A KC Column by KC Carlson
Things are moving along with the recent flooding incident in our basement which damaged a few dozen boxes of comics. Our insurance company has stepped up in a big way, and now it’s up to me to get things cleaned up, reorganized, and stored more safely.
The insurance company agreed to replace the carpeting in the TV room, which is next to the comics room downstairs. Initially, we thought that room had escaped the flooding entirely, but within 48 hours of the storm, I started hearing squishy noises in several places around the room, notably around my desk. I didn’t realize that area was wet because of the big plastic mat I have under my rolling desk chair. It took an extra day or so for me to squeeze the water under my chair out past the chair mat, and soon I was hearing “squish, squish, squish” when I walked anywhere in my general desk area. That same day, we discovered that the water from the comics room had also seeped under the wall into the area where the TV and other electronics were. Insurance agreed that more of this room was affected than we first thought, so now it’s up to us to find time to pick some new carpeting and get it installed.
Unfortunately, real-world timing issues are preventing an orderly flow of getting things done. The flood happened in the middle of Johanna’s transition from an old job to a brand new one (never the best of times in any circumstance). Plus, a pre-scheduled family beach vacation meant that she was going to be away from the house for a week. Thankfully, great internet connections kept various conversations going during her absence, though I regretted that she was having to “work” somewhat during her family break.
MORE THAN JUST COMICS
Me, I hate the beach anyway — and there were certainly plenty of things for me to do here at home that week! My first task was getting as much wet stuff out of the basement as possible to be either discarded or recycled. Besides comics, I also collected a lot of very heavy glossy music and other entertainment magazines. These were stored in yet another room — which also flooded. I spent a lot of the week hauling 40-50 pound (made heavier because they were soaked!) magazine boxes full of Entertainment Weekly or Q (British music mag). Luckily, my near-complete collection of Mojo (an even cooler British music magazine… at least back then) escaped the water because they were on shelves. Shelves bowing from their weight… but on shelves nonetheless.
So, the week J. was gone, most days went something like this… Get up. Make sure to put good shoes on. Carry a bunch of wet boxes upstairs. Carefully put them on a soon-to-be-discarded rug, to protect the hardwood kitchen floor. Close the basement door. Open the door to go to the garage, because some genius designed the house so the two doors backed into each other and could not be used at the same time. (Two days later I realized that I could just take the basement door off its hinges. No genius I…) Carry all the wet stuff into the garage to be dealt with. Repeat until near-collapse. (Since I was usually carrying about 50 pounds or more of wet paper, four or five trips up and down the stairs pretty much did me in temporarily. I now actually believe I am 60 years old.)
Then I’d head back downstairs (where it was cooler!) and collapse in a chair until I was ready for the next round of pretending I was a pack mule. Thankfully, one of my favorite 1960s bands — The Turtles — had just re-released two remastered box sets of all of their sixties material (eight CDs total). So I had entertainment to listen to at near-ear-splitting-volume while the rest of my body attempted to rest up. So, thank you, Happy Together, Elenore, Sound Asleep (which I wished I was), and even Can’t You Hear the Cows! (“Moo, baby!”) I listened to an album’s worth of music after each set of four or five trips up and down… and up and down the stairs.
IF YOU DON’T RECYCLE, BABY, YOU KNOW YOU’RE GONNA GIVE ME THE BLUES
After I got several loads of stinky, mushy former magazines into the garage, it was time to load up the car and head to the Fitchburg Recycling Center, thoughtfully located only a mile from the house. Now, when we first moved into this house some four years ago, I could have sworn that they had dumpsters labeled “Mixed Paper” (as well as “Cardboard,” “Metal Cans,” etc., etc.). Now the majority of the dumpsters were labeled “Cardboard Only”. What the heck?!? Where was I going to put all these magazines? I hauled everything back home and hit the Internet.
