Back to the Future – the mixed tape edition

death of the mix tape, a-ripe-heartatttack, deviantart

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!





My mother, the King

king of the past, minimuff007, deviantart

I did not grow up with a silver spoon. Didn’t have pet corgis, waiters, servants, nannies or an ancient and revered heraldry. No, we weren’t royalty and never will be. Yet my mother is a King. A King of Cape Breton. She was born and raised in  Sydney Mines, Cape Breton – a beautiful part of Nova Scotia, Canada. She was christened Mary Cecilia King – and was one of a large family of 7 children to Robert and Elizabeth King – my grandparents. Growing up in the 1930’s and ’40’s, in such a large family, couldn’t have been easy – especially given the difficult financial straights they faced – which only intensified with the sudden death of their mother at an early age.

As an adolescent, I was drawn to the stories of the King clan – from  their summer days of blueberry picking and selling of the same to the local co-op – to the ghost stories that foreshadowed or followed an intimate death of close friends or family – to the regaling of tales of loves won and lost. I also vividly recall the stories of her parents who obviously left an indelible mark on her life.

Today, the “Kings of Cape Breton” who are still living have, save for one, all dispersed to other towns and cities across Canada and the United States. They have all had families, loved and/or lost spouses, had children of their own, settled into their lives. Likely, they’ve gone on to share some of those same stories that my mother has shared with me. I don’t know for sure but I imagine my cousins have been enriched in much the same way.

Like many from Cape Breton, the prospect of decent employment in Ontario brought my mother to the bustling Toronto area in the mid-1950’s. Here she met and married my father and had two children. All the while my mother worked as a school teacher and, eventually, one of the first female Principals of the local school board. It’s a testament to my mother’s strength that I recall very little of any difficult times our family faced in those early years.

In my  teenage and early adult years, I know I threw down the proverbial gauntlet and challenged my folks on more than one occasion. Sometimes with good cause, oft times with folly. What strikes me looking back from the perspective I have today, was how my mother’s support of me never wavered. Even when placed in an awkward position, or knowing full well that I might be in error, she gave counsel but ultimately, gave me the freedom to chose the path that lay before me. I didn’t realize what a gift that was ’till much later.

As the years have gone by, I have had many life events or challenges – the death of a partner, a new marriage, children, a chronic illness and the loss of a career. Throughout all of this, my mother has been there to offer her support. She has, like any good King, dolled out riches  – of which I could regale you ad nauseam – the gift of family heritage, gift of  support for our children, gifts of charity and generosity, gifts of love and helping.

This is especially so since I was diagnosed with PD. While deeply saddened at my diagnosis, she has been nothing but a source of strength to me since the begining.  She takes great interest in PD – reading up on all the latest news and developments and supporting Parkinson’s organizations. She helps with me with errands, cooks a weekly meal for our family, supports our children in their studies and in their lives, drives me to swimming for my exercise, and so much more. Truly, I cannot imagine getting through the past 16 years without her.

Regrettably, not everyone living with PD can claim such fortune.  Then again, not everyone is from royalty. Remember, my mother is a King.