Americans are (in)famously gadgety. When faced with a problem, our preferred move is to upgrade our equipment. A friend epitomized this when he told me his Golden Rule of Home Improvement: “When you start a project, either commit to getting exactly the right tools for the job or don’t do it at all. If you don’t invest in purpose-made labor-saving equipment, you’ll waste your time, energy, and patience.”
But me, I’m an oddball who never cared much about gear. Either because of my Buddhist stoicism or what a Chinese friend called my “peasant-consciousness” (农民意识), I fear becoming reliant on anything perishable or hard to obtain. For whatever equipment I must have, I’ve instinctively taken the Russian/Chinese approach. I want the opposite of specialized, single-purpose, expensive, high-maintenance, high-tech, rare, complicated, or difficult to repair. I delight in equipment that is ingeniously simple and cheap, and if the results are crude, I probably don’t mind. If I have to sacrifice convenience or expend extra physical energy, I seem to have plenty of patience and endurance for that. But not for painstaking maintenance or “reading the f—— manual.”
At least I know myself–Socrates would be proud. BUT. The ground has been shifting within me. I am coming to like gear and equipment in its manifold kinds, even to spend time and money on it. (Please don’t tell the Buddha.) It started when I became a homeowner and bought up tools for pennies on the dollar from a contractor who was closing his business. Then there followed shooting and reloading supplies, which now seem to fructify and multiply in my garage with rodent-like enthusiasm, and I’ve taken to spending many hours lovingly organizing them all into carefully labeled hutches. This happy disease has spread to my closets, my shoe rack, and my car, which is now outfitted for virtually anything except flying saucers and Ebola, and unless I draw a line in the sand, the gear might also take hold in my office like kudzu.
At last, it seems, I am joining my countrymen and turning into a gearwhore. This new series will be part field notebook and part spiritual memoir of my (d)evolution into my latent American geariness.