too many bird books

Too Many Bird Books

by Ed Collins/September, 2006

We were pulling into the restaurant parking lot when Judy brought up the subject of my new accordion.

She wanted to know what I paid for it.

Money is not a sore subject in our marriage, I’m grateful to say. That’s because both of us are frugal. And that we paid off our mortgage twenty years ago.

Neither of us have expensive habits.

She doesn’t buy jewelry, I don’t play internet poker.

She doesn’t pay to have her nails done. I don’t buy imported beer.

She doesn’t buy designer clothes. I don’t buy any clothes.

Neither of us have a cell phone.

Frivolous spending is limited to two items––one for her, one for me.

She owns a lot of bird books.

I possess an excessive number of cheap watches.

That’s it.

Besides the watches, neither of us wastes money on frivolous collection hobbies.

I take that back. Judy collects snapshots of dogs. I’m talking about family pictures of dogs with and/or without their owners. Occasionally she finds them at thrift shops, swap meets or antique stores.

Then she puts them in a box in her closet.

Oh, I forgot something else: There are quite a number of dogs in our house—none, however, that require feeding. They’re made of stone, ceramic, metal, wood and various composite materials. I think most are gifts from her gal friends, but I doubt all are.

Although our house is filled with artifacts, we don’t collect art, as in original paintings or sculpture. The furniture is more functional than expensive, and some of it came with the house, which we bought thirty-four years ago.

We rarely go to fancy restaurants, and when we do, we usually split a meal. Mostly we go Mexican.

Neither of us have had cosmetic surgery––yet.

It’s here where I should come clean about the cars.

Judy has one. I have three.

But there’s an explanation.

Call one the company car. It’s actually a van. And it serves a useful purpose when it carries tennis campers during summer.

And then there’s the MG. I bought it in nineteen sixty eight, a couple of years before getting married. It was brand spanking new. I’ve owned it for nearly two-thirds of my life. It has wire wheels. It’s lovingly restored. It (usually) sits in our garage under a form-fitting car cover. Judy calls it a highly insured shelf. I call it a family heirloom.

Then there’s the Volvo. It’s a nineteen eighty-six, two-forty  DL––a boxy four-door sedan that’s short on style and long on substance. It’s a tired maroon color with dents, scratches and a glove box that opens involuntarily whenever going over a speed bump or pothole, lately whenever you shut the door too hard. It looks just what you’d think a twenty-year old car would look like when it has traveled three hundred thousand miles (more or less, since the odometer stopped functioning a couple of years ago).

I paid one thousand dollars for it.

I bought the Volvo because the van is a bulky gas-guzzler and the MG is in glorious semi-retirement. For the past three years it has been my everyday car. The previous owner was an Australian sailboat captain who, after nine years of working the west coast waterways, went home. His last act, before sailing (solo) back to Sydney, was selling me his beloved Volvo.

I swear he was weeping when he watched me drive it away.

It’s not so simple to explain the desire for a new accordion.

The old one, a Giulietti, which means nothing to the reader, was purchased in the late eighties. I paid three thousand, three hundred dollars. It was—it is—a quality instrument.

I admit that my level of play doesn’t merit the Stradivarius of accordions. It’s just that I figure that when it comes to a musical instrument, why not get the best. Like a piano, trombone or guitar, the accordion has a very long lifespan.

A few years ago I got it in my mind that I wanted a musette accordion.

Musette, the reader inevitably asks?

Think French café music. It produces what you might call an ethnic sound. Considering that many of the tunes I play are Italian, Mexican, cowboy and folk, it suits me.

I bought it from a reputable dealer in Seattle. It’s a Petosa AM 1000. Almost needless to say, it was made in Italy. FedEx delivered it to my house.

When she brought up the subject of the accordion I didn’t flinch. I knew there wasn’t going to be a serious squabble.

“Let’s just say that I got a deal,” I said with what I’m sure was a playful look on my face.

“What kind of deal?” she asked. Her face was serious.

“ A seventeen hundred dollar discount.”

I knew that would set her mind reeling. Such a sizeable discount must’ve meant that the selling price was very high.

“So, that made it, what, five thousand?” she asked.

When I turned off the engine, and after setting the parking brake, I turned to face her. With the same silly look on my face, I’m sure, I told her what she didn’t want to hear.

“Seven thousand, seven hundred and fifty five dollars.”

The figure must have taken her breath away because she didn’t respond immediately. Either that or she was being careful to think before speaking.

Just before she opened her door I heard her say, almost inaudibly, “You could’ve bought a new Volvo for that much.”

“I could’ve bought 7 new Volvos,” I replied.

When she shut the door the glove box fell open again.