My First eBay Bidding War–Definitely Worth Recording

Susie went out this evening for dinner at The Spaghetti Warehouse, and then to the 11:30 showing of The Rocky Horror Picture Show at Studio 35.  So, it’s just the laptop, the blog, and me here right now.  (Susie flies back to Florida late Monday morning, but she has managed to see many of her good friends while she has been visiting here in Ohio.)

While I was in Florida, I ventured where I had never been–but in territory which is familiar to many people I know.  I found myself in a bidding war on eBay.

A day or two before Christmas (and going down to Florida to celebrate the holiday), I set my sights on a Lafayette RK-710 reel-to-reel tape recorder.  I picked the brains of my fellow members of the Reel-to-Reel Enthusiasts’ group on Facebook, since I had never heard of Lafayette.  All reassured me that the Lafayette Radio Electronics Corporation was a reputable company.  So, I submitted a bid a dollar or two above the price listed in the posting.

To my surprise, eBay sent a notice to my email saying that someone had bid higher than I had.  I immediately jumped onto eBay and raised the price by a dollar.  It was after placing the bid that I realized that my “opponent” had only raised the stakes by about $0.11 or $0.12.  I raised it a dollar, and saw that bidding would close the next day around 8 p.m. EST.

Steph pointed out to me that I was the one who was driving up the price.  Apparently, the other bidder realized this as well, since he/she automatically set the account to raise the price a dollar each time I placed a bet.

I sat out the next 12 hours, although I set the alarm on my cell phone to go off five minutes before bidding closed.  Patiently, I watched the timer run down, and discovered that the other bidder had placed a $40 ceiling on automatically raising bids.  As time was down to about 15 seconds, I increased the bid by $0.50, and received the good news that the tape recorder was now mine.

A Facebook friend told me that there was another–far more universal–tactic for bidding on Facebook.  It is called “sniping,” and it involved not driving up the price by matching and exceeding bids.  It involves sitting there quietly as the time runs out on bidding, and, as close to the last second as possible, putting in the highest bid.

The recorder came yesterday by FedEx Ground.  Susie was home to take it off the porch, which was a good thing, since there has been a rash of package thefts here in SoHud during the Christmas season.  She emailed me at work that the package was here, so I was on the edge of my seat the rest of the day, willing the clock to move more quickly to 5 p.m. so I could get home and try out the new machine.

My new toy, the four-track Lafayette RK-710 recorder.

Oddly enough, this would be the third reel-to-reel machine to be under my roof.  This past summer, I met my old friend Scott–we met in seventh grade at St. Mary’s Middle School.  As the only non-Catholics in the class, we naturally gravitated toward each other.  In high school, we discovered a mutual fascination with radios and iron oxide tape, so we spent many hours immersed in tape, patchcords, and microphones.  
When Scott and his wife moved to a farm in Licking County, he decided to unload many of the possessions he no longer needed–a lesson I have yet to learn!  So, we met for brunch at the Blue Danube, and, after long conversation and the usual filling meal, he gave me two portable tape recorders, a Sony and a Penncrest, both of which were familiar to me from the afternoons and evenings we spent using them.

I wanted to buy yet another machine because neither portable machine could accommodate seven-inch reels.  Also, the motor on one machine seemed to be DOA, and the other did not record, at least not with the microphone that came with it.

The new Lafayette machine (pictured above) had one cosmetic flaw.  The tone and volume knobs are both missing, so I turn them with a small slothead screwdriver that fits just perfectly.  (The missing knobs did not concern me; I changed channels with a pair of pliers on the TV I had when I lived in Cincinnati.)  Also, the machine’s 1 7/8 inches-per-second speed did not seem to work.

I tried some of the tapes that Scott had given me.  (Since he no longer had the equipment to play them, he gave me his reel-to-reel tapes as well.)  One was a three-inch reel of the audio of Star Trek‘s third-season episode “The Tholian Web” (Stardate 5693.2), and the sound quality and speed was erratic, which had me worried.  I had better results when I took a five-inch reel at random, and heard a crystal-clear recording of Side 2 of Pink Floyd’s Animals.

