what's my age again?

I finally got around to cleaning out all of the old CD cases that have been living on the top shelf of my closet for the past seven years. I had been putting it off forever because, obviously, cleaning out my closet is always a daunting task, but dealing with the empty CD cases specifically was a heartbreaking task that I just couldn’t bring myself to face because of what it meant I was finally giving up.

In the summer of 2009 I lived in an ex-fraternity house on Wittenberg’s campus in Springfield. The block directly east of campus is notorious for being one of the most crime-ridden and filthy areas of town, and this just happened to be the block that the back of the fraternity house and its parking lot faced. I parked my car there every day, lulled by the foolish sense of security I had always had when roaming Wittenberg’s undeniably unsafe campus for three years prior to that fateful summer. One morning…er, afternoon, rather…Amy reported that her car had been…well, not broken into, because her doors had been unlocked, but her car had been rummaged through and a couple of things were now missing. Sure enough, when I went to check my car, the tiny triangle pane of the back window was busted out, and my non-factory stereo, my gigantic binder of CDs, and all the change from my middle console was gone.

The overwhelming loss that I experienced that day can be summed up in a single word, and it’s this: DEVASTATION. I was, and continue to this day to be, fucking DEVASTATED about the loss of the ENTIRE CD COLLECTION that I had painstakingly been growing for TWELVE YEARS, ever since the tender age of nine when I received my first two CDs as a Christmas gift from my parents: NSync and the Backstreet Boys. I remember playing those CDs on my dad’s beloved Sony stereo, so excited to have my very own CDs alongside my dad’s ever-growing collection of classic rock and roll. When I was ten or eleven my parents bought me a boombox with a CD player, and my collection continued to grow. The next addition was Hanson’s Middle of Nowhere, and after that it was Blink 182’s racy, pornstar-clad “sellout” album Enema of the State. From then on, I was freaking obsessed, and there was no turning back.

All through middle school and high school I carefully cultivated my CD collection, testing out new artists on Napster and meticulously combing through the racks of the local record store. I remember my mom dropping me off at Threshold or Best Buy to shop for CDs, and I always relished it like a kid in a candy store. To this day I get unreasonably excited in the music section of any store, and what begins as casual browsing quickly turns to longingly poring over endless albums I’d love to someday own.

The thing is, though, that CDs are almost completely obsolete these days. For most people, that is. In the age of iPhones and MacBooks and Sirius radio and Pirate Bay, who even gives a fuck about CDs anymore? I mean, why would someone want to buy some overpriced disc that will inevitably end up getting too dirty or scratched to even listen to anymore, when instead they could download an mp3 file, be it legally on iTunes or illegally elsewhere, and have the song at their fingertips via their iPod 24/7, no burdensome jewel case or liner notes necessary.

ME. ME ME ME ME ME. That’s who!

First of all, I’m still living in the Stone Age without an iPod or iTunes and relying solely on the newer, updated version of my non-factory car stereo, paid for by my insurance after the old one was so wrongly ripped away from me three years ago. And secondly, I love buying CDs. Just like with buying books, there is something uniquely special and exhilarating to me about physically owning an album that I can hold in my hands, and it literally breaks my heart that my hard-earned CD collection was taken from me. I mean, I get it- I got what I deserved for parking in the sketchy back parking lot next to the meth-house slum block and leaving the face plate on my stereo. But what kind of deranged crackhead actually thought that my booklet of CDs was going to be worth anything?

And THEN, just to add insult to the injury, the fucker took all of my godamn jukebox change from the console too. Screw you, man!! SCREW YOU!!!!!

I am endlessly thankful that by some odd stroke of luck I had JUST decided to rip a majority of my CD collection onto my laptop the week before the physical discs got stolen. I spent hours loading each of my favorite albums onto my computer, along with some not-so-favorite ones, but there were plenty that didn’t make the hard drive cut and remained tucked away in the pages of the CD binder for a lonely drive on a rainy day. There were mixes made for me by friends, and years and years of happiness, heartbreak, betrayal, reconciliation, and every other adolescent emotion in pop punk form. That CD collection meant more to me than I could ever even put into words, because those albums had helped me survive my teenage years. Even the ones that I would probably NEVER listen to again were albums I had pointedly purchased and loved in some way and some point, and it kills me to see those dusty, empty jewel cases from the top shelf, reminders of a time when I was better equipped for long drives and more bogged down by the physical evidence of my arguably shitty taste in music.

I’m finally forcing myself to throw away all of the empty cases, making a mental note of albums I need to buy again or download, and accepting the absence of ones that will likely never be a part of my music collection again. I’m bitter about it, and dejected about the ever-daunting, costly, and time-consuming process of continuously building my collection, and nostalgic for all the albums that got me through the old days.

The only cases I couldn’t bring myself to throw away were all of the Blink 182 albums that I had so laboriously hunted down during the peak of my obsession- from their crappy but viscerally awesome debut album Cheshire Cat, and the even crappier demo album Buddha that preceded it, to the polished and wildly successful self-titled album that came out so many years after I first fell in love with Enema of the State when I was too young to even get the pun in the title. I still know the words to every song on that album, and when their next album comes out later this year, the shiny new jewel case will be placed atop the dusty stack of liner-less disc-less cases on my bookshelf, a tribute to the everlasting value of nostalgic musical devotion.


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