Dysphonia, signing off
I turned 38 this year, and I’ve been thinking about life and everything that comes with age. I have also been looking up the definitions of the words malaise, ennui, bilabial fricative, and dysthymia. I’ve also been obsessed with the word albatross. “Why do you keep saying that?” my wife asks me. It would be easy, and it would fit into this and all my narratives to simply confirm that I am referring to the peaceful instrumental from the original (and truest) Fleetwood Mac. Or that I am referring to the skit from Monty Python’s Live at the Hollywood Bowl, which in turn nods in some form to Coleridge’s poem The Rime of the Ancient Mariner. No, when she brings it up I launch into a rant about MY albatross, the thing around my neck that is either holding me down or holding me back. My albatross, in every definition of the word, is my record collection.
This is not a rant about getting rid of physical records to make way for digital music. It is a straight up and simple fact that as I’ve reach my current age I feel increasingly disconnected from music in my ability to find anything new and interesting and even in my ability to enjoy what I’m listening to. I begin to question whether or not I ever did enjoy music or if it was simply a venue to pour my addictive personality traits into. Before music, it was baseball cards. Before baseball cards, it was comic books. Music has lasted the longest, for sure, but it hasn’t really been the same since I left my music store job. And when I consider that statement I realize that it actually hasn’t been the same since I achieved my own goal of running my own music department in 2001. Somewhere, the responsibility and the increasing loss of leisure time robbed a certain fundamental enjoyment of music in my life. That is a hard thing to realize. Having kids and work and such just also reduces the amount of time one has and then reduces the amount of enjoyment one can find in the music.
And what really has this wall of sound done for me in the past 20 years of accumulation? What? Twenty years of buying music has gotten me what? Nothing. The content knowledge accumulated got me two jobs and nothing more. The knowledge collecting dust in my head has no purpose, no real world application. This is a stinging realization, even if it’s not a sudden thing, that this area of my life has resulted in a gigantic emptiness. At a point music became a commodity to me, a unit of measurement lacking any emotional center.
I used to be proud of my record collection. Now it is a giant black hole. Something no longer relevant to me. “Well what about playing the music for your kids?” I’ve asked myself. Why? I want my children, even now, to be independent of me. I want them to like what they like because they like it, not because I like it. A former co-worker (the one who I wrote about in “The language of letting go”) posted recently that he was listening to Axis: Bold As Love at age 13 and that everyone else are busters with no taste. Something charming like that. And I got to thinking: Who cares? Who cares what you listened to at 13? Who cares what you listen to at 37? Pride is a sin (if you believe in sin), and is that not a prideful statement?
In my first Idler column I wrote about Neal Pollack, a writer I feel less than charitable about (even tho he is more famous than I, a better writer and probably facing less financial calamity) and his music time with his child. I recall finding the music he would play a typical, holier-than-thou hipster collection of drivel. I flashed back to this thought while looking at pictures from an in-store at Amoeba Records in Hollywood. Smack dab in the middle of the photos one literally burned my eyes and into my brain. There was this shaggy guy in a checkered shirt, looking to be in his mid 20s. Black hair, shaggy beard. Holding in his arms a CHILD. What was the in-store? Jomo Podmore and Irmin Schmidt. I realized I reached a new point in the circle of hipster garbage. Like Miles Davis I started at zero and have reached zero again. Only the zero is me.
All I know is I can’t even stand to look at my CD collection right now. I used to think it was bad when both racks were in the master bedroom in my house. Then I would wake up and see it and hate it and wish it was gone but never could bring myself to do anything about it. Then I noticed that the light from yonder window was bleaching the color from my beloved little investments and so I moved both racks across the house. And now I see the entirety of my life spread out on one wall. Not only that, but my bookshelves are in that same room, four IKEA bookshelves of wasted money and unread texts. I’ve spent too much time thinking about these items, too much money purchasing them. Just too much.
Our slogan at this site is “Refusing to apologize for the things we enjoy.” I fully support that slogan and the idea behind it. But neither can I apologize for what I do not enjoy and I no longer enjoy music. Hate might be a strong word but I sure am over it right now. And that void, that abyss, is scary.
Maybe this will change, maybe it won’t. Maybe I will be back. Maybe this is it. In the event of my non-return let me thank the editor and founder of the site who asked me out of the blue if I wanted to write about music. Thanks man. (QUITTER!-ed.) And finally thanks to you, the readers. I thank both of you for reading these bemused and reflective ramblings of a man slowly wondering about life itself. I’m going to sign off with the last song I played on WNMC in 2009. I’ve been back on-air since, but not in a regular capacity. It seems fitting now.
Mike Vincent is a teacher, dreamer, grouch, and runner. He lives in northern Michigan and his favorite Beatle is George Harrison.