Monday, November 22, 2004

How to Grow Old and Stay Hip OR How to Avoid Having Your Hip Replaced

Last summer my family helped my niece Megan turn 21 by giving her an iPod for her birthday. This past week, Megan made me chortle aloud when she sent me a thank you card. "Thank you for the iPod. I love it!" she wrote. "I can't believe that you can put 3,000 songs on it and it still weighs the same!" Megan clearly demonstrated that she got the sense of humor in our family.

Likewise for my 40th birthday my family helped me celebrate by buying me an iPod (and proving Megan is 19 years ahead of me). And like my niece I gotta say that I love the device. It has already changed my life.

I will say that having read all the glowing accounts of the iPod over the past few years I was skeptical. I remember when I was in high school and Sony came out with their first Walkman, my parents were kind enough to buy me one to keep me hip to my generation. It was the size of a Bible but it was so cool to be able to walk around outside the house and listen to MY music. Thanks to Sony the dreariness of my senior year of high school was punctuated by my own personal soundtrack playing in my ears.

The iPod is to the Walkman what the telephone was to the telegraph. First the thing looks damn cool. It's a little bit smaller than a baseball card and it's got such a sleek light look that even my over abundant dorkiness quotient is minimized by my carrying it around.

I've already downloaded (or is that uploaded?) over 100 of my CDs on to the iPod and to have that much of my personal music collection at my fingertips at all times is great. It even makes the 70 hour work weeks not so overwhelming to be able to dial up one of my favorite songs whenever I want to.

Of course Megan's joke doesn't quite work in my circumstances because how to best begin using the iPod weighed me down in moments of sheer panic. First, I had to decide what CD would get the honor of being the first on my new treasure. After much thought I chose Ike Reilly's new CD Sparkle in the Finish simply because prior to receiving my gift it was the CD that was getting my constant attention. Next, knowing that it would take me some time to fill up my iPod I had to figure out what order I was going to follow in transferring my CDs. This was where things really got tricky.

My listening habits over the years have developed thusly: there are about 50 CDs in my collection that get played all the time. There are another 10-15 that get played a lot but don't quite qualify as highly as the first group. There are then those new purchases that get a play or two a day for a week as I decide whether or not they mean anything to me. There are another couple hundred that get grabbed once in awhile just before work mainly because there is a song that I just need to hear that day.

Of course my music collection is skewed towards a few favorite artists: Bob Dylan, Frank Sinatra, Liz Phair, Lucinda Williams, etc. Their music eventually was the first batch I put on the iPod. The process itself became great fun as I somehow managed to rediscover my love of Sinatra's music in particular. Yes I'm an old man but I dare you to listen to Frank's version of "It Never Entered My Mind" and try to feel things quite the same ever again.

The other thing I re-discovered is what a great songwriter John Hiatt is. After downloading my collection of his CDs, I marveled at how even how when his lesser known songs come up when I hit the shuffle option on iPod how glad I am to hear that particular song again. The man simply has a marvelous way with words.

I did decide that as I enter the era of a looming AARP membership that I will continue to try and stay in tune with what the kids are listening to. And it doesn't hurt the matter any to listen to their music on the forum that is the latest technology. Yes the iPod may already have become my latest obsession but I'm not alone. Not this time anyway.

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