Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Remembrances of music past

Mr. Hall taxied the big black car out of the garage and set a flight plan for work.
“How about some music?” he said, and pointed to the mp3 player in Mrs. Hall’s hand. Mrs. H. sports a Samsung K-5, an unassuming little black box that currently is holding almost two full days of non-stop music, mostly handpicked for car rides.
Sliding through her options, she lighted on a folder. “How do you feel about Mancini?” and soon the cabin was filled with the strains of “The Pink Panther”.
“It’s funny how music can take you back,” said Mrs. H. “ … just now, as I listened to that song, I could almost believe it was 1967.” (Cue flashback fadeout here….)
“For just a few moments there, I was riding in the back of my folks’ old Chevrolet Caprice station wagon with my brother Rick. I don’t remember if that model came with seat belts, but one thing it did come with was an 8-track player, mounted in the dash. Flashy new technology for the 60s, and it even came with a promotional tape (which, of course, is still rattling around in the box of old 8-track tapes Mrs. Hall is keeping for some reason, in the catacombs of the Hall), filled with what would have been considered “traveling music” at that time. Narrated by Lorne Greene (see sidebar for more trivia on this), one of the songs on it was Mancini’s Pink Panther. Those wonderfully evocative chords from that era took me back to a time of riding backwards in the last row of seats in the station wagon, making faces at the other drivers and participating in that yearly pilgrimage our family made from Chicago to Binghamton, NY and then back again, oftentimes with all the grim seriousness and determination of a Bataan death march. Dad’s plan was to make the full 800+ miles in 12 hours or less and to that end, brooked no countenance to any request to stop or even slow down. We usually came in around 12 and a half or 13 hours, though one horrible winter we followed a snow storm that had lambasted Chicago to the tune of 18 inches of the wet stuff, all the way across the country for 18 straight hours in that tank. My dad’s eyes were like red holes burned in a white sheet and even though we watched five or six cars go off the road directly in front of us along the way, he never once considered stopping or postponing the trip. When we arrived in Binghamton and finally settled at our destination in Johnson City, there was a canyon of a driveway waiting for us, carved out between the 1920s style houses that lined Bernice Street. Somehow they had managed to excavate a path through the three and a half feet of snow that lay on the ground and made way for us. I can remember jumping off the back porch into the snow banks that were level with the porch railings.”
"We probably played that tape four or five times over, at least, on that trip. When we got home, I don't recall ever hearing it played in the car again.
"Well, you have one consolation," said Mr. Hall, as they pulled into the parking lot at work. "You'll never have to worry about the kids having terrible travel memories. All they ever do is complain we never take them anywhere!"

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