Wond’ring aloud —
will the years treat us well.
As she floats in the kitchen,
I’m tasting the smell
of toast as the butter runs.
Then she comes, spilling crumbs on the bed
and I shake my head.
And it’s only the giving
that makes you what you are.
— the prophet ian anderson
What to do when you’re bordering on deafness with a side order of insanity?
Turn it up to 11.
As I round third and head for home despite the coach frantically waving for me to stay on base, I am trying to avoid the inevitable slump that comes with knowing that your demise is near and you’re never going to sell as many jerseys as Jeter anyhow, so what’s the point?
Rummaging around for a 30-week training plan for life, I recalled that my mantra for happiness as a kid was The Big Three: work, run, music.
If all three were going well, life was perfect. If two were clicking, things were OK. One? Tolerable. None? Trouble.
Maybe that’s my problem these days. Work is not so great anymore, the consequence of thanklessly toiling in a forgotten industry. Running will always be dubious, given the limitations of a monkey transplant heart. So what’s left? Musica musica musica!!!! Accordion sold separately.
I pulled out the guitar after a five-year sabbatical (what the hell was THAT about?) but have no idea what the ridiculous tunings and chord structures were on the majority of my songs. Shoulda listened to Tom Petty. Two chords is plenty. So what’s left?
Reveling in the recorded music of others. I love music more than pretty much anything but the Medium Chocolate Frosty and Lucy at 4 a.m. Surely a drastic injection will bring me out of my slump.
The problem? I jettisoned all stereo equipment during the Great Purge of 19-something-or-other. So I’ve just been listening on the iPhone and laptop. Every song in the world is available. Quality, not so much.
I asked Mo if I could buy a new stereo. Sure, she said, in that sort of way your best friend says even though she thinks it’s a bad idea. It will cost about 800 bucks and then I will need a Listening Chair, I pointed out. She shrugged and said whatever you need. Mo’s a keeper.
But then I started digging around and found an old pair of Bose headphones that had met an unfortunate fate when a friend borrowed them for a trip to Ireland. After a few minutes of gluing the headphones and my left hand permanently together, we were in business. Or maybe a small nonprofit saving baby penguins. Anyhow, it sounded great.
The iPhone has many good traits. It allows you to find out what Jenn Shelton’s up to at any given second while maintaining a Hipster Presence standing in line at the Dollar Family Store. Which is pretty much all you need. What it does NOT offer a volume capable of killing small animals at short distance.
As I approach the years that are lovingly referred to as “dead,” I find that my hearing is not what it used to be. That being, well, functional. Apparently standing 5 feet from the PA bank at rock concerts in your misspent youth isn’t the best long-term strategy for longevity. Who knew? That’s OK. Baby concert totally worth it.
What to do?
After months of research over the course of 10 minutes (ok, i have a short attention span), I found the perfect headphone amp. Huge power, two gain settings, equalizer, tiny. Once again, I can hurt myself while listening. (Music to cut down parking meters by, Baby called it.) They say listening to headphones at high volume in your golden years with bad hearing is the worst thing you can do. Good enough for me.
So as I’m typing this, I am listening to Jethro Tull’s “Aqualung” for no other reason than it came up while searching for Smelly Dog Polka Band.
A series of Jethro Tull albums were the soundtrack of my Kit Smith courtship. No, I never even got to second. I wasn’t much of a baseball player, and Kit’s dad was third-base coach. As best I can recall, our high school romance ended only because we realized that because both of our last names were Smith, the wedding would be way too confusing. When I listen to Ian Anderson, I think of her and those simple times and how your first love can become intertwined with a guy standing on one leg playing a recorder. Isn’t that what music should be? A celebration. A memory. A tear. A smile. At least for the course of an hour (and the subsequent visit to “Thick as a Brick,” I’m happy.
And if I end up totally deaf by the end of the week, it’s worth it. Look out, Jeter. I’m coming for you.
Now if I can just get these headphones unglued from my hand …
postscript: Just switched to Soundgarden. Superunknown. The Day I Tried To Live. Lordy god what a glorious album. Who knows what would have happened if THAT had been the soundtrack of the Courtship With Kit …