As Loud As It Goes

1I like to listen to my music loud. You know, bass thumping, mind numbing, so loud I’m always waiting for my iPod to scold me for forcing it to vibrate so much. I’m that guy you stop next to at a red light and there’s a haze coming from my car it’s being shaken to extremes by the internal noise. I worry if sometime in the not too far off future maybe I’ll have some hearing problems from it. No, no I don’t. It’s too much fun.

We all have things that are just like that for us. We know they can’t possibly be good for us but we do them anyway. We tell ourselves we can’t help it, but we can. At least I know I can. When others are in the car with me I put my volume at a low level, so that I can hardly hear it, and I motor along as if that’s just fine with me. It’s not, but I suffer for the people I love, and for others who happen to ride with me on occasion.

It all began for me back in the early ’90s, right around the time Nirvana released a little album called Nevermind. There was just something about that record that was so much louder than everything else in my collection. I had to put on my headphones and slide that volume control to HIGH. It reminded me of that scene in Back to the Future when Marty blasts himself off his feet with a wall of sound. That’s how real, how tangible it felt to me back then.

And it still feels that way. I slam the wheel with my hand in time with the beat of the music, with the pounding bass that doesn’t only exist in my head. It makes me feel like I did at that Metallica concert in ’97, when I was pressed up against the biggest speaker I think I’ve ever seen in my life for most of the show. I couldn’t hear for a few days afterward, but it was a small price to pay for being so close to that much pounding sound.

Yes, I’ve gotten older, and I guess I’m supposed to have mellowed, but one way I haven’t changed is the way I like listening to my music. I don’t do it nearly as much as I used to because of time spent around others, but when I’m alone, when I’m by myself and no one else is near, I crank it up, and I take no prisoners. It’s soothing in a way that quiet has never been and never will be for me.

When it’s quiet, when the music is soft and lilting I don’t know what to do with myself. It’s not that I don’t like some soft music, but even when it’s soft I like to crank up the volume on it. You haven’t listened to Enya until you’ve heard her at 100 decibels. Seriously. So if you see a large black man with headphones on stopped at an intersection, waiting to cross, with a smile on his face, and the song obvious to everyone because you can hear it three blocks away — that’s me.

And I won’t hear you if you swear at me for disturbing the peace. That is my peace.

Sam

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