My next concern was whether I had a two- or four-track machine.  When I lived in Cincinnati, I bought a Wollensak reel-to-reel recorder from my across-the-hall neighbors, who sold it to me one night when they were desperate for beer money.  (When you’ve got ’em by the addiction, their hearts and minds will follow.)  Soon afterwards, the College Conservatory of Music had its annual record sale.  At this sale, they featured commercially produced reel-to-reel tapes for $0.25 apiece.  I bought two operas, plus a recording of an Israeli string quartet.  (I had no idea what music was on the latter tape, since the liner notes and listings on the box were all in Hebrew.)

I came back to my apartment eager to try out my new treasures.  I threaded one of the opera tapes into the Wollensak and pressed the PLAY button, and was utterly crestfallen.  I had a two-track machine, and it was a four-track tape.  While playing side one, the machine played side two backwards at the same time!

This afternoon, while Susie was having lunch with her Coming of Age mentor, I went to Used Kids (where, as faithful readers of this blog will remember, I bought four milk crates of 78 RPM records for $20 in November).  The manager was nice enough to give me a piece of equipment I desperately needed and which did not come with the recorder–a seven-inch take-up reel.  I spent $3 on a four-track commercial reel-to-reel album, Tribute to the Big Bands under the Tape-Mates label (TMS-102).  It’s a three-hour tape which includes all the big names of the Big Band era, such as Glen Miller, Artie Shaw, Les Brown and His Band of Renown, Duke Ellington, etc.  With trepidation, I put it in the Lafayette, and lo and behold, it played crisply, and only one side at a time.

My fascination with recording, and my tendency to want to hang onto things “in case I need them later” was the cause of an ongoing battle Steph and I had whenever we contemplated a move.  The Wollensak came with me in 1995 when I moved from Cincinnati to Columbus, although I kept the same spool of tape on the machine and never played it (and never found a microphone for it).  Steph kept urging me to get rid of it, but I was adamant that where I went, it went.  The conflict was similar to a friend of Steph’s son, a teenager who refused to part with his Fisher Price farm set, which had been in a box collecting dust in the basement since he had been in grade school.  He balked at allowing his mother to give the set to Susie, who was a toddler at the time.

I have owned a variety of tape recorders since I received my first one as a gift on my eighth Christmas.  Most of them have been cassette recorders.  As is the case now, I did not collect eight-track tapes or recorders.  (Eight-track is the only medium that is explicitly unwelcome in my home.)  Tape fascinated me so much that I began avidly following Watergate once Alexander Butterfield disclosed the existence of Nixon’s secret taping system.  I also looked forward to Mission: Impossible reruns so I could see the way that Dan Briggs and Jim Phelps retrieved the recordings that would explain their next assignments.

(I was quite happy when one technophile posted a YouTube video showing the different makes and models that Mission: Impossible employed in the series.)

Susie is not a fan of Big Band music, so while I was trying out the new (to me) tape that I had bought at Used Kids, she put on her earbuds and listened to music from her laptop.  I was in the dining room (which, among other things, is the place where I moor the Schwinn Meridian) with the tape recorder on a bookcase, and she was typing away at her TV Tropes and fan fiction pages, listening to the music she liked while I was listening to the various Big Band instrumental numbers, this time more to see how reliable the machine was, although I developed a liking for swing and Big Band music through my association with the old-time radio circuit.

Maybe I’m older than I realize.  Just after I won the bid for the Lafayette, I proudly posted a picture of it on my Facebook page.  One of my fellow bookstore co-workers, who is 20 or 21 at the oldest, posted, “What is that?”  He had no idea what it was, or what I did.  So, I explained, and then posted a link to Wikipedia’s entry on reel-to-reel recording.

That way, I can tell myself I educated someone, as well as spending money on a new toy.

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Time-Tested and -Honored Social Media

Several blog posts ago, I wrote about the SoHud Block Watch that my neighbors have organized in response to the graffiti, car break-ins, thefts, and vandalism occurring in our particular patch of Columbus the last several months.  Word of mouth worked well when the idea of a Block Watch first started to percolate, and this quickly progressed to closed groups on Yahoo!, Google Groups, and Facebook.

