Monday, June 8, 2015

Reliving the Simple Joy of a CD Case

Thinking back to my teenage years, there are basically 3 things that made me feel independent:

  1. Driving
  2. Buying my own food (usually at Wendy's)
  3. My CD collection
Yeah, that's kind of a weird thing to tie to independence. Or maybe it isn't. A lot of people use music to define them, to set them apart from their parent's generation or whatever. For me it was that, but also more than that. Music was definitely definitive for me. And it definitely set me apart from my parents. But it also set me apart from my siblings, which in a lot of ways was more important to me; I was the 7th child after all. 

My CD collection was basically my escape. I would go hide in my room and put in a CD when too many people came over. Headphones were often my saving grace (at least until I lost the hearing in my left ear. It wasn't due to loud music, if that's what you are thinking. But that's a story for another post.) Even if I was going camping, my CD collection came along in one of those big CD cases. 

For a long time I had it all laid out so the front of the page had the little booklet, with the actual CD on the back side. Even with over 100 discs, I knew that thing so well I could open up right to the page with the CD I wanted, almost without fail. Eventually I realized the books were getting ruined (and also I needed more room) so I switched to just CDs. Those CDs went everywhere with me. 

One of these babies

Then the iPod came along. I remember the first time I heard of them in one of those VW New Beetle commercials. I thought it sounded like a terrible idea. "But what about all my CDs?" I naively bemoaned. Obviously, it didn't take all that long for me to come around to the idea, and my CD case became less and less critical, and more and more often left at home like Buzz and Woody wishing I'd come back and play again. Then came smartphones, and eventually Google Play All Access, and my wonderful CD collection became completely irrelevant. 

Then last weekend I went on a camping trip. I didn't plan ahead very well, and so I didn't get music downloaded on my phone. At the last minute I decided to grab the old CD binder. That ended up being the best thing I could have done.

I had forgotten about the added pleasure of the artwork on the CD. Albums like Beck's Odelay with artwork but no words were still instantly recognizable, and seeing them like that brought back tons of memories. Flipping through the pages reminded me of all the time I spent lovingly organizing the collection into just the right order. (Always Zeppelin first, of course.)

So I've been carrying my CD case around in my car for the last week. The one I have now only fits a fraction of my collection, but it's kind of refreshing to be limited to just that. Most of them are my absolute favorites. Although, since the CD collection was also a status symbol for the music crowd I ran with, I had to sprinkle in some of the more obscure selections. For street cred. 

I didn't actually understand this album until years later