True Stories: Musings on an Abandoned CD Case

There it was, splayed out on the corner of 11th and A...

by Adam Bloom

Have you ever seen a 1000-CD case lying on the sidewalk? It's upsetting. It's like finding a corpse: someone made this, someone raised it, loved it, fed it, enriched it, and, in return, was enriched by it. And now it's lying here, unzipped, its contents spread over the sidewalk. When it happened to me over the weekend, I felt like the shmuck who finds the body at the beginning of Law and Order.

I'm a child of the '90s. I remember what it meant to build a CD collection.

I did find an actual body on the sidewalk once, I think. I was walking home from work and saw a guy lying on his face. Nothing remarkable about that, except that I was at 11th and A, and you don't see that kind of thing much around there these days. Plus he seemed young — mid-twenties, maybe — and his clothes looked clean and relatively new. Also his neck and arms were bent at strange angles, like he was frozen in the middle of a bad Michael Jackson impression. As I passed I turned and saw that his eyes were open: pale green, and clouded over. I kept walking. In a few steps it hit me: was he dead? Did I just pass a corpse? Should I keep walking? Or, more to the point, should I stop walking? I heard sirens and looked up as a fire engine rounded the corner heading towards me. Someone was coming to deal with this guy, dead or not. I didn't even break stride — just walked home. But later I felt strange. Should I have felt or done something differently than what I had felt and done, which was nothing?

A year later, here was this CD collection, and for the CD collection, I stopped. It was a poetic corpse of a CD collection, lying open at about the middle page with a stream of unorganized CDs — the ones you don't bother to put in pockets and just cram inside the zipper — vomitted out of it.

I'm a child of the '90s. I remember what it meant to build a CD collection: spending hours at Sam Goody or FYE or Tower or some other vaguely intimidating mall record store buying albums one at a time for sixteen dollars a pop, reading the back of the jewel case for ten minutes, trying to decide if the band's other nine songs were as good as the one you heard on the radio, knowing they probably weren't, and buying it anyway. Building a collection took years and cost hundreds if not thousands of dollars.

And if you lost a whole case, you never recovered. Even if you could remember all the CDs you had lost, and even if you were willing to pay for new ones, it was back to Sam Goody, pawing through the supposedly alphabetized racks until you discovered that a new copy of a five-year-old album was still fourteen dollars. Plus, even if you replaced your CDs, the new ones weren't your CDs. You could get a new copy of Parliament's Tear the Roof Off: 1974 - 1980, but it wouldn't be the one with the scratch on the label of Disc Two that you listened to on the bus to all of your sophomore year away games after buying it over the summer from a used record store in Utah because a camp friend clued you in that all of Dre and Snoop's music was ripped from one legendary funk band. If you lost that, there was no getting it back.

So what could explain this collection of at least 500 CDs lying abandoned in the middle of the sidewalk? There were a few VHS tapes next to the CDs. I didn't even read the titles — VHS tapes suck — but seeing the tapes made me think that the CDs were part of a larger stuff-moving operation. I thought of two possibilities: either someone had been packing the car for Christmas and the CD collection had been mistakenly left behind, or the CDs had been collateral damage of a bad breakup, thrown out by an angry partner. I glanced at the CDs on the open page: two Pixies albums and two Portishead albums. Not bad.

I looked around. No one was on the block. Two girls were sitting on the stoop across the street, chatting. I kneeled over the CD case and began flipping pages until I came to the Forrest Gump soundtrack, a mid-'90s give-away — but right below it was a Feist CD. How did those two end up in the same case on the same page? And there were other surprises: four Jeff Buckley albums, Howlin' Wolf, Slim Harpo, Ibrahim Ferrer. Whose CD collection was this?

I stood up and decided to leave it. Someone might come back for it. I took a few steps and turned around. Someone might come back for it, but it was far likelier that a homeless person would either use the CDs to decorate a shopping cart or sell the whole collection for ten bucks. I turned back and stood over the CDs, vaguely aware that the girls across the street were noticing that I was being weird.

