Thursday, February 7, 2008

31-45: The Day My Brother and I Became Lesbians

When my brother turned 12, our grandfather sent him a check for $250 and told him to use it for something fun. I was ten and a half, and my brother and I shared a room in the attic. Thankfully, our tastes in music were virtually the same, as was our yearning for a CD player. We’d grown up playing Duke Nukem side-by-side in the computer room, with our cassette-deck boom box broadcasting 92.3 K-ROCK and old tapes. Since we were so young, playing Duke Nukem and listening to cassettes was the coolest thing in the world (ironically, now that we’re in our twenties, it is once again the coolest thing in the world), but we knew what could vault our lives into another echelon of awesome: a Compact Disc machine. We used to scour the Sunday circulars for Sony Dream Machines and portable CD players, and once in a while—if we worked up enough gall—we’d flip to the home stereo pages. We’d imagine ornamenting our room with CD players, mini systems, 5.1 surround sounds, even VCR-TV-stereo triumvirates. We dreamed small, but we dreamed big.

So, when our grandfather sent the $250—an unconscionable amount of money at the time—my brother and I didn’t have to discuss how he’d spend it. We made our mother take us to the local electronics store, and we marched right to the CD players. I started at the high-end equipment, my brother started at the cheap stuff, and we met in the middle to discuss the technological tidings. The look of horror on my mother’s face was something between seeing us run blindfolded across the highway and seeing our canoe approach a perfect storm—she, who in her economic life valued thrift and reasonableness above all else (and still does), was suddenly trapped in a world of adolescent decadence, where her two otherwise unspoiled sons were competing to see who could spend $250 the fastest.

My brother laid out $180 for a small Sony CD boom box, with AM/FM and a tape deck. He carried the treasure out of the store wrapped in both arms, and I made one more excessive demand of my mother: we had to go to a CD store. Since this was our house’s first CD player, we didn’t own any Compact Discs, and we weren’t about to take this new system home without anything to put in it.

What we hadn’t considered was that, outside of our dozen or so tapes and the top-40 hits K-ROCK played, we didn’t know a single thing about music. When we walked into Tower Records (RIP, big fella), we sauntered into a hangar full of strange and unfamiliar music. At the time, of course, neither of us admitted our ignorance, and we both picked up discs and read the backs like we’d seen them a thousand times before. I even made comments about certain ones, like, “Oh, this one is really good,” and, “Yeah, my friend in school has this.” Bewildered and browse-weary, I snuck off to a salesperson to find out how to use the listening stations, and he set me up with “Your Little Secret” by Mellisa Etheridge. It was loud. There were guitars. I was ten and a half. I bought it.

Equally embarrassingly, my brother, also goaded by the listening station, picked up the “Angus” soundtrack, and we were on our way. When we got home, we plugged in the stereo, admired its sheen, sacrificed a virgin, and played “Your Little Secret.” Unbeknownst to us, we were about to become lesbians.

I know what you're thinking baby
I used to be just like you
You move when she's not looking baby
One sugar ain't enough for you

We made the CD player the focal point of our now-siamese existences. We joined every “Buy 100 CDs for 99 cents” service, we only accepted birthday presents in the form of Sam Goody gift certificates, and our Duke Nukem days were over—we were in the attic, obsessing over liner notes and memorizing lyrics. Melissa Etheridge and Angus gave way to the Foo Fighters and Blues Traveler, and, eventually, we formulated certain musical facts: John Popper was fat; guitar solos were cool; loud music was better than quiet music; and, most importantly, CDs were better than tapes in every conceivable way, from how they sounded to how they looked to how long they lasted.

Hence, we were not just lesbians, but geeky lesbians. Driven, infatuated, possessed, geeky lesbians. We could not have been happier.

Not much has changed: we’re still into chicks, we still dig a good album, and our musical tastes haven’t diverged all that much. We live in different countries, and disagree vastly about most things—including lifestyle, religion, and temperament—but we both agree that Stevie Ray Vaughn channels Yahweh on “Texas Flood.” We are separated only by approach, as he compartmentalizes music within the context of well-balanced, prioritized life, while I'm a pretentious addict. But I digress.

So, in honor of my brother, without whom I might never have known an album’s glory, here are the last of the perfect albums:

31 Miles Davis – Bitches Brew
32 Charles Mingus – Mingus Ah Um
33 Eminem – The Eminem Show
34 Coldplay – A Rush of Blood to the Head
35 Audioslave – Audioslave
36 Alanis Morissette – Jagged Little Pill
37 Sublime - Sublime
38 Billy Joel – The Stranger
39 Cream – Disraeli Gears
40 Spin Doctors – Pocket Full of Kryptonite
41 Jay-Z – The Black Album
42 Alice in Chains – Dirt
43 Talking Heads – Stop Making Sense
44 Herbie Hancock – Head Hunters
45 Parliament – Mothership Connection

The Number Twos and some wrap-up are next…we might even break these all down in a bracket, NCAA tournament-style, and declare a winner. Then again, we might get some opium and watch softcore porn. The world is our oyster.

Stay Sleek, Sony
DJ Degeneres

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