Old School Soul Hole

Last week I learned via a post from Reggae Steady Ska that May 29, 2019 was dubbed (see what I did there?) The Specials Day in Los Angeles, California.  Now I was a little confused as to why LA would honor a band who hails from the UK, but then again, I am a white woman in RI who listens to reggae, rock steady, and ska.  The idea that The Specials themselves and the themes of their music exemplify and encourage diversity is what drew a Los Angeles councilwoman to hold them up for the city to see.  It drew me to my CD rack (yes, I still own those) and The Specials album I hadn’t listened to in far too long.

As the bright beats of trumpet danced above the driving guitar, the music swelling from the speakers and spilling into the corners of this room and the next, I realized the deep hole that is left inside me when music doesn’t play.

I have four children.  My house, my life, my mind is very loud.  The last few years I’ve taken to not turning the radio on at all in the car because, there is enough noise in there already.  The power button on the radio is one level of sound on which I can hit the kill switch.  About a year or so ago, on a return drive from ‘the city’, about an hour away from home, I got through more than two thirds of the trip before I realized I hadn’t even turned the radio on then, when I was by myself.  The cacophony in my head was complete if I couldn’t even partake of music when I could listen uninterruptedly to what I chose.

And that’s so sad.

Most of my memory has an overlay of obsession with music.  So many genres and artists.  So many generations and styles.  I’ve imagined the soundtrack of certain parts of my life and relive other parts of my life through song.


In August 2017, 95.5 WBRU, the local modern rock radio station I had cut my anti-establishment musical teeth on, closed up shop.  (Well, they were sold to a Christian rock outfit.)  I still had the CDs, I still had internet access, I still had the memories – if I dare be so dramatic – but I mourned the loss of that running record of new and individualistic music as if someone close to me had died.  Still, nearly two years later, I wax nostalgic if I happen to catch the low-power signal they sometimes broadcast on.  I still post from time to time about how much I miss the station when I find a song they used to play on YouTube.  I was getting to the point where even I was wondering what was wrong with me.  Why was I so attached to a freaking radio station?

The obvious answer is because its going off the air was a death of part of my youth.  BRU’s Retro Lunch was the soundtrack to the lunch we all had at my house before Junior Prom.  Their Screamer of the Week was something I talked about with the guy I’d just started dating.  Their Friday Night Countdown was what I recorded onto a cassette and mailed him when he went away to Boot Camp and we were still dating.  So many pivotal moments of my coming of age were backed up by the beats of WBRU.

And research shows that songs elicit the same emotions we experienced when we first heard or listened to them most frequently.  If I loved that part of my life and its soundtrack was now going away, it was almost as if that part of my life was dying.  A leap, yes.  And yes, I can cue up any of those songs on a streaming service or ‘go down the YouTube rabbit hole’ as I say my husband does of an evening every so often (He likes to relive the days I made him all those mixed tapes – yes, we married), but the spontaneity of what would appear next, the destiny of your song coming on at just the right moment, the discovery of something new you’ve never heard before, or hearing it at the moment of its release – that magic of the broadcasting universe is gone.

That radio station represented my teenage self thumbing my nose at the world.  It signified my independence, culling my own style, my own voice, my own philosophy.  I started listening to it when I was first heading out into the world.  Its closing reminds me that I’ve been out here some time now.  Not hearing it makes me suddenly wake up from the melodious trance and notice all the things I wanted to do, but haven’t yet.  I don’t know really any much more than I did then; I am really no happier than I was then.  The teenage angst has been switched out for that of the existential sort.  Only now I can’t blare the radio and rage.

I think the closing of BRU was also the death knell of something bigger in my life.  The joy of music I once had.  The carefree release of a rollicking rhythm.  Now I think too much about heavier things.  I have too much to do.  I don’t have time to pop in the CD or turn on the radio before I rush on to the next thing.  I really feel adrift when the only two stations that play anything remotely my style of music either are out of range or on commercial.  There’s probably a part of me that figures it’s so different, so lesser, then why bother trying to find the music at all.

It’s no secret that I hate change.  I dig my heels in and get drug along unwillingly more often than not.  I’m trying to open my heart to grace, allowing the full potential of situations, my life unfold.  I know reopening my heart and soul to music would only make the journey that much richer.  It’s just sad when you’d found your canon and reveled in it – and now it’s gone.  But I can always use signs from the universe – like FB posts read in RI of UK bands being honored in LA – to signal it’s time to break out those old albums.  And there’s always Pandora.  But if it’s not painfully apparent already – I’ll always be hopelessly old school.


