Friday, November 10, 2006

Speaking as a Child of the Seventies

Before going through successive periods listening to WFAN in early October (baseball) and Air America in late October (politics), I would tune in a few different rock stations on my way to and from work. One morning as I came to stop for coffee, the old Bon Jovi song "Runaway" came on Jack FM or Q104 or some such station. It struck me that programmers at rock radio in New York have engaged in a conspiracy to rob me of my post-twenties identity, still vulnerable to deftly aimed stabs of aural memory, back to a time when I was very much an outsider, because of my skin color, fondness for books and politics, and lack of athletic ability.

Until the Seventh Grade, I wore my hair in a side part plastered down by Jabakusum coconut oil. As I moved through high school, I found a home in the freaks and geeks world of debate and speech. In the school where I spent most of my time, I was a bespectacled oddity, not black or white, with wrists that you could encircle with an adult thumb and index finger. Though I had many stresses during those years, my central drama, all the way through college actually, was my yearning for girls. The songs I heard on the radio and listened to on cassettes described an alien world of relationship and romance, exultation and desolation.

During my senior year in a class called "Leadership" (for reasons that remain unclear), the smart, preppy-dressing kids (no real preps -- the school was too working class, Jewish, and Catholic) who played soccer and tennis and bridged various social gulfs in our public school loved Bon Jovi and knew all the words to Livin' On a Prayer. (My high school was united in purpose and deed only one time while I was there, for a contest to write a metal band's name on slips of paper that would win us a concert put on by the radio station K-ROCK. Everyone worked on those slips of paper: jocks, nerds, preps, and the vast, silent, unnamed majority.)

I don't miss those days. And though I now work in a converted junior high school very much like my old schools, I am a fully formed person, mostly unafraid to be, with co-workers and students who share my values and value my personhood. And the music of this self is Pearl Jam, Wilco, Bloc Party, Broken Social Scene, Ryan Adams: modern, with shades of "classic" from an earlier era. But that doesn't stop the radio programmers from trying to keep me down and I remain subject to these Bon Jovi memories.


Ganesh said...

i'm still trying to figure out if this one or "blockages" is my favorite post thus far.

lbc said...

thanks, i like the picture of neural synapses that i found on the web for "blockages." i could write a good bit more about professional writers' block, paradoxically, though it's been done so well by people like Geoff Dyer.