My pocket buzzed — a text from my fiancee: "Headache. My head feels poopy. I have a poop head :( ."  New York wears her out. She works too hard, she's sick of her job, and she wants us to move back to L.A., like I promised. We're moving next year. It's not that I don't see the upside — beaches, nicer home, a bunch of our friends already there — it's just that in L.A., you'd never find someone's entire CD collection on your walk home.

I leaned down and tried to zip the case, but the zipper stuck. I picked it up. If the girls across the street noticed, they didn't react. I walked home with the closed, unzipped case cradled across my arms like a wounded animal.

Commentarium (22 Comments)

Jan 17 12 - 1:38am

"And there were other boy cues: Franz Ferdinand, a bunch of punk, a burned CD labeled "Johnny Cash - The Man Comes Around." That's not Taco Bell-commercial or "Joaquin Phoenix is cute!" Johnny Cash. That's late Johnny Cash, dying of cancer, quoting Bible verses and growling about the end of the world."

Jan 17 12 - 12:28pm

that was seriously annoying. like the only reason a girl could like one of the greatest musicians ever is because they thought the guy who played him in a movie was cute!!? and girls can't like the blues? wtf?

Jan 17 12 - 10:00am

Some of us still buy new music/bands on CD. Some even buy them on LP, for that matter. Yes, you can get Arcade Fire on LP. Anyway, this article makes me sad for Justine to have lost that.

Jan 17 12 - 10:56am

I sort of think this guy doesn't actually like his fiance.

Also, I will never use "poopy" to describe how I'm feeling again.

Jan 17 12 - 12:55pm

Aaron, you're such a douche. You would leave an injured/dead guy on the sidewalk without checking to see if you needed to call 911???!!! (What if he wasn't dead? What if he was a guy with eye problems--cataracts or some types of blindness could explain the cloudines--who was injured. And what if that emergency vehicle wasn't for him?) All you had to do was see if he needed 911, not actually do mouth-to-moutn rescusitation or CPR or whatever--that would be too much to expect from a weak and sickly hipster, I'm sure.

And then, you take the CDs because maybe a homeless dude might want to sell them for $10 (ie. for dinner, coffee out of the cold or whatever). Why do you have more of a right to them than someone who wants to sell them for $10?! It's not your money that was invested in the CD collection?

You're an arrogant prick, and this fucking story annoyed me more than anything I have ever read on or even the internet. (I'm not even kidding about that--I'm a pretty open-minded, laidback person, generally.) But you're complete and utter shit. Love the part where you are becoming a lawyer, LOL! Almost too perfect.

I agree the CD curation was excellent. Kudos to Justine--nice choices!

Jan 17 12 - 4:03pm

Stokely is definately not stoked...

Also, it seems as though Justine was born in 1984 oe thereabouts. Anyone else care to take a shot?

Jan 20 12 - 3:09pm

His name is Adam. . .

Jan 23 12 - 5:43am

Stokely .... I can categorically say that you are not a laidback person (giveaway clue is the fact you wrote write "I'm a pretty open-minded, laidback person")... Why does he have more of a right to them than a homeless person? Anyway with any love of music would never ask such a ridiculous question.....

Jan 17 12 - 4:25pm

What's with all the hate? I feel sorry for Aaron that the women he's basing his bias on have been so boring, but other than that, I liked it.

ALTHOUGH, on second thought, why was he taking his fiance's offer to cook when her head hurt so badly that she had to lie in a dark room? Ok, I changed my mind, he sucks.

Jan 17 12 - 10:12pm

I thought the same thing regarding having the fiancé cook. Also--walking past a guy alone and lying face down on the sidewalk without breaking stride?? What, did you initially assume he was planking or something? Way to play up the Self-Absorbed New Yorker stereotype. I hope it was only for the sake of the story. (A cool story I would have shared if not for the irksome attributes of its narrator.)

Jan 18 12 - 2:42am

Because he double checked and asked if she was okay. Jesus fucking christ, can a fiancee do something nice for you even if they aren't in tip-top physical condition? Maybe fried chicken helped get rid of her headache, I know it does for me.

