Wednesday, June 20 , 2018, 8:17 pm | Fair 64º


Paul Burri: The Newest Addition to a Different Kind of Collection

Giving up interesting stuff for interesting people turns friendly

I’m addicted to collecting things. At the height of my addiction, I collected crystal candlesticks, castles (not the real ones, unfortunately), netsuke, champagne flutes, fountain pens, place settings from everywhere I visited and purple coffee cups. I’m working on breaking my habits, but I wonder if I’m the only one addicted like that.

The problems with collecting stuff are three-fold. What do you do with the stuff after you get it? Where do you keep it all? And now that you’ve got it, so what?

Take my purple cup collection (they’re not that easy to find, by the way). Eventually I had a collection of about 45 of them — too many to keep in the kitchen cabinet and actually use. And who would see them in there anyway? So I had a special shelf built to display them. Then they were way too high to use conveniently, and now they needed to be dusted once in a while. The only pleasure I got out of them was to infrequently look at them and try to remember where I had gotten each one. From that simple pleasure you have to deduct the tedium of the dusting.

It’s pretty much the same with crystal candlesticks, netsuke, little ceramic castles and all the other crap I used to collect.

So now I collect interesting people instead of stuff. The best thing about collecting interesting people is that you never have to dust them, and you never have to find a place to display them. And they’re much more interesting than stuff. They’re always changing, and you can’t ever be sure about them. Sometimes you laugh with them, sometimes you laugh at them and sometimes you might even find yourself arguing with them.

Steven is the newest addition to my collection.

It all started several months ago when I read an article on Noozhawk. The article was by a man named Steven who wrote about not being able to videotape a recital by one of his daughters. It went on to describe his deep regret at not being able to preserve those moments forever. Then he talked to a friend who pointed out that he should be glad he would get to view the event “in full color,” so to speak, instead of through the tiny viewing window of a video camera. That’s a deep and poignant observation, and a better way to remember a once-in-a-lifetime event.

I was moved by the wisdom of it, and I wrote Steven a fan e-mail. That began an e-mail dialogue between us during which we exchanged thoughts, feelings, a few of each other’s columns — and a few tears.

Many of Steven’s pieces move me, and a few of mine move him. A long-distance friendship developed — long distance because even though my new friend is a California native, at the time he was renewing a high school romance in Pennsylvania. (I’ll let him tell that story himself.)

So that was several months ago. On Monday we finally met, had lunch and talked like we had known each other for years. I guess it has something to do with what they call kindred spirits or something. I think we have become something that another friend of mine invented — instant old friends. It doesn’t happen that often. I hope you know what I mean, and I hope you can experience it some day. I guess it’s sort of like love at first sight — only different.

Steven, welcome to my collection.

P.S. Is there anyone interested in a collection of mostly unused — but dusty — purple coffee cups?

— Paul Burri is an entrepreneur, inventor, columnist, engineer and iconoclast. He is not in the advertising business, but he is a small-business counselor with the Santa Barbara chapter of Counselors to America’s Small Business-SCORE. The opinions and comments in this column are his alone and do not represent the opinions or policies of any outside organization. He can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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