December 25, 2000 (idea)
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So I'm in North Carolina, at my mother's house, where my belongings were already, for the most part, stacked and boxed; my stuff has been warehoused here, much of it since the 70's, and now I'm trying to corral everything into some sort of form for a moving company to take them to Brooklyn. After decades as a professional student and slacker, I have my first "real job", and the chance to live in the same location as my possessions, and with no roommates or housemates. As I collected more books, records, amps, synths, and cheesy sport coats (not quite as loud as the ones The Replacements took to wearing, circa 1987), most of my things would end up sitting here, even when I was elsewhere. Now I'm wondering if it will all fit into a small one-bedroom apartment.
I got here at 5:30 AM Saturday, after my flight, scheduled to leave LaGuardia at 9 PM Friday, suffered all sorts of delays (and one brief cancellation) before getting there after 2 AM. The man at the gate managed to scrounge up some airline snax and bottled water for our long wait; his day was even longer than ours, plus he had to be back at LaGuardia at 5:15 AM.
I slept for most of Saturday, got up, and started packing; I quickly ran out of moveworthy boxes -- I'd kept a lot of books and odds-and-ends in tomato crates over the years, but deemed such boxes inappropriate. Half of my synthesizers still had the boxes they came in, so it was short work for those; the same goes for my PC monitor, while the case part still awaits a big-enough box. The computer will be the last thing packed, being haphazardly set up for scavenging purposes -- old e-mail, JPEGs, an old utility for the Akai S950 sampler, my Slashdot password, and other things which can be evacuated onto floppies before I wipe the drives clean back in NYC; I don't trust the moving process enough to let the evacuation wait -- my video card already goes nuts whenever I open up the case, so a long trip in a moving van can only bring new wonders of malfunctionry to the various creaky parts of Frankenputer.
Saturday evening, I went to CompUSA, the only place I knew of that sold iMacs, to get my mother's Christmas present -- the base-model iMac, minus the digital-video goodies. I told my mother for months that I'd get her one, either for Christmas or for her birthday in January. The salesperson, apparently a new hire for the holidays, with braces, an accent that was from an English-speaking land (not this one), and a throes-of-puberty almost-moustache, quietly walked over to me and asked if he could help. I took charge and barked out my order -- the cheapo iMac, a longer phone cord than the one that comes with it, and a floppy drive. We went around the Mac quadrant, in search of the latter two (I'd already been standing by the iMacs to begin with, so no search party was needed for that); he eventually found the cord, while I, a few minutes later, found the USB floppy drives. I also chose an extra 64 MB of memory. After paying, while waiting for the memory install, I wandered the store, trying to avoid impulse buying; I bought headphones, since my ten-year-old Walkman headphones are a pain to wear at work.
I presented my mother with her new computer that night, and she gave me some "but I thought you were just joking" protests. Nope. Teaching her how to use a computer is like teaching someone to drive who has never seen an automobile. Mum only needs to do three things -- e-mail, web surfing, and word processing. Fancier things can wait until these things are mastered. At this point, even using a mouse is perplexing for her, and the dark keys of the keyboard make it hard to see what's what. I've already downloaded (against my better judgment) Netscape 6, and configured bookmarks, the ISP account, a desktop folder for documents, etc. I'm trying to make this beyond user-friendly, as much as I can -- click the "Browse the Internet" icon, click a link, and the OS will do the dial-up for you. I'll be lucky if she can grasp the concept of e-mail by the time I leave; if she can do that, then I can continue helping from a distance. All that's down-pat right now is "don't just hit the on/off button when you're done with the computer".
During this packing, I'm seeing things I haven't seen in years -- a 1985 receipt from an A&P in Chapel Hill (was it on Airport Road? I can't remember), two old computer magazines from the 70's (given to me by someone in the Computer Science department at N.C. State, when I'd begun to show an interest in programming), old LPs that I'd forgotten were stashed here, like Yes' Relayer, Funkadelic's Hardcore Jollies, two of the first three Patti Smith albums, and Todd Rundgren's Something/Anything, the last unplayed since a roommate gave it to me before running off to Jamaica. Who knows if any of these are even playable? I'm dragging three mothballed turntables with me, and once I install new styli, I'll begin to see which of these hundreds (thousands?) of vinyl artifacts will be keepers, envisioning filling a giant hard drive with a meticulously digitized-and-compressed library of everything from Peter Kowald to Joni Mitchell to King Crimson to The Smiths. Yes, I'm too cheep to replace any of them with CDs.
