Eight or Twelve for a Penny: Columbia House Memories

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Some of my Columbia House bounty . . . I wish I could claim the cheesier titles were unsolicited selections of the month, but, alas, I cannot.

When I was a kid, I’d look over magazines and the Sunday paper, noting the trappings of what I’d imagine would make a perfect adult life. The lighter side of me would dream of building a country estate based on model homes depicted in the real estate ads. I’d imagine driving home up a winding lane in a MG convertible, wearing some smart outfit from Penney’s in a mail-order only color, eager to set up the filet mignon for dinner. The part of me that secretly rooted for Darth Vader plotted what kind of vices I’d choose in later days, so I also dreamed of owning a penthouse where I’d smoke Benson and Hedges and sip Riunite while listening to a hoarde of albums from the Columbia Record and Tape Club.

I was able to forego the indulgence of nicotine and alcohol for several more years, but I fell prey to Columbia House as soon as I felt I could write my address as well as an adult would. When I was 12, I taped a penny to the order form, checked off the box that declared I was at least 18 years old and waited for my box of tunes. By the time I actually smoked a Benson and Hedges (which tasted like minty dust instead of something worthy of Remington Steele, by the way), I had signed up for the deal four times, at least once under an assumed name. I was able to pay for these tapes and CD’s first with allowance money and later with minimum wage pay until the recoil of this scheme would hit me: the forgotten selection of the month billed at full retail. A collection agency pursued my alias by the time I was 14.

This scheme did not portend a life of crime. I did an online search on this topic and discovered that this scam was so widespread that the company factored such losses into its business model.

I will close this post with a few links to some articles on Columbia House:

Stone in Love

My husband collects vintage bicycles, and he had a nap dream this afternoon in which he had acquired a Journey-themed bike. All of the bike needed restoration except for the head badge and its screws. He said that the head badge was roughly as large as a beer can, and he was puzzled at determining how he’d reattach such a large badge to the bike, especially since he dropped one of the screws from this pocket while trying to fix a two story high tar paper roof. I asked him if the badge included the scarab beetle featured on many Journey album covers, and he replied that it had little detail but the band name Journey in large red letters.

I recall a dream I had almost twenty-five years ago that featured the Journey scarab beetle. It was one of those instant sort of dreams that seems to flicker to life as soon as your eyes close. I saw the scarab beetle’s progression through history, that it was merely borrowed by Journey as Gru had hired the Minions. Unlike the Minions, the scarab beetle lent itself to just one cause, the glory of Journey. As the dream progressed, the scarab beetle revealed all of its guises in a silent montage saturated with color beyond the spectrum visible in waking life. He concluded by revealing the next Journey album cover, which was not to be released due to friction within the band.

A couple years later, I heard a DJ introduce a Steve Perry solo single with the disclaimer that Neal Schon would not be indicted because he played no role in the song’s creation or recording.

I leave you with what I believe is Journey’s finest song. I imagine that the album cover shows the scarab beetle’s awakening from a dream of this song, before it was written in our reality.

The Wolf

I suppose that my taste in music should not be trusted because my hearing is poor on one side. There are only two acoustic settings in which I can truly enjoy a song, while using decent headphones or listening in a car. In other places I lose too many sonic details to engage my attention fully on music. While I can hear enough to decide whether a song merits a closer listening, I cannot “lose myself” in a song if I hear it on TV, on a stereo, etc.

There have been many songs I have wanted to listen to repeatedly for a time,  like a musical serial monogamy. I like to exhaust the captivating feelings a song provokes until eventually it holds me spellbound only occasionally. One such song is “The Wolf” by Mumford and Sons.

Like any work of the imagination, the meaning of a song is open to interpretation, and I am biased toward finding if a song could be a soundtrack for someone I know. Ordinarily there is not much point to explicating a song as if one were writing a term paper on a poem. While it is not uncommon to hear a tune and temporarily adopt it as a theme song, it is more unusual to listen to a song and consider that it could capture how someone else might see you. This is the case with my impression of “The Wolf”.

As I listen to this song, I think that it is about loving someone who is prone to anxiety. The person loved can get so mired in fear that they may be not be fully engaged in the relationship or life beyond their worries. The first time I heard it, I was struck by the notion that it could describe what it is like for my husband to love me. There are times when I am stuck in the reverie of imagining small or major catastrophes and lose sight of him. I worry that he will grow weary of hearing me explain boundaries that help me ward off the things that bother me, such as avoiding left turns whenever possible. I appreciate his compassion for my issues, and this song reminds me that I would benefit from trying to take his perspective. That is one of the healing aspects of love, the opportunity to see things through someone else’s eyes. With the anxiety I have at times, it is a relief to borrow a different vantage point for a while.