Sunday, March 19, 2017

Musical Sabotage

I miss the days of having an “it” record; an album by a beloved artist or band that I could, for weeks on end, listen to on repeat. In this modern age, the way music is consumed has dramatically evolved. It may be a less-than-astute observation, as it’s one made by many, but with there being so much readily available via streaming and illegal downloads, not to mention an overflow of bedroom musicians creating original content on their laptops, there’s just so much available. Even the most devoted audiophile might say too much. So, not only is it hard to find an “it” record, it’s hard to find an “it” song. This got me thinking of those years of teenage angst. The “nobody understands me” years. And the records that helped me through them.

In early 1998, my “it” record was by a Scandanavian dance/pop group, who shall remain nameless. I loved just about every track on this record and for several weeks, listened to it each day. When friends came to visit, yes, they’d be forced to listen as well. Hey, my room, my rules. You don’t like it, there’s the door. One day, I reached for the disc in preparation of dropping it into the tray. For reasons I can’t recall, I flipped it to the reverse side. When the translucent surface met the light at the right angle, I noticed something strange: the disc was scratched. No, not scratched in the way CDs not properly cared for would so often get scratched. Scratched with intent, with purpose.

In the center of the disc was a circle of curving lines, like the petals of a flower in bloom. By the shape of these scratches, it was clear they’d been made by an average house key. I’d never noticed this before. Wondered how long the desecration had been embedded there. Momentarily panicked, I put the CD in the stereo and hit “play,” certain that, instead of the thumping European dance beats that filled me with such glee, I’d hear only skips and distortion echo from the dual speakers. Much to my surprise, and relief, the album played fine from beginning-to-end, and continued to do so for several years. The attempt at musical sabotage had failed.

I didn’t have many friends growing up. For lengthy spans, I’d have only one I’d consider close enough to enter my domain. At the time of the incident, there were two: a male and a female. The male couldn’t care less what music I played and would often sing tunelessly along with me. The female rolled her eyes and snubbed her nose at every artist I held dear, every song I gravitated toward, every CD in my waist-high tower. Whenever I pushed the stereo’s “play” button, she’d groan and complain. Occasionally, I’d allow her to bring her own music just to avoid an argument.

Distinguishing who’d carved the flower-shaped scratch into the disc required no detective work, but even still, I said nothing. I continued to play the album in her presence, just so she’d know her efforts were futile. I knew then, just as I know now, that I should’ve immediately severed ties with this person, but not only did I pretend the incident never happened, I continued a friendship for several years after the fact. Most would call me spineless and I’d readily agree. But when I look back on incidents like these—yes, there were others—I can see why and how I developed a “one and done” policy over the years.

A solitary chance is all you get. Betray me once and you’re out of my life for good. It takes a lot for me to forgive, as I know forgiveness only opens the door to future betrayals. If they do it once, they’ll do it again. Guaranteed. So, I’d rather be alone. Books make much better company anyway. At least I don’t have to worry about them stabbing me in the back, or defacing personal property simply because our tastes differ.

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