October 27, 2016
It’s 12:01pm and I’m sitting at my desk surveying the amount of paperwork scattered around atop its surface. Among all of the documents relating to our upcoming ISO audit are a parking ticket that I should probably go ahead and pay, and a Chicago Board of Elections notice giving me the information on the location of my assigned polling place on November 8. I have no intention of standing in line waiting to cast my ballot. I’ll either do early voting at another location, or take the option of voting by mail.
The current song on the radio is Whitesnake’s “Here I Go Again”. Listening to David Coverdale belt out the power-ballad brings me back to the days when I first had access to cable, when MTV actually played music videos, and the visuals of Tawny Kitaen lap-dancing two Jaguar XJS’s was wreaking havoc on my religion-induced celibacy. Earlier today, one of my friends alerted me to an online quiz designed to ascertain one’s knowledge of 1970s music. I spent a few (okay, several) minutes answering over 50 questions about music ranging from ABBA to Zeppelin. And I did much better than I had imagined, with 95% correct, besting my friend’s score.
I mentioned this to Angela, our office manager. At that very moment, she was singing along with “Don’t Stop Believing” by Journey, which happened to be on the radio. Even though familiar with the melody and lyrics, she didn’t know the name of the artist, or even from what era the song came. We got into a brief discussion about the songs we grew up with, mine from the 70s and 80s, hers from the 90s and early 2000s, and why they resonate with us more than the contemporary offerings. The conclusion we reached was that during our formative years, we were free of much of the noise that inhabits our adult minds- the stresses of work, the worries about the economy, and the raising of children. Back then, we had more time to pay attention to the music, to immerse ourselves in it. In my case, the advent of the Sony Walkman and its imitators meant that I could block out the rest of the world and just be with Mister Mister or REO Speedwagon. Angela would use her personal CD player, followed by perhaps the I-pod or other digital platform, to envelop herself in the Backstreet Boys and N’Sync, two groups whom are impossible for me to differentiate.
It’s not that we don’t appreciate the new crop of artists. I think Adele and Arctic Monkeys are putting out some fantastic music. Angela likes Taylor Swift and even Justin Bieber. But sometimes we both find ourselves trying to guess who is performing whatever is presently filling the space between commercials. Too much of our consciousness is devoted to the mundane, yet weighty issues that we must get through on a daily basis. We find ourselves waking up to the thought of what tasks need to be accomplished in the hours to come, The radio or music-streaming service becomes simply a nice background noise, and we tend to block it out, so we don’t really get captivated by the songs the way we used to. Like how we would continue to rewind and replay the new hit from Def Leppard, or put Destiny’s Child on repeat. We don’t get that kind of excited about the new offerings.
I miss those days when I could name every song and artist. Back when Casey Kasem was “countin’ ’em down” every Saturday on “American Top 40”. But music has slipped in its rank of importance in my life. Interestingly, when I was a kid, I didn’t really have the extra spending money to purchase records and cassettes like my friends did. Several years ago, when I found myself with some discretionary spending ability, I “invested” quite a bit in purchasing CDs from artists that I loved when I was growing up. I must have misunderstood when the advice was to put money into CDs, because they turned out to be a pretty poor investment. I am now the proud owner of a closet full of music that is essentially worthless in the format that contains it. It’s taking me a bit of mental and emotional effort to decide that Spotify is going to be what I use going forward. Because I’m not about to drag several boxes of shiny plastic digital coasters in jewel cases halfway around the globe. I must let go that not physically possessing the medium makes me less of an aficionado.
I hope that in the new life I am building for myself is not as cluttered with responsibility and worry as the past couple of decades. I hope that I can find ways to really appreciate and be absorbed in the beauty that I find around me, including the geography, the cuisine, and the culture. And also the music. I want to prove wrong John “Cougar” Mellencamp’s famous lyric, “…life goes on, long after the thrill of livin’ is gone”