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January 19, 2008

Love is a walkman

I have a soft spot for objects that last. My favourite umbrella (which is semi-retired now). Jeans that will turn four this year, my blue corduroy bag which is five, my always reliable ipod-shuffle, which is three. I so respect solidity, and staying power. That when I spend a few extra bucks, I can be amply rewarded.

But there is one object in particular, revered above all others. Which is my Sony Sports Walkman (1990-2001). In vivid yellow, from Bush to Bush, from the Cold War to the War on Terror, from elementary school to university, and every single time I mowed the lawn. It was dropped, manhandled, made to be play mix-tapes with Air Supply and Peter Cetera, survived the Abba Gold craze, my Beatles obsession, songs taped off the radio, and the theme from Titanic.

Rewinding killed the batteries so I would flick the button to play the other side of the tape, and I got to know the exact second to flick back over when the obsessional-song-du-jour would start up on the other side. A gift from my parents for a school trip to Ottawa, it finally died one day while I was riding the subway East on the Danforth Line, listening to Summer Mix 2001 which contained songs by Sloan, Debbie Gibson, Sophie B. Hawkins and Robbie Williams. (Currency was never my strong suit). The motor went kaput altogether, not surprisingly as for months before songs had been playing too slow.

I kept it for awhile, playing the radio; after eleven years, it was hard to let go. When I replaced it, it was with a Panasonic walkman that I dropped from a six foot height never to listen to again, replaced by another Panasonic that died for no discernible reason (and was hideous), and then a cheap mini-disc player, followed by not-cheap mini-disc player (what a folly, I know!). And then my beloved Ipod shuffle, whose three-year-so-far life span I now know not to take for granted. Dare I hope for a similar reliability to the personal music player I once knew? But ah, few people get so lucky twice in a lifetime.

This all brought on by an interview with Rob Sheffield at BGB. (I was reading his book just one year ago.) Sheffield remains a mix-tape devotee: “This summer I got pulled out of the security line at LaGuardia because I had a Walkman in my bag. The guy was like, “What the hell is this?” They asked, Why do you have an ipod AND a cassette player? I started to explain I just like listening to “Beggars Banquet” and “Let It Bleed” on tape better than on mp3—but fortunately they let me through.”

2 thoughts on “Love is a walkman”

  1. Anonymous says:

    I remember well.

  2. Matthew Tiffany says:

    I remember wanting one of those, thinking it was the ultimate manifestation – water-resistant, shock-resistant, the whole bit. Never got one.

    Now, I want an iPod touch.

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