You know how life creeps up and slaps us around once in a while? Just when we think all is going along swimmingly; nothing monumental happening, nothing precariously bad or particularly good, everything just humming along status quo? Whether it’s good or bad, I am at my most comfortable at these moments. Then, like an anvil born in the wing of a roadrunner, shit flies and hits us square in the head: drama. As adults: job loss, the death of a loved one, long time confidant has to move to the opposite side of the country, bad diagnosis from the doctor. BIG issues. The un-pleasantries of life.
While we are taught from a young age to deal with trying situations optimistically and with an informed, level head (“Breathe…take a breath. See it’s not so bad, it’s just a skinned knee…”), sometimes we lose it, and for good reason. When the broken is picked up and the tears and profanities of sadness or anger are wiped away, one is left to deal with the everyday goings on. The constant “how are you doing?” and work and school make some kind of self-medication essential, spiritual or physical – or both. Along with those in tablet form, hiding under the covers of music has been the choice of mine throughout the years.
I guess it started when I was barely a teenager. My “problems” resorted to holding up in my room playing records and tapes louder than bombs. It helped me two-fold. 1) I could get lost in the music and not have to think about what it was that was troubling me, and 2) I could annoy the hell out of my parents with the racket (who may have been the cause of my angst in the first place). As time went on, however, I realized that headphones were much better for inward reflection, though they weren’t nearly as effective at irritating my parents. (Note: on a whole, my parents were incredibly cool and tolerant.)
So, yes, records and tapes by way of stereo and headphones. The evolution of the boom box was glorious. I could go outside with a bagful of D batteries and listen to cassette tapes anywhere I wanted to with the same clunky headphones. The excursions weren’t extensive. I maybe made it to the back garden. My chrome(ish) Panasonic giant wasn’t as portable as I would have liked, unless of course I was willing to hoist it onto my shoulder like a B-boy, and that wasn’t going to happen (again). I tried that ‘round the Christmas tree when it was first given to me, resulting in whack behind my ear so extreme I saw stars. True story. There had to be something better. Soon there was.
The Sony Walkman. It came from heaven in the hands of a bright yellow angel. It could be carried in my purse and not touched as it had auto reverse (SCORE!!). Perfect for listening to The Head on the Door over and over again while on a 1987 French Club field trip to see a Molière play on a day when everyone (including friends), for reasons unknown, decided to be ugly and not talk to me. Again, true story. That said, cassettes themselves are loud little bastards and carrying more than 3 at any time was unsavory. Where is the variety in that? WHERE IS THE VARIETY??
The Discman. Thank you, again, Sony. The Discman in its many forms got me through college and into the working world. In the beginning it was a delicate situation where any sudden movement, like WALKING, for instance, caused them to skip. With the invention of anti-skip technology and little books with sleeves that could hold 10-15 CDs comfortably and fit in a messenger bag, commuting on a bus or train was very easy. Commuting home after I received word that my father passed away wasn’t easy, but was made easier with a Discman and the one CD I blindly scooped up in my haze to pack as I was escorted out the door for a 5 hour car ride. Of all possible CDs to grab, Paul’s Boutique made it easier. Go figure. Once again, true story.
Fast forward to today. While we all enjoy the resurgence of vinyl and even cassette culture, the portability of music has gotten to an awesome point of carrying entire collections in our back pockets. I’ve owned several MP3 players, but all are trumped by the iPod. Currently we have 3 in our household, the contents of each a little different. One contains only the music my husband and I acquired together since meeting one another. Nerdy, I know. The iPod is a comfort whenever and wherever I want to get away from what is ailing me. As I’ve said time and time again, music is medicine. The iPod (and iTunes and the iPhone) changed the way I experience music; the way the world experiences music. The arguments for and against digital music will never end but I can say, without a doubt, Steve Jobs and his vision had a direct effect on my ability to cope with day to day life by way of music, and for this I thank him. Rest in peace good sir, your legacy will live on in the hearts, minds and ears of generations to come.
[Abby’s Road is a Knox Road feature published every other Friday.]