I thought that once I was able to burn CDs right from my home computer, I would never again purchase a potentially disappointing $12.00 CD. That notion was further solidified when I installed Sirius Satellite Radio in my car. I figured that the $9.99 I spend a month for 120 channels of uncensored music and talk radio would surely replace any CD I could want to purchase...
But as it turns out, I just can't break the buying habit. See, I'm a hoarder. I don't check out books from the library - I like to own the book; either so that it can sit on a shelf as evidence that it's been read, or so that I may pick it up again a few years down the road. I have never purchased an item of clothing with the intention of returning it. First of all, I know I'd choke when giving the salesperson an excuse: "Oh, uh, well, you see...Uh, really, ummmm, it didn't fit?" But also, I like to amass sweaters and pants and dresses...Numerous evening gowns adorn my closet: I will not sell them, and I will not give them away. I like to look at them and think "Oh, I remember when I wore that. I danced all night and got blisters on my feet and it was an amazing night." (In fact, I lent out one dress in my whole life to a girl named Amber in the 12th grade. She never returned it. I still fantasize about finding her and asking for it back.) And don't even get me started on shoes. I don't know how many pair I have, but do I know that at least 2/3 of them are black stilettos. Many of them have only been worn once. But I won't lend them out and I won't give them away. I like to see all of those boxes at the foot of my closet. I like knowing I have options.
Which brings me to the CDs. I still buy one or two a month, even though I can listen to an entire channel of any genre music I choose OR go onto the internet, download and burn a fabulous mix CD. I still drive to our local record store, The Gallery of Sound, and buy the collected labor of just one artist. And I still have every CD I've ever purchased. Some of them are in CaseLogic cases, alphabetized and conveniently stored away. Some are in their original jewel cases. But they're all little pieces of my life from one era or another. And they're all with me.
To me, there's just something about a brand-new CD. Carefully choosing which one to purchase, paying the hard-earned money, walking out of the store knowing that whatever is on that compact disc will be a complete surprise. The tearing open of the cellophane, the impossible removal of that damn sticker that runs along the top of the case. And finally, opening it: You get to see how they've decorated the CD itself. What pictures of the artist are there? Are the lyrics included? (Please, please, please say the lyrics are included!) Is there a hidden track? Will they use profanity? Will I find my theme song on this album? God, I just love a new CD. I've purchased a few in the past month - One was the Killers, a band from my native Las Vegas. It's okay, but I haven't given it a good enough chance yet, because I bought number two, Howie Day, which I bought because I was sad, and when I previewed the CD, it seemed to match my mood. Then I bought number 3, Kelly Clarkson's new CD, "Breakaway." Wow. I am in love. What a great voice, and what a great CD. It really is wonderful. The booklet included lyrics, all of the songs are great, and I found a theme song. And what a great feeling it is, driving around, listening to a new CD, getting introduced to the music, the mood, the words. Learning the words: There's another great part. What a feeling of accomplishment when you sing a new song all the way through for the first time.
A new CD is like a new relationship. You go through the dating stages, where you just peruse the tracks, trying to find qualities you like. You're hopeful, you're excited. And then you find the songs you like, the ones that speak to you, make you cry, make you mad, make you feel better, make you feel anything. And you fall in love. And you commit memories to each track of your new CD. You may not take it out of your player for weeks, assigning songs to ex-boyfriends, new relationships, places, times, parents, friends. You bond faces to each song, and you can't sing it without thinking of that face. And it feels good, comfortable, safe to be wrapped in the words that tell your story that someone else has thought to put to music. You feel like someone understands. You crank it up and sing at the top of your lungs. You feel it. And it feels good.
Over time, you grow weary of the same 12 tracks over and over. Maybe you're no longer seeing the person that CD reminded you of, or maybe you finally stopped crying over them. Either way, the CD finds itself out of your player, and tucked away with a hundred other CDs that you never listen to anymore. But the best part of it is that one day, maybe a year down the line, you put that CD back in, and memories pour from the speakers, flooding your ears with how you felt. It's a picture of who you were, but better because you can feel it all again, like it was yesterday.
There's just nothing in the world better than that.