If It Feels Good Do It
Or how to build the perfect record collection
I think it was back in 2013 when I started to really enjoy coffee. More than that, I enjoyed answering “how do you take it?” with “black”. Years of Hollywood and spy novels went into delivering that small hit of dopamine every time I got to order my coffee like a real man.
Even more absurd? Someone once asked me if I liked Turkish coffee. I said that I did, despite the fact that I had never even tried it. In my mind, I had some idea that I was a tough guy if I signaled my ability to survive the “strongest” coffee out there. I actually finally got to try it last month in Greece. Imagine pouring yourself a cup of coffee, dumping it in the sink, and then drinking the grounds from the filter instead. That’s Turkish coffee, and it is unequivocally bad. What in the world was I thinking?
Who Are You Anyway?
If you watch yourself and others, you’ll quickly find that life is a constant cycle of projecting your actual self vs. projecting what you think other people want. I lied about trying and liking a certain type of coffee from a country halfway around the world in pursuit of some increase in status that I had made up in my head. Given it’s taken me a long time to recognize and own who I really am, I’d guess more than half of things I’ve said or done over the past 32 years were things I didn’t really believe.
Once you start looking for examples, you can quickly catch yourself, and others, in the act.
A recent transgression of mine first started back in 2019. I had just moved into my tastefully furnished West Village apartment on Bleecker and Charles, and Marisa got me a record player as a housewarming gift, really tying the room together. But the minute I got it, I was overwhelmed with both the opportunity and the risk ahead of me. Because that record player needed records, and my records needed to fit a certain image.
Which ones would I buy? What if I bought the wrong ones? Which would project the vibe I’m going for? Jazz is cool right? Old hip hop? Do I even know any of the songs on this one? The album covers obviously need to look cool. Can it be brand new or does it need to be bought from an old record shop?
I was hamstrung by my estimations of other people’s expectations. It was as if my stature would elevate or diminish forever based on records in my collection.
Big Advice From a Big Drinker
Fortunately, the best advice I’ve ever heard on the topic came from a supposedly-Italian man named Peter.
It was during our honeymoon that we took a cooking/drinking class in Positano, Italy. Peter, our Italian host with pale skin and a British accent, took us down to his wine cellar after our third course. There, in a cavern that dated back to 300 A.D., he started bringing out bottle after bottle. For one of them, he mentioned that he thought it would explode in value over the next five years. Every dollar-hungry American in the class perked up. One of them then asked how to identify and collect similar types of bottles. Peter’s answer was simple: “collect the ones you like.”
Wait a minute, if I’m building a record collection, I should buy the ones I like to listen to? That can’t be the answer. Does that mean I shouldn’t buy a record because it has one famous song on it and the rest are garbage? Does that mean I shouldn’t purchase that famous album everyone has because I actually don’t like it that much?
Initially it feels more risky to lean into yourself. When you try to fit in there’s at least comfort in numbers. But unconsciously following the crowd then means you never get to add anything new to the conversation.
And guess what! You’re allowed to buy a record just because you like the cover art. You’re allowed to pour a whole gallon of milk into your coffee. You’re allowed to go to a Bruce Springsteen concert even though you only really know two of his songs and the rest all blend together (God he’s so good live). Just own it!
I’m at the point where I walk up to the bar and shout “I’ll take the lightest beer you’ve got!” Why? Because I’m done chewing on these quadruple IPA’s. Talk about manly…
Stick Your Neck Out To Stand Out
When I was younger I absolutely judged other people for pursuing things or having opinions that made them stand out. Now those people are my favorites. Freely curating your record collection is a small first step in the right direction. Buy what you like. Do what you like. And if that’s scary, maybe it’s time to find out what you like.