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Just a Thought - iPod and Me

by - July 23rd, 2004

"You are the Sunshine of My Life"
Stevie Wonder, Talking Book

I finally bought an iPod. The stars aligned just so, Fate smiled, Luck was a lady, and Apple put some 10 GB refurbished iPods up for sale on it's Hot Deals Web site.

So, now I have an iPod, and I have to say that I should have found a way to scrape together enough cash to buy one a long time ago. Toying with a friend's iPod, or poking at the scroll wheel at the local Apple Store is nothing like owning one. Nothing! What was I thinking? I knew that owning an iPod would be cool, and I knew that having my music so close, so available would be great, but I had no idea how much it would affect me.

"Music and Me"
Michael Jackson, Music and Me

I'm one of those guys who lives in awe and envy of those who can play an instrument well. It was either the misalignment of the stars, Fate with a hangover, or Luck with menstrual cramps that conspired to only offer me the opportunity to listen instead of create music. That's OK, however, because music still became a central part of my life; it was a friend when I needed it, and when I was a lot younger, I really needed a friend. Back then the AM, then the FM radio gave substance to my pal, and I wanted her with me everywhere I went. I became fascinated with the tiny 1, 2, and 3 transistor radios that came from Japan and Taiwan, and small, smaller, and smallest cassette players, allowed me to play the music I wanted when I wanted.

When I got older I bought a stereo set up. It was huge; monster speakers with 10" woofers, 300 watt receiver, a turntable so delicate it came with a bubble leveler. I bought hundreds of vinyl albums; Mozart, Ohio Players, Santana, Stylistics, Queen, Isao Tomita, The O Jays. I listened to Soul, Jazz, Rock, Pop, Disco, New Age -- music from every corner of the globe.

Then the Walkman was born. My first one cost me a bit more than $200; it was barely larger than the cassette it held, and I used it for nearly 10 years. Music became personal again.

"Walk On By"
Issac Hayes, Hot Buttered Soul

Somewhere along the way I let my relationship with music cool. Oh, I still boogie when I hear a favorite tune, but the songs and melodies where pushed aside by the mechanics of living. Radio soon became intolerable; it made no sense to listen to 10 minutes of repeated songs separated by 15 minutes of inane commentary passing for humor, or commercials featuring some fool telling me, yelling as if through a bullhorn, how much money I would save if I hurried down to Bob's Used Cars before the never-ending sale ended.

Even though music and I were not on the best of terms, I still bought CDs and audio equipment; we stayed in touch. My CD collection slowly swelled to number more than 300. Occasionally, music and I would get together and we'd be like old friends who haven't seen each other in years, but instantly fall back into sync upon meeting again. A new artist or song will pop up; Nelly Futado, Richard Bona, Erhen Starks, and for a few days to a couple of weeks I would have my old pal back again in the guise of a CD player.

"Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes"
Paul Simon, Graceland

But CDs, for all of their relative convenience, could not keep up with me; players skipped and were bulky to carry. At home I found music to be confining: The music from my stereo was full bodied and rich with texture, I could feel it in my bones, yet listening to CDs on stereos forced me to stay in one room. I wound up walking, more often dancing, around in circles, like a very cool, very rhythmic, but very caged cat.

My caged dances occurred less often as I found other things that required my attention, and music and I drifted apart again.

"In High Places"
Mike Oldfield, Crisis

I bought my iPod about three weeks ago, and with it my old pal music came back to stay. I started ripping random CDs into iTunes just to have something play on my iPod. I had only ripped a few albums and decided to take my new personification of music for a spin on my bicycle. It was only a half-hour ride, but during that time I had heard 4 songs I hadn't thought about in years. A spontaneous grin erupted across my face and I started singing loudly. Passersby gawked at me with trepidation; who wouldn't be wary of a man going by in blue mirrored sunglasses on a bike, pedaling as fast as he can while bopping his head from side to side and yelling, "Layla, you've got me on my knees!"

"Simply Irresistible"
Robert Palmer, Heavy Nova

Now I want more. I want my entire CD collection ripped, I want songs I haven't heard in 20 years downloaded from iTunes Music Store, I want to convert my vinyl albums into MP3s. All of that takes time, I know, but I don't want to go anywhere without my iPod, no place without my music.

I suppose that another, cheaper hard drive based music player would have had me listening to music again, but I don't think it would have been nearly as much fun as the iPod and iTunes. Once I get my music into iTunes, I don't want to have to think about what to play. I have a general playlist called 'Chillin' where I dump all of my songs. (I also listen to audio books, so I can't just dump the whole library.) Once loaded into my iPod, I choose the random song option and let 'er rip.

I've bought some better earphones, something that will stay put in my ears while I jog and sweat in the morning. (What's up with the ear buds, Apple? Not everyone can wear them, and certainly not everyone likes them.) I'm looking into FM transmitters now for my car, The first thing I bought for the iPod was a big padded leather case, something I can clip to my belt. Now, music and I are joined at the hip, at the head, and at the heart. I see no reason for that to change any time soon. Steve Jobs said it best: It's about the music, stupid.

is a writer who currently lives in Orlando, FL. He's been a Mac fan since Atari Computers folded, but has worked with computers of nearly every type for 20 years.

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