I dreamed last night I got on the boat to heaven/And by some chance I had brought my iPod along.
And in my dream, I was listening to the cast recording of “Guys and Dolls,” when a sudden draft or wave or waft pulled my iPod from my hand and thrust it overboard leaving me with an earful of soundless ear pods.
And there I stood/And I hollered, "Someone save it.”/
And the people all said sit down—
And I woke up in a sweat.
Not six months ago what was now a nightmare would have been an event unlikely to even register on my psyche—conscious or un…iPods were appliances as unintelligible as the Hubble Space Telescope and the electric can opener. And then I was given my grandson’s old iPod Mini. First there was music: all the best tracks from my old CDs. Then I discovered podcasting. At first it was NPR, the BBC, Terry Gross and The Guardian; then it was Aspen Public Radio and The Deadpod. And very soon I was looking for shows on Blog Talk Radio and listening to The Hack and the Flack and “The Classic Tales,” nevermind Kevin Smith and Kevin Pollack. Of course it wasn’t long before the Mini was maxed, and I was hooked, as hooked as the local addict or crackhead.
Glassy-eyed, hands shaking, I surfed my way through the 'net searching for GB, GB and more GB to feed my habit: GB to hold Elvis Mitchell and Tony Kornheiser, “Beyond the Pale” and “Broadway Bullet.” And there it was: the iPod Classic—120 GB, I could download forever. Not only audio, I could fill up its 2.5" display screen with Rachel Maddow and New Yorker cartoons. I could carry Meet the Press and The Sports Reporters around in my pocket. Here was the answer to an iPod addict’s dream.
And indeed it is. I’ve had my Classic for only a few months and already I’ve downloaded nearly two months of listening. I’ve got Q, the Podcast from July to warm me next December. I’ve got Old Time Radio shows like My Friend Irma and The Shadow for nostalgia. I’ve got Rotten Tomatoes and Filmspotting to advise me about what movies to see, Book Lust and The NY Times to tell me what books to read, and KEXP and Acoustic Long Island to provide musical accompaniment. I’ve got iPod heaven.
What then I wonder would Sigmund Freud have to say about my nightmare. Dreams, after all are filled with symbols. Have we not read On the Interpretation of Dreams? If memory serves, all those Freudian dream symbols had something to do with sex. Mountains and sticks are symbols of the phallus, caverns, of the vaginal cavity. Playing an instrument is equated with masturbation. A tooth falling out is castration, as is loss of any significant…wait a minute. Is loss of an iPod a castration symbol? Castration dreams, Freud argues, are caused by guilt over masturbation. In a sense, it would not be much of a stretch to argue that one’s own obsession of playing with one’s iPod is merely an equivalent form of playing with yours—of masturbation. To walk around all day with ear phones welded to your ears is in this sense merely a manifestation of aural self-abuse, and my iPod flying overboard is simply another version of one’s nagging about one not listening to a word she says because one’s always got what she likes to call “those damn things” in one’s ears.
Yet, as I sit here at the keyboard, listening to “Left, Right and Center,” this castration scenario is somewhat deflating to say the least. Far from self-abusing, iPods are self-educating. They massage the intellect. They foster growth through stimulation. (“Left, Right and Center” is over. I need to get “Philosophy Bytes”) Surely, there is another answer.
What if the dream wasn’t a nightmare at all? Dreams after all are wish fulfillment, are they not? In what sense could the loss of this modern wonder be considered desirable? Is there a sense in which the loss of the iPod would be a good thing?
A lightning bolt flashes. A deus ex drops from the fly space. Wasn’t it last week that I was on the Apple site? And what did I see with a capacity of — forget about a mere 120 GB — 160 GB? 40,000 songs? 200 hours of video? What vision of sugar plums had embedded itself in my subconscious? This was no nightmare. The loss of my old Classic was only the necessary first step to iPod heaven.
And the people all said “Sit down.”
And I sat.