YOU CAN TELL when I've found something. I actually put my hand to my mouth and gasp, like Holly Golightly seeing priced-to-sell diamonds at Tiffany's.

So there it was. I was so used to seeing empty spaces in front of the plastic header cards marked The Housemartins that I wasn't really sure it was true. But Mod Lang in Berkeley had a vinyl 12" of "Five Get Over Excited." Jesus, I hadn't seen a Housemartins single in over 10 years. The Pope's used condoms are less rare. Plus, I had never even heard two of its four tracks.

So, I put my hand to my mouth and gasped.

That's right, kids, I am an obsessive.

How bad am I? It's best summed up by the fact that every time I watch the film version of High Fidelity, I get more excited by the Brian Eno record in the background than I do seeing Catherine Zeta-Jones' bare breasts.

I am always on the jones for a new fix. It doesn't matter how many records I bought yesterday, because I need something new today. There might be a bargain out there waiting for me to find it. Somebody might have given up the ghost and unloaded their collection of Kenickie CD singles, and if I don't jump now, another guy might get 'em.

My pattern used to be simple. Every Saturday, I'd get up, make myself presentable, and head out to the record stores as they were opening. My main objective was to snatch whatever new imports might have made it over from the UK, but I would also eye the used bins for recent arrivals. Within each store, I'd have a basic routine, hitting particular bins that I know normally have the best goodies. However, once that's done, it becomes a mad, neurotic dash around the store as my memory begins to tick off items I may be looking for. "Right, I was going to see if they had anything by Love today Oh, I wonder if they have a used copy of the new Johnny Cash yet Wait, I forgot to check the Björk bin for singles."

To the unknowing eye, I'm sure I look like a twitchy speed freak who's forgotten why he came in the store in the first place.

What you have to understand is this is a need. When I'm out shopping, I'm not screwing around. If I don't return home with new purchases, I'll feel deflated. I'll sit in my room and go over all the records I saw and left behind, never sure if I should just go back and get them. And if you see me heading towards Django's, then get the fuck out of my way.

The thing is, I like the way I am. I have a mission in life, one that will never be completed. There'll always be more records to buy, more bands to discover. For instance, Primal Scream covered a song by The Third Bardo on a recent B-side; I bought a Third Bardo 10" EP the other day so I could hear the original, and it's fab! The day before last I didn't even know who they were!

All said and done, I pity you. You don't know the thrill of finding a promo-only, vinyl Mandy Moore remix amongst the 12-inches at Everyday Music I'm not sure you understand what living is.