Entry 11.0 "Record High"
Catsiopeia, if she could speak, would insist that her advantages were well-earned. Besides exceeding in being perfectly ornamental by keeping her abundance of white fluff exceptionally groomed, she was also adept at sleeping, eating, and dodging well intentioned interactions with humans. If you were to ask her, she would say her time was best spent standing sentinel on her favorite window ledge, laser-focused on birds by day and stars by night.
As a cat, however, she likely had no idea that her circular window perch was part of elaborate wall art representing a piece of audio gear, which arguably still enjoys the distinction of being both ancient and superior: the record player. Brilliant in its execution, the art functioned as follows: circular window at night = vinyl record, passing planet (when available) = center label, curtain rod mounted above = tonearm! The display, seen as eccentric to a human and essential to a cat, was an undisputable win for its clever designer, but, at heart, it was merely meant to add aesthetics to the real prizes beneath.
The Simpletonez console, the flagship of the Ringed System line of fine bench-made Hi-Fi cabinets, was the holy grail of all disciples of vintage audio in my time. Its italic construction clearly harkened back to the mid-20th century, and encased two bookended Clearic speakers known for their exceptional dynamic range. Tucked neatly inside the shelves of the cabinet casually sat a cool million credits in gear ranging from a coveted Tinman preamp, to a Gleamtone amplifier, known for its exceeding warmth assumed to be provided in part by its maker’s relentless conviction to the use of antique vacuum tubes.
The turntable itself, butter yellow, was unmistakably made by Ear Manna – named for the food delivered by way of Heaven to the Israelites that sustained them in the desert for forty years. It was known to employ the finest parts, have the most sophisticated design methodologies, and reproduce recorded music more accurately than any other machine past or present. Despite its name alluding to a benevolent gift, an Ear Manna turntable would likely set its owner back enough credits to live quite comfortably for a year. If one added the cost of the vintage vinyl collection leaning casually inside the cabinet, one might indeed be sustained for forty years. The cost, however, was inconsequential to my host who was apparently, among other things, an audiophile and the benefactor of at least one very spoiled cat.
My selective social anxieties thanked me sarcastically for accepting an invitation to Thane Kellar’s mansion that rested proudly aloft an eight-hundred-foot crystalline formation called a Kingspire. Of course, my acceptance wasn’t necessarily a choice, since he and his multi trillion-credit real estate firm, Through Estates, was our enthusiastic sponsor for this leg of our interstellar journey.
Despite the offer to make myself at home by Thane’s attractive staff member, I didn’t dare thumb through his record collection even after she excused herself, assuring me that Mr. Kellar would be joining me soon. She made a half-hearted attempt to call Catsiopeia, only to be happily ignored. Shrugging with a grin she left, and I allowed myself a calm breath to take in the whole room. It came to mind that I was not likely standing in the waiting area reserved for Thane’s wealthy clientele. I’d imagine that space would be colder, more minimal, or more grandiose. This space, appreciated by me as an artist who loved to play both the guitar and the stereo, felt much more personal; it nearly set me at ease. The décor was warm with a saturated space race-era pallet favoring moss green, barn red, burnt orange, and gold. A model rocket, one I’d seen before, but couldn’t place, stood perpendicular on the record cabinet’s top against a backdrop of gold star wallpaper.
When the doors hissed open on the far side of the room, the slim figure of an elegant man strode forward with an easy double-dimpled smile and outstretched arm. My first impression of Thane Kellar was that of an attorney who regularly ditches his tie at the end of the work day and plays music (directly juxtaposed with his age) in a dive bar band downtown. His hair was gray-blond, a little over his collar, and his button-down shirt was out, but standing at the ready for a quick tuck if need be. Introductions were comfortable and flowed smoothly, fueled by mutual compliments. I made sure to properly acknowledge his audio gear and he looked me straight in the eye and said with a bit of flair for the dramatic, “I must insist that my life’s soundtrack be played on vinyl.” He mused that despite having the modern 23rd century technology to literally beam music directly inside his head, he still enjoyed the sound, the art, and the never-ending tone-chasing culture built around vinyl and its accompanying equipment.
Thane expertly dropped the needle on a record that, after a brief pause, painted the negative space in the room with first, colors of warm distorted guitars, then drums and a heavy bassline that forced the speakers to earn their keep. The number of credits I knew were consumed in building the sound system faded away from mind as we paused our conversation to appreciate that whatever had been spent was worth it.
One might have a preconceived notion of what a man possessing inordinate wealth might be like, and one might also be right in their assumption in most cases. But there are also exceptions to rules. When surface conversation faded, Thane asked with an unmistakable spark in his eye about the Wanderment’s adventures so far. I told him about Kiye and the Bone Caves of Anadore, the Headlight Safari, the storm-world Galenia, and the Sole Station on Galenia’s moon “December” run by a fiercely strong mother and son – a story by which he seemed particularly moved.
Thane spoke most passionately about what he called his “extracurricular activities” that involved recruiting the greatest minds on Earth to sojourn in his state-of-the-art facilities on Agricolia to challenge problems ranging from medical to the metaphysical. It quickly became clear that the symmetrical dual towers I’d found just days before in a briefly commandeered rowboat were such facilities. I obviously failed to mention my revelation to Thane out of embracement for the trespass.
Sensing a natural end to a fascinating conversation with a stranger who treated me as a kindred spirit, I thanked him for his hospitality and he showed me the elevator which would descend 100 floors in 9 seconds with barely a flutter to my insides.
After my exit, Catsiopeia finally abandoned her post at the window. But, if she had stayed just a moment longer, she might’ve seen a new light born far across the water that would someday change the course of worlds.