Tuesday, December 22, 2009

He's a Hoarder

It's My Own Cheating Heart That Makes Me Cry - Glasvegas (mp3)

My name is Billy, and I'm a music hoarder. ("Hi Billy.") I've been a music hoarder for going on two years now.

If you haven't, in a fit of late-night tossing and turning, found yourself watching a little of A&E's show Hoarders, then bully for you. But if you have, then you've seen some screwed-up tales of incredibly screwed-up people whose houses have become overrun with, to bastardize U2, all that they can't leave behind.

Houses where every square inch is covered with trash, or boxes, or belongings in various states of decay. Floors piled sometimes four and six inches high with it, so thick and long-trampled that it's like an extra few layers of cushion. A mess so horrendous that mice, rats, sometimes bigger pests have passed entire generations through the experience. Some people can't even bear to throw away their own fecal matter.

Anyone who has visited my home on a normal chaotic day will know that I ain't makin' fun of these folks. We are very much a "there but for the grace of God..." kind of family on this one. Our house is rarely immaculate. Our house is usually quite disheveled. And by "disheveled," I mean fucking messy. But I see these people on Hoarders and I think, Hmmm... we ain't so bad after all...

No, I watch this show for some of the same reasons I watch Supernanny: to witness a cautionary tale of what we cannot allow to happen to us.

I learned growing up with two massively screwed-up step-brothers that sometimes we learn the right path by witnessing first-hand where the wrong paths lead. Sometimes we learn what best to do by learning what not to do and how not to do it.

Hoarders -- and according to the show there's an estimated 3 million of them in the US -- have a mental illness. I would have laughed at that suggestion a decade ago, but now I firmly believe it to be true. Still, that illness places them only a hair's breadth from the sane and normal world in which most of us live.

But back to my original point.

Since I started blogging with Bob, I have become a music hoarder.

This is due to a perfect storm of events: (1) the rise of the almighty iPod as the centerpiece of a music lover's life; (2) the starting up of a music-themed blog where we aim to post songs with every musing we make; (3) the increasingly narrow window of time in my life where I can sit down, uninterrupted (by my own urges or those of my friends and family), and simply listen to and savor music.

In my younger days of albums and cassette tapes, I would buy something and listen to it several dozen times in the first week. I can remember having the entire words to Rush's Hold Your Fire memorized before the first weekend of ownership had concluded. This memorization was done with the same kind of pride and conviction that some people ascribe to memorizing lines of Shakespeare or entire Robert Frost poems.

As my obsession with females became less of a theoretical notion worried over in the isolation of my bedroom, and as I passed through high school and then college and then into the precious career world, I simply couldn't sit with my back against a wall, album liner notes and lyric sheet in my hands, studying every line break and chorus. Then, suddenly I not only had a job, but I had kids and obligations that went beyond the work day and the family life, and what time I stubbornly fought to keep for myself was devoted to going out and getting beer with friends or watching a movie or playing some mindless video game. Memorizing the lyrics to a Rush album suddenly became the punchline to some twisted joke about having way too much fucking free time on your hands.

With my first iPod and initial trip into iTunes, I was only downloading 1-5 songs from most of my CDs. The idea of wasting precious hard drive real estate on the detritus of albums, even "pretty good" albums, felt foolish. Who listens to "Rats" off Pearl Jam's second album all that much anyway, right?*

On my first iPod, I knew every song I'd placed on it. Not just the name of the song and the artist, knew it. On my latest iPod, I'm fast approaching the 8,000-song mark, and probably 10-15% of the songs I couldn't tell you the artist and song title. Sometimes I don't know either, mostly thanks to all the free stuff given to me through BOTG.

"In the old days," even if I didn't like a CD I'd purchased, I could trade it in at McKay's, get some trade value out of it, and let myself believe that CD would find a happy home, like a pound puppy. Buying them digitally, however, changes the game. My only choices are to keep it or delete it forever, to wipe it out of existence, to declare it to have zero worth.

That's tough for me to do. I just can't declare a song I purchased worthless, even if it actually is worthless, gathering cobwebs in the dark recesses of my iPod. I am incapable of declaring something that I've paid for to be utterly worthless.

* -- This is a rhetorical question and does not need to be answered by nutty Pearl Jam-ites who happen to think "Rats" is the most brilliant work of musical art since Mozart wrote kick-ass requiems.


BeckEye said...

"* -- This is a rhetorical question and does not need to be answered by nutty Pearl Jam-ites who happen to think "Rats" is the most brilliant work of musical art since Mozart wrote kick-ass requiems."

Look, I was just gonna say that I still kinda like "Rats" and since it's on my favorite PJ record, I still listen to it every now and then.

It's actually kinda funny because I was JUST talking to someone about this song, like, a week ago.

grizaham said...

haha.. rats is an interesting song. i did get to hear it played live for the 1st and only time in philly this year.. it was definately interesting! ;-)

jed said...

for me, hoarding does not equal listening and appreciating.

troutking said...

At least you make an attempt to listen to your songs. There's a certain math teacher who might just hoard songs and movies only to say he's got 10,000 songs or 1,000 movies...