Wednesday, March 19, 2014

twenty six and vinyl

when i was five years old i learned what a record player was. on a sunday, my brother, sisters and i crowded into the spare bedroom of my grandma's house, to turn on the old player she had stored there in a wooden dresser. alan was first to locate the beach boys 'endless summer' album, and within seconds, had the speakers crackling a moment of silence - as we four - made 1993 pause with our anticipation. the voices, surfin’ safari, resonating against pale, dried out wall paper and the mural of sunset in a tropical paradise against the south wall, stirring heavens inside each of our swelling hearts. my sole instincts were to follow, hypnotized, the circular lines of the vinyl, spinning out sounds from a decade beyond us, sounds beyond itself; like the twirling of my ten year old sisters. 

on my seventeenth birthday, my first girlfriend and i decided to be honest with ourselves;
so we cried puddles into her front yard and washed our necks and cheeks of the hickeys and the lipstick. i drove home sad, and with more time on my hands, so i self proclaimed that i would listen to more music, but the only tunes beside the christian radio and punk band cd’s that my dad allowed in the house were ironically, his own collection of records, now aged and stored away below the fish tank on the brown, square book shelves framing our living room. i dug through them as my mother yelled about the mess i was making, records and 20 year old dust from between the covers showering the living room carpet and tile. i thumbed passed Johnny Cash, Crosby - Stills - and -Nash, and Wings albums, until Paul Simon struck me, with an upside down chair and mardi gras mask etched colorfully onto a white cover. the name appeared in my father’s collection more than any other, so i asked about it, and when he started with the stories of when and where he'd been while hearing those songs for the first time, i had no other thought than to listen to that album start to finish; but we had no record player in the house so, 'there goes rhymin simon' in hand, i ran down the street, to my grandmother’s house, to look for that old record player of my sunday afternoon childhood. a few minutes of searching, and i found and carefully lifted it out of that same wooden dresser,  only by this point the speakers had well worn with age, and no longer played. i was so determined to hear the album, that i found a place on the kitchen floor to plug the record player into, and set the needle down on the first track. i held my cheek as close as i could, cupping my ear to catch a fraction of raw sound. for me, to love something, means knowing that a person i love, loves something. so it went with the songs of Paul Simon. 

soon after, my mom bought me a record player as a christmas gift, (and my dad must be like me, because it didn’t take long for him, realizing my new interest in records, to rediscover his own; lecturing me often on how to handle and care for things with such delicacy). i started building a simple collection - buying old records wherever i could, plus claiming most of my dad’s and receiving gifts from friends on birthdays. 

eight or so odd years later, Paul Simon is still a favorite, as are collections of old music and albums made of vinyl; and saying to love or enjoy something is one thing, but allowing more than three years to pass without setting a needle down on any of those old tracks is another. and i always blame the change of scenery, but secretly i wonder if i’ll ever discover the place of contentment, strong enough to really believe that simply loving something is enough to make me happy; enough to make me slow down, and stay in one place or experience long enough to truly enjoy it, or at least fight for it to be a part of my day to day. and maybe i'm too hard on myself, but the more i live the more i grow tired of promising that i’ll love things once i get there, goddammit - if you love something, love it - not at the start of the next chapter, or the end of this one. now.  

i am twenty six years old, 
and it’s been far too long since i played my old records;
but i still remember what a broken one sounds like, 
so every time i feel 
the needle skipping over my own scratches and scars, 
i start to worry if i'll ever make it to the next track.

a heart is a strong and beautiful melody,  
and it’s delicate, 
play me - turn me - hear me - change me - 
and be, (as my dad always said) 
careful when handling the surfaces. 

i don’t have all the answers, 
so only ask me if i love you, 
because i do have that one.

1 comment:

Ruby said...

“…if you love something, love it - not at the start of the next chapter, or the end of this one. now." — What a statement, Michael! Well, I must agree with you on this. If Paul Simon still makes you enjoy his music, then so be it. Music comes better as it grows old. Records will get scratched and broken eventually, but the melody that they bring will always linger on.

Ruby Badcoe