I just got a new stereo and was excited about the acquisition. My dad once told me that every respectable young man should have a decent stereo, and at 26 I was finally going to become respectable. I pored over audiophile forum threads for beginners and tried to get some sort of understanding of how speakers and receivers worked together. Why receivers from the 80s with lower printed specs were actually more powerful than many newer receivers that claimed to have much more power. Asked people on Amazon if I could use a turntable with a tiny receiver and started researching phono preamps. I watched tracking updates eagerly as all the pieces, ordered from three different sellers, made their way towards my home. The bookshelf speakers came first. I cut the wire and stripped the ends in anticipation, leaving the unconnected ends where the receiver would go. The next day I got my tiny receiver and powered it on. I smiled as the speakers hummed and grinned at the little pop they made when I powered them off. But I couldn’t actually play anything because my male to male cable to connect my ipod hadn’t come in. When it finally did, I dropped my bag as soon as I walked through my door and put on a couple of tunes and a podcast to test it out briefly. After maybe ten minutes I realized that I had already listened to four hours of audio that day and wanted to do something else. I went out for groceries. Read a bit. Did life stuff. And my stereo has been largely neglected for the last three days.
It reminded me of when I was high school (middle school?) and I got my first iPod. My dad brought it home with him after work and I unpackaged it in a way that was paradoxically reverent and hasty. Hugs were had by all, and then I ran upstairs to load music on it. I remember that my music library was a mess and I was determined to slog through it and get everything set all at once. I guess I had disappeared for quite some time because my parents called me downstairs. I don’t know how long I’d been using it, but I vividly remember sitting in a chair in the TV room with my parents and my brother, earbuds in, clutching my iPod with a faint smile, feeling so satisfied and smug about having something so awesome. I listened to it all night, even when I’d run out of albums I truly wanted to listen to. I was so enamored with this beautiful thing that was mine.
I buy a lot of stuff. Too much stuff. I almost never feel that way anymore about the things I get. The pleasure in having something new fades more quickly. I wonder if I got a good deal or whether I spent too much money. I keep thinking about Chuck Klosterman’s essay on The Sims when I shop.
Particularly this part where he talks to Will Wright:
Materialism is the red herring of the game, he says. Nobody seems to pick up on that. The more you play, the more you realize that all the stuff you buy eventually breaks down and creates all these little explosions in your life.”