The latest meeting was last night at the Maynard Ave. United Methodist Church.  I was unable to be there in person, since I went to a parents’ meeting at The Charles School at Ohio Dominican University, where Susie began classes last Monday, but I was able to play a part before the meeting occurred.

With all the cyberspace methods of spreading news now available to just about anyone, the SoHud Block Watch decided to spread the news the old-fashioned way.  When I came home from work Monday, there was a stack of leaflets and a roll of Scotch tape in between the storm door and my front door.  The organizer had assigned me territory as to where to hang these.  So, the following night, I went out with the little stack of leaflets and the roll of tape, and began taping them to the doors of houses.  My territory was east of where Susie and I live, short blocks sandwiched by N. 4th St. to the west and the Norfolk Southern train tracks to the east.

I needed the exercise, and it was not as brutally cold as it has been the past several nights, although it was icy and I nearly fell several occasions.  (Grudgingly, I am coming to realize that I am coming to an age when a fall can have serious consequences.  So far, I have imitated the Weeble: I wobble, but I don’t fall down.)  I went up and down both sides of the block on Wyandotte Ave., E. Maynard, Chilcote, and Clinton, before I ran out of flyers.

One of the organizers of the Block Watch publicly complimented me on Facebook for a job well done, since several newcomers from the sections I canvassed appeared at the meeting.  While I was out in the night with my stack of flyers and the roll of tape, I felt a little like the town criers you see in children’s stories about the American Revolution.  (I remember seeing a flyer in a supermarket that was called Town Crier, and its logo was a guy in a tri-corner hat, ruffles, tights, and boots, ringing a bell, and from his wide open mouth was a voice balloon shouting, “Hear ye!  Hear ye!”)

My route was supposed to cover E. Tompkins as well, but I ran out of copies.  (Before I began distributing, I put two copies in my diary, so when those pages are studied by the historians of the future, there will be extant copies for all to see.)  Many flyers, whether for political candidates, bands, pro- or anti-abortion rallies, or store openings, usually end up in the trash within hours.  Sometimes, I have looked on eBay to see if anyone is selling original copies of the Hands Off Cuba! Fair Play for Cuba Committee leaflets that Lee Harvey Oswald distributed on the streets of New Orleans in the summer of 1963.  I have also looked to see if anyone has the original handbill for the Ford’s Theater performance of Our American Cousin for the April 1865 night when Lincoln was assassinated.

Wonder how many of these were discarded before Lincoln went to the theater that night?

In 1960, Richard Nixon, who was then Vice President, made a campaign stop in Marietta when he was running against John F. Kennedy for President.  My parents, who were quite enthusiastic Kennedy supporters, went to see Nixon speak in front of the National Guard Armory on Front St.  I have always been irritated by the fact that my dad eventually lost much of his ’60 Kennedy campaign memorabilia–his PT-109 tie bar, his Frank Sinatra campaign record (“High Hopes”), and his ALL THE WAY WITH JFK button, but he did manage to keep a little pamphlet called The White House–American or Roman?, by V.E. Howard.  It addressed the question of whether it was proper for a Roman Catholic to be President.  After reading two or three paragraphs, you can tell that the answer is a screeching “No!”  (I keep my copy inside the front cover of a 1922 book, The Suppressed Truth About the Assassination of Abraham Lincoln, by Burke McCarty.  The “suppressed truth,” of course, was that the Vatican was behind Lincoln’s murder.)

When I arrived in Boston in 1982, I arrived pretty much broke, and was desperately searching for jobs that paid very soon after taking them.  Before I took my short-lived job as a dishwasher and busboy at a delicatessen in Brookline, I considered taking a job leafleting in Harvard Square.  These were small flyers for any business that paid to produce them, anything from shoe stores to tailors.  The pay was minimum wage, and it meant standing out in the weather and trying to press these into the hands of passersby who avoided you as much as they avoided the panhandlers, and also competing with people handing out other types of printed matter.  Women in hijabs timidly held out “paper against Khomeini,” and Scientologists badgered people about taking a “personality test.”  (I told one that I already took one, and it said I was obnoxious.)  Hare Krishnas endlessly tried to issue invitations to free vegetarian meals (I kept one of their brochures in my wallet, in case I ever needed a free meal), and Bridge Over Troubled Waters workers tried to get literature to runaways and kids living on the streets about their services.  I decided not to try to take this job, although the leafleting service would have hired anyone who could stay in one place and move one arm for eight hours.

