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Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Have CDs, will travel; you'll find Muddy Waters under 'M'.

In addition to working at the Richmond News, I write a twice-a-month column for The Kansas City Star's Northland Neighborhood News section. I don't always write the columns at night -- in fact, rarely if ever -- so technically it isn't moonlighting. Both publications know what I'm doing, so there's no sneakin' around, and The Star has permitted me to post the columns here once they're printed in the paper. So for those of you who don't see The Star, here's a column on my most recent attempt to get organized, or at least give that appearance.


(Dec. 14, The Kansas City Star) You can learn all you need about me by looking at my CDs. Not that I’d recommend that to anyone with a hint of sanity.
I recently sorted them, creating categories and discarding duplicates. I actually had four copies of one, a Byrds compilation. Why, I don’t know, but I kept two of the four just to be safe.
I’ve always wanted to be more organized, but I’m my own worst enemy. I’m constantly moving forward, discovering new things and changing direction, musically and otherwise, and as new ground’s broken I refuse to discard the old. As one of my forebears might say, I schlep it all with me.
The result is that I collect music, first cassettes, then CDs, the way honey collects lint.
Until last week, the CDs had been in cardboard boxes, a backpack and two CD books in the basement, collecting dust and cat hair. I brought them upstairs, and while the rest of the family was out being human I was sitting on the living room floor intensely cutting out cardboard dividers and marking them “Alt Country,” “Blues Anthologies,”  “Lesser-Known Locals” etc.
It's not the Library of Congress, but it's a start. 
I put my own songs in a special, unlabeled category I could’ve named “Completely Unknown Local”.
My wife’s a librarian, and before she left I asked her if there was an organizational method she’d recommend. “Anything that works for you,” she said.
I’m not a Dewey Decimal guy, so I asked myself, “How would you try to find, say, Muddy Waters?” A conventional approach would be to use the first letter of his last name, an old standby, where Muddy becomes “Waters, Muddy”.
I just couldn’t do that, one, because I always refer to him as Muddy and, two, it seemed wrong to take a gritty blues singer and lay a Library of Congress defunking on him.
So Muddy went to the M’s, just as Howlin’ Wolf went to the H’s. Blues icons slightly less known, say Willie Dixon, I put in the D’s.
Consistency has never been my strength, and two days from now I might’ve gone with last-name-first across the board. But it wouldn’t matter because when I take a CD out in the car (the categorized cardboard boxes are in the trunk), there’s no telling where I’ll put it when I’m done.
My son recently bought a 23rd-generation iPod, which, in addition to storing the entire Recorded Works of Humankind, takes high-definition movies and photos, connects to the Internet, walks the dog and negotiates peace between the Israelis and Palestinians.
If I had the patience for electronic gadgets, an iPod could solve some challenges. I’d be done with those plastic CD cases that break, the visor organizers that get full and stretch out, and those CD storage books that are dangerous to use while driving.
But I’d still have me to deal with – the coffee I’d spill, the probability that I’d lose or drop the iPod, and, most glaringly, my oily skin. After a week or two, with all that sliding-your-finger-around-to-change-functions-thing, my iPod would look like the Prince William Sea once the Exxon Valdez finished with it.
So I’m pretty much stuck with a cardboard box. And having chosen a system I’m comfortable with, I know I can find Muddy in the M’s. That is, until I file him in the W’s.
If you'd like to comment, you can do it here or send an e-mail to me at dknopf@kc.rr.com.


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