Wednesday, August 31, 2011

From the Archives - Passing of the Windsor


Ages ago, while attending college in Santa Barbara, I bought a really small boom box at a drug store for some impossibly small about of money, $12 or something. On a lark, I took to showing it off to friends and family like it was some super-deluxe high end technological marvel (much the way some folks show off their iPads and iPhones today). I never let up: whenever somebody would come over I’d show him the Windsor as if I’d just bought it, and I sometimes talked about it during bike rides, etc. Some guys rolled their eyes; others played along. This went on for as long as I had the thing.

Well, after some eight years of regular use, that little stereo died. I think I still have the cord somewhere. I wrote this eulogy and sent it around.

The Passing of the Windsor – April 2, 1997

I have some sad, sad news. You’d better be sitting down for this: on Friday, I buried the Windsor. It passed away quietly, in my arms, after slipping into a coma on Thursday evening before my bike trainer workout. The Windsor had been ailing for some weeks. The FM went out during, or just prior to, our last big jam session. That was several weeks after the antenna broke off (which, remarkably, seemed to have no effect on its FM reception).

The once-mighty Windsor just went downhill from there. The right channel faded badly and rapidly, until almost no sound came out of it. The left speaker became gravelly, like the voice of a woman who’s smoked a pack a day for 20 years. Then, one of the silver clips from the tape deck door got lost, which was only a minor problem since I always took the door off to play tapes anyway, but still, given the general opulence of the Windsor, that clip was probably sterling silver and its loss was, well, a loss.

On Thursday, it became painful to watch the Windsor try, doggedly but totally without success, to carry out its audio duties. It was like watching a stroke victim for whom the simplest task—say, lifting a spoonful of cream of wheat to his lips—becomes a futile and messy affair. I got no sound from the right speaker and barely any from the left. The pitch of the sound—once easily controlled with quick pokes to various points on the cassette, to accentuate either the rich, throaty bass or the light, airy treble—was now all over the spectrum, a roller coaster of sound that was enough to turn a weaker stomach than mine.

Then the Windsor did something it had never done before, in all of its eight years of faithful use: it ate my tape. It cannibalized the Fine Young Cannibals. I was able to save the tape, but the Windsor was nonetheless terribly distraught and inflicted considerable shame upon itself, like a dog who has just accidentally mistaken the new baby for a chew toy. Its time was clearly past.

So, on Friday I pulled the plug. The cord was lodged extremely far into the back of the Windsor, and even in its weakened condition the Windsor clung to life with a tenacity that touched my heart. But I knew it was for the best, and managed to wiggle the cord loose and finally pull it free. The Windsor had magnanimously made it known to me, in its little musical way, that it wished to be an organ donor, and I set the cord aside so that one day it might be the conduit of life for some waffle iron or, perhaps, another stereo.

Another stereo! Have I know shame? O, the Windsor was still warm in its grave when I went right down to The Good Guys and shopped around for a replacement. I know, it’s despicable, and I should have more respect—indeed, I should swear off music entirely after my loss—but damn it, I’m only human, and I can’t work out on the trainer without music. So I looked in vain for a long time at hideous, bloated boom boxes, the Ford Tauruses of the portable stereo industry, and I just couldn’t do it. They all had CD players and silly sound selectors which can be set to Jazz, Pop, Dance, or House. No classical. And no Windsor.

I know that I shall never replace that fine stereophonic art form. How could I? All I can do is try to pacify myself with a lesser substitute. And I know full well that technological masterpieces cannot be bought at The Good Guys, or any other humdrum electronics store—they need to be purchased at Thrifty Drug. But it would be blasphemous to go back there, as if another Windsor could ever be found.

And so, despite my misgivings, in a moment of exceptional human frailty I ended up going home with a slutty Panasonic number, sporting dual bass, line in jacks, and a three-band graphic equalizer. Hah! Three bands! Such an insult, after the infinite audio adjustment I could so effortlessly, and yet so artfully, perform on the Windsor by poking the tape. Once home, I plugged in the Panasonic and found it to be a brash, blaring, totally unsophisticated piece of hardware, competent for the job but totally lacking the joie-de-vivre of the Windsor—the romance, the passion, and yet the simple grace of its sweet whisper.

At first I could barely listen to the Panasonic pump and blat out its textbook rendering of the music. But you know, after a loss like the passing of the Windsor, something inside of you just dies. To say you lower your expectations is a gross understatement: indeed, you come to realize that you never expect to be musically fulfilled again.

Please take a moment to quietly reflect on the passing of our friend. I entreat you to remember the good times, reflect on the love of life and the noble heart of the Windsor; remember it as it was, in its long and glorious life. I hope that your grief is not too severe.

dana albert blog

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