That murky, 3AM photo features my high school era stereo system. It’s hard to make out but that’s a 30 year-old Garrard turntable on top, under which is a Realistic (by Radio Shack) receiver of the same period which was considered ‘cheap’ even in its day. Holding them both up are some lovely Omega loudspeakers of more modern provenance but you’re bored enough by now so I’ll skip the details.
All of this stuff has been collecting cobwebs in one form of storage or another for longer than a lot of you have been walking and talking; sensitive switch-pots and fragile headshell leads somehow surviving decades in broiling attics and soggy basements, mute, dirty and patiently waiting to be heard again by someone, anyone. Then, one day, I like to imagine these vintage vagrants—not heard for so long themselves—heard my phone ring.
My 17 year-old son called to announce he was interested in starting a “vinyl collection.” Raised from arrival in a home where daddy’s audio rig outranked the hot stove in the hierarchy of things he was not allowed to touch, and remembering (perhaps) that I had spent some years as a Hi-Fi journalist/reviewer, he called for advice.
Like a doctor pompously addressing his layman patient, I immediately shifted my Sound Speak onto topics and into words I thought he could understand: going on about some reasonably affordable, almost acceptable USB turntables that he could simply plug into his computer. I blathered on about better sound cards for his motherboard, about software programs he could upload that would allow him to rip his LPs on to files and blah blah ain’t daddy so hep to the modern high-tech groove blah blah.
When the boy finally got a chance to slip a word in, what I heard was a calm “No dad. You don’t get it. I just want to listen to records, on a record player, like they were meant to be listened to.”
The lucky father will have in his life one moment when his child says something that makes his heart explode with pride. For many it might be something like a son announcing that he’s going to Notre Dame on a football scholarship, for me it was “I just want to listen to records, on a record player, like they were meant to be listened to.”
Not very long ago this would have been another situation wherein I’d play the hero by throwing money in its direction. The kid would have been dragged around to the too few remaining Hi Fi stores in NYC etc and I’d set about being a “good dad” by way of a Gold Card. But times have changed and while I never want to be accused of seeing the sliver lining in anything thank goodness, in this particular instance, that they have.
Out of the dank and Dickensian darkness came the glittering jewels above, along with my cable strippers and soldering iron and bits and pieces I had tucked away with which to replace and upgrade other bits and pieces where needed. It’s all already here, I realized, it just wants a little MacGyver-style love.
When he and his brother were here at my place last weekend we worked on it together. A father/son mash-up not enjoyed since the Cub Scout Roller Derby Car building exercises of long ago [and much the same, with me constantly butting in, taking over and mumbling for them to just let me do it].
I dropped it off for him a couple days ago, setting it up in his room while uttering stern and fatherly warnings as if I were handing him his first shotgun or expecting him to have somebody’s daughter home by 11. He beamed a smile and he said “Thanks dad” and boom, like that, we have the rarest of things in the form of a shared parent-teen interest.
Making the longish drive back I was floating on the very air above the highway, feeling like I had—in my own way and according to a much constricted set of means—done something a good dad would do. With tools, even. Like those dads on TV.
Also with a little time and a lot of cursing, like those dads in Christmas movies. All because those old boxes were waiting, forgotten, for someone to do them right.
And all because I didn’t have enough money to do it wrong.
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- desertnur5e said: I saw a Realistic stereo system the other day and it made me stop long enough to resurrect “Radio Shack” from the dark recesses of my mind. Handing down vintage anything is truly cool.
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- dreamersawake said: So great. I’d like one of these per week until the book’s done, thx.
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