Simple Pleasures

posted 5/06/03

The Minnesota Wild played last night, in game five of some divisional playoff thing against Vancouver. I'm not a great hockey fan, despite living in "The State of Hockey". (How'd it get that name? It seems much more like the State of Welfare Mothers, Gang Violence and Hispanic Idiots). That said, I listened to the game, simply to have some clue what everybody would be talking about today.
Friends watched the game on a 32-inch, flat-screen HDTV. I have a 15-inch television and no cable, which is fine since I don't watch much TV. In truth, I'm not even sure if the game was on local TV, or just cable. Sitting on the couch watching a blurry, static-filled picture of a game I don't much enjoy isn't really my thing, anyway.
Like I said, I listened to the game, and, arguably, enjoyed it in my own way as much as anyone who attended it. (Likely more; Vancouver lost 7-2 at home) I collect and restore antique, vacuum-tube radios, among other things, and listened to the game on a battered Arvin set from about 1951. I could have listened to a webcast, I'm sure - despite Qwest's inability to provide decent phone service, I can still manage streaming audio downloads, most of the time. I even have newer, more modern tube radios with FM. So why the Arvin, a lower-end bakelite AM-only set?
It's a guy thing, I think. It's hard to deny the simple pleasure of using something you made yourself, or, in this case, rebuilt yourself. This radio was DOA when I got it, fifty years of heavy use and indiscriminate storage having taken it's toll. A dozen or so components needed replacing, and of course a half-century's worth of dirt and grime needed removing. Then, rebuilt and restored, it plays, and plays well, contrary to expectations.
Despite their continuing popularity among audiophiles, vacuum tubes have a bad rap. I admit they're not exactly 21st-century technology, but I adamantly insist that they produce better sound in audio applications. If you've never listened to a tube radio, you just won't understand; saying that music has an increased depth or richness is fairly meaningless. Just accept that this is one of those truths that makes no sense, like carbon steel's superiority over stainless, Like LP's being better than CD's, and move on.
So, like a poster boy for geekdom, I sat in a dark room, lit only by the glow of the Arvin's illuminated dial, and listened to the rich, mellow sounds of whomever announces games for the "Wild Radio Network", the sounds of a lot of unhappy Canadians booing the Minnesota team, on an antique radio made decades before I was born. And, to be honest, I enjoyed it, despite my ignorance of all things hockey, far more than if I had watched it on TV, or listened to it with a modern transistorized radio. Wierdness for wierdness' sake, maybe, but it gives me something to talk about (the game, not the radio; nobody I know gives a hoot about these old things), and, by gosh, it gives me something to write about, too. Perhaps it's some sort of crazy nostalgia, or something. Maybe I'm some sort of deep, dark radio pervert. Perhaps it's saddening to think that this is what we're fighting for, the right to ignore half a decade's advances in electronic technology and cling to relics of the pase thought passe in rural Uzbekistan. Whatever the final verdict, it was enjoyable. Guess what I'll be doing during the next game?


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