Sunday, May 18, 2008

CD Hangover

Okay, okay, I know it was wrong, but I did it anyway - twice. At AA (or is it AAA?), they say that a slip is not a fall, but what about two slips? Am I officially off the wagon? Was I ever on it? It doesn’t matter. I needed a fix and I got it. I bought some more CDs.

I’d been clean since December, when I got four CDs for Christmas (actually five, if you count the one that was a two-fer). I usually try to work them in as gifts for birthdays or holidays. But this time, I offer no rationalization - I didn’t come from a broken home, I wasn’t abused as a child - I just buy CDs.

As if we’ve got the room. The big CD rack I bought not that long ago is just about full now. Does this mean I finally have to consider, gasp, pruning? No, of course not CDs. Family members.

And if you want to be technical about it, that CD I got in February counts, too. That was when I got “Are You Experienced?”. My son plays guitar and, well, he should know more about Jimi Hendrix, right? So it was for educational purposes. Just don’t mention this to my daughter. She likes show tunes.

But let’s just say that the first real slip was a BMG (let’s call them Enabler #1) order last month when we got six CDs. Now that may seem like a lot, but not when you buy into the whole logic of “the offer”. This particular one was a “buy one, get the rest for a buck each (plus shipping and handling).” So when you do the math, for each CD you buy, you come out more and more ahead. By now I should be a millionaire.

BMG is constantly tempting me in this way - every week a different enticement, each one harder to resist than the last. I do notice the occasional sucker offer - like “Buy 10 CDs and, well, get those 10 at full price (plus shipping and handling)”, but damned if I’m not tempted anyway. I know I can quit at any time, but that just wouldn’t be fair to the rest of the family.

So you’d think that would hold me for a while. But I couldn’t wait, not even for BMG’s state of the art order processing system, which has cut the average wait time from the 6-to-8 weeks of my childhood, down to 6-to-8 days. Not good enough - I had to have new music immediately.

Then I had an idea, which led to slip number two (or three). The way I figured it, this whole “educational” angle had a little more life in it. Since my son is now of record buying age, like many a father before me, who might otherwise bring his son to a bar for his first drink, or worse, I decided that it was time to take him to my favorite record store, where we could spend some quality time together. This used to consist of him hanging around a couple of hours while I went through the stacks. It turns out that this doesn’t alarm him like it used to, when he was, say, five. I take this as agreement. So in my book, that makes him Enabler #2.

Of course, I know the day is coming when he’ll tell me that he doesn’t buy CDs anymore. He downloads everything now, he’ll say. In only 6-to-8 seconds, no doubt. Of course, that’s when I throw him out of the house. That should free up some space. He won’t need it since all of his music will be in hyperspace.

So I pick up a couple of CDs at the store, and my son manages one – a Green Day CD – and we head home. But before I get a chance to play them, the BMG order comes in, and now there’s a bunch of CDs lying around that I can’t get to because now everyone’s watching TV, and my son’s listening to his Green Day CD.

So I go up to the bedroom and try to listen to them while reading. But you can’t really hear new music when you’re trying to comprehend what you read. I try anyway - at least until the third song, when I fall asleep. I do this every night for a week, and by now I’m pretty sick of those three songs. My wife comes up with the novel idea of starting with the fourth song, which only serves to remind me of how we nearly broke up early on in our relationship when she put on side two of an album before side one. It’s a matter of principle, I say. The exact principle doesn’t immediately come to mind, but I do mumble something about how you don’t start reading a book in the middle. I couldn’t say “watch a TV show” because we do that all the time.

So when everyone else goes to bed I go back down to the living room and put five CDs in the carousel player. I sit down on the couch to let it all wash over me, but soon find that I’m much more comfortable lying down, and by the time that third song rolls around I’m out like a light. I awake at 3am as the last CD finishes, no wiser than before, and have to get up for work in a couple of hours..

I may never hear this music.

But then, out of nowhere, on the drive to work, I hear one of the songs on the radio! How the hell did that happen? But now that I’ve spent money on it, maybe I shouldn’t be hearing it for free. I turn it off.

So I try the living room again, because for once the TV’s off, but now someone’s yakking on the phone and not fully appreciating this anticipated masterpiece. Or the fridge is rumbling, or the dog’s unclipped nails are hitting against the bare wood floor. Or. Life.

I have somehow convinced myself that by buying a bunch of CDs all at once like this, I can usher in a golden age of joy and good will. It did happen a couple of times. I’m sure you recall the great REM(“Murmur”)/Velvet Underground(“Loaded”)/Who(“My Generation”) raid in the summer of 1984, and the legendary Moby(“Everything is Wrong”)/Stereolab(“Emperor Tomato Ketchup”)/PM Dawn(”Of the Heart…”) buy in late ’97. Practically all of “why pay rent?” 1980!

But if pressed, I would have to admit that there are at least as many times when they just pile up until I get around to listening to them.

And what about these eight new CDs, you might ask? Well, I don’t know. I may have read some reviews that said they were great but alas, I’ve not had the chance to locate the greatness yet. I’ve obviously not played them enough. Come back to me in a decade or two.

The problem is that at any given moment in time, I may either want to listen to twelve of my CDs at once, or none at all. It’s the latter mood that prompts these CD trips. I don’t know why I never just opt for silence.

I guess I’ll make it through May, but something tells me that when I’m asked what I want for Father’s Day, I’ll be handing my wife a list of CDs.

I can’t be doing this. I’ve got kids to put through college. Well, for now, anyway...

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