Steve Skinner

Friends help you move. Real friends help you move bodies.

I've always loved that saying, much more than moving. When I mention to casual friends that I am indeed “moving,” the common response is, “what a hassle.” But over the weekend when I ran into a buddy he said, “oh, let me know if I can help.” Then he stood there and looked me in the eye. I was tempted to test him and ask him if he'd help me move some bodies.

I've had to move twice over the last couple of years, but this is my most drastic move ever. Mostly because I don't know where I'm going. Even though I have pared down my stuff considerably over the last few moves, I still find myself with stacks of stuff that's hard to let go of.

I know what you are thinking. Storage unit. I'm resisting that because (no offense) storing stuff that I don't use or touch seems to me a kind of mild form of mental illness. If I can't get at it, I don't need it, right?

Last fall I anticipated this coming move by purchasing a small, used RV, because living on a house with wheels is a step up from living under the bridge in Carbondale, right? My “Escape Pod” is a minimalist dwelling but it does have the prerequisites: shower, toilet, single bed, small sink, engine. It even has a small garage in the back where I can stack up stuff that doesn't fit in the living space. So far I have put mostly camping supplies in there so I can move outside when the weather is nice. Plus, I have a lot of camping gear after decades of rafting adventures.

For perspective, the living space in the Escape Pod is so small that if I do simple calisthenics I will be crashing into walls and falling on the bed. But, if everything is stowed and the fold-out table is hidden and the dog is on the bed I can do a gentle pirouette, as long as I keep my arms mostly in and don't lose my balance.

The stuff that I care about falls into three categories: camping stuff, music stuff and archival stuff. The camping stuff is practical, although I have too much (three tents?). The music stuff is mostly practical, although I have too much (seven guitars?). And the archival stuff is historical.

The archival stuff is the most challenging. I'm the kind of media creator that does projects and throws them in a box when I'm done. Over the weekend I dove in and found myself pulled in a million directions looking at boxes of cassette tapes, reel-to-reels, CDs, photographs, negatives, slides, videos, lyric sheets and more.

I still have a lot of the equipment I used to create these things. I have culled many things but still have equipment like a four-track cassette recorder, eight-track tape recorder, film cameras, digital cameras, an analog synthesizer, a “Magic Genie” organ, early effects units, guitar foot pedals, guitar amplifiers, a bass amplifier, microphones, microphone stands, cases and two glass heads.

This is after selling several guitars, amplifiers, keyboards, microphones, preamps and so much more. I swear to you I am down to the minimum! I was merciless over the weekend. If a CD did not have a label on it, I threw it out, probably chucking my musical version of “Tommy” in the process.

As I worked through things I realized that I have led a richly creative life. Through circumstances I have had to learn and create on an ever-changing platform of technologies. I started with a pinhole camera and a reel-to-reel tape recorder and moved my way into the ever-shifting digital age starting with floppy discs all the way up to solid-state hard drives. I've recorded more than 30 albums and I'm still recording as we speak.

I have shot countless hours of video that I have never looked at. The footage I have looked at is heart rending stuff for me. A videographer just sent me some footage of a rock opera I wrote and produced at the Wheeler Opera House in 1996 and 1997. I have never looked back but watching his film from more than 20 years ago was moving, especially the incidental, backstage, intermission and cutaway shots. The video is a veritable who's who of the Aspen creative scene in the mid-1990s. Actors, directors, producers, musicians, journalists, photographers, my mom and dad, wife and kid and all the fun and artistic folks that made up the fabric of Aspen way back then.

Looking back I now realize that the rock opera “Umbrella Man” was a thermonuclear explosion of creativity in a town full of talent and opportunity. I have reel-to-reel audio recordings of the show, video in two formats and thousands of photographs and negatives, many of which have never been printed. The show featured a full orchestra in the pit, a rock band on stage and a 16-person cast. We made all the sets and I financed the show with donations from the community. I'd love to share it with you but I have to figure out a way to get it into two-minute slices that can be posted on YouTube.

But first, I have to get out of my Redstone apartment by the end of the month. 

Steve Skinner can be reached at nigel@sopris.net.