Santa Cruz Good Times

Nov 29th
Text size
  • Increase font size
  • Default font size
  • Decrease font size

The Next Big Thing

sven_davis2I finally got around to sorting through a box of old electronics in my garage. Maybe you have one too, a purgatory for devices that have been replaced by the latest and greatest but seem too valuable to throw away. There they wait, unloved and trussed up in their own cords, like a geek’s version of Toy Story 3.

“I should probably keep this as a backup,” we think, blowing dust off a chirpy phone cradle modem. The box is full of sounds going extinct. Aren’t you going to miss that Windows 95 startup sound? Or dialing that rotary phone?: Zzzzik! Cla cla cla cla cla cla. Wait, is that a dot matrix printer? Those things sounded like bees trying to sting a live microphone to death.

My box had about fifty pounds of recording hardware that has since been replaced by cheap computer software that weighs nothing. Beneath that was a jumble of obsolete cables, and then, at the bottom, encased in a patterned plastic designed to vaguely remind a mostly blind person of wood, was my first answering machine. From the ’80s.

It operated with two cassette tapes, one to play the outgoing message and another to record the incoming. I plugged it in, and it started in with the mechanical percussion solo I’d heard hundreds of times before. Both tape drives clicked, clacked and whirred, preparing the system to take a call. I was surprised by the vividness of the memories those sounds brought to mind, a mental clip show of the places I’d lived and the people I’d lived with.

This surprised me because I’m not, by nature, a very nostalgic person, and generally speaking my memory is so bad I could hide my own Easter eggs and not find them. I look through my high school yearbooks and I hardly recognize anybody, so I’ve never bothered with reunions. Hoping the tape wasn’t too old and brittle, I pressed play, and the wayback machine sprang into action.

Clack! Whirrrrrrr ... Clack whirr clack. And then there was Bob, leaving a message using his best Ronald Reagan voice, from back in the day when everybody did Reagan. Then two messages for my housemate, and then more for me. Each voice took me back to what must have been the early ’90s, and they invoked memories the way no photo ever has. Two bittersweet messages were from friends who have since passed away, one was from a guy I’d rather not have remembered but immediately Googled anyway (he’s now a PR guy), and I was surprised at how my mother’s voice had changed over time. I popped in another tape stored with the machine, which was full of messages from right after the big ’89 earthquake. Since my housemates and I had recorded a funny outgoing message assuring everybody we were all fine but needed your financial support for the “replace the pint glasses foundation,” most of the messages started out with the caller chuckling.

Imagine hearing your family and friends from 20 years ago laugh again. That’s real treasure. Some of those people hardly laugh now, ever (I told them to avoid corporate life, but noooooo). I was having multiple flashbacks, recalling things I didn’t know my brain had even stored. One of the callers, I remembered, owed me money and technically still does. I should go under hypnosis, maybe I’ll recall enough old debts for the session to pay for itself.

I don’t know how many people have strong memory triggers related to sounds compared to images, because that would involve research. I do know that I’m more aware of sounds around me than most people, which, as super powers go, generally sucks. It’s handy if you’re a deer in the forest, sensing the twig snap beneath a crouching mountain lion, but being a modern human it means being cursed to notice the incessant racket of refrigerators, whistling air ducts, and people with the sniffles. My kind should band together into little audio-sensitive groups, aural sects if you will, to share techniques for archiving voices and day-to-day sounds the way others collect pictures. We could lobby to get sound files better accommodated on Facebook, and make voice mail from smart phones easy to archive as sound files (they’re not, at least not on an iPhone). And maybe, just maybe, we could outlaw leaf blowers. And corduroy clothing. Swish swish.

Comments (0)Add Comment

Write comment
smaller | bigger


Share this on your social networks

Bookmark and Share

Share this

Bookmark and Share


Santa Cruz Gives

A look at the organizations we’re asking you to support in our new holiday giving campaign


Gratitude—For Each New Morning With its Light

The full moon of Wednesday brings light to Thanksgiving (Thursday) under the Sagittarius Sun and Mercury. Mercury in Sag offers humanity the message (Mercury) of thankfulness and joy (Jupiter). No other sign represents food, music and joy better than Sagittarius (only Pisces, when not in despair). Beginning on Thanksgiving, we can list what we’re grateful for. Then we can continue the list, creating a daily Gratitude Journal. What we are grateful for always increases in our lives. On Thanksgiving Saturn/Neptune square (challenging) is in full effect. This can manifest as traditions not being honored, disappearing, falling away. It can also create a sense of sadness, confusion, of things not working out as planned. It’s best to be as simple as possible. And to focus on gratitude instead. Gratitude is a service to others. It is scientifically and occultly a releasing agent. Releasing us from the past, allowing our future—the new culture and civilization, the new Aquarian laws and principles, the rising light of Aquarius, the Age of Friendship and Equality—to come forth. Gratitude and goodwill create the “thought-form of solution for humanity and the world’s problems.” The hierarchy lays great emphasis upon expressing gratitude. Gratitude illuminates all that is in darkness. Let us be grateful during this season together. Being, for others, the light that illuminates the darkness. A Poem by R.W. Emerson: We are grateful … “For each new morning with its light/For rest and shelter of the night/For health and food/For love and friends/For everything thy goodness sends.” (poem by R.W. Emerson). I am grateful for my family of readers.


The New Tech Nexus

Community leaders in science and technology unite to form web-based networking program


Pluck of the Irish

Mid-century immigrant tale engagingly told in ‘Brooklyn’
Sign up for Good Times weekly newsletter
Get the latest news, events

RSS Feed Burner

 Subscribe in a reader

Latest Comments


Second Street Café

Pies and tarts for all tastes—from traditional to adventurous


How are you preparing for El Niño?

Getting ready to buy some rain gear. Cory Pickering, Santa Cruz, Teaching Assistant


Fortino Winery

Cabernet and superb fruit wine from Fortino Winery


Tap Dance

West End Tap & Kitchen’s impressive menu to expand to Eastside location