On a cold, dark street in a lonely part of town, just a few short months ago, it happened. My beloved 2002 VW bug was struck in an accident, suffered substantial damage and, before you could say “Man, I loved that car”, a 2014 Fiat had nestled in its place in the garage.
This hasn’t exactly been a thrilling, whirlwind romance. I’ve been in a serious, committed relationship with many of the cars I’ve had before but this time, it’s different. Still feels like I’m dating. Or cheating on the bug.
I miss the orange. Orange everywhere but especially the tire rims. I miss the turbo engine. Granted, the new vehicle has a few features that one might consider more “Parkinson-friendly” – better sightlines, ease of entry and egress, automatic everything. Yet all of those are, quite possibly, eclipsed by the audio system..
The bug had a radio with a cassette player. No CD player, no “aux jack” input, no USB. A cassette player. Now, if you happen to be raised in an era where the cassette was king, that’s a good thing! I recall before I ever owned an LP, listening to AM radio with a portable cassette standing nearby listening for my favourite songs to come on. When I heard the first few bars, or even better when the DJ gave it an intro, I’d rush the small microphone to the radio speaker and hold it as steadily as I could for the “best” sound. At the end of the song, or worse when the DJ talked over the end of the song, I’d shut the tape recorder off and wait for another one of my favourites. These were, I guess, my first “albums” (the precursor to K-Tel’s collections). As time went on, my tastes in music and appreciation for sound quality (thankfully) improved. Tapes improved in quality and recording became more sophisticated. Hours upon hours were spent planning the songs and song-order to create just the right vibe. Some of my most treasured sounds came from mixed tapes – made by, or for, friends, family, lovers.
Yet, in an instant, that was gone. I have no cassette player in the house. The new car does not play cassettes. Does not play CDs. You can plug almost anything into it I think and it’ll exude audible signals through the surround–sound speakers. Apparently, I can synch up a handful of devices to bluetooth and enjoy “hands-free hassle free” music, but that won’t get me a single moment from my mixed tapes “Charlottes Dance-Along” or “Bits of Stuff”.
The new garage resident also has a satellite radio system (that’s free for the first 3 months). It doesn’t actually receive a signal when it’s in the garage but, get it out on the street and – wow – impressive- there are so many channels! As Bruce Springsteen said, “57 channels and nothin’ on” (I won’t mention that 24/7 Springsteen channel on this particular service). What I have discovered about satellite radio though is, if you look hard enough, and change channels frequently, you can – once and awhile – find some channels that play some of the same songs that I used to listen to on my primitively-made cassette tapes!
You can see what a transformative leap this has been for me. Virtually overnight, I went from being an old guy listening to old music on antiquated systems to being an old guy listening to old music on new systems but pining for the old ones! A back to the future, or back from the future, moment of my own.
POST-SCRIPT: watch for next week’s blog on Spotify, Songza, iTunes music, the cloud, multiple platform streaming…OMG, I can’t keep up with it all!