The story of the subwoofer isn’t really that compelling. There are no car chases, sex scenes, or dramatic soliloquies delivered from cliff edges, or while dangling from the strut of a helicopter (you know, like in all the other stories from that summer). The building of a subwoofer was simply the result of three bored guys, living together in a studio apartment, with power that was more often off than on, stolen cable, a mal-functioning toilet, and some of the loudest, horniest, neighbors I’ve ever had.
So, naturally, we decided to build me a subwoofer…
What? You didn’t follow the logic there? It made perfect sense at the time.
Enter the Radio Shack speaker building pamphlet, two 17’s I found at a janky electronics store in Goleta, and my roommate’s Dad’s garage in Santa Barbara. I/we had just decided on our design (a passive, band-pass, ported monster), worked out the numbers, and had bought the materials, when… I broke my arm (another story for another time).
Or maybe I didn’t… it’s difficult to remember. We built two main things that summer, the subwoofer, and a bunk-bed; and, the more I think about it, the more I remember having the broken arm during the bed construction. So never mind that first part.
Even without a broken arm, though, I only helped as much as I could, which wasn’t much. I’d not had much experience in wood working to that point (my main possible source, my Dad, is more of a “generally handy guy” than an “actual project guy”. Sure there is the still-solid work bench, the several fences, and the various plumbing projects; but, wood-working wasn’t something he was especially in to. Ironic [or maybe just funny] considering that I am now writing this sitting on a bed I made myself, after coming back from a trip to Home Depot for supplies for a dresser I am building in the garage, in which an almost completed pergola for my best friend’s wedding waits to be completed. I’ve been asked if I am “cabinet-maker or something” twice in the last two weeks, and I seriously consider a router table a much needed necessity to my life, that I will rectify my current lack of by building one.
During the Time of the Subwoofer, though, I was only screwdrivers and jig-saws… which was not entirely un-useful for something like a subwoofer with butt-joints.
Also, the tail gate of my truck was the perfect stand to spray paint on.
At any rate, the construction became a solid day of the three of us bonding over particle-board sawdust, measurements, and power tools. And, just as we’d put the last bit of sealant around the joints and we were about to close up the top, I stopped everyone and grabbed a pencil. “Sign it,” I said, always the one to think of something sentimental. And we did.
Oh, and it worked… well.
In epilogue, like I mentioned before, the thing was a monster. At least three feet wide, a little more tall, and almost two feet deep, and, being made of particle board, it weighed a ton. Even so, it served faithfully as both speaker and side table for the next 2 or 3 years of college, went up to the Bay Area for my first Real Job, and moved with me at least three more times.
Eventually, though, I started making actual money, and some parts of my electronic domain got upgraded; and, The Subwoofer was replaced with a younger, smaller, professionally built model. Even so, it stayed in sotrage for a few more years, always in the back of my mind as part of some huge home theater experience I would someday create.
Finally, after lugging The Subwoofer out of the way to get to something else for the millionth time, I finally decided it was time to say goodbye. And so, with a bit of sadness, I started to dismantle my friends’ and my project of that one Endless Summer. I used a new drill that would be the beginning and the cornerstone of what turned out to be a budding interest in woodworking; and, once I got started, the box came apart easily. As I carried the pieces out to the dumpster and started to throw them away one by one, I paused on the panel with our signatures still on it. I was surprised, for some reason, to still find them there; as if somehow they might have been erased by time. I looked at those signatures, and thought of this story as I tell it to you now, and smiled.
And somewhere, in my garage, or maybe in my closet, I still have that panel… and look forward to discovering it yet another time.
And that is the story of The Subwoofer.