Legacy link:
This new site was launched in July 2010. Visit the older site to access previous articles by clicking above.

You’d think the Great Pandemic of 2020 would create the perfect conditions for getting some writing done. Well, if you lived in the Thorpe household, you’d be wrong. Back in July, we decided to invite risk, expense, and chaos into our lives and start some major home renovations. We bashed down some walls to make our first floor into one large open-concept space, re-doing the kitchen at the same time. The second-floor bathroom became a full-on gut job, and the basement powder room (a small room with a toilet and sink, in case that euphemism isn’t shared by the rest of the world) also got some love.

“You’re the writer I want to be when I grow up.”

That’s how I introduced myself to Art Dudley when I first met him, in 2005, at Le Festival Son et Image de Montréal.

The moment I heard of the death of Neil Peart (1952-2020), sorrow set in. That Peart was the drummer and lyricist of one of my favorite rock bands, Rush, would have been enough to set me into a spiral of introspection, but there’s more to my connection with Peart than the music of Rush. Like me, he was an avid motorcyclist, and many of his explorations of this continent mirror some of my own choices of bike and road. I’ve read a number of Peart’s books, many of which center around motorcycle riding and the mindset it engenders. His memoir Ghost Rider is a painfully honest description of a 55,000-mile motorcycle trek throughout North America, during which he tried to outrun his grief over the deaths, within ten months of each other, of his daughter and his wife.

Way back when, before the age of computer audio, about the time of the ascendancy of the Compact Disc, my expanding collection of records became unmanageable. Milk crates no longer cut it. I ended up buying a five-by-five Expedit shelving unit from IKEA and proceeded to at last sort my records.

As I write this, it’s back-to-school time at the Thorpe household. Little Toni is starting third grade, and Marcia the special-needs teacher is heading back to her class. The house gets a little crazy the day before school starts. Tensions run a touch high.

In my younger, poorer years, I spent an inordinate amount of my free time scouring garage sales and rummaging used-record stores for LPs. In those days, the early 1990s -- God help me, nearly 30 years ago -- used vinyl was plentiful and cheap.

A few months ago, I commissioned a new audio rack -- a double-wide, overbuilt, steel-and-wood monstrosity. Well, I recently got a call from the craftsman, Jason Trauzzi, who told me it was nearing completion. He was building the rack from 2” square-section steel tubing, a top shelf of 2”-thick walnut, and three lower shelves of 1”-thick walnut. The smartphone photos he sent me were stunning -- I figured I’d better get the rest of my ingredients in order.

Last February, my mother died. Her passing wasn’t unexpected -- she was 84 and not in good health. Still, it took me by surprise, and shook me up far more than I’d anticipated. The two years and more that I’d had to prepare myself didn’t mean squat. I’d thought I was ready, but -- there was no way to be ready for the death of my last remaining parent.

Last November, I accompanied Doug Schneider to the Warsaw Audio Video Show (read our coverage here). The AVS was wonderful -- a huge affair hosted by a city whose history goes back a thousand years. We found tons of new, exotic products, and the show -- and our coverage of it -- were raging successes.

When discussing a turntable, it’s common practice to lump together in that term every bit of gear that precedes the phono stage. The turntable includes the platter and the motor that spins it, and often the tonearm as well. Then there’s the cartridge, which is an honest-to-god system component all by itself. The internal tonearm cable is most often captured -- but unlike the old silver plastic record players of my youth, most modern turntables have some sort of junction to facilitate the connection of aftermarket interconnects. So add an interconnect to the list of components that make up this rigmarole. And I guess we can continue to add to this catalog -- let’s include any item that remains in contact with the turntable while the record is in play, OK?

This is my column, so I get to make the rules.