Ah nevermind, you're right. I'm sure he's a misogynist who gets off to traditional gender roles, especially when there's pain involved.

Jan 17 12 - 8:14pm

My name's not Justine, but this collection could be mine, if my CDs weren't carefully alphabetized and stored in the basement. Definitely a person born in the early 1980s.

Jan 17 12 - 8:32pm
KA Bloom

Dear Aaron,

As a loyal reader and occasional contributor to, I have come to depend upon this publication's even tone, uncontroversial mainstream content, and politely urbane liberal outlook to help suppress the boiling rage that I feel regarding my daddy or possibly mommy issues (maybe both -- my therapist hasn't decided, yet).

You see, Aaron, at the start of every work week, I drag my slowly eroding liver, brutalized kidneys, and gradually eroding outlook on human relationships into my cramped, brick-a-brack laden cubicle, pour 16-24 ounces of Starbucks down my bitterness hole, and head to for some mildly amusing diversion from my rapidly diminishing life prospects.

So, please try to imagine my dismay when I dutifully pointed my browser to this morning and was confronted by a desiccated pile of assorted animal droppings bearing the headline, "Musings on an Abandoned CD Case." This shocking affront to human decency contained, among others, the following atrocities: dark humor; a discussion of gender differences, and; a typo.

In light of the foregoing, Aaron, I request you do the following. Hang a noose from the ceiling of your apartment and place a stool under the noose. Tie an open bottle of lighter fluid to the stool. Start a small fire next to the stool. Stand on the stool, place your head in the noose and kick the stool out from under you, thus hanging yourself and kicking the lighter fluid into the fire. Following these steps will assure that you are suffocated to death and that your corpse and all remnants of your earthly existence are destroyed.

Failing that, please cut off your hands at the wrists to assure that you never write anything, ever again. Also, please post a picture afterwards to confirm. Although you will not have hands, you can either tape your phone to the wall and operate it with your nose, or pay a stranger to take a picture for you.

Thanks for forcing me to read this entire article and write this response,

Jan 23 12 - 4:36pm


Jan 24 12 - 11:35am
Alex Heigl

As long as we're being unduly nitpicky, it's "bric-a-brac." But thanks for reading.

Jan 17 12 - 8:58pm

I thought this was one of the funnier and more engaging stories on Nerve so far but hey, what do I know. Either way, these responses are gold. Maybe even better than the story itself. ^That one^ in particular is just beautiful.

Jan 17 12 - 9:46pm

I enjoyed it too! Though I was confused why she was cooking for him with a headache. Besides that his reflections on the collection/ CD's in general were interesting.

Jan 18 12 - 1:24am

i liked this. it was sad. the part about the dead guy, i'm sure he feels bad about not calling 911. i bet he would have gone back and done it too if he hadnt heard the ambulance coming. the piece is about how everyday life has a numbing effect... we're numb to violence, poverty, our own relationships. and how little things like an abandoned cd case can awaken us from that numbness. he's honest.

Jan 20 12 - 9:34am

you're a prick, because
(a)you ignored a body lying on the sidewalk(!!!!), and
(b)although your girlfriend was ill, you still let her cook for you..

Jan 23 12 - 5:39am

This article was great and the comments tell me that there are a lot of people reading Nerve with their head up their arses...... Seriously you people have such a self-entitlement, hipster "not impressed" attitude that I'm seriously considering never reading the comments again......
Also who said the owner of the CDs was born in the early 80s ..... sooooo off.... this could easily be my collection and I was born in 69. No teenager has the bucks to buy this many CDs.... well at least not in Ireland in the 80s/90s.... this person was obviously late teens early 20s in the early 90s.

Jan 23 12 - 8:18am

All the haters here need to listen to this from Louis CK and then have a long hard look in the mirror.

Jan 27 12 - 4:54pm

I remember the days when people would come to nerve to read stories, not focus on crafting snarky, judgmental comments.