. 

I also have a subscription to multiple streaming services. But not everything is available everywhere. Most of the music I grew up listening to was no released on a major label. It wasn't available at Best Buy, or Tower Records. You had to search for it, you had to seek it out. Most of these releases were from bands following the DIY mindset - doing it yourself. It eliminated hurdles for them to get something released. With the coalescing of recordings landing streaming services, though, this meant most of those recordings have been left behind on technology that isn't as available anymore to play. My parents had 8-tracks and even records somewhat, I have everything else basically. 

But that’s all official release stuff. No streaming service will have the mixed tapes I made for my then-girlfriend, now wife when we first started dating. I won’t find the mixed tape an older coworker made for me to turn me onto some ’80s hardcore bands. I still love many of those bands to this day, but there are bands and songs on there that will likely never make it to a computer. 

Without realizing it, Carrie enable me to access these cherished tunes and collections. I have regained the ability to hear music that I love, from bands I’ll never see and maybe no one else remembers. Instead of being relegated to a memory in a 40-year-old guy’s fading memory of his adolescence and twenties, these musical artistic expressions can live on.