Many years ago, when I was single, I was asked if I lived alone. “No,” I said. “I live with my albums.”
I had everything I needed then — a job, a studio apartment overlooking a basketball court, a bed, a black and white TV, a stereo, a collection of Cheever’s short stories, hundreds of albums stuffed into old milk cartons or cardboard boxes on the floor, and just enough space to move around. If ever I needed more space, the bed would have been sent packing.
I’ve since moved into less-bohemian digs and bought a house, married well and fathered a son, switched jobs a few times and moved almost 1,000 miles from home. The albums followed every time. The milk cartons and boxes have given way to wall units, which hold more than 2,000 albums. Exactly how many I don’t know. I counted them once, but the count is old and there are too many to re-count. What would be the point of it anyway? (Every 5 years or so, I find an album in the clutter, bought 20-30 years ago, still unopened and never listened to. It’s like finding money that’s gone through the washer and dryer, but is still usable.)
On my birthday last September, I linked on Facebook to Coltrane’s My Favorite Things on YouTube, because it’s one of my favorite songs. It said something about the day. The next day I linked to something else and the next day to still something else. And then I started writing short blurbs about the artists instead of about me, and along the way I received a little encouragement and positive feedback . . . and here we are.
But it really started more than three decades ago, when two of my co-workers taught me there was more to music than the FM dial on a radio. I had never heard of the ECM record label or Keith Jarrett or Eberhard Weber or Egberto Gismonti or a thousand other artists you’ll never hear if you listen for a millennium to commercial radio. I owe my old co-workers thanks, wherever they are today, for introducing me to the possibilities.
They probably still have more albums (even if they’re on discs and/or better organized) and certainly more knowledge than I. But now I have a little of the latter, a great curiosity for more and, as colleague Ken Willis would say, a crack research department headed by Dr. Google. And more than enough vanity to think my passion is worth sharing.
Companies no longer make albums in bulk, and mine now have an extended (and growing) family of more than 1,000 CDs. I’m thankful there’s satellite radio and YouTube and Pandora and an app for my favorite radio station, Philadelphia’s WXPN, that I listen to foremost when I walk the dog late at night and Echoes with John Diliberto is on. I’m thankful there’s the sound of music in our own house when our son plays one of his four instruments. I’m thankful my wife designed and encouraged this site (and my baseball site), even if she’s not crazy about the music or the albums (although we do share a love of all things Louis Jordan).
But every now and then I look around and wonder where all the milk cartons have gone.
Thanks for listening.
January 23, 2011