Santa Cruz Good Times

Monday
Apr 27th
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 Maybe you have one too, a purgatory for devices that have been replaced by the latest and greatest but seem too valuable to throw away.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My box had about fifty pounds of recording hardware that has since been replaced by cheap computer software that weighs nothing.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

busy
 

Share this on your social networks

Bookmark and Share

Share this

Bookmark and Share

 

We Can Rebuild You

A look back at how downtown Santa Cruz recovered from the 1989 earthquake

 

International Earth Day—Mother Earth Day

Every April 22, humanity celebrates International Mother Earth Day and Earth Day. As more than a billion people participate in Earth Day activities every year, Earth Day has become the world’s largest civic observance. The massive concern to build right relations between humanity and the living being we call Earth is evidence of humanity’s love of the Mother. In 2009, the United Nations General Assembly proclaimed April 22 International Mother Earth Day, with a significant resolution affirming “the interdependence existing among human beings, other living species (the kingdoms—mineral, plant, animal and human) and the planet itself, the Earth which we all inhabit.” The Earth is our home. Celebrating Earth Day helps us define new emerging processes (economic, social, political) focused on the well-being of the kingdoms. Through these, humanity seeks to raise the quality of life, foster equality and begin to establish right relations with the Earth. We dedicate ourselves to bringing forth balance and a relationship of harmony with all of nature. Learn about planting a billion trees (the Canopy Project); participate in 1.5 billion acts of green. Disassociation (toward Earth) is no longer viable. We lose our connection to life itself. Participation is viable—an anchor, refuge and service for all of life on Earth. Visit earthday.org; harmonywithnatureun.org; and un.org/en/events/motherearthday for more information. From Farmers Almanac, “On Earth Day, enjoy the tonic of fresh air, contact with the soil, companionship with nature! Go barefooted. Walk through woods, find wildflowers and green moss. Remain outside, no matter the weather!” Nature, Earth’s most balanced kingdom, heals us. The New Group of World Servers is preparing for the May 3 Wesak Buddha Taurus solar festival. We prepare through asking for and offering forgiveness. Forgiveness purifies and like nature, heals.

 

The New Tech Nexus

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

 

Mission Critical

How reading Lisa Jensen’s reviews taught me to love film
Sign up for Good Times weekly newsletter
Get the latest news, events

RSS Feed Burner

 Subscribe in a reader

Latest Comments

 

Oral Fixations

Blown away by a Tuesday night dinner at Oswald

 

What would you like to see a TED talk about?

Hydrogen-gas cars that are coming this summer. Scott Oliver, Santa Cruz, Professor

 

Sarah’s Vineyard

Sarah’s Vineyard of Gilroy is known for crafting fine wines—and one of my all-time favorites is its Chardonnay. But this time, its Viognier has my vote.

 

Munch

East Coast meets West Coast in new meat lover’s paradise