I’ll never forget my first Sony Walkman. I hadn’t yet started running but I loved music. It was the mid-70s, and apple was still a fruit. My Walkman was crude by today’s standards — an eight-track tape player discarded from Ronny Lane’s Ford Falcon and a Sears Diehard (bruce willis sold separately). Sure, it was ugly and heavy and looked odd tucked in my cutoff Levi’s, but I was listening to Grand Funk untethered. Life was good.
Thankfully, Sony upped its game shortly thereafter, and the little yellow cassette player showed up. Now, in addition to listening to the horrible sound of my Little Feat mix tape spooling out at home and in the car, while I ran I could do it on the road. Which at last answered the question of what the Evil McCartney was talking about in the song of the same name. Life was good. Except of course for the Evil McCartney, who is just evil. Life was even better.
I found cassettes to be too much work, leading me to decades of finding the Perfect Sony Walkman Radio Thingy. As time went on they became smaller and smaller. I was living in Austin in the early ’80s, providing the greatest radio stations ever to exist. Life was perfect.
I bought the first Sony Discman shortly after its arrival. Featuring an outdoor battery pack that rivaled my original eight-track car battery, its sound was pristine. The only problem being that it skipped constantly while I ran. Police’s Outlandos d’Amour took only three minutes to play in its entirety. But still. No more hiss. No more commercials. No more Evil McCartney. Life was still good.
As my distances got longer, I found the radio was the best option. After an endless series of Sony Walkman Radio experiments, I ended up with a small, squarish thing. FM only, five presets, a local/distant option. Long battery life, good signal. It would become my best friend on the endless South Mountain doubles. Weekend Edition, Car Talk, Wait Wait. You knew how long the run was by how far into the day’s NPR programming you could make it. Life was bliss for many, many years.
And then the whole phone thing showed up. Now I have an NPR app that lets me load up any show. No more getting up at 5 so I’d be at the mountain at exactly 6 a.m. for my Scott Simon greeting. No more concentrating on Tom and Ray so I wouldn’t miss anything. And, given the limitless options, I found myself abandoning it altogether. The spontaneity, the mystery, was lost. Life was not so good.
I have a Spotify subscription now, so I run with pretty much every song ever recorded, with the exception of Camper Van Beethoven and the second Huffamoose album. But there’s no mystery now. No “what the hell was that?” moment when you hear the best song in the world and have no idea what it was. No shift from the classic rock station to the classic country station to the classic grunge hardcore accordion. When faced with a million albums to choose from, I can’t choose. I found myself missing my old Sony Walkman. Life sucked.
And so I was giddy when a review for the latest Sony Walkman showed up on my Facebook feed. It’s been a long time. It must be pretty great by now, right? I surveyed it nervously. Still says “Sony.” Still butt-ugly yellow. So far, so far. Seems like a good running companion, a way to reconnect to my past an hour at a time.
And then I saw the price.
I remember my Sony Walkmans tended to have the shelf life of a Milli Vanilli Grammy. I’m a prolific sweater (the air of unattainability), but at 30 or 40 bucks, it was no big deal. $3,198 seems a bit pricey to reconnect with my youth. Life is the worst.
But then I thought to myself, WWDD? (what would dave do). I’ll just paint my iPhone yellow. Maybe hook it up to a car battery, for old times sake, and crank out a couple choruses of Roxanne. Life is good. And then you die.
Now if Camper Van would just show up on Spotify …