I have searched eBay, so far in vain, for the WANTED FOR TREASON handbills that circulated in Dallas in November 1963, in the days before John Kennedy’s assassination.  These featured front and side photographs of Kennedy, and was styled like the posters that hung in post office lobbies.  Many Dallas-area Democrats (and Republicans who were not on the far end of the political and lunatic spectrum) probably declined them, and tossed them into the nearest trash can, but their value skyrocketed from the moment the news spread that Kennedy had been killed.

Political extremists, both Left and Right, still cling to the art of the leaflet.  As recently as my last few trips to Washington, for peace and anti-fracking marches, I have come home with “9/11 was an inside job” flyers, poorly printed and typeset descriptions of chemtrails and how they’re turning us all into zombies, and the evils of the Federal Reserve and the Trilateral Commission.

Evangelism learned the value of the flyer long ago.  Bill Bright, founder of Campus Crusade for Christ, managed to condense his version of the New Testament into a short little work called The Four Spiritual Laws, which is short enough to be readable over a single cup of coffee and a sandwich.  And, there is Jack T. Chick, a Talibangelist who has published booklet-sized comic books to spread his own way-out-there version of the Gospel (along with other “little-known facts” such as that the Vatican was responsible for the Holocaust, that Dungeons and Dragons is a gateway drug for Satanic worship, etc.), and many of his tracts are given out at trick-or-treat (with or without razor blade-studded candy), left in Laundromats, or on buses and public restrooms.  One tract you won’t see much anymore is Lisa, which is beyond question his most grotesque.

I’ll make one brief segue before ending this entry.  I finally broke down and bought an external keyboard, since my keyboard has been DOA, when I tipped over a cup of milk on it.  The thought never occurred to me until this week, but tonight Susie and I went to Micro Center so she could buy a new power cord for her Acer laptop.  For a mere $4.05, I bought an Inland external keyboard.  It took less than 10 minutes to install, and now I am back in business.  It’s not as easy to use as the regular keyboard, but it is much better than trying to use the onscreen keyboard!

Now I’m Famous For My Cough?

My appointment with the pulmonologist is Monday, and I’m starting to act like a little kid counting down the days and hours until Christmas Day.  (I have never felt that way about going to the doctor.  And I saw quite a bit of my pediatrician as a child.  I was sick so often as a child that I named my doll Jones, after my pediatrician.)

I was in my cubicle working this afternoon, mostly on Statements of Fact and ex parte orders, and I heard someone come up from the mail room with some files.  A supervisor said, “Oh, those go to Paul.”  I heard him say, “He’s the guy with the cough, isn’t he?”

Steph has been at choir practice tonight, and that is always followed by pizza and wine at a restaurant in Worthington.  Quite a few times tonight, I’ve picked up my tape recorder to try to start a taped letter to a friend of mine, but never got past the first minute or two.  I had to keep shutting off the mike to cough, and it’s hard to draw enough breath to speak for any length of time.

All my visits to the pediatrician as a child have had one benefit, and that is that I am not squeamish about needles.  I don’t like them, but I am able to get shots and have my blood drawn without panicking.  (A co-worker of mine is absolutely terrified of them, which I find amusing, because he’s an ex-Marine.  Mr. Lean, Mean Fighting Machine cannot stand to have his blood drawn.)  The aforementioned pediatrician was very quick with the syringe (which I called the “shot pencil”), and generous with penicillin and gamma globulin for most childhood ailments.

My friend Robert sent me a link to eBay: A Royal portable manual typewriter signed by J.D. Salinger is on sale.  The minimum price is $500.