No speakers part of the pain in Spain
Living in Europe can be challenging. I'm sure living in Afghanistan would be harder, but I've never lived in Afghanistan, so I can't speak to the set of issues that comes with living there. I can, however, discuss living in Europe. More specifically, living in Spain, because I'm there now, visiting my girlfriend for a month.Current obstacles in my daily existence include the following:[+] EnlargeJeff Vespa/WireImageListening to MGMT loud, out in the open and with room to dance could help make up for the lack of central heat.
- No central heat.
- A bed made of two twin beds squashed together, complete with a centrally located 4-inch gap.
- No microwave.
- Three flights of stairs that look like they were carved from the inside of the mountains of Mordor by a sadistic great-grandfather of Gimli the Dwarf.
- No garbage disposal.
- A toilet that requires one to turn on a valve before one who has used that toilet can flush that toilet.
- No Internet, no television and no way for the aforementioned girlfriend and I to get out of each other's way.But the thing I'm missing most? Music. There's no way for me to listen to MGMT the way I like, which is loud, out in the open and with room to dance. (In case I have a need to do so, which, believe it or not, I sometimes have.) I've learned one thing about Europe, though: There's always a solution. It's just that it usually involves a compromise. When one is faced with a high-maintenance toilet, he drinks less water. When one doesn't have a decent set of speakers, he uses headphones. It might mean less dancing, but his sanity will probably remain intact. As others and I -- but mostly I -- have documented, I've led a nomadic existence. I've lived in places I never thought I would, and I've lived in lots of them. Along the way, I've had to figure out how I could get on with my life without ending it. I've found that the best method is to make whatever domicile is my current one as much like home as I can. Thankfully, it's not a tall order. As anyone who has been inside my house can attest, I'm not a proponent of knickknackery. What I need to make my house a home is a bed, a laptop and a way to get music to whichever part of my brain is responsible for my love of the Ting Tings. Once, when I was stuck in a Chicago hospital bed courtesy of Austin Croshere's right knee, I had my mother go to a Best Buy to buy the Bose notebook speakers I thought would help ease my stay. I was in the hospital for all of nine days.I don't throw out the brand of those speakers to foreshadow a launch into a spiel about amp wattage or brands of receivers. I am no true audiophile. You'll never catch me singing the praises of vinyl; I rip my CDs at a measly 128 kbps; and I have never had a subscription to Crutchfield magazine. The stereo setup that gets me through Kansas days is nothing more than a decent receiver and two similarly middle-class speakers. My only requirement of those speakers, or of any that deliver the music I love, is that they have the capacity to make my music loud ... without it sounding like my laptop is about to break up like an incoming meteor. I don't analyze sound quality much beyond "Can I still understand Julian Casablancas if the green bars on my computer screen are lit up all the way to the right?" If one were a Sudanese refugee or even a citizen of the central Asian country I mentioned earlier, this column would be hard to digest. First, I complained about Europe. Bad form, most would say. To detractors who might take issue with my comments, I would recommend a yearlong stay on the continent, preferably in a Mediterranean country where the citizens are always prepared to cast a suspicious, sidelong glance in the direction of passing Americans. Nonetheless, this isn't a war zone. Second, I wrote that the thing that makes my home seem homey is speakers capable of producing loud music. I didn't write about a wife, a child or even a favorite pillow -- one that smells like a familiar mixture of Pantene and hard water. Computer speakers are hardly a sentimental item. (As I look back at the above sentence, I realize how effeminate the word "Pantene" is. I need to investigate a switch to a more manly shampoo.) I understand that my need for music conveyance may seem unimportant, but I'm not going to take it back. Music helps me live. It provides continuity -- something that has been sorely lacking in my life to this point. When I push a jack into my laptop, it doesn't matter if I'm in Phoenix, Athens or Cedar City, Utah. Art Alexakis' voice sounds the same in every one of those places. I need that sameness.[+] EnlargeChris Gordon/Getty ImagesGood sound quality can be measured on The Strokes' Julian Casablancas comprehension scale.
THE PORTABLE PAUL SHIRLEY
Paul's basketball adventures are now in paperback.
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