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Listen back in anger

Finding a working time machine is hard.

Correction. Finding a working, inexpensive time machine is hard.

There are lots of cheap ones out there. So far, I’ve bought two.

Neither worked.

First one failed out of the box*. Not encouraging.

Second one, worked for a few hours of use. Then started coming part.

OK, I’ve been speaking metaphorically.

Let me try this again, more literal:

Finding a working audio cassette player is hard.

Correction. Finding a working, inexpensive cassette player is hard.

Who cares about audio tape players, you ask?

Clearly, I do. If you haven’t figured that out, you should just stop reading now. The rest of this post will be utter gibberish for you.

I care, because a working audio cassette player is, for me, a snapshot into the past.

A time machine, if you will.

What the heck am I going on about?

I found a bunch of old audio tapes recently.

Music mix tapes from friends and past flames, some weird recordings of old public service announcements, and an audio ‘letter’ or two.

I got it into my head that I wanted to hear these.

That it would be fun. A real kick.

I had a tape player, a nice one, expensive at the time I bought it (some two decades ago), but quickly discovered it doesn’t work anymore.

Shame.

I tried playing my tapes on a turntable, but the sound quality was awful and the tape just got tangled up.

Yes, I’m that old. I have a bunch of cameras that use something called ‘film’ too.

There was one tape in particular I really wanted to listen to.

It became an obsession.

But not one I wanted to spend more than twenty, thirty bucks on.

I’m a cheap skate. Even with my obsessions.

Cassette players fall into two camps: less than thirty bucks and over a hundred.

Less than thirty bucks buys you, apparently, a few hours of play time.

At best.

The tape that got under my skin, that drove this whole ordeal?

An audio diary entry of sorts. The label on the cassette couldn’t have been more clear as to the contents, or more alluring:

“Reflections on — & other things 04/28/91”

The scored out part? The name of an ex-girlfriend, blotted out to protect the innocent. Our breakup devastated me, and in the throes of that agony, I committed my thoughts on that event (and other things, evidently) to magnetic medium.

Stupid.

But also irresistible.

The good news, if you’re still interested enough to have reached this point in this post, is that the second tape player worked long enough for me to transfer the tape to digital.

The bad news, for everyone, myself included, is that the second player worked long enough for me to hear parts of it.

I haven’t listened to the whole recording. I’m not sure I can, or ever will.

I checked in periodically during the transfer, to make sure it was working, and heard snippets.

Turns out I broke up with her, which isn’t how I remember it at all. That was weird.

There was a lot of sniffling, and no, I didn’t have a cold at the time.

There was a lot of naiveté, which considering how young I was, and given that this was my second girlfriend, ever, isn’t shocking.

Those parts made me thankful for the growth I’ve achieved since then, the maturity, poise, wisdom, and confidence that 24 subsequent years of life bestows to us all.

Well, most of us.

Probably.

But there was one section, and my sampling was random, so I don’t know how prevalent this tone was, that showed just how…ill-equipped I was at dealing with relationships back then.

Working or not working.

I was angry.

Not screaming, howling at the moon angry.

Dark, fuming vitriol angry.

The type of anger so sublimated that it isn’t readily apparent to those around you.

Or even self-evident, unless you wait twenty-four years to look back and analyze the situation.

It was disturbing.

(OK, quick note for anyone who might have gone there: this was not a “shoot up the mall” type of anger. Ultimately, I would characterize it as internalized. Self-destructive.)

In a way, I’m thankful for the snippets I heard.

It paints a stark contrast between my emotional and mental maturity then versus where I am now.

To paraphrase Virginia Slims, I’ve come a long way, baby.

But the more enlightened Ian of today is…uncomfortable with the Ian of twenty-four years ago.

I wasn’t a bad person then. Stupid, lonely, misguided, why-do-nice-guys-finish-last entitled, yes. But not bad.

However, I look back on this example of how I thought and how I saw the world, and I’m a bit horrified.

And sad.

I am not a wise man, not by a long shot, but if I only had then the small amount of wisdom I possess now, my life would have been so much…

I want to say better, but I don’t know.

I’d have been a lot less nervous, a lot less afraid, a lot less likely to internalize things rather than get them out in the open and deal with them.

But the hard truth of it is, I wouldn’t be who I am now if I hadn’t endured the idiocy of youth.

