He rests deep in the bowels of the archives. Hidden from view, his lair is beyond the compact shelving featured
in the recent, murderous reality TV show, "Libraries in the Raw". He (and we are certain of his gender), restlessly sleeps, along with the binder that holds the iron oxide and chromium dioxide to the acetate and polyester ribbons we know as tape. He is the molecular key to lacquer discs of a bygone sonic age. He is the latent nano operative whose overstuffed, Y-shaped form is the result of recording industry indulgence in Kava extracts for the sole purpose of short-term gain at the expense of long-term preservation. He is the yava-skin ypsiliform ylem.
“What, me worry?” he says, in a rare lucid Alfred E. Newman moment, between bits of high and normal bias tape. There is enough, quite enough of a legacy here to keep him stoned on the broadcast history of this public radio station for years to come.
“Theme music alone would satisfy me,” he boasted, “but why settle for just beginnings and endings when I can have the whole show?”
Temperature and humidity are consistently in his favor. Batch mixtures with whale oil extract for lubricant may have once protected magnetic heads but now only serve as an appetizer for our feasting triple-Y fiend.
In the beginning, it was the electronic music programs on Shamrock tape from the 1950s that wasn’t so lucky. Then there was the crawl space between glass and nitrocellulose acetate coatings, where he disturbs the ink black grooves and is about as subtle as the Taliban at a Sarah Lawrence dinner party.
You’ve asked me, “Where does it end?” I can only tell you that he hasn’t crossed the vast analog to digital divide. That’s for another generation—the one that’s preoccupied with bit rot. He has no interest in virtual binary systems. For him, ones and zeros are cold, sterile, and euphemistic. Oh, but sound with its roots in vacuum tubes and glowing filaments—now that’s something he can sink his minivilli into and work hand-in-hand, so-to-speak, with real rot.
He could tell, despite consistent temperature and humidity, the solstice was at hand. Summer, Winter—it didn’t matter which one. It was just an extreme end of a swing-like pendulum at its maximum arc, just before the return. All that energy, ready to roar back before hooking up with the brotherhood of momentum. Maybe it had something to do with gravity, a shift in the magnetic north, or aftershocks of the Japanese earthquake.
What did it matter? Only that it coincided with an opportunity to dive into the rich grooves of Father Coughlin’s sermon. There it was on the shelf, next to the pressings. It wasn’t just another anti-New Deal homily from The Shrine of the Little Flower, but a lip-smacking, gob-spattering, apoplectic burst of anti-Semitic bombast. If you saw the grooves as a digital waveform, they were violent hills and dales like some hyper-manic stock market graph punctuated by pregnant pauses that only made the steep rises and falls more extreme and malevolent than their speaker.
But first he had to make his way through the aging lignan laced sleeves that were nice and warm. In fact, they were on fire, a slow acid burn that turned their once newspaper-colored gray to a fine sepia-toned haze that conveys nostalgia to the average Joe and the beginning of the end to those who know. Just a little more time and they would be dust. But he couldn’t wait. The slight hint of off-gassing and visions of a real palmetic acid trip were driving him insane. It was time to make his move.
The lights were out. He made his move. Pushing through the pucker-creased cellulose fibers, he licked the lacquer edge, hoping to find a nub of nuance by simply rolling in the groove and feeling the confluence of tone and pacing, as it resonated through his body with every move. But he wasn’t going to eat just any old part of the ‘ol bugger’s radio address. He was in search of sweet sarcasm delivered as innocent rhetorical questions.
“... And wouldn’t Mr. Roosevelt want to invite the very leaders of his precious WPA to the White House for tea and biscuits?”
Oh, what a night! He made it through at least 10 minutes of doggerel platitudes before he found what he wanted. Then there he was, scoring big time, straight down to the aluminum base, stuffing himself silly in a frenzy of mesmerizing mastication. ”God,” he thought, “what did I do to deserve such aural delights?”