I've been back in Seattle for a little under a week now; I leave on Thursday for a weekend in Minneapolis for a friend's wedding. I just happened to turn on Citizen Kane, the last half-hour or so, and watched the ending again. There they are, the newspaper reporters in perpetual shadow, walking through the warehouse where all the thousands of artworks, many in crates, lay. Kane wanted them, had the money, had fallen victim to his own monomania. Then he died, and there it was, laying there, statue upon statue, the unfinishable life's work of an enthusiast who'd lost all sense of proportion.
Coming back has been frustrating. I won't be in contact with my girlfriend for a week, which is fairly depressing. I'd forgotten just how much stuff I need to go through and either sell, give away, or pack: a good friend has volunteered her basement to help me store things--a very good friend, like so many I have. I have an apartment waiting for me in Brooklyn, with another very good friend. I'm making some progress on a big project, though I should be making more; I've got steady work, which is more than I could have hoped for even a few months ago; I'm going to be OK. This is something I've worried about a lot this year, and it's a relief. I even have been thinking about what I might do beyond writing: nothing glamorous, nothing horrifying. Just a mountain of stuff to do, in a place that makes me want to do nothing at all, which I'll do anyway. It's a good way to end things here--it's long overdue.
Watching Kane, watching all that glittering crap in the warehouse, I obviously thought about SLM. The way that things accumulate and never get touched; the way the long-ago sense that you might want to explore everything curdles into acquiring everything and exploring nothing. I worry a lot that I've lost my inquisitiveness. I don't really think I have; two pieces I did for The Onion A.V. Club's New York edition were both enjoyable and encouraging--I'd allowed myself to forget I know how to write features, and not write them about music. But I worry. I didn't go out much in New York, and I don't go out much in Seattle, partly because I put myself in a work bubble years ago thinking it would strengthen my writing itself. It has. It hasn't done much for me socially, though, and as I get older the habits become more rigid. I use the excuse that I'm broke in order not to do things, but it's not good to stay in all the time. I grow paranoid; the weed I'm often smoking doesn't help. But having rid myself of a lot of CDs before leaving in July helps a great deal; it tells me I can do it. So, in a way, does SLM.
Part of me is really annoyed I'm doing anything at all. I love Seattle; I want to settle here. I had such a bad experience in New York three years ago that I never wanted to go there again. July and August were fraught in some ways; I don't have much money. But I really do belong there, albeit temporarily. The big project is one reason; Angela is another. But I've become inert here, dysfunctional. It's my fault insofar as I've succumbed to my own worries; having the person you love tell you it's going to be OK really does help a lot, even when you don't believe it at the time. I know that's not a chimera now. And the pace of New York is a draw too, even when it's aggravating. This time, though, I don't think it will be. Very different scenario, very different people involved. Under the circumstances, it should go very well, and I'm looking forward to it.
Back to the stuff in the Kane warehouse. Would any of it have brightened his life if he'd actually spent his days looking at it? My hunch is that it might. I have a higher than normal tolerance for the new and different; I like comfort-music too, but I'm just as happy, a lot of the time, hearing something I haven't before. Maybe that I won't ever hear again; lotta garbage out there, especially this year, especially contributing to The Singles Jukebox. But forcing yourself to make contact with the world, even if it's just through that world's works, gives you some kind of perspective on yourself. That's what you lose when you just start hoarding shit and just hoping that it sorts itself out in the end. It won't, though--you have to do the sorting.
When I started chucking CDs--even the hundreds I ripped for potential research purposes--I was, in a sense, eating crow. Of course I wasn't going to listen to all those Greensleeves Rhythm Albums I'd either been sent or picked up in cheapo bins. Of course a bunch of those techno comps were gonna hit the dirt. And what was I holding onto? Classically-structured rock albums. Old jazz. The basics. The classics. All the stuff I'm basically skeptical of in the present day, in part because it allows for a lot of work that's slack or worse, partly because I really do like hearing new stuff. Looking now at what's left--about 1,500 CDs, give or take--I realize how accurately what's left on-shelf reflects my interests. Part of it is that much of what I listen to in the present tense is on my laptop or EHD, not the CD shelves--I hope to remedy that as certain titles reveal themselves as classics. What's more important is that I've finally admitted to myself that I can't hear everything, and that I need to focus on what's important to me rather than what I think I ought to know about at some point. When that point comes, I'll dig into it. A lot of the nervous feeling that I might possibly--gasp! shock! horror!--miss out on something has been silly anyhow: clearly I've been missing plenty.
But so has everyone else. Crates and crates of art. A stove worth $2 and a statue worth $25,000. (In 1941 money, of course.) Throw the sled into the fireplace. All of this and nothing. That's the state of the music hoarder's hard drive in 2009: untold treasures, untold trash. The difference is that all of it is trash unless you make the effort to hear it. I write about music because I believe it's worth talking about; it is inherently interesting, and discussing it is a way of bonding with it. No amount of "here's the MP3, bye" blogging is going to change that.
I've listened to more podcasts and MP3 mixes this year than, I think, every other year before it combined. It's not hard to figure out why: you can just leave them on to play out, like an album, and it becomes an experience, also like an album. Of course--duh. I'm not the first to notice this. But I think between that and the increase of streaming-not-downloading among even teenagers, people are slowing down on their own. I think people want music to be an event again; something time-consuming, hence meaningful.
Unfailingly, almost every music writer I talk about SLM with says the same thing: Whoa, hey, good luck with that, because I could certainly never do it. I'd have said the same thing last year. Not to turn into Richard Simmons or anything, but you know, you can. It's not hard at all. It just requires some diligence. I'm currently 14 hours behind (again). I can make it twice that if I want to. But I'll catch up. That's the point. And once that goal is in mind it's pretty easy. Especially since if I don't like something, I zap it--or write something on it. I learn a lot more from doing that than avoiding it. Same with everything else, really. It's either that or letting it sit around in crates, gathering dust.