Without photographs, recordings, or any forensic evidence at all, “Birders” travel the world for the joy of entering names in their bird log book and then boast about their unsubstantiated claims to fellow bird watchers. Those are the rules of the game, I’m thinking, and it has opened up a kaleidoscope of possible ways for me to boast to my friends. It’s not only bird watchers; I know of football fans who boast of “collecting visits” to all 30 NFL football stadiums; hikers make pilgrimages to all the National Parks and Civil War buffs who visit all 50 of the major battle fields. The funny pare, nobody questions these boasters.

My neighbor Bill Lam has gone one better by assembling a collection on a grand scale. He’s an architect-opera buff.¬† Bill “collected” 23 of the world’s great opera houses as an affirmation of his combined passions. He resolved to visit and photograph all the great performance halls of the world. You might say Bill is an opera house fanatic similar to rail road buffs. Just like train spotters, Bill can regale you with statistics, design facts, and stories about his beloved nonmaterial collection.


Minako and I wanted in on this game. Inspired by Bill’s passion, (actually we just wanted to keep up with our neighbors), and decided we too could add grandiosity to our lives. At this age, we no longer drive all night to catch a “Grateful Dead” concert. Even joining the “Swifties” is too much of a schlep these days. However, we can still get off the sofa and out of the house to travel. As befitting our current age, we have resolved to collect old Dutch Masters’ paintings and settled on Johannes Vermeer. Johannes produced about 36 canvases, including “Girl with a Pearl Earing.” Many of these canvases are conveniently on exhibit in the U.S. Throughout our travels, we now make a point to view any Vermeer’s within a few miles of our trips. ¬†Should you ask, we’re happy to boast our collection has reached 23 canvases to date. That wouldn’t compare to even a newbie birder’s count, but we’re still proud. The number of Vermeer paintings for acquisition is about the same as opera houses for sale: None. Yet, there’s no limit to nonmaterial possession collecting.


In addition to keeping up with our neighbor, the Lams, our Vermeer goal has added new depth, dimension, and excitement to our days. You may boast of your Blue-eyed Ground-Dove sighting or your Sydney Opera House, but our “Girl with a Pearl” painting trumps all of that. At a modest cost and effort, we can tuck these incalculable treasures safely in our log book or memory vault, along with a lifetime of stories to go with it.

Categories: Humor

1 reply

  1. Ohhh, the opportunities are boundless. I can now boast that over the years I have owned over 50 vintage automobiles and displayed them at Concours world-wide.

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