I have satellite radio in my car. It is one of the best inventions of our time. You can cruise to about any genre of music you’re in the mood for. No commercials. Even news (bleh), comedy, live concerts, and interviews. No commercials!
Today I was running errands under a cloudy sky when Led Zeppelin’s Stairway to Heaven bounded from The Bridge and out of my kick-ass Prius factory speakers. Yes, despite that I named my car “the Blue Vagina” the sound system really kicks ass.
Listening to Stairway’s melody on a sunless morning reminded me of my mom and days when we drove thirty miles to her parent’s house for a visit. That trek from Nashville to Murfreesboro was flat like these Florida streets. Except in my memory those Tennessee trees were barren of leaves. I looked out of the passenger window as a teen and caught a glimpse of the train track running parallel to the monotonous roadside. Sometimes a train would slowly lurch forward, never quite keeping the car’s pace. Most of the time the tracks were empty. But the flashes of naked-limbed oaks and maples blurred by as if they were a locomotive. And many times a Zeppelin song would resound from Nashville’s premier classic rock station. Mom has said Stairway is her favorite.
When I hear a Doobie Brother’s song, which sometimes plays from the satellite radio and sometimes from my phone or TV on Pandora (another fabulous invention) I think of my dad. I always have this vision of him washing his rust-colored El Camino in the driveway of the first house I really remember. I must have been four or five. Don’t know why this one instance has stayed with me so long. I can even see his dark blue jeans, slightly flared as the bell-bottom style was hanging on for its last days of glory. He had a Burgundy mustache. He sudsed the car with military precision. Later I would come to despise this meticulous way of washing the car. But damn if his cars never bore a water spot post-dry.
Thank God my parents introduced good music to me and my brother. When we weren’t listening to it in the El Camino or the Minivan we were in the basement scouring their old 45s. My love for the Beatles flourished early. Doobies, Zeppelin, New Wave and Alternative rock were to follow.
Remember the Walkman? I distinctly remember pacing my driveway with it, waiting for the DJ to play Karma Chameleon. And when it finally leapt through the headphones I was completely ecstatic in my knee-highs. “They’re playing my song!”
Now with iPods and whatnot we don’t have to wait all day. We can listen to any song any time we want. And this is a great invention, too.
But there is something to be said for having your jam played just at the right moment when you don’t expect it. That’s how it was when I heard Stairway. A happy surprise mirroring my now life with my past.
Music reminds us of people, places we’ve been, seasons, eras. It’s the soundtrack we drive to as the scenery passes by like a long train runnin.