First, she came for my CDs.
For those of you born before the year 1 BS (Before Streaming), compact discs were flat tiny saucers that both held music and served as chewables for backwards-facing infants in your car (covering your copy of “Exile On Main Street” in drool).
They were also awesome. They replaced record albums and cassettes as the average consumer’s music format of choice, with much clearer fidelity that made up for the fact that it took approximately 20 minutes to figure out how to unwrap them from their god damn impenetrable seals of hell after you bought one at Tower Records.
But they were still awesome. And I had thousands of them.
I consider myself a bit of a music nut, the kind that probably makes you regret casually mentioning that you like Green Day more than Nirvana. I take pop culture seriously. I read far too many books about the Beatles. I love to get into arguments about if Prince deserves to be more respected by rock fans (he should), whether Stevie Wonder’s “Songs In The Key Of Life” is the best double album of all time (it is), and how Fountains of Wayne is the most underrated pop-rock band of the 21st century (they are, and yes, I realize I’m alone on that particular island).
I always insisted that you could learn almost anything you need to know about someone by spending 5 minutes looking at their record or CD collection.
Was it small or large?
Was it eclectic or more of a single genre?
Was it neatly organized, or disheveled with loose discs sprayed around the room?
And, perhaps most importantly, is it worth spending significant time with a potential life partner who owns several Paula Adbul CDs but no copy of Abbey Road? (For this particular question, my ultimate answer was yes…which may now explain my kids’ terrible taste in music)
Needless to say, my own CD collection represented years and years of careful compilation. It was a significant part of my history, and one that I proudly displayed in my home as a kind of personal statement.
But that didn’t matter to my wife that day, as she stood in our family room and stared at the oversized and bursting rack that held my collection. She then launched into a subtle interrogation worthy of the finest legal minds.
“You’ve downloaded most of your music on hard drives now, right?” she asked me, leading the witness but without objection.
“Sure, isn’t it awesome?”, I replied, too dim to see the trajectory of the questioning.
“I see”, she said with poise. “And you don’t buy much new music, now that you stream everything on Spotify, right?”
Uh-oh. Trouble brewing. “Well sure, it makes sense financially, but if you…”
“Then why do we need your CDs up here in the family room?”, she responded.
“Well, you know, I kind of like having them around, and you can…”
“Does it really make sense to have them taking up so much room in the family room if you never really use them?”, she said with logical finality. The tone in her voice suggested that her question was rhetorical and that an answer was unnecessary and downright unwelcome.
The court remained silent. She rested her case. The defendant was found guilty (one count criminal trespassing on family space, one count failure to adhere to standards of home decor as established by the laws of country, state and Martha Stewart).
And down my CDs went, first to the basement and ultimately to a dark, isolated storage room, sharing space with cobwebs, an old mattress, and an unopened jug of green olives from Costco.
Needless to say I haven’t seen much of my CDs lately. But that was only the beginning. One by one, the various items I had collected throughout my life began to slowly disappear.
The DVD collection I had gleefully assembled over the years? Gone before you could say “Netflix and Amazon Prime”.
The bookshelf lined with the assorted tomes of Philip Roth, Cormac McCarthy, Chuck Klosterman and the esteemed Dr. Seuss? Oh, the places they went…namely the attic and the donor slot at the public library.
The baseball memorabilia that lined my basement walls? Going…going…gone!
And to be honest, I didn’t put up much of a fight of a fight in the moment. It was hard to justify the public display of these items, what with digital technology and the limited capacity of our living space.
And yet, slowly but surely, as the evidence of my life interests began to be replaced by throw pillows and decorative antiques (including some kind of ancient dust brush that for the life of me I can’t figure out what is doing in my family room), it began to dawn on me that perhaps my wife was doing more than just ridding herself of clutter in the name of interior design.
She might be trying to get rid of me.
Not in the “hire a hit man so that she can find a new partner with a trust fund and highly-toned abdominal muscles” sense of the term. More like a gradual reduction in the evidence of my actual existence. Things are just a little cleaner that way.
But here’s the good news: in lieu of an actual man-cave (no room for that), I’ve carved out a nice 3-foot-by-5-foot space in our den in which I’ve assembled a few items of nostalgia. On some nights, you’ll find me standing contentedly in that corner, soaking in a space that I can truly call my own. If you’re looking for me, just walk past the roman shade window treatments, through the shag carpeting and a few feet beyond the collection of modern art coffee table books.
There, you’ll find me. Home at last.
Until she moves me to the basement.