Living Below Your Means
Old, and Not Happy About It

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By Goofyhoofy
January 25, 2008

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It's balloon day for me, always a personal contradiction between the brightly colored icon at the top of the page and the depressing feeling it gives me about being another year older. I'm already old enough! STOP THE TRAIN! That shout-out never works, and with both a balloon day and a birthday I get to bark at the train twice a year instead of once. Jolly. Thanks Fool, for doubling my pleasure.

I bought Mrs. Goofy an iPod for Christmas, and dutiful husband that I am, ripped our CD collection into iTunes, a project which went on for, oh, a year. Then, clueless husband that I am, I transferred the files to a different hard drive and screwed everything up, requiring me to do it all over again. I'm sure a 13 year old wouldn't have made that mistake. See what I mean about being old?

Anyway, as I sit here doing this mindless exercise I got to thinking about music in my life and its many forms; and it started with, as best I remember, a little record player that spun bright red or yellow Walt Disney records at the frightening speed of 78 rpm. Out in the living room my folks had a record player which did the same with much larger platters, but that was replaced in time by something called a "Hi-Fi", for which my father built a beautiful walnut cabinet. "Hi-Fi" played 33 (and 1/3) rpm records and sounded GREAT, especially considering the competition was my 78rpm box and AM radio.

Hi-Fi gave way to "stereo Hi-Fi", (hardware upgrade, and a needle change ever couple hundred hours), and in time my little music box was replaced by a suitcase sort of thing with latches that played 45rpm records, such was the teenage media at the time. I remember that big fat spindle from which the records dropped, one after another, indelibly scratching the one below and the one above, but that's how it worked so that's what we did.

The next iteration was the 8-track, although I recall a brief moment of a 45 rpm record player which bolted to the dash of the car and played the records upside down (I am not making this up), followed quickly by the cassette deck. Then Dolby came along, and some other technical refinements, and then, of course, the CD.

Now music lives in little electrons in a box half the size of a pack of cigarettes in your pocket (or half the size of a book of matches, in nano format), and in another few years somebody will have figured out some other way to get music into your head, that's the way of the world.

If you don't remember all of those, well, that's how it works. Even reading about it, you will never experience the thrill of having those 45's drop down the spindle, endlessly playing Randy and the Rainbows or the Beatles or whoever. Just as I, no matter how many books I read about it, will never really know what it was like to live through the Great Depression or World War II.

That's the one thing that age gives you: real perspective. For all the vituperation some feel about the Iraq war, I remember Vietnam. Heck, now our country is merely "divided." Forty years ago it felt like the country was coming apart at the seams! You think the stock market is fluky the past few days? You should'a been around for the Nifty Fifty. (And I'm sure people who were old at that time were saying "Oh, this is nothing; you should'a been around for Black Tuesday" in 1929. Of course in some ways I'm sure this is the equivalent of "We had to walk to school. In a blizzard. Uphill both ways." Such are the memories of old people; it was always worse "back then.")

Sometimes, though, it really was. For instance, in my teenage years it took me all of 10 seconds to load up that 45rpm record player; now I am spending two weeks ripping CD's onto a computer so somebody else can listen to them. This is progress, right?

Well, since this is supposed to be a rant about old-ness, I'll just mention that I remember Lincoln's birthday and Washington's birthday when they meant something. Now we have President's Day, whatever that is. Heck, I remember when stores did not put up the Christmas decorations until after Thanksgiving." Ouch, that hurts. I remember no MLK day, no Kwanzaa, I even remember kids going door to door at Halloween and nobody worried about it. True story!

Anybody remember the party line? We had one, where you pretended not to be listening to your neighbors' conversations. Then everybody got a private line, then a couple lines, either for teenagers or fax machines. Then came car phones, and cell phones, and now Vonage, and soon everybody will just have an antenna strapped to their head and a transmitter in their teeth, probably. I hope I live to see it!

I recall watches, then electric watches, then digital watches. Now the watch business is in trouble because everybody has a cell phone which blinks the time at you whenever you want, not to mention carries music around in electron form, and probably a few games and a GPS. Soon: a toaster and post hole digger as additional options. And no watches, except for people who wear them as jewelry to prove they can afford a Rolex.

Well, I've ranted on long enough about this. The only thing that makes it worthwhile is those bloody balloons at the top of the page. And then tomorrow they'll be gone, leaving me older, but not so brightly colored, and then what? I'll still be sitting here, ripping endless CD's into Mrs. Goofy's iPod, fuming about how stupid it all is.

But at least I'll have the advantage of the perspective of age, so I'll just wallow in my oldness and grumpiness. If somebody at WalMart says "Have a nice day" I'm likely to punch them.