Wednesday, July 24, 2013

The Next Big Thing


While cleaning out my attic a few years ago I found a 45rpm record of Michael Jackson’s Bad – one of the first recordings of popular music owned by my son, now in his thirties. The Bad 45 was still in its original sleeve. I handed it over to my daughter-in-law and she was fascinated. “How do you play it?”

 She’d never seen a 45; she’d never even heard the term. So I explained that 45 referred to the number of times the record went around a turntable per minute and realized I sounded like an old fogy describing an antique. “How many songs are on this?” She asked.

“There’s one on each side,” I explained as she slipped the record out of the sleeve and flipped it over with a look of wonder on her face – no doubt the same look I had on my face the first time I held a CD.

My daughter-in-law mentioned that her mother had a turntable and asked if she would be able to play the Bad 45 on it. “Sure,” I said, “but you’d need to put an adapter on the spindle.”

She looked at me quizzically, as if I was speaking a foreign language, and so I began to explain the difference between LP’s and 45’s, the size of the holes in the middle of them, and how we used to have little plastic discs that fit into the 45’s so you could play them, but her eyes began to glaze over. She slipped the record back into its sleeve.

I could have waxed nostalgic for quite a while about records and record players, but decided to save it. I’m sure my grandchildren will eventually be enthralled by my stories of the olden days.

My granddaughter, Natalie, is still in diapers but loves to play Angry Birds on the iPad. And Benny, age four, thinks nothing of the fact that he has only to wave his hand in the air in order to play Fruit Ninja on his 47 inch flat screen TV.

I used to think about how amazing it must have been to be alive during the time of the last century’s advancements: electric light, photography, the telephone. But the changes I’ve witnessed have been just as remarkable. From black and white TV to HD and from 45s to MP3s, I have rolled with the changes as they occurred. But I’ve adapted so many times now that my capacity for change is wearing thin.

The medium for listening to music evolved four times during my generation. From records, to eight-track tapes, cassettes, CDs, and now digital files. Every time I managed to amass a decent media collection, something new came along. When digital files are replaced by whatever comes next I won’t feel sorry for the Millennial Generation and their obsolete iTunes libraries, though I have a feeling that digital music is here to stay for quite some time. And that hardly seems fair.

I have never been an early adopter, but I have managed to keep up so far and I think of myself as fairly tech-savvy – for my age. I love my iPod, even though I keep referring to it as my “Walkman,” and I can’t imagine being without my cell phone, even though it is “dumb” and I am somewhat embarrassed to flip it open in public. (My ring tone, of course, is the sound of an old land line ringing.)

I’m glad to live in the age of wireless devices but I’m bothered by their rapid obsolescence, and I’m sad about what has been lost in the process. I feel a kind of grief for things you could hold in your hand and admire; things that are gone or quickly disappearing, like record albums, CDs, DVDs, photographs, maps, newspapers, and magazines.

 I miss browsing shelves in actual buildings that contained actual people when shopping for music, books, and movies, though I must admit I like being able to instantly hear or see just about anything by way of a couple of clicks – or I guess I should say “taps” now.

The wave of technological change has been so swift that I’m a little apprehensive about whatever might be next.

I wonder if my grandchildren will listen to music as digital files the way we do now when they grow up, or will something even more fantastic come along.

And when my grandchildren try to explain the newest musical and communication devices to me will I be able to comprehend what they’re talking about? Or will I change the subject?  I can see them now, rolling their eyes as I launch into yet another description of transistor radios, or TVs with knobs and aerials.


***
I wrote the first clumsy draft of this essay in 2009. After several rewrites I sent it out to a few magazines and journals, but no one was interested.  Disappointed, I set it aside until 2012 when I rewrote it again and submitted it to a workshop as part of my MFA program in creative writing.

I received a pretty good critique of the essay from my advisor and peers and so I rewrote it once again, and once again sent it out to magazines and journals. I felt confident it would find a home, but it did not.

This essay has been rejected so many times now I've lost count.  But after all the work I've done on it, the hours I've spent revising it and trimming it down to its essentials, I just can't let it go completely unpublished. And so, here it is.  I'm proud of this essay and don't understand why no one has been interested in publishing it.  I wonder if it's just too ordinary a topic?   What do you think??

1 comment:

Pam Houghton said...

Hilary - I liked the essay. Nothing wrong with it as far as I can see that would prevent it from being published. Have you sent it to the Christian Science Monitor? They have a Home Forum section that this could be perfect for. Submission process is online.