Hoping to reach a total of one-hundred DVDs by the time of his first anniversary as a convert at the end of this month, Dave made a startling announcement over the phone early last week. "I'm ready to go for the surround sound, Jack!" shrieked the Bronx-accented voice on the other end. "You've been saying that all year," came my tired response amid a barely stifled yawn. "No, I really mean it this time. And the next time I call you it's gonna be from at Good Guys!" he boasted. "But tell me what to buy. My limit's $1,000. I want you to write it all down in an e-mail." Sensing Cohen was serious this time, I said, sure, yeah, no problem. But there was a problem. Technologically challenged, Dave would require a gentle hand to guide him through every last detail. And we're talking about someone who cannot even change a fuse. I dashed off the e-mail anyway, starting with the obligatory warning about salespeople commissioned to push certain overpriced, unworthy brands onto the clearly and obviously ignorant, a class to which Dave belongs. Then I detailed exactly what components I believed he needed to match and work with his (free, thanks to me) 27-inch Panasonic direct-view set and Sony 725 player. To wit: the Energy Take 5.2 speaker suite, an Energy S8 woofer, and the Denon AVR-1705 receiver. Now, if only Dave can talk the salesperson into giving all this to him for a grand (give or take $100), I thought. Sure enough, late Saturday morning, Dave called me from the Good Guys! store near where he lives (just past Northridge). A confused torrent of babble. The poor guy wasn't sure what he was getting or whether he was being offered a decent deal. "Jack, you talk to this guy, please," he said while handing over the phone to the salesperson despite my objections. Yet it was a wise move. I bluntly told the Good Guys! good guy that my friend's budget was fixed. Try to make him a deal on that 8-inch Energy "sub"woofer and get him out the door for as close to a grand as possible, I exhorted the good guy. "Does it have to be an Energy?" the good guy asked. "I could make him a de --" "Look, I want to assure that we're timbre-matching his speakers correctly." "But there are lots --" "Can you or can't you make him a deal on the Energy woofer?" "Well --" "Tell me," I said in a response that would make a certain 50,000 people proud, "have you ever heard of a popular Website called 'Home Theater Forum'?" "Yes, of course I have. Customers mention it every now and then. I've been to it." "Well, I'm a longtime member there. An old hand. We know our stuff. I've been into this audio thing for longer than you've been alive. I want Dave to make the leap from boom box to genuine home theater with as little pain as possible. Try to do something for him." A heroic performance. I knew I had the good guy nailed. Dave got back on the line. "He's going into the back room now, Jack. I'll call you back when I'm done here. Oh, can you put together this stuff for me today?" "Dave, get real, damn it. It's too short of a notice. This will be an all-afternoon project and my weekend is already booked." Not quite thirty minutes later, Dave called from his car. "Jack, you did it!" he screached, his annoying voice ratcheted up an octave. "The total bill was just over $1,100. The sales guy said that I was basically getting a free subwoofer! It's because he talked to you." "That's not really a subwoofer, Dave. A real subwoofer starts rolling off below -- oh, hell, whatever. You seem happy." "I can hardly wait for you to put it all together, Jack. I'll buy you dinner and beer. How about tomorrow?" "Dave, I have an awful lot of errands to do on Sunday. Let's plan on next Saturday. And I mean it: We need to get an early start. We need to go to Rat Shack and get a lot of connectors and cables. I want to be done by late afternoon so I can get home and feed my cat at the appropriate time." "But that's a whole week from now!" "Dave, I've bought new audio toys and not installed them until weeks later. By Fridays I'm worn out from a week's worth of deadlines. I have balky writers who --" "Okay, okay, okay!" "And Dave? I mean it: You're going to have to learn some of this stuff. You'll need to know how to at least operate that Denon's remote. I'll have to walk you through all this." Yes, I thought at that moment, it would be like teaching a Middle Ages monk how to operate a Macintosh. Where to begin? So that's what my coming Saturday holds in store. A day in which I normally rest and spend quality time with my little buddy Attila, screening movies, and drinking beer. Lots of beer. To be continued.