January 22, 2011

What I Did for Love

[On Call - Kings of Leon; Let's Dance to Joy Division - The Wombats; Heartbeats - Jose Gonzalez; Oxford Comma - Vampire Weekend; Seaside - Kooks; Winter White Hymnal - Fleet Foxes; Skinny Love - Bon Iver; The Prayer - Bloc Party; Moth's Wings - Passion Pit; VCR - The XX; The Lady is a Tramp - Ella Fitzgerald; Boom - Anjulie; Darling - Zee Avi; Fly One Time - Ben Harper and the Relentless 7; Mango Tree - Angus and Julia Stone; Fitz & Dizzyspells - Andrew Bird; The Rake's Song - The Decemberists; I and Love and You - The Avett Brothers; Rox in the Box - The Decemberists; This is Why We Fight - The Decemberists]

When I went to Germany when I was 15, I made room for a discman, giant headphones, and a case of forty-eight cds, despite only having brought carry-on luggage for the 3-week trip. (I felt stupid about underpacking until Posh's checked suitcase was sent to Africa.)

When I went away to college, I brought a case of 256 cds, a case of 100 cds, a couple dozen-cd cases, and a few individual cds. Nearly 400 albums might not sound like a lot now. But then—before the itunes store and sites with free, legitimate downloads existed, before music could be shared digitally, when cd burners were rare—it was a ton. Other college freshmen marveled at my collection. No one had anywhere near as many cds as I did. It's possible my roommate's friend Mac had more music than I did since he downloaded stuff illegally, but at some point his computer crashed and he lost it all. Proof that a digital library wasn't the way to go.

By the spring of freshman year, I'd decided I couldn't live without my boom-box. It held six cds, and you could create a program that would play any song off any disc in the order you specified. It was magical.

Then I found out about ipods. My parents understood their relevance to my life before I did. To me, they sounded like a lot of work. Upload all my albums to my computer only to download them to some finicky gadget? Constantly put music on and take music off? Why not just listen to a cd? Uploading an album took around 10 minutes. Doing that 400 times didn't sound like a picnic. I was interested without being interested.

Some sort of alchemy happened in the next two years. Ipods became popular, coveted. Their usefulness became suddenly obvious. I was going to Austria on an abroad. Was I going to tromp around with dozens of cds? NO! My parents gave me an ipod for my birthday, just a couple months before the trip. OMG! WHAT WAS I THINKING NOT DEMANDING ONE SOONER!?

It was 10GB, and adding songs was like my own little slice of manifest destiny. How long would it take to fill it completely? 2,500 songs isn't as many as it sounds. It took no time at all.

A couple years later, when the iPod video came out, my mom gave me one as a gift.  30GB. I was traveling a lot at that point, and being able to load new music without selectively removing something else, being able to travel with photos and video, it was all so nice. But sooner than I would have expected, that iPod was full, too. So when I bought a new computer and had the option of getting a free iPod, I got it. (Dur.) 80GB this time.

I started running. My 80GB iPod seemed huge, clunky. I saw those adorable little iPod shuffles that clipped right on. How practical! So much smarter than jogging with the heavy iPod classic! I bought one. Once I had it, I started using it all the time. It came with me when I walked anywhere—to work, around the super market, at airports. I was constantly trading out playlists for walking around with playlists for running. Sometimes I would get to the gym and realize I hadn't updated my ipod. Jogging to "I Am Trying to Break Your Heart" or "I Will Follow You Into the Dark"—not a great workout.

I went with my father to the Apple store to get my sister's computer fixed, a repair he expected to pay at least $300 for. He politely listened to by uber-luxury troubles. Why couldn't my shuffle just hold two playlists? When we got to the genius bar, it turned out that the problem with my sister's computer was a known defect. The repair was free! My father, delighted by this windfall of good fortune, purchased a second shuffle for me.

By this point, I'd started naming my iPods after Atlas Shrugged characters—as the Rake put it, a giant eff you to anyone who questioned my right to have so many ipods. To be fair, my first ipod was really just a sentimental ipod by this point. I couldn't get rid of it. It was full of music that was clearly from my college days. Liz Phair songs with play-counts well over 100, a playlist from the road-trip Dynamite, Juice Box, and I took to Texas. I didn't really want to listen to it, but it was like a little time capsule.

You feel like a sucker now, right? This blog has just been one long justification for my extravagant lifestyle. I'm like one of those elderly people who grew up during the depression who now hoards sugar and butter. Years of lugging around cds has made me ipod crazy. I know it. I've known it for years. That's why I decided to stop. The number of ipods held steady at 5 for a long time. But this year I fell off the wagon.

Ipod touches were on sale after Thanksgiving. They suddenly seemed so practical! I could access the internet when I was out and about in the city. I was doing interviews for work, and it had a voice recorder. It would be great for travel—weather updates, alarm clocks, a calendar, a camera, language dictionaries. I had made up my mind that I would never get an iphone. This was a reasonable alternative. No outrageous monthly plan.

A month after buying the ipod touch, my family got new phones. I got a little green one with a fabulous keyboard and a terrible touch screen. The screen would only respond to my instructions 70% of the time. On more than one occasion, I accidentally called someone because the contact list was hard to work. It was difficult to move from screen to screen. As I would sit struggling with my phone, I would look over and see my ipod touch, so angelic, so easy to use, its touch screen as close to perfection as could be hoped for. Even then, a part of me knew I was being stupidly stubborn.

This Monday, my dad called me. He told me that he had traded his new phone in for an iphone. It was within the 30-day exchange period, and the price of the iphone 3G had dropped to $49, making the exchange practically free. "Now, instead of screaming at my phone, I can just use it," he explained. He wanted me to drink the kool-aid.

I patiently explained that, while I was happy for him, I would look stupid toting around an iphone and an ipod touch. Plus I had railed against iphones for so long, how could I get one? It only took two days of constant calls and texts from him telling me he was cooler than me for me to break down.

So here I sit, feeling cool and foolish at the same time, totally clueless as to how to wrap-up this blog post.

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