If I did have a working time machine, an actual time machine, I wouldn’t go back. I wouldn’t try to give myself a leg up.

I had to learn these things the slow, hard way, because I had to learn them for myself.

And let’s face it: I’m a slow learner.

But once I get something down, it sticks.

And looking back, I can happily say life stuck to me.

Just as Target did, selling me a tape player that didn’t last a week.

 
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Posted by on 27 January 2015 in Angst, Life, Technopocalypse

 

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My Other Police Box is a DeLorean

TARDIS: Now with more cookies!

Time travel AND cookies! It doesn't get more paradoxical than that!

I’m a sucker for time travel.

Backwards time travel, that is. Forwards time travel, not so much. I do that all the time.

And when I say I’m a sucker for backwards time travel, I’m talking about stories and books and TV shows and movies about it, not actual backwards time travel. Alas, while that would be spiffy too, I’ve never managed to do anything but travel in the forward temporal direction. Oh sure, I’ve sat through some meetings that slowed time down, but I’ve yet to endure an event that reverses it.

Though I’ve heard reports of an Amway pitch in Bowling Green, Ohio on August 12, 1978 that stopped time for 3.8 seconds.

I was too young to attend at the time, but I totally would travel back in time to go to that, if time travel were possible.

After that incident, Amway set up stringent guidelines on how to run your pitches, to avoid any cataclysmic ruptures in space-time. With mixed results. Did you know those semi-regular additions of time to the clock on New Year’s Eve are due to rogue Amway pitches? Totally true.

Why am I a sucker for backwards time travel if I’ve never actually done it? Because the idea of popping back to witness important historical events is fascinating. I’d love to dress up in a fancy costume, pop back, and immerse myself in a historical period. I could slip back and ensure Jane Austen never marries. That would change the tone of her books, wouldn’t it? Or right a wrong, like making sure that bastard Alexander Hamilton doesn’t kill Aaron Burr in their duel.

Or prevent my parents from ever meeting. Boy, would that ever save the world a lot of trouble!

I’ve also considered bitch-slapping Hitler and then shanking his ass, thus ending World War II in 1944 or 1945 instead of 1948, but I suspect that particular scenario is pretty high on all the time traveler tourist agendas. Hell, they probably have temporal docents sternly leading groups through the bunker, talking with a slight lisp and their nose high up in the air:

“And to our right is Adolf Hitler, leader of Nazi Germany, instigator of World War II, and world backgammon champion of 1936. It is said his bitterness over losing the title led to the eventual invasion of Poland. Currently, he is getting a completely platonic back rub from Joseph Goebbels. Oops, and now another tour group has arrived, and as you can see, they are bitch-slapping Hitler something fierce. Goebbels is trying to intervene, but he isn’t prepared for modern weapons like that group has. And now they’re stabbing Hitler with a collection of butter knives, spoons, and, I think, yes, a spork. Don’t worry, we’ll resuscitate him and you’ll all get your chance. Make sure your toothbrush or comb has been filed down to a nice, sharp point.”

But time travel has some seriously heavy downsides to it, Van Damme law enforcement movies notwithstanding. You can erase your parents, yourself, your family and friends; heck, if one of those tourists dropped a taser and Hitler got hold if it, our entire society could vanish in a puff of paradox and we’d all be goose-stepping to the Horst-Wessel-Lied.

Paradox is nasty. Worse than second-hand cigar smoke, and nearly as carcinogenic.

Scientists way smarter than me say that this is a good thing. Paradox means that time travel is impossible, so we don’t have to worry about things like George W. Bush getting elected president instead of Al Gore. Man, what a bullet we dodged there, and all because time travel is impossible!

But that does leave me feeling pretty bummed. Because horrific downsides or not, I think traveling back in time would be really, really cool. I could totally snag the Magna Carta from King John right after he signs it, and sell it on eBay. Or pay Michelangelo to paint a handlebar mustache on his rendition of God on the Sistine Chapel. Maybe even curling the end instead of reaching out to Adam.

Fun times.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have an Amway pitch to attend. This guy is breaking all their sales record, so he has to be bending time and space as well as the rules.

And now, a word from our sponsor: me!

My book, Marlowe and the Spacewoman, is out!

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Posted by on 18 January 2012 in Other Blogs

 

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