LA Councilwoman Monica Rodriguez with Horace Panter and Terry Hall of The Specials


I almost didn’t take that road home this morning. Its twists and curves in and out, down and around the hills and forest might not bode well for a commute through the fresh covering of snow left last night.

I didn’t want to stop when I saw the woman chipping away at the chunks of ice barricading her house from the rest of civilization. It was cold, my house was warm, my writing beckoned.

I knew I would think of her all morning if I didn’t.

I slipped and slid my way through a sloppy three point turn and peered into the unfamiliar driveways until I found the beacon of her yellow jacket.

“Would you like some help?” I called.

In the time it had taken me to circle back, she’d started back up her driveway. She had paused when she saw me pull over and now made her way back to my car.

“I was just headed inside for a break,” she said. “I go in for about 45 minutes to warm up, then come back out. It’s a lot easier today than it was yesterday, I’ll tell you.”

I noticed now that three-quarters of the driveway had already been cleared, presumably by the metal shovel and approximation of a turf spade she held in her hands.

“Are you a neighbor?”

I explained where I lived in relation to her house. Not exactly neighbors, but I passed by her house quite frequently en route to mine.

“Let me ask you, have you had any problems with your mailbox?”

She pointed out the naked post next to her driveway and explained that in the five and a half years since her husband died, she’d had three mailboxes knocked over by plows. Her granddaughter and husband reinstalled one one spring; her son shored up another. She’d called town hall. A plowman who came out to her house told her in brusque tones it was the snow, not him, that was responsible. When she objected to his tone of voice, saying that town hall never would have spoken to its residents that way in her old town, he said she’d paid more taxes in that town.

“But I worked in that town hall,” she said. “I was the voice of town hall.”

I discovered her motivation to clear the driveway: so she could haul her mangled mailbox to town hall.

She asked my name and introduced herself, telling me to beep and wave the next time I went by and then she’d know who it was. When I turned around a few houses down from her house in the other direction and passed back by on my way home, I saw her yellow jacket at the top of the driveway, heading into the open bay of her garage.

I’d still think of Peggy all morning, but not with guilt for not helping her; in gratitude for having met her.

Whatsoever you do for the least of my people, you do for me.

Skating Away . . .

Putting a woman who has given birth three times, the last time nearly splitting her in two, on roller skates probably isn’t the best idea. But that’s what I did this past weekend at my friend’s daughter’s birthday party.

My eight year-old was fine once she remembered what she’d tentatively learned at other parties, but my four and six year-olds needed assistance and my there was no way my husband was getting out there.  The last time he skated was the ice variety and let’s say the ice nearly melted from the heat of pain-induced oaths he uttered.  Plus, I enjoy skating. I loved it as a girl, forcing the wheels over the pebbly asphalt of my street, gliding along the multi-layered laquer of roller rinks.  There was a freedom and euphoria in the way the wind pushed my hair back and the music thumped as I floated along.  I thought I was the cat’s pajamas when I mastered cross-overs.

But that was when I was young and nimble; limber and loose.

The other day I used muscles I hadn’t used since childbirth – or at least since the physical therapy following childbirth to put me back together.  Keeping my feet from drifting too far apart, I had to pull those adductor muscles to attention and, oh, that got my attention.  I managed to haul my foot over for one cross-over before I felt the other one start to slide out.  The thought of my pelvis in the aftermath if I ended up in a split on the floor was enough to dissuade me from trying any more.  My groin muscles were already pulling; I didn’t want to strain any of their neighbors.

But, when one of my girls took a break, or refused to take my hand, I would speed up, feeling the familiar rush of air. My godson, brother of the birthday girl, took a shine to the disco ball at the center of the rink and kept gravitating toward it whether he had skates on or not.  When his father went out to be sure he stayed in the center, out of the melee of circling skaters, an impromptu dance party popped up.  His brother and sister, my girls, and husband sans skates, joined us and grooved to Daft Punk disco-style.  It still had the same effect as my favorite Michael Jackson song way back when.skates

I don’t know if it’s the act of skating itself or the associations it engenders, but it’s a whole lot of fun.  There’s no way I could last as long as I used to when I could feel myself rolling around the rink even after I’d taken off my skates.  And I’m sure my body wouldn’t forgive me either if I tried.  But as the birthday girl asked me as she rolled by, “How’s your skating going? Is it going good?”, I can say, “Yes, yes it is.”

%d bloggers like this: