Log: Jan. 1-2

Thursday, January 1, I didn't buy or download anything--went to Portland the night before and hung with my friends Jessi and Eric, slept till nearly 2 p.m., long rainy walk to and from lunch, on the train at 6:15 and back in Seattle at 10, dinner in Chinatown (Hing Loon, my favorite, to which I owe Sheila and Herman thanks again), then home. Quiet.

Today I got out a bit and did some browsing. I was consciously thinking I should buy a CD just so I could take it home and play it right away--show that I'm following my own rules. Ditto with books--I'm trying to do this with reading and viewing matter as well as listening--and when Mairead (in town longer than planned thanks to, um, breaking her ankle--ouch) and I killed time between eating at Thai Tom and seeing Let the Right One In (fantastic) at the U Bookstore, the remainder table of NYRB Classics nearly made both of us want to cry. I came close to buying the one about humor with the Greil Marcus introduction, and I will probably do it sometime in the next week--the urge is very strong.

I have been looking up titles from Tom Moon's 1,000 Recordings to Hear Before You Die, bookmarking them on eMusic for future reference, and when I came across Celia y Johnny during a lull, I realized I wanted to hear it right away. I downloaded it two-and-a-half years ago, when the Fania catalog hit the site; I'm pretty sure I listened to it at the time, but not closely and probably only once. Since the d/l is on my account, I can re-download without it counting against me, so I did. It sounds very nice--not starchy or stodgy, just relaxed in its dynamism. Collaborations between beloved masters with nothing to prove except they love each other is a rich vein, I think: Louis and Ella, for instance.

I should spend time with their stuff, too. I'm sure I hoarded it somewhere. Maybe. It's hard to remember, because the hoarding impulse that speed-acquisition engenders is fantastic when you want to feel like your ears have some breadth, and that maybe your life does too. Similarly is when you play a record once and know how good it plainly is and then never play it again for years. I talked about that a little bit here, but something that happens a lot, especially as I get older, is that I know I'll never, ever be in the mood to hear what is obviously good work. But I keep it around because I figure I'll want it for that particular time; when I see it again, on the shelf or in a file folder, I then realize that, you know what, I was in the mood to hear that about three weeks ago, if I'd remembered it then it would have been perfect for DJ'ing at Havana or for that private stoned 2 a.m. reverie, etc.

In a way that's the role Celia y Johnny played for me. I've had it sitting there, unlistened to, for all this time, and the nice thing about it now as opposed to then is that I'm approaching it from a book, Moon's, in which it's got a handful of like albums, but not so many that I, as someone with very little familiarity with Latin music, would get lost in. I sort of need that, as opposed to "one of 50 Fania titles, most of which look really rich, holy shit I don't know where to begin, plus I downloaded 50 albums of music I don't know much about, fuck." (OK, it was more like 28. More than I knew how to handle. A recurring theme.)

I'm almost finished with the album now. Each song is sounding better than the last, and it isn't just the weed, it's understanding it better simply by giving it some unhurried time. It helps, in the first couple weeks of the year, that I'm almost never loaded down with assignments. (Doing year-end for the last three years for Idolator has helped a lot with helping me wind into the new year.) So I tend to listen freely before my time becomes more regimented with assignments. I have no problem at all with this. There comes a time when my listening can feel aimless unless I'm directing it toward a review or whatever. I'm so naturally sloppy it makes me a little grateful to listen purposefully, especially as a freelancer. (I also consistently go on carefree jags of just playing whatever the hell I want with the consequence of having to cram assigned plays together, but it's worth it for those hours of not-work.) Nevertheless, listening for the sake of listening is still my apex.

I've only just realized that my sister Brittany is into a whole lot of the music I'm not. She loves classical, she loves Latin music, she likes what she knows of opera, and she paid attention to R&B for a lot of the time I did not, though that's partly because she was a teenager and that's what was popular. She's always played Latin stuff for me, especially when I'm a passenger in her car, which is much of the time I'm in Minneapolis. (Her driving has been a godsend these past few years.)

Since "Latin" is such a staggeringly deep and wide area, I seldom know how much to ask her, but she's always surprised me with how fluid her knowledge is. My last night home last week we stopped at a Border's where I bought the Moon book. She looked at the Latin CDs a while and picked up a recently issued Rough Guide CD. "Are these any good?" she asked. I told her what I tell everyone: if a Rough Guide seems at all interesting, it probably is, and often it's better. She bought the Merengue one and blasted it in the car that night and the next afternoon when she took me to the airport. I asked if she was at all interested in the old Fania stuff. I shouldn't even have needed to ask--not only is she a huge Marc Anthony fan who owns a DVD of El Catante, she's always loved music history, though not nearly as academically as I. (She had a life, I didn't.) I promised to pass her info on the Rough Guides I had, as well as the Fania titles. I think I'm putting Celia y Johnny into regular rotation. This feels like the right time for it.

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