Saturday, June 16, 2012


The situation at 7588 Chevy Chase Drive had already been unbearable for several weeks by the time the hell months crept up on us. Whenever it got hot, all that vermin that had somehow found its way into our walls would start to cook and by May the place would be filled with the sickening smell of dead, rotting rats. During our first year of living there, we had called maintenance to handle the problem. Later that day a cluster of Mexicans sat in our pantry where they had cut into the dry wall and pulled rat corpse after rat corpse out of the hole. The scene was reminiscent of that handkerchief trick you’d get out of a toy store magic kit.

April had been unseasonable warm, and the smell was back again. This time, the management’s solution was to simply drill a hole into the wall where they suspected the corpse might be and pump bleach into it. Instead of helping to any degree, this only exasperated the stench, adding a lung-burning chemical quality to the bouquet.  In fact, to combat the odor we were forced to put up those Christmas tree shaped car fresheners just to make the place tolerable.

That wasn’t all. Spring had brought torrential storms, several of which had flooded our living room. A strange bacterial infection had killed off all the fish in my tank, so the display sat oddly without any life or activity at that point. Then there were the Nigerian neighbors who would blast disco starting at 7am every day and shoot me menacing glares before spitting on the ground whenever they saw me. It was like the wrath of Moses on Egypt, and it was time to fucking go.

The fog of misery which permeated every corner had possessed me, and in retrospect I realize just how mean I’d gotten over those last few months in that place. I had sort of a George Lutz thing going on with where I was living. Even just going back to clean the place up transformed me into a giant barbed hardon.

Thankfully, this period of suffering was punctuated with some good luck and we closed on a house that we’d been negotiating on for months. In fact, the day we closed, we decided to sleep on the floor without so much as a stick of furniture in the place simply because we couldn’t hack another night while knowing there was an alternative. Sleeping on the floor of our new home was easily a million times better than being in that apartment for another second.

The process of actually looking for the right house during those last several months probably compounded my unhappiness. We saw a lot of poorly laid out floor plans, slathered in bad vibes. And of course, a huge consideration for me when shopping around was my growing VHS collection. Our future home absolutely needed to accommodate my tapes.

When I first scheduled an appointment to view the home that we’d later buy, I was immediately skeptical, but I was also desperate by that point. The one thing that really bugged me about it was that it had a converted garage. I hate that shit. Most of the time, the garage that’s been converted is shoeboxish and the renovation is converted with little thought, and usually perpetrated by some yuppie fuck bag who's just trying to cram more Mexicans into whatever POS he's trying to flip. However, the house on Hilltop had a converted two-car garage, and great care had been made to add a car port. A lot of thought had gone into the renovation.

Once we arrived, our agent fumbled with the lock box for an uncomfortable amount of time before it hit the ground with a loud clunk. I stepped inside onto hardwood floors and immediately liked the circular layout and the brightness. Then, I broke left toward the living room – the area of most importance to me. It was spacious and sunken, and to the right there was a doorway that stepped up into a cave-like oblong room. It was a really weird fucking space with absolutely no practical purpose. Fortunately, I'm not normal, and I immediately recognize its potential.

Months later, we were loading my custom VHS shelves into the room, and much to our total delight discovered that they fit perfectly.

I am currently waiting on the construction of one more custom shelve for the room to house the rest of the tapes. Virtually everything I have will be off the ground and out of piles for the first time in years. Still, I’m dreading what will happen once I start buying tapes again.

At the old place, I was really restricted by the amount of space. It wasn’t exactly small, but I wasn’t able to put my records and videos in on single room. This large space basically permitted me to join the living room, the VHS room, and my stereo system and records, which had to be kept in our bedroom.

A lot of people have asked me if I painted that mural of the Golden Gate Bridge on that utility door behind the theater seats. The answer is no, but I am considering painting Dirty Harry rising from the sea like Godzilla to destroy the bridge into it. By the way, those seats were cheap as fuck – 75 bucks on Craigslist for all four. You just have to keep an eye out for stuff like this. Even my screen, which is a manual pull down, was only eighty bucks or so.

I’m gonna give you people some of the specs on my video set up, too, since I have had a few people who are getting into tapes ask me what I use and recommend.

First off, I use a JVC Super VHS ET. I have to thank Lars Nilsen of the Alamo for recommending this player, because up until I bought it, I was just burning through anything I’d find at Goodwill. Prior to buying this player, I was using a horrible VHS/DVD combo I bought at Target that started eating tapes a few months into its lifespan. I understand that the JVC Super VHS player can go for upwards of 200 bucks online, but I found mine at a thrift store down south for about fourteen bucks thanks to the heads up from Lars. I also bought a Kinyo rewinder from a Hollywood Video that was going out of business to save the machine a little wear and tear. This is a quality player, though. If you see one cheap, grab it. The auto calibration feature rips, and I also love the fact that when you fast forward it plays snippets of real time audio of the scenes you’re passing through.

I plug my VCR into the same receiver I use for my stereo, which is a Sony STR-DE835. This thing is a monster. You don’t need to push it very hard to make it obnoxiously loud. It also has a really cool EQ function.  I actually had to buy one of these when I moved because somehow both of my receivers stopped working. The new Sony is miles above and beyond anything I have ever used either for my stereo or movie room before, and is probably going to force me to buy new speakers soon.

As for the projector, I own a Dell 1100MP. It’s older and heavier, which has caused some problems with the ceiling mount position over time, but it’s hands down better than the newer model Dell I had been using. The brightness is ferocious and it’s been running forever. In fact, the one I now own is the same one I used for the live VHS Summer events I held at Beerland.

This has become an ideal place to see movies, so I’ll probably be doing a lot more watching in the months to come, especially now that I can fucking breath. 


  1. Glad to see you're all moved in and have the time to write again! My girlfriend and I are about to move into a new place as well next month and though space for my media collection was a major consideration, I have nothing even remotely approaching that amazing VHS nook to look forward to. Also, that exact JVC is one of the five VCRs I own and this post has reminded me that I really need to clean the heads on it.

  2. Adam - awesome to hear from you. Good luck with the move, man. I'm still swamped with repairing various things, but I'm working on adding contributors to this thing. Josh Johnson, who is filming a VHS Documentary, should be on board soon.

    That JVC is a total ripper. Best VCR I have ever owned. Love it. And looks so much more clean than the Phillips I mentioned in this article. Hang onto that thing. It's even worth repairing if you have to do that.