We’d talk to each other, but we’re just too busy

CODA

GREG BEAN

I gave up making New Year’s resolutions a few decades ago, when I finally realized they just made me feel guilty because I seldom had the internal fortitude to keep them.

But this year, I think it’s finally time to resolve to take care of a personal problem that is threatening to overwhelm me. Fact is, dear readers, I’m a hoarder. I’m not like those poor folks on television who have old chicken pot pie tins and newspapers and exercise equipment stacked to their ceilings. I only hoard two things, and although I’m shamed to admit it, those things are candy and indoor entertainment options.

I think I come by both afflictions honestly. When I was a kid in a house full of brothers, our mother never bought candy because it would be gone in about two seconds and usually led to fistfights. If I wanted candy to myself, I saved my pennies until I had a dollar’sworth, trudged myself down to the penny candy counter at the drugstore, bought a hundred pieces, took it home and hid it inmy sock drawer or in a hollow under the loose board in my closet.

Itwas the same with entertainment, at least the indoor variety. We only had one movie theater in town that played a kid-friendly movie about once every six weeks, and one television station, which had shows we kids wanted to watch — “Sea Hunt” and “Highway Patrol” and “Combat,” for example — only on Saturday night. We also had one record store, where we could afford the occasional 45 rpm by Herman’s Hermits or the Dave Clark Five, but the enjoyment was relatively short-lived, since you can only listen to “I’mHenry the Eighth” 60 or 70 times before you start thinking of dumping a jar of honey on your brother’s head, just to pass the time.

That left the rest of the week to books, which were also scarce and problematic. There was the public library, of course, but it was a three-mile walk there and a three-mile walk home, which was impossible between October and May on account of snowdrifts. And there was Ralph’s bookstore, where Ralph would occasionally sell us cut-rate paperbacks that nobody else wanted for short money, as long as we weren’t picky about the subject matter.

I ended up reading a lot of Jacqueline Suzanne that way, but when you were lucky enough to score something good, like an Ian Fleming James Bond scorcher, you had to guard itwith your life because everybody else wanted to read it — brothers, friends, even parents. They weren’t particularly nice about it, either, and if you didn’t turn it over fast enough, they’d flat out steal it. I usually hid my best books under that loose board in the closet.

I carried those behaviors forged from childhood privation into adulthood, but it was manageable. I bought a lot of books, and seldom got rid of any until the weight of my library threatened to crack the foundation of the house. My wife is a reader also, so she didn’t complain. Nor did she complain when I bought record albums, and cassette tapes, and later CDs, as long as I didn’t raid the butter and egg money to feed my neurotic addictions And everybody in the family knew about the “secret” hoard of candy in my sock drawer. If they raided my stash occasionally, they always left me enough for a late-night taste while I was reading in bed.

All that has changed in the last few years, however.

On the candy front, once the kids moved out there was nobody to reduce the stocks, although I kept buying and the candy kept piling up faster than I could cram it in my mouth. When I looked in the drawer last week, there were five cans of nuts, two packages of Twizzlers, two bags of Jelly Bellies, two bags of Butterfingers left over from Halloween, and a tub of orange slices.

I can address that situation by buying less and eating faster, so that part of my New

Year’s resolution will

be attainable.

It won’t be as easy on the entertainment front. As you know, entertainment options have exploded in the last decade. Instead of basic cable, we’ve got a package that comes with a bazillion stations (never anything worth watching) and a couple of premium channels. We’ve got On Demand, so we can watch the latest movies in the comfort of our living room (we haven’t bought a TiVo yet, although we’ve discussed it). And my wife and I both have Netflix accounts, which allow us to have eight movies at a time between us.

I’ve got a classic iPod, which has over 1,000 songs on it from my CD collection and new stuff coming in all the time. That gizmo is also the repository for the two audio books I get amonth under my subscription plan, and the television series we occasionally download from iTunes. If I listened to every song and book on that iPod, and watched all the television, it would take around eight weeks, 24/7.

But that’s not the end of it. I’ve pretty much stopped buying books on paper, but my wife and I both have Kindles (matching), and as of this morning, I had eight books on mine, waiting to be read (most of them were free, although I paid for others).

Although it feels good to admit my secrets, the shame of such profligacy is still burdensome.

While we were on vacation, one of the boys asked if we’d like to have iPhones, or iPads, sowe could play some game where you shoot angry birds out of a slingshot, and download applications that would tell us about stars and how to translate road signs and menus in foreign languages.

No, I don’t need one of those, I said, unless you can figure out how to put 48 hours in a day. What I need is an intervention. Failing that, I need a little willpower to keep these New Year’s resolutions.

I’ll get on it, as soon as I finish the new John Grisham I’m reading on my Kindle. Gregory Bean is the former executive editor of Greater Media Newspapers. You can reach him at gbean@gmnews.com.