Nothing shakes the post-celebratory blues of “the season of giving” like going out and wasting a boatload of cash on something cool and expensive for yourself. It’s also a hell of a lot easier to make major purchases after the price-inflated, high-pressured holiday season. The girlfriend and I thought ahead on this, and put a hold on our “Christmas gift for each other” until the week after.

This resulted in two things: a) the realization that fighting mall traffic at any time of the year is a $*@#!^& headache, b) the realization that shopping with someone else for big-ticket items can put stress as much on a relationship as redoing the apartment (I speak from experience). In the end, it boils down to hasty indecision that usually ends up with something more expensive but exceedingly satisfying than what you had originally planned.

We decided it was time for a new home stereo, since the $79 “boom-box” I got back in ’94 had seen better days and it was time for an upgrade. We didn’t want a component system with miles of wires connecting various pieces of hardware – there’s far too much room for error/electrocution for my technically challenged mind. We also didn’t want some massive entertainment center with PlayStation, X-Box, Nintendo, Dreamcast, 1000-CD changer and 5-DVD changer capability (can you believe there’s actually a market for a 5-DVD changer? What kind of fat bastard says, “I want to spend at least 10-12 hours on my couch without the inconvenience of having to get up and change the movie I’m watching”?).

In my mind, I saw the whole transaction taking about an hour. We’d go to Best Buy (925 Paterson Plank Rd., Secaucus), pick up some pretty little mini-system, and be pissing off the neighbors in no time.


When we got to Best Buy, we had trouble finding anything that wasn’t neon metallic blue or didn’t have speakers that looked like Darth Vader’s mask. So we went to The Wiz (400 Marin Blvd, Jersey City) the next day, where we were able to get past the neon metallic blue and Lord Vader to find an aesthetically pleasing Panasonic mini-system with 5-CD changer and 280 watts for $279.99 (less than a dollar per watt???). We knew we had found the perfect little item for our humble home entertainment needs – of course it was: OUT OF STOCK!!!

Thoroughly dejected, we went out on day three of our quest having consulted Panasonic.com to find out whom exactly carried that particular model. Ironically, they suggested Demarest Television, two blocks away from my house at 530 Washington St., Hoboken. But guess what: they stopped carrying Panasonic. The gentleman at Demarest suggested we try BJ’s Wholesale (396-420 Marin Blvd, Jersey City), where we’d have to get a membership – luckily they didn’t have it because I’d end up getting 5-gallon tubs of mayonnaise and jars of pickles that could be used as furniture as well.

Next, we hit Staples (613 Washington Blvd, Jersey City) in desperation, only to be disappointed again.

Finally, we hit the home audio department at Sears (50 Mall Dr. W, Jersey City). Weary from days of searching, our defenses were down and our willpower weakened when we saw it – a beautiful Sony mini-system with 5-CD changer, dual cassette, digital tuner, 280 watts and gorgeous wooden speakers. Price: $499.99.

It was steep, but we loved it. And though we were almost put off when the vulture of a sales clerk swooped in prematurely, we finally said, “What the hell, let’s splurge.” Of course, once we got it home we realized we didn’t have a piece of furniture that would accommodate our new baby (could have used one of those pickle jars from BJ’s), so it was off to Sleep Cheap (410 Washington St., Hoboken) for another $80 kick in the teeth, and we were able to find a self set that not only held the stereo but matched the speakers beautifully.

All in all, we ended up spending three days, more than twice the money we had initially planned (12 times my wages for this column) and were forced to haul another piece of furniture into our already cluttered apartment. But once it was set up and I heard the stellar acoustics of Yes’s Yours is No Disgrace (by far the best track to test a new stereo’s performance) I knew it was all worth it.

So I apologize in advance. My columns might be a bit boring for the next few weeks, since not only will I be spending a lot of time getting reacquainted with my CD collection, I’m also going to try to recoup some of my losses by skimping on the wasting of the wages.

If you know how I can effectively waste $50 in the metro area, please write to:

“Hal Wastes His Wages”

c/o The Hudson Current

1400 Washington Street

Hoboken, New Jersey 07030

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