You know what they say: Someone's junk is another's treasure.
Well, that's the way I feel about used CDs. I cannot go by a yard sale or second-hand shop without getting the urge to investigate. And it usually does a number on my pocket change.
My reasoning goes like this: Why pay top dollar for good music when I can buy it for a fraction of the cost? And support a charity to boot.
The other day found me inside Ruth's House, a modest, well-kept outlet that carries good stuff cheap. Proceeds and wares help out church groups. What you spend there goes toward nurturing the less fortunate. They shop there, too. A bargain is a bargain, no matter who you are.
Hey, I like a good buy as well as the next person. They don't know me. I don't know them. As I'm working on this column, I'm listening to a pleasant mistake. One of the CDs I picked up was inside a jacket that proclaimed Viennese music with Andre Rieu. Two discs. One dollar.
Well, it was half right. The other disc happened to be some of the best music ever composed from movies and the stage. Had I seen it in a department store, I probably would have purchased the same for $15.
My problem is this. With all the CDs I've purchased over the years, room is running out. I've got them stacked upon stacks. Could be I have two of the same in some cases. So, I've stumbled upon a plan that brings added joy.
I pass them on to family and friends. Like the movie, "Pay It Forward."
"Here you go, a gift from yours truly. Enjoy."
That makes two of us smiling for a buck. Okay, so one of the jackets came up empty. The clerk at the desk checked each of the contents and told me what I didn't want to hear.
Sometimes, they'll take the CD from the jacket and walk out with it. If things were that bad, we'd let them have it for free. No piece of merchandise is ever worth stealing.
Listen to what I picked up for $10 — the price of a rotten movie. A complete four-disc set with The Boston Pops Orchestra's 70th-year celebration. The Rieu collection. A four-CD set that's never been opened on the greatest saxophone music of all time (like panning for gold and striking it rich!). A collection of three discs from the European classical masters. Russia's most beautiful tunes featuring the balalaika. Two Reader's Digest discs offering great orchestral favorites and singer Jane Olivor in concert.
I've got them on my shelves and inside trays, some neatly arranged and others helter-skelter. Some to be played in the afternoon and others at night. I have them stored in the trunk of my car and right inside the glove compartment. My coffee holder serves as my immediate cache. Whatever fits the mood.
And still, I cannot fight the urge to buy more. For the price of a candy bar, I picked up Mozart's Musical Masterpieces, complete with a synopsis of every piece, rare illustrations of the artist, and a profound history of his life. By now, you may know that Mozart is my desert island composer.
Passengers who ride in my car never know what to expect. They might be treated to the Best of Broadway or the Best of Baroque. Could be some '50s music. Or Big Band. Maybe jazz or light opera. To be quite honest, I enjoy all sorts in their place except the current stuff.
The revelation of listening to music from my Armenian heritage can be underscored. Particularly folk and liturgical. These I cannot find at yard sales and pay the premium.
Keep the heavy metal and the rap. Out with acid rock. Bury the Dead. I like my music soft and melodious.
I've been in that position where I did not like the music being played. To ask a driver for a change of pace would be rude. So I tolerate it. Not once have I been asked to alter my music.
I have another outlet. People let me borrow their CDs and I make copies. Sometimes I'll utilize the vast collection at my public library and burn many of those on my computer. I could even play them on my Dell.
A bigger dilemma than my overgrown CD collection and the never-ending search for new music is the cassette tapes I still own and play, even though the children bought me an iPod. They downloaded some of the best music I could ever imagine.
The records I still own are another story.
• • •
Photographer and writer Tom Vartabedian is retired from the Haverhill Gazette. He contributes this regular column.