If you haven’t seen City Slickers then at least track down the two best scenes on YouTube, Netflix, Hulu, or whatever other video medium we have today that Popular Science failed to envision back in 1960.
The first (and arguably best) of these two scenes is, of course, the Ice Cream Showdown. In this scene, the characters Barry and Ira (played by Ben and Jerry) have their knowledge of ice cream food pairings challenged by the protagonist Mitch Robbins (played by veteran character actor Mike Wazowski). I won’t spoil it here with a silly recap. You have to see it for yourself.
I’ll wait . . .
But coming up in a close second place, we have the above pictured scene where the grizzled herd boss Curly rides alone with Mitch and helps Mitch out with his midlife crisis.
Curly: Do you know what the secret of life is? [He holds up one finger, shown here, and answers] This.
Mitch: Your finger?
Curly: One thing! Just one thing. You stick to that and the rest don’t mean sh!t.
Mitch: But, what is the “one thing?”
Curly: [smiles] That’s what *you* have to find out.
The thing is, he’s right. Find that one thing, stick to it, and you are already ninety percent of the way there.
My “one thing” is actually multiple things, but I can easily group them into a single concept. It’s something I simply call “creative endeavors.” And the top three are writing, music, and art (the order constantly changes). I feel like I have a modicum of talent in these areas and I believe it’s my calling to produce as much creative output as I can as long as I’m still breathing and able to do so.
And it is exactly for this reason that, like Mitch Robbins, I’ve been stuck in a midlife crisis for the last thirty years. My overall total LACK of creative output is a constant source of stress and anxiety for me. Because “art” serves no practical purpose, it always takes a backseat to absolutely everything else in life. (For more on this topic, I suggest you read this article from The Onion, which hits a bit too close to home, but is still funny because The Onion.)
“Uhhh, okay Charlie. So what does all this have to do with moving?”
Good question, Dear Reader! I am so glad you asked. My answer begins with this picture.
That is just a fraction of the videocassettes I’ve had sitting around for the last twenty years. They’re not home movies. They’re not Disney classics. They’re what’s left of my video production business that ran from about 1994 to 1999. Back then, when I was only ten years into my midlife crisis, I had a brilliant idea:
Video production! What a great idea! I could build up my own business and have a great outlet for my creative bent.
In those five years or so, I videotaped and edited a lot of weddings, dance recitals, events, and so on. I did photo and home movie transfers. I learned a lot. I wrote my first books on the very subject.
And I’m not embarrassed to admit: some of that work was pretty darn good. Far better than Uncle Bob with the camcorder would ever be able to do. Sure, it never got far enough for me to “quit the day job” but that was always a long shot.
So now it’s 2015 and time to pack up everything and move again. For our last move, back in 2001, I just boxed all this work and vowed to “deal with it later.” Well, “later” is at last upon us. And there were about four or five hundred of these tapes to go through.
My first hope was to find a way to recycle them. As it turns out, recycling VHS tapes, as-is, is extremely difficult. The thought crossed my mind of just chucking them all, but I simply could not bring myself to do that. Videotape is neither recyclable nor outright tossable, as it’s full of Bad Stuff for the planet.
So I decided to break each tape down into its components: plastic shells, screws, little metal bits, and, of course, the tape reels themselves:
It was slow going at first, until I hit my stride. My first tape took about three and a half minutes to break down, making the entire task feel pretty daunting. Luckily I soon got it down to about twenty seconds per tape. Hey, no problem. I’m cleaning out the garage, moving ahead with my life, and saving the entire planet in the process. You’re welcome.
But then something happened that I didn’t expect. I got sad. And then after I got sad, I got depressed. I realized every single tape was filled with hours and hours of creative effort. I bought all the equipment to record it, bought all of these tapes to store it, spent the time dragging everything out to each gig, spent the time setting it up and shooting it (several cameras per event). I brought it all home and digitized the analog tapes. I reviewed footage. Edited footage. Created graphics. Added music. I produced a pretty dang good product. And now it was just trash.
Every single tape, filled with hours and hours of work: unceremoniously disassembled, divided into piles, and packed up to be sent to different processing facilities depending on the material.
Wedding video. Trash.
Dance recital. Trash.
Home movies. Trash.
Nothing to show for any of that now.
Sheesh, I went through a bout of life-threatening cancer and I never felt this bad. I mean, just look at all this:
See? I warned you about all this when I started. As soon as the topic of moving came up, I knew I’d eventually start whining about piddly problems. I have NOTHING to complain about here. I’m not being driven from my war-torn country. I’m throwing away decades-old videotapes.
The good news is (yes, there’s good news): I got over it pretty quickly. I ended up hanging on to one box of tapes that I felt was representative of my work and oddly enough that helped a LOT. I may digitize those someday and upload them to some other place Popular Science failed to foresee in the World of Tomorrow. Or I may just break them down and recycle them when I move again in fifteen years.
But the real lesson here is: I’m not actually throwing anything away. Because what really matters is what I carry around in my head. It’s not the finished product of hundreds or even thousands of hours of work, but everything I learned along the way. All of that is what helped make me the me I am today. And I definitely get to take “me” to the next house.