Anyone Need Their Savage Breast Soothed?

A few months ago when I discovered that half my digital music collection had silently and irretrievably gone south forever, I did not lose my mind. Getting the info off the guilty eternal disc drive might have been possible with professional help, but the costs were prohibitive.

And yet I am still nearly sane and quite happy. It’s not the tragedy it would have been a few years ago, because in the digital era, especially with subscription music services like Spotify, Pandora, and Apple Music, I can listen to music all day long for a few bucks a month. This includes every tune that I lost, and all for less than the price of one album. So I have let the episode go, decided it was a good lesson learned and joined the millions of people who say: music collection … why would I even need such a thing?

I had a fairly large vinyl collection once upon a time, but when compact discs hit the market I went with them immediately. (I am obviously not a vinyl romanticist, and do not ascribe magical qualities to any recording format.) I will let the purists argue over whether digital music is better or worse than the analog stuff on those old LPs. Arguing either viewpoint is just not interesting to me. Only the music is interesting.

Perhaps if I were younger I would care more. If my hearing were better and I didn’t have any of that blasted tinnitus, I might perceive meaningful differences. But with the ears I have, an mp3 is more than adequate to please me these days.

I have chosen Apple Music as the service to use, but not for any good reason. I would have been happy with any of the others, I am pretty certain. And as time passes I am becoming more skillful in getting out of it what I want. It is really a treat to be able to double down on a particular artist and explore all that they have recorded without needing to purchase anything and then having to store it somewhere.

Of course, if the apocalypse arrives and I don’t have the internet I won’t have any music to listen to. However, I suspect that in any apocalypse worth its name the power would go out and I wouldn’t be able to play what I had on the shelf, either. It’s sort of in the nature of apocalypses to be a drag, it seems.

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It amuses me to listen to the discussions about the wonderfulness of vinyl records. While they were the best music source of their time, they were not without their issues. I had turntables that would apply a stylus weight of just a gram or two so as not to carve away any microbits of plastic with music on them. And yet they still did some of that carving, just more slowly.

And then there was the regular necessary cleaning of the disc surface with products designed just for that job. Heat could warp the discs, they were brittle in cold weather, and even if you did everything exactly right in trying to preserve their contents, there are fungi all about us that eat vinyl for breakfast that were ready to settle on your records as soon as you brought them out. Meaning that even unplayed discs were slowly degrading in their envelopes as these tiny creatures chewed away.

Vinyl albums also had mechanical limitations in their playback. You could only listen to one side and then had to get up and flip the disc over. You could only play the cuts in the order they had been recorded, and this included having to listen to that tune you hated located in the middle of side B (unless, once again, you got out of your chair and walked over to the turntable to move the arm). You could not mix artists, which is why making our own mixtapes became so popular when good quality cassettes and Dolby recording technology finally came along.

Those mixtapes provided us the opportunity to make our first playlists, where we could set up an evening’s listening the way we wanted it. And which we now take for granted, as if they’d always been there, courtesy of ol’Thomas Edison hisself.

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Continuing our raking through the ashes of movies made about those madcap Tudors, Robin and I watched a film from the seventies called Mary, Queen of Scots. It starred Vanessa Redgrave and Glenda Jackson, two acting powerhouses if ever there were any. The original story itself is quite a dramatic one, with schemings and plottings and beheadings enough to satisfy most people.

But we thought the movie was a dud. Redgrave played the role of the doomed Mary, and she came across as a dimbulb who became infatuated with nearly anyone in pantaloons who came within reach. By the time she was marched to the block and the axe fell, we were ready to be rid of her, truth be told.

But what a story the history books tell. Elizabeth (here played by Jackson), was the daughter of Anne Boleyn, another decapitee of note, and became one of the premier queens of all time. But she had no children, so that James, the son of Mary (whose head Elizabeth had caused to be lopped off) became king of England upon Elizabeth’s death. You couldn’t make this stuff up, folks. For a movie to take such tantalizing material and make it all seem dull and irritating really took some doing.

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We had friends over Thursday for the evening meal. They have a daughter now living in Lima, Peru, and had made a trip to visit her just a month ago. We insisted that they bring their pictures of the trip with them, since our own visit to that city several years ago had been such a memorable one.

Now, I ask you, how often do you get asked to show pictures of your vacation? For myself, the answer is never. It may be because I was once famous for never throwing any photograph away, no matter how poor it was. Which made the showing of the vacation slides an event to be dreaded and avoided at nearly all costs. Here is what a sample of my voiceover for any slideshow in the past might have sounded like:

So here we are in … wait a minute … where is this? This picture doesn’t even belong here, it’s from another trip, for goodness sake. Here we are. This is a picture of me and Robin on a quaint street in Santa Fe. Can you see us back there … if you look closely … see, over there by the pillar? Here’s another one and I apologize for the blurriness, I tried to take it while driving the car and shooting out the window. This next one … well, you’ll just have to use your imaginations … it’s the entire cast of the movie Dirty Harry. Too bad the only shot I had was of them walking away down the block … there … that tall one … that’s the back of Clint Eastwood’s head.

Now let’s get back to Thursday evening. We decided upon a laid-back country-style meal, and we settled on meatloaf, a huge bowl of mashed potatoes, and enough steamed broccoli to have sent that famous brocco-phobe George HW Bush straight to the ICU.

Now, when we decided to feature something as homely and comfort-foodish as meatloaf, we felt we needed to find something a little special in that department. Something out of the ordinary. On the web I ran across a recipe for this dish that had a charming backstory. It was called the Market Street Meatloaf, and if you’re interested you can read that story here.

To be brief, the dish was a roaring success. It was almost embarrassing what with all of us trying to stab yet another slice of the loaf while trying not to become a victim of all those pointy implements converging on it from all directions. Words were exchanged that may require months for the wounds to heal, and Robin saw a side of me that was better kept under wraps. But we finished the meal without serious injuries, and that’s always a good thing.

When the evening was over, and our guests had gone home, what was left over from what had looked at first like a week’s worth of meatloaf was only enough for one sandwich. We’ll try to be civil about it tomorrow, but there is only that one sandwich possible …. .

I will share the recipe with you, but if you ever serve it to a group, make sure that the rules of engagement are clear before the meal begins. Better done that way, I think.

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Saturday was nearly a record warm day for Paradise. So we decided to take one of our old standby hikes up at Black Canyon National Park as the first real test for Robin’s new knee. It turns out that we rushed the season a bit, because the trail was half snow/half mud. But we did two miles of it, puffing as we always do when we first exert ourselves each year at altitudes over 8000 feet.

And the verdict on the rebuilt knee – it worked very well, indeed.

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