When PBS was still airing the British comedy As Time Goes By, starring Judi Dench and Geoffrey Palmer, one of the things I learned is that when the Brits clean house, they refer to the process as “having a clearout”, and I thought before I put the year to rest with the year-end edition of The Recordchanger (due in late December or very early January), I might have a mental clearout of my own since I haven’t been posting much in this space lately. I get ridiculously busy this time of year because I work a retail job that’s pure hell. It never fails to completely ruin the holiday for me and rob me of any Christmas spirit whatsoever. I do my best to keep my hatred of the entire season at bay so as not to rain on anyone else’s joy, but it gets tougher every year. But like everyone else, especially the media, I find myself reflecting back on another year almost gone, and sorting the good from the bad in an effort to gain some perspective on the world and my place in it before the New Year begins. The year-end edition of the best music goes a long way in separating one year from another, but every year things happen in your life that are unique, and make some impact on, if not just the year ahead, the rest of your life – depending on what those events were.
I feel fortunate that, in spite of losing a number of favorite musicians to death in 2014, that I was not touched by any deaths in my immediate family this year. When you get to be my age, every year is another roll of the dice when it comes to mortality. Of course, some of my friends weren’t so fortunate, and I’ve not forgotten them.
This was a year for severe budgeting as well. Money doesn’t stretch as far as it once did, and that’s impacted everything I do. We carefully count every penny when we eat out, for example. I said ‘no’ to countless records this year because of the increased cost of not only vinyl, but also the deluxe box sets, and special editions the labels keep issuing. When I buy books, they’re nearly always used, although I did go off the reservation once or twice this year with impulse buys that turned out to pay big dividends since some of the books I bought on impulse turned out to be the best ones I read in 2014.
Our cable bill just went up another ten bucks for no good reason I can think of since Time-Warner is not doing its job any better than it ever has. We have a new channel served up by WHIO, MeTV, that airs reruns of old comedies and dramas from the 1960’s and 70’s. But most of the rest of the hundred-plus channels we pay for every month are left unwatched. Our cable TV is bundled with our internet service and phone. Our phone exists now for my wife to talk to her mother and her brother, and for the dentist to call and remind us when they’ll be taking our money again. Our internet service has been extremely spotty lately dropping connections on a fairly regular basis. The bottom line is that our cable bill provides the worst service for the highest cost. And don’t get me started on what a newspaper subscription costs now. At least gas has declined, and don’t think we’re not grateful for that after years of being gouged at the pump. (I caught an episode of Leave It To Beaver this morning that was about Wally needing a new battery for his used car. He didn’t have the money for it, and Eddie Haskell and his credit card came to the rescue. The battery cost 15 bucks, and at one point, Beaver offered to buy Wally a gallon of gas for his car if he’d drive he and his friend Gilbert to the malt shop. Beaver told Wally it would be worth the 32 cents it would cost him. In case you doubted it, we are living in a very different world now from the one those black & white sitcoms portrayed. My life today seems as far removed from Leave It To Beaver as it does from Daniel Boone, which airs immediately after it on MeTV.)
My 14 year old car is about to turn over 71,000 miles on it. I’m trying to keep it on the road as long as I can, so if you’re out driving and you see me, please don’t hit me. It’s cost me a few repairs this year alone that were not in my budget, and there’s at least one more coming in the new year.
I didn’t ask for much for Christmas this year. I’m at an age where I don’t need much, and couldn’t spend much either since the budget is tighter. But we did put the tree up this year after not bothering a year ago. It looks as good as it ever has. My wife spent quite a bit of time baking this year, so I got some peanut butter fudge from my mom’s recipe, and some snicker doodle cookies, too. And Suzy at Bomp sent me a box of baked goodies like she does every year. She does these peanut butter squares, and some butterscotch thing that are amazing. And yet, thanks to a diet I started in April, I’ll start 2015 trimmer than I did 2014. It’s only been in the past month that I’ve strayed a bit, and that ends when the holidays do. That’s probably the only thing I really accomplished in 2014. Not many people can say they’ll start the next year weighing less than they did the year before. But this year, at least, I can say it.
I also grew a mustache and beard this year – actually a van dyke, not a full beard. I hadn’t done facial hair in years, but this went over so well, and requires so little maintenance that I decided to keep it. It draws people’s attention away from the lack of hair on my head now.
While I don’t have any particular reason to look forward to 2015, I’m not dreading it because every passing year brings me one year closer to being able to retire, and that would mean more time to read, to write, to listen to music, to watch movies, and spend quality time with my dog. We have a dachshund named Molly that turned five on Halloween. She’s more than capable of aggravating the hell out of me some days, but most days she’s the best dog in the world. I’ve had dogs most of my life – some of the best. But I’ve never had one I’ve enjoyed more than Molly. She’s full of personality, and she’s great company, too.
I’m already looking forward to the 2015 baseball season, too. I think the Cleveland Indians have a very good chance to win their division if they stay healthy, and I heard the same thing from Harold Reynolds on Hot Stove on the MLB network this morning, too. So we’ll see how that plays out.
I’ll save the music discussion for the year-end edition of The Recordchanger in a couple of weeks. I haven’t bought anywhere near as much music this year as in previous years, but what I’ve acquired has been money well spent, and my Top Ten looks pretty good, too. The lists are nearly complete. I just need to write the accompanying essay. I think I’m going to add a section on books, too, since nearly every book I read in 2014 was music related.
In past years I’ve written a Christmas Wish List in these pages, but I never get what I want, so there seems no point in doing it this year. I’m not naïve enough at my age to ever expect to live again in a world at peace. Nor can I convince myself that we’ll ever be able to repair the damage we’ve done, and continue to do to the environment. Maybe the best thing to do is to dial down the hopes and expectations. Maybe it’s enough to just try and manage my small corner of the world in such a way that I don’t contribute to any of the conflicts around the world or do anything beyond driving a car that in any way harms the environment. Nothing else seems more important than that. That’s one of the best things about getting older. The little things fall away, and what you’re left with is a very clear picture of what really matters most. And I think it’s probably the same things for all of us – a working turntable, and a huge collection of records.
See you again in a couple of weeks with the windup to 2014. Have a nice holiday, and may 2015 be everything you hope. Thanks for reading The Recordchanger.