Car Radio Memory

My oldest son, Colin, is now big enough to sit in the front seat, which has been a real treat.  You get disconnected from your kids when they are in the backseat. Having him there makes me realize what I am missing.

We were riding into school this morning, and he noticed the CDs sitting in the front storage compartment.  He gets regular exposure to his mother’s pop music, so I take whatever chance I get to impart my tastes on him.

“Does this have that song where he sings, She’s got everything she needs, she’s an artist, she don’t look back?” he asked.

“Yeah, it’s called She Belongs To Me,” I replied.

He opens the jewel case.

Surprised he quips, “Madonna? What?”

“Oh, I forgot to replace the disc when I took it out of the van.”

My wife was listening to Madonna’s first album and I replaced it with Bringing It All Back Home by Bob Dylan when I was driving our minivan.

Colin grabs another disc and asks, “What’s this?”

“It’s another one of my favorites. Let’s listen.”

It’s Yankee Hotel Foxtrot by Wilco. Lately, I’ve been listening to a lot of my old albums, as I am learning songs to play at the local open mic night.  Bringing It All Back Home and YHF were the only discs in the car.

At first, the cacophony of sounds confuses Colin, but then Jeff Tweedy starts to sing, “I am an American aquarium drinker, I assassin down the avenue.” I always loved that line. I often wish I wrote it.

The song continues and Colin expresses his displeasure. It’s a far cry from the pop songs he is used to hearing.

“I know a song you’ll like.”

I quickly forward to track five, “Jesus, etc.”  My thinking is that the opening might be less foreign to Colin’s ears.  He’s listening to hold back on his opinion. Then the chorus hits.

Tall buildings shake, voices escape singing sad sad songs…

I get an instant lump in my throat as I suddenly realize what day it is.  In that moment, I flash to sitting in traffic at the Needham Flats hearing the news for the first time. I was listening to Howard Stern and couldn’t believe the report, so I turned to the local radio news station. Story confirmed.

Then I am at work informing folks of what happened. Soon everyone with a radio is tuned into the news. No one talks. Sad faces are everywhere.

Now I am crying on my couch as all of the names of the dead flash over my TV screen. Days go by and there are telethons and memorials. My wife has night terrors and can’t sleep.  We were trying to have a baby after she had miscarried several months before. That would have to wait.

I was lucky. My wife and I were lucky.  No one we knew was killed. Then again, it didn’t matter.  We knew everyone who was killed. They were like us–working folks just trying to have a happy life, going about their daily business, and now gone. They are left to the memories of their loved ones, and forever remembered as tragic victims of an age old human problem, the impulse to dominate.

So many of us just want to live a happy life, but there’s always the power hungry asshole who either feels compelled to dominate or topple those who dominate. It’s a vicious and all too human cycle that perpetuates today.

The lump in my throat was for all of those folks who die innocently while living their lives.

“Let’s put on the radio. I forgot this song makes me upset,” I say.

“Yeah, I didn’t like it much anyway,” Colin says.

Jeff Tweedy – “Jesus, etc. (Live at the Vic) [hat tip, Captain’s Dead]

Wilco – “I Am Trying To Break Your Heart”
from Yankee Hotel Foxtrot


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