Other signs of penny-pinching: I'm taking a 15-year-old television to get fixed tomorrow, since the on/off knob isn't on-ing; you can't even buy TVs with knobs these days, I'll bet. I'll be taking some ancient guitar-synth pickups to get fixed back in New York, if anyone can fix them, that is. There are many better guitar synthesizers around these days, but none has the feature that mine has -- IT'S PAID FOR. The same goes for various other odds and ends; some, like my old Portastudio and various pieces of stereo equipment, will just end up in the landfill, paid-for or not.
Victor Borge died late last week. It was pledge week on a lot of PBS stations, and in New York, you get a double-barreled dose, via two large entities, WNET and WNYC. On one of the last nights of the "festival", the first half was to be devoted to Mr. Borge, with a VHS set of his being one of the premiums given for a healthy pledge, with a program called British Invasion, presumably with a similar VHS "gift", taking up the other half of the evening. Mr. Borge was even there in the WNYC studios, having, I suppose, come down from his home in Connecticut to help out with the festivities; he didn't look like a man with days left to live -- in fact, the news reports of his death mentioned that he had concerts booked for some time to come.
Now Mr. Borge, 91 years young, and a national treasure on two different continents, is a charming man and a great entertainer, but I was actually waiting to see the Brits; knifegirl had even humored me by letting me stay up and watch, in lieu of our usual activity of wild sex on the coffee table while discussing Soren Kierkegaard's influence on the life and works of Lester Young. I'd surf over to WNYC every once in a while, and still see the visage of Victor, either live or from some concert tape or decades-old TV appearance. I'd fume a bit, wondering when the rawk would start, and resume channel surfing.
I hadn't really intended to watch British Invasion, I just wanted to catch the first few minutes -- the Times TV listings only mentioned the title, nothing about who was on. I imagined it would be some sort of oldies concert, with performances from the likes of Gerry Marsden or Freddie Garrity, both now of grandfatherly age, or the last surviving members of The Merseybeats, or always-ready-for-the-cameras Eric Burdon. I had a morbid curiosity in seeing these old people, just for a minute, and maybe a desire to cringe at Freddie huffing and puffing, in an attempt to do his famed dance steps. (Mr. Borge had the right idea, perhaps, developing an act early on that would gracefully grow old with him.)
I couldn't imagine sitting through two hours of such a show, with between-segments visits, no doubt, from local DJ Cousin Brucie Morrow, reminiscing about his days at WABC and WNBC, spinnin' the trax-of-wax. It's those trax, plus the archive footage from the TV appearances and the films some of the bands made (hoping to ape the successes of A Hard Day's Night and Help!) that interest me today far more than whether or not a 60-year-old man can Do The Freddie onstage without scaring the medics. Of course, it may well have been that British Invasion was a documentary, and not some concert -- I'll have to investigate this further.
As it turns out, the Brits never surfaced; at 11 PM, WNYC resumed its normal programming, an hour of news from BBC World. Wrong Brits.
There was something about the poppier, less musicianly/R&B-purist of the beat groups -- the sound of a bunch of lads goofing off, with the resultant noise being played, several times a day, on hi-fis and radios from Bristol to Brampton to the Bronx. This kind of stuff is lost forever, relegated to the ghettoes of college radio. You damn kids don't understand what's been lost with the hyper-corporatizing and hyper-careerism of pop music that took off in the early 70's (led by CBS, bought out years later by Sony, and by the company now known as AOL Time Warner, who now own the rights to the 60's films of Herman's Hermits and the Dave Clark Five), after the successful proof-of-concepts called Monterey and Woodstock (and you thought it was about "peace and love", man -- fools!). Nowadays, everything is painstakingly polished, produced, and marketed like some new SUV or blockbuster cineplex fodder -- a goof-off's giddy innocence can now only come from the IS-404G Giddy Innocence Simulator, which costs as much as a fancy condo, far out of the price range of the average garage band.
Today, I will somehow pack, without boxes until Boxing Day; Sunday being both a Sunday and Christmas Eve, my last-minute search for boxes proved fruitless (but I bought an O'Reilly Python book, right before the bookstore closed at 6 PM -- my gift to me). Somewhere in this house is a copy of the Dave Clark Five's greatest hits, if I haven't given or traded it away at some point; if found, I'll put it on my mother's Victrola, and pogo to "Glad All Over" or something while I work.