Gateway drug

Not too long ago I mildly lamented my lack of a mobile digital lifestyle. I was thinking partly of a summer that involves a lot of travel, in the form of two or three cross-country trips and a couple of long drives. Several times I suggested to Heather that maybe all that travel would be a little easier, a little more fun, with a portable music player. After all, radio’s just no good in the car anymore (with the exception of the community radio station in Bishop, Calif, which broadcasts a seemingly-endless stream of very local news: Congratulations to Mary-Jo Prentis who just made the jay-vee softball team over at Valley Junior High; the school board voted to fund a new storage building, so the new lawnmower will have a roof over its head. I love that station for making the long drive up the east side of the Sierra a little shorter.) and the right casette tape is never handy. Further, since our home tape deck broke a couple of years ago, our selection of college-era mix tapes, once meticulously labeled and catalogued, has become rather dusty. Traveling with CDs poses a similar problem: Our ancient portable CD player (a high school graduation gift to me in 1994) is unreliable, and besides, the right disc is never around when you need it.

Heather looked at me sternly when I suggested an mp3 player. “Remember my job at the non-profit?” she asked me. She didn’t need to remind me of my own gainful employment as an apprentice to an institution of higher learning. “I have an old cassette player. You should take that on your trip to Massachusetts.” And she was serious.

I resigned myself to my fate: AM radio, top-40 hits, The Airport Network, silence. Until last week, when Heather, who loves me dearly and understands me the way nobody else does, collaborated with my parents to get me an early birthday present: A third-generation 15gb iPod. I can’t say yet whether it will increase my productivity, as I’ve been too busy reading ipodlounge and checking out 3hive and reading Salon’s Wednesday Morning Downloads to perform an evaluation. However, I can tell you that it kept me content and busy grading papers on three legs of my trip out east last week, kept me company during the airport closure at DFW, and is a thing of utter industrial design beauty. The backlighting, it makes me swoon.

The iPod is not without its problems, however, the most notable of which is that I seem to be spending an inordinate amount of time looking very seriously at the Powerbook and shopping for hipster shirts so they’ll let me into the Apple Store. Okay, I haven’t bought any new clothes, but man, have you seen the lines on the Powerbook?