A Dose of Awesome

Gas prices are going up again. I’m hoping I’ll still be able to afford the trip we’re planning in two weeks. Serious unemployment is still an issue most places—there are hundreds of people vying for every minor job opening in our small southern city. News webpages now make it possible to follow all the excruciating misery all over the world 24 hours a day in immediate updates—complete with heart wrenching photos and live interviews with the sufferers.

And yet two weeks from now I’m supposed to give a keynote address at a women’s retreat on the theme “Rejoice in the Lord always—and again I say rejoice!”

I’ve pondered how that’s possible for myself, let alone how to encourage a crowd of women—some of whom may be battling cancer, or broken marriages, or fear of job loss when they get back home.

On any given week I could probably find some exciting worship service or inspirational concert to attend at some megachurch in nearby Atlanta. The music would be exhilarating, there might even be people doing “Davidic dancing” in the aisles, whirling streamers and playing tambourines. It would no doubt feel joyful! But two hours later I’d be headed back home in bumper to bumper traffic and wondering … just HOW do you “rejoice in the Lord ALWAYS”?

I’ve finally realized that what I need is to create my own rival “station” to the 24 hour news channels. It won’t broadcast on the Net or the Cable TV … it will broadcast in my head. And the stories will consist of the bright spots in my life every day, all day long, no matter where I am. Instant replays of each and every positive thing that God brings my way, so that I can savor it and remember to thank God for it, rather than gloss over it and forget it. I’ll be my OWN “I-reporter”!

But instead of just keeping “the news” in my head, I can also share it with friends, family, and blog readers. So here’s my I-report for today:

My daughter Mona reminded me yesterday about the 1000 Awesome Things website.

Author Neil Pasricha collected 1000 simple pleasures from his own life and shared them one day at a time on his blog. The idea connected with so many people that he turned it into a best selling book last year, and has followed up with 1000 new things on his blogsite and another book this year. An excerpt from a sample Awesome Thing entry:

Intergenerational Dancing

… wedding dance floors are a real sight.

They’re a breeding ground for that amazing intergenerational dancing that’s just so rare and beautiful to see.

You’ve got grandmas slow-dancing with their five-year-old grandchildren to What A Wonderful World, old men crowd-surfing over a pack of sweaty teenagers, snaking conga lines of all shapes and sizes, and circles forming around anyone who happens to be doing something interesting — whether that’s a father and daughter team waltzing in circles or a slightly inebriated bridesmaid shaking her booty with a ninety-year-old great grandpa in a wheelchair.

Yes, intergenerational dancing is a rare and wonderful thing. It’s a magic moment where boundaries are broken and the thumping power of music sort of sweeps us all together into a tiny little place where everything’s just cast aside in favor of living for the moment.


That got me to thinking about what simple but awesome thing I could focus on in my own day yesterday.  It was…

The Record Player

My grandson Jon, a high school senior headed out to art college next fall where he will major in filmmaking and minor in animation, has two of the twelve computers that are operating in our house every day. (Jon’s Grampa has three, Jon and Mom and Gramma have two each, Dad and sister Katie each have one, and the whole family shares a powerful computer in the dining room for BIG projects.) Most of the time when Jon’s not in front of a computer, like most teens he has earbuds in his ears, connected to an MP3 music player. Unlike most southern teens, he’s not listening to rock, rap, or country music. His tastes run to smooth jazz, and the soundtracks from Japanese anime movies by directors like Hayao Miyazaki. In fact, his favorite music is from a Japanese series of TV shows and films that started back in 1969 about a gentleman crook named Lupin the 3rd. There’s some of it he’s been able to download from the Net.

So I wasn’t totally surprised when he mentioned how discouraged he was that he’d found some really cool record albums of the original Lupin series on Ebay, and realized they’d do him no good since it’s been over a decade since we’ve had a record player in the house. Between the two of us, we rummaged on Google and found out that not only can you still buy record players, but for less than $100 you can get one that will automatically transfer vinyl recordings to MP3 files! So we sent off for one.

