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2004-10-01 - 4:03 p.m.

My iPod is an instrument of torture. Should the topic of discussion wander towards music the inevitable trade begins. Any time I start comparing music tastes with someone I flash back to trading baseball cards as a kid. (Okay, I’ll be honest, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle cards. I had the whole set.) You show off which ones you have, and they’re required to be somewhat impressed, especially if there something in the mix they don’t have in their set. Then they reveal their hand and you eagerly ask around their more esoteric choices. The whole ritual usually ends with…

“Yeah, they’re really good, you should pick it up if you have a chance.”

Unfortunately, now that I have my entire music collection stuffed into one pocket, this usually leads to…

“Yeah, they’re really good, do you want to listen to them, right now, while we both sit here starting off into space awkwardly? I can easily make it worse by insisting on playing not one but an entire menagerie of sonic delights, forcing you to sit squirming in this chair, trying to map out some kind of escape plan!”

There is something special tying us to our music. We have our favorite movies that we can and will quote mercilliously. (“Geroge and Martha, sad, sad, sad…” or less pretentiously “- What’s with you today? - What’s with Today, today?) We have the TV shows we watched with religious zeal. (Joss Whedon owns my soul.) But there’s something about music. With a library songs hitting on every emotional level, we have ditties for every last frame of our touchy-feely reel, almost as if our selections are a collage of our psyches.

If someone derides your taste in movies or television, it hurts a little, but you’re not as involved there. When someone cuts on your music, it feels like they’re saying your girlfriend a skank. (Official first use of that term.) Our collection is our own personal self-description in power chords. With every song I’ve bought, recorded, or been given on one little device, I have a veritable scrapbook in my ear. Some songs floating me back, others the scratching wail of dark-clouded memories.

Still, despite all that individuality, there are some universals.

The drawing power of The Knack’s “My Sharona” and the inability to attentively listen to it’s nearly five minute entirity.

The long anguished wait when the base line “dum-dum-dum-dadadum-dum,” comes smashing down and you can’t tell if it’s Queen or Vanilla.

Guilty enjoyment of Elton John, especially Tiny Dancer.

We shall not speak of Piano Man's death grip.

Knowing about half of Don McClean’s American Pie…and having some odd chant to ramble off with your friends while drinking to it. “Drinking beer with my fucked up friends!”

Knowing about half of Sir Mix-a-Lot’s Baby got Back, but screaming the line “My Anaconda don’t want none unless you got buns, hon.”

The unalterable urge to yell “Bum! Bum! Bum” after “Sweet Caroline.”

Remembering some teary graduation-esque moment at the drop of “Time of Your Life” by Green Day. (This song played at every American Prom that year.)

The strange phenomenon that makes men skip or do-si-so to “Come on Eileen,” and the raging debate over generation lines as to which version is better Dexy's Midnight Runners, or Save Ferris. (I plead the fifth.)

Blue-eyed girls getting jealous when Brown Eyed Girl gets played. The blue eyes got Tonic’s “If you could only see.” Green eyes. You’re fucked.

With all the posturing over who knew the White Stripes when, it’s nice to see a room full of people slowing giving in to singing “If I Had a Million Dollars.” Sad that this is the anthem that runs across my entire generation, but nice that at least we have something.

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