My beautiful, beautiful CD’s.
Hundreds and hundreds of them. Indie rock from the early 2000’s. The entire Neil Young catalogue. I’ve got the 90’s covered. Kurt Cobain, Pearl Jam, and Stone Temple Pilots. Alice ‘N Chains, Radiohead, and Tori freaking Amos. Classic rock. The Beatles. Pink Floyd. Everything Peter Gabriel ever did. R.E.M. Wilco. Uncle Tupelo. Steve Earle. The entire Bob Dylan discography. Bootlegged concerts. Mixes. Muddy Waters, Woody Guthrie, Billy Bragg. And don’t get me started on Bright Eyes!
Do you know Conor Oberst and I are the same height? I once stood next to him during the opening act for one of his shows at the 400 Bar. 2001 or something.
I could go on and on and on and on and on about my wonderful, wonderful CD’s. My beautiful, beautiful CD collection. My precious.
I put it down a few weeks ago. A bullet in the back of its head. As it was looking out into the distance. I whispered sweet nothings as I cocked the gun.
“The cornfields of Iowa will be so beautiful, my CD’s. You’ll never want for anything again. Paradise without end.”
And then the cold revolver clicked.
I began collecting music when I was thirteen. Or fourteen. Pearl Jam’s Ten was the first album I purchased. In Utero was the second. I had them both as cassette tapes. But I wanted the CD’s. Because CD’s were cool when I was fourteen. It was 1994.
Nearly thirty years and thousands of dollars later, I probably had nearly 1,000 CD’s. They were stored in my campus office at The Pennsylvania State University, Altoona campus. Why? There was no room in my house. So I had them organized in alphabetical order in my filing cabinet. Four drawers.
I don’t even own a CD player anymore. My new car doesn’t have a CD player. It’s been years since I’ve listened to anything from my collection.
I was faced with a devastating decision as I began packing up my office. Would I bring my CD’s to Iowa City with me? I heard Eef Barzelay whimpering from my filing cabinet.
“Don’t let this be the end of love, Sam.”
John Lennon chimed in from the drawer above:
“Don’t let me down!”
Ryan Adams spoke up, from his Whiskeytown days before he was cancelled:
“Excuse me while I break my own heart.”
I did what I had to do. I tossed the CD cases into enormous, black garbage bags. I didn’t look at the titles. I covered my ears as Jay Farrar’s mournful voice begged me not to twist the knife. It was like an episode of Hoarders. But one where the hoarder decides to get rid of the stuff.
I left the bags outside my office. Near the trash.
I got an email from our staff assistant the next day.
“Are you throwing away those CD’s? Some people want them.”
I wanted to write back no! No, I’m not throwing away my beautiful collection! My precious! But I resisted the urge. My reply was short:
“Yes, anybody can take them,” I wrote.
I came to campus the next week. My collection was stacked in the staff assistant’s office. My colleagues at The Pennsylvania State University Altoona campus had rifled through them. Taking turns with my precious CD’s like they were cheap floozies. I couldn’t watch.
Gone, as E from the Eels might sing, gone, man gone.
We’ve gotten rid of so much stuff in preparation for our move. Getting rid of my CD’s was the hardest. Getting rid of my old N64 games was a close second.
We live in the days of streaming services. Spotify. And I’ve downloaded all sorts of classic video games for my Switch. And I never play my old N64 or PS2 games, and I never listen to my CD’s. So it’s reasonable to throw away my old collections. Even if it is painful. The number of shifts I worked at McDonalds or Subway to save up for Majora’s Mask or the collection of Pink Floyd albums. That’s lots of labor. Blood, sweat, and tears.
My friend James is an economist. He’d describe these things as sunk costs. So it goes, I guess.
I got an email last week. From a colleague at The Pennsylvania State University Altoona campus. I’d never met him before. Here’s what he wrote:
“Hi! I’m not sure who you are, but I’m an instructor at PSU Altoona, and I picked up probably 100 of your CDs you left behind.
This is an awesome collection. I guess thanks for sharing? I’ve been listening to a new one each day going to work.”
They live on! Part of me wanted to write:
“Give them back! They’re mine! My precious!”
But the older, wiser Sam simply wrote that he was happy that the music was being enjoyed. As George Harrison sang (and as Jim James covered beautifully forty years later), all things must pass. As Bonnie Prince Billy sang, there’s the letting go. (I could go on quoting song lyrics for days. I’ll stop.)
My CD collection is gone. And I’m on my way down the road. Iowa City bound. That’s all.
And in the end, my CD’s, the love you take, is equal to the love you make.