The Dumb Stuff
Last night I listened to the dumb stuff. There was no one else around. No one to ask me, “Why are you listening to that?” No one to hold up a record in disbelief and say, “Is this what you’re into now?” It was just me and my record player. And maybe a beer or two. Plus my floor lamp—you can’t read the record jacket without the floor lamp.
I don’t know how I acquired the dumb stuff. Thrift stores and yard sales mostly, I guess. Those moments when I must have looked at a record and thought, Well, I’ll probably never listen to this, but for a dollar, maybe it’s sort of worth it. Or else someone gave the dumb stuff to me. Someone who wouldn’t be caught dead with this kind of stuff, but figured (correctly) that I wouldn’t mind.
Even though I knew it was just the dumb stuff, I cleaned each record with the special little cloth I sometimes use when I really care how something sounds. I held each record to the light, inspecting for scratches, or potential skips. I placed the record on the turntable and timed my return to the sofa so that I would arrive just as the needle dropped, just like when I’m listening to something I actually want to hear.
The first record was pretty dumb, I’ll admit it, but not terrible. There were some good things about it. The second record was better, with one or two songs I’d never noticed before, ones I knew I’d want to listen to again. I sipped one beer. And then another. The third record had one song I couldn’t believe I’d never noticed before, kind of bad lyrics, sure, but that opening hook, wow, how had I never noticed that opening hook before? It felt nice to listen to the dumb stuff, with no one around to see me.
I remember when I was a kid, and I first found out about death. I was talking to an older cousin of mine, and she asked me if I knew that everybody dies, and I said people only died if they got shot by a bad guy, like in the movies, but my cousin said no, everyone dies no matter what. One day I would die, she told me. And my siblings and friends. Even my parents. Everyone.
For days after that, I had a hard time sleeping at night. I couldn’t stop thinking about death. I’d stare at my alarm clock and feel this terrible sense of doom. How did anyone fall asleep at night, knowing they would one day die?
I wish I could have consoled my childhood self with what I know now. One day you’ll be older and it won’t seem so bad, I would say. Don’t worry too much. One day you won’t feel so anxious. I promise. One day you’ll be free to listen to the dumb stuff.