While waiting for it to arrive, Jon and I visited a local antique shop, and he bought a few 33 1/3 RPM albums to be ready to use it when it came. Although I already knew he had unconventional tastes, his choices did surprise even me! In addition to a soundtrack from the first Pink Panther movie with Peter Sellers, and a TV/movie theme album from the 60s featuring Mission Impossible, he got a collection of Benny Goodman’s Greatest Hits, and a Reader’s Digest 10-record collection of Big Band hits of the 1940s! I’m sure the older man who took our money when we checked out assumed all that vintage music was for the gray-haired lady, not the handsome young man in jeans and sneakers.

Wednesday UPS delivered the new record player. Jon was all smiles as he figured out how to set it up on a table and brought out one of his new albums. We were both disappointed when he first turned it on—and there was an irritating SQUEAK that repeated over and over on each round of the turntable. Changing the speed to 45 and then 78 RPM just made it squeak faster.

I called the Crosley Radio Corp’s hotline to see what could be done without having to ship it back for repairs. I was told an audio technician would get back to me within 72 hours. I was pleased and surprised when my call was returned in less than 24 hours. I was even more pleased that the tech spoke perfect English and was obviously somewhere in North America rather than India! (I’d recently spent many hours on five different phone calls to India trying to get a cable TV digital box to work, and finally gave up and changed from Comcast to ATT U-verse!)

The tech was a pleasure to work with, and I almost felt like I was back in the 1950s, talking to a real, personable handyman instead of an outsourced human robot! I had already popped the turntable off the record player, trying to see what might be wrong. WOW, had I forgotten how simple old-time electronics were! Under the platter were just a rotating brass turntable knob, a stiff wire, a transistor or two, and a big rubber band (the “belt”).

I’ve looked inside desktop computers while my husband was working on them. Just a mass of boards covered in chips and wires and such connected by a rat’s nest of cables. The CD/DVD player on my laptop is not working right now, and there is NO WAY I could possible fix it myself. But with the Crosley Tech’s help, I was able to repair my own record player. What a feeling of power! And, yes, JOY!  I thanked God right then for the simplicity of record players, and for technicians that speak my language.  The tech told me to just wrap the rubber band thingy around the plastic peg thingy on the bottom of the turntable, press it over the position of the brass knob thingy, rotate the turntable with my finger counterclockwise 1.5 times, and listen for a snap when the band would slip off the peg thingy and onto the brass knob. I did that and THWACK! The belt jumped down on to the brass knob, the turntable started turning … and there was no squeak any more!

Jon beamed, and dashed into the bedroom to get his Mission Impossible record.

Yes, this whole little episode brought me tinges of joy, from the pleasure of knowing I have a unique grandson not embarrassed to go against peer pressure and develop his own musical tastes, to the pleasure of conquering a piece of electronic equipment and making it do my bidding.

And then there was the joy when he walked into the home office to announce to his mother and me that he knew just what he was going to order first from EBay for his new record player, something never released on CD. An album of the soundtrack from the first Muppet Movie.

Having a teenage grandson who wants to hear The Rainbow Connection on vinyl.


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2 Responses to A Dose of Awesome

  1. Music is one thing that has kept me going through years of illness. I don’t play vinyl albums much anymore, except to transfer them to a digital format (I recently got a little USB gadget that will record in 24-bit resolution). My turntable is one of the best-engineered models from the 1970s, and the clarity is astounding, often surpassing the CD of the same title.

    Think on these things, the Bible tells us. Music is one of the beautiful things that we can dwell on, to enhance our joy.

    And speaking of grandmothers and grandsons, I certainly appreciate the music my grandmother (a piano player) and I (a guitar player) were able to appreciate together. Just the other day I saw a YouTube clip of Charlie Byrd and his trio playing Fats Waller’s Jitterbug Waltz. As I looked closer, I thought the background looked awfully familiar. Then it occurred to me — this was from a venue only about 20 miles from my home, and my grandmother and I were in the audience during that taping! YouTube… Awesome!

    BTW, your grandson might like the soundtrack CD of music from Peter Gunn. Great large-band jazz conducted by Mancini. A bit of trivia: John Williams (of Star Wars score fame) played piano in Mancini’s band on that record.

  2. Jim Averill says:

    I’ve sworn off the Forum (forever or for a while) because I get beat up over there. Not by you.
    I like your middle name being Starr, because it speaks of you and the rest of us stubborn Bible believers in Daniel:
    (Daniel 12:3) And they that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars for ever and ever.
    Happy Sabbath Pamela.
    Jim A

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