Life without — well, not as much — music

I recently remarked to a FaceBook friend that music plays a severely curtailed role in my current life

Truth is, though, I don’t listen to much music at all these days.  I sold 90% of my record collection, and I don’t even have a dedicated CD player (let alone MP3). I don’t think I’ve played a record since I moved here last August. I go out once a week or so, though, but it’s to listening rooms.

When the friend responded that she didn’t thing she could go lukewarm-turkey as I had, I rambled on. Here’s a slightly extended version:

For many years, when I didn’t have the phonograph on, I’d have a music station on the radio. Then I stopped listening to music radio, because it got too hard to find one that played anything I wanted to listen to.

Remember that for many years, music was my life. It wasn’t uncommon for me to be going out five nights a week; and if it wasn’t part of my job, I might go anyway just for the hell of it. That went on for decades. Same goes for records: though I got dozens of free promos per month (and kept maybe 1/3), I’d pay my own money for as many more — generally reissues and imports.

The newspaper I was working for went under in ’89, but I continued to freelance (among other things) a fair about of music stuff. But I wasn’t getting as many free tickets, and prices to everything larger than a club rose above what I could handle. And, of course, I was getting older.

In 2005, otherwise successful brain surgery cut off all hearing in my left ear; age had worked its wonders on my right. Since then, in many situations it’s been physically painful to listen to music in any but the most intimate live environment.

Not that I’ve given up on music.  The places I go these days generally seat (and I mean that I don’t stand anymore) fewer than 100 people, and the bands don’t play loud. I still have trouble with the lyrics. Some musician/friends play here from time to time; I see them. I’ve discovered a few new (to me) acts, and now seen them several times. Hell, I even bought the Salty Suites‘s CD the other night, though I mey never play it, just because I like them so much.

I seldom spend more than $15 cover, maybe a couple bucks for ice tea (sometimes dinner), and there’s always plenty of free parking.

There are exceptions to the “small club”/”must be seated” rule: since moving here I’ve seen The Monkees and Nashville Pussy, though not on the same bill; and a couple hours of the Ventura County Blues Festival — which, this being Ventura County, was headlined by Johnny Rivers and Savoy Brown.

My car radio buttons are all talk stations. While living in Hollywood, I had one for the jazz station, but we don’t have one of those here. I mainly listen to NPR-affiliated KCLU-FM. They play some music, generally late at night when I’m not listening; usually, it’s news and shows that sound kind of like “This American Life” (of which there’s a dazzling number).

I’m happy as can be. Still buy music DVDs from time to time — most recently, “Sound City” and the Eagles documentary. I’ll even watch them, one of these days. But for the most part, it’s TV. And sometimes, I shake my fist at the screen when the closed-captioning doesn’t work right.


On being shown the door…

An old friend and former co-worker of mine has had his own small business for many years.

Today, he told me that due to financial straits (one of his major clients is cutting his retainer significantly) he’s going to have to let one of his employees go. She’s relatively young, so this may be her first pass through the meatgrinter of being fired — let alone with no warning and through no fault of her own.

Me being me, I had to chip in:

None of my business, but — having been fired and/or laid off more than a few times — I have a couple of observations.

(1) Money. Don’t know whether she has other income (trust fund, father, robs banks on weekends), but there isn’t a lot you can do about this except hope that her unemployment insurance is in order. I’m guessing you don’t give severance; but it’s a thought. So is some way of keeping her on part time until she finds something.

(2) In addition to the obvious financial issues, there’s a huge blow dealt to one’s pride and self-esteem. You may be happy to get rid of this person. But if you aren’t, maybe there’s something to lift her spirits.

When the Herald folded, they offered outplacement assistance, which was a joke. The Times took a lot of us (even me, eventually, though not a result of Hearst’s “efforts”); everybody else had to figure out our own path. We had a pretty generous severance, and COBRA, which helped. But what really helped was encouraging calls from a couple of friends in the business who gave me work:  sometimes chickenshit $100 jobs; sometimes more. But it was work; a base to stand on as I looked around, and made me feel somewhat less worthless. I owe those people a huge debt.

Or, of course, you can just dump her ass on the street. It isn’t that cold out there, and you did wait until after Christmas, which puts you ahead of a lot of other employers.

Good luck. I don’t envy you.

He wrote back that she has unemployment, is getting a couple weeks’ severance, and is eminently employable — if, that is, there are any jobs to be had.

“Both of us ([my partner] and I) are dreading giving her the message. I know she’ll cry and I don’t like being around crying women. It may be necessary, but it ain’t no fun.”