Some day when I'm famous, this is going to be the answer to a trivia question that will bring you great monetary riches. When that happens, even though I'll already be rich and famous, I'm going to demand my cut. To borrow a phrase from our 44th president, let me be clear: you are going to pay what you owe.
The answer: Joe Satriani's Surfing With The Alien.
The question: What was the first CD Josh Hathaway ever owned?
This is the story and I'm not making it up…
Christmas 1991. I'm a senior in high school. We've just moved from western Washington to Decatur, Alabama. I was not happy. For a few years, I'd been begging and pleading and cajoling my parents to get me out of the Paleozoic cassette age and bring me into the here and now with a CD player. Most years I could tell this was going straight in one ear and right back out the other. Somehow, some way I got the sense this year was different. They weren't laughing.
It was also a time-honored tradition the older of my two sisters — I'm the oldest — and I would do our damnedest to know what each and every one of us were getting before the day. For some reason that year, we were struggling to get all the necessary intel. That's when I hatched my plan!
My grandparents would always send us a little Christmas money in our cards and they usually showed up a little before the big day. We were generally prohibited from spending that money until after Christmas so we didn't duplicate any of the gifts to be placed under the tree.
When the cards arrived that year, I had a little talk with my mom in our kitchen. I told her I knew it was "against the rules" to know what we were getting for Christmas early, but I wanted her to consider talking to my dad and making an exception. If I was actually getting a CD player, all the stores would be closed on Christmas. It would kind of suck to get one Christmas present and not be able to use it. If I was getting a CD player, I wanted to use my Christmas money from my grandparents to get a CD. My mom stood silently for a few moments and told me she would neither confirm nor deny that's what I was getting but agreed it was a reasonable request and she'd take it under advisement.
On Christmas Eve, I got my confirmation. Success! My plan had succeeded. I went to the mall to make the nations aware of my great victory just before it closed. I scanned the shelves, seeing so many CDs and not being able to decide which I wanted. My parents told me to give them a small list of CDs they could choose from and that they'd get me one or two and I could spend my Christmas money and get one myself. With that in mind, I went to the "S" section and bought my copy of Joe Satriani's Surfing With the Alien. I remember the other CDs I got that year but I'm not willing to admit to (all of) them today. Of the four CDs that came with my first CD player, Surfing is the only one I still own. I bought the first remaster of the album some years later and then bought the 20th anniversary edition in 2007. I am prone to bouts of nostalgia but I'm not overly sentimental. For some reason, I can't bring myself to let go of that first CD.
That is still one of my favorite Christmas memories and it's obviously been a part of my life ever since. I know a lot of people who feel that way about their vinyl and their 8-track tapes. I know someday something will replace the CD as the dominant format and that it might well happen more than once before I take my leave of you all. Those new formats may be better, but they'll never be what the CD has been for me.