At the more informative Fitchburg Recycling Center website, I discovered that the only way to recycle paper like this was to put it into the plastic curbside cans they provided everyone with. Problem was for me I had lots of paper — and now it looked like it was going to take forever to recycle all of it. I feared that if I filled up one of their actually-quite-large full-size cans with wet magazines, lifting it might actually tip over their truck, while it was being dumped with that scary mechanical arm that now I can’t stop thinking about. Sure, I might have some issues… get it… issues of magazines to get rid of… oh, never mind…
RIGHT. THAT’S ENOUGH OF THAT, THEN. MOVE ON.
Anyway… after a day, I realized that I couldn’t keep doing this kind of stair-climbing torture every day. Luckily, I had started getting regular shipments of either short comic boxes or magazine boxes from Westfield. (Can you imagine me carrying long boxes of today’s denser comic book paper up and down these stairs?) I started a regimen of just getting the stuff that needed to go away upstairs every other day (later, every third day, when I realized that there was plenty to do at my desk most days). I did have to get a damaged comics inventory done as well, remember? Insurance companies love lists and proof.
First, I had to start dealing directly with the comics that got soaked. I discovered that, depending on the age of the box, or where it was located in the room, some boxes got more wet than others. I started dealing with these first — carefully unpacking the issues from their soaked boxes and stacking them up in front of the three brand-new dehumidifiers that we had just purchased. My thinking that these units were designed to “soak up” excess moisture in the air — so maybe they would do the same thing if I pointed them directly at the wet end of a stack of damaged comic books?
Yes, I know it sounds weird… but it actually worked! To some extent. The comics got dry… but they were still wrinkled. (Luckily, I have a whole bunch of really heavy music magazines that could help flatten them out!) I doubt I’ll ever get them totally flat, but most of these non-scarce comics aren’t worth the effort to have them professionally restored. Almost all of the comics that I knew were actually worth something did not get put on the floor of the room when I was setting it up. They were in boxes that were easily rescued when the flooding started.
After being emptied, the soaking wet boxes were immediately taken up to the garage, torn apart, and flattened to be taken to be recycled. (Ideally before they start to stink!) It dawned on me that I didn’t want to put the wet comics directly into new boxes (and I rightfully got rid of the old, wet ones). So I decided to swap out a bunch of older, but currently being used, boxes so I had something to put the “wet” comics into, until we finish up with the insurance company. My Archie Comics collection is reasonably small (about 35-40 short boxes*), so I decided to “gift” that collection (since it’s the one I’m most actively trying to complete) some brand new boxes. Then I could use those old boxes for the wet-but-now-dryish water damaged comics — thinking in advance that when the time comes I’m able to replace them, most of those will be just chucked out of the collection — wrinkled comics and old boxes altogether.
(*As comparison, I probably have about 250-300 DC & Marvel short boxes.)
I’ve just set up the strangest comic book ecosystem ever, giving my most important comics the new boxes, which provide me with age-appropriate (and ultimately disposable) storage for the comics that will eventually go bye-bye. I think I feel like the High Evolutionary or something. (Most likely, I’m more like The Collector, actually…)
Excuse me… Roger has just told me that I’ve exceeded my limit on puns for this column… what?… not column… year?!? (sigh…)
Anyway, Johanna seems concerned that I might be spending too much time in the basement lately — especially with all that wet pulp paper and weird fumes and whatever that stuff is that packing tape turns into when it gets old and wet. Plus, handling all this paper makes my skin dry out so fast that I am growing completely new hands at least twice a day. She also thinks that maybe these fumes aren’t really doing me much good. So maybe I should stop writing now… and go upstairs for a while.
See you next week!
KC CARLSON SAYS: Hey, at least my house didn’t blow up — like the house three blocks from here did last Friday. (True story!)
WESTFIELD COMICS is not responsible for the stupid things that KC says. Especially that thing that really irritated you. Wet comics are chewy. Watch out for staples, though!