Tuesday, August 23, 2011

I found this post buried away in a folder on my laptop.  It's from two years ago but it still mostly true.

                A few weeks ago I was in the grocery store with my two year old son. The grocery store wasn’t very crowded and, as always was playing music.  While we were in the pasta aisle, the song Hey Jealousy by the Gin Blossoms came on.  Naturally, as I do anytime I heard a song I know the words to, I began to sing.
                Tomorrow we will drive around this town
                And let the cops chase us around            
                The past is gone but something might be found
                Hey Jealousy!

                My son quickly said “No sing, Daddy,” so I stopped.  But the song brought back a couple of memories.   The first memories go back to when that song first came out my senior year of high school.  It was all over the radio, I had just got my first guitar and my brother showed me the few chords I needed to know.  Soon I was strumming along to the CD on repeat in my six disc changer, and putting the song on every mix tape I made for my friends.  This lead to teaching them how to play it as well so our band, The Iron Potatoes, would have at least one real song in our repertoire.
                The song took on deeper meaning for me as its popularity waned, and I can’t but think about a high school love triangle between myself and my close friend Eric and a girl whose name rhymed with Purell.  The short story is that I was the side of the triangle that ended up alone.  The long story is that every band I have ever been in has played that song at some point and it always brings back those memories of high school, strumming the D and E and F minor chords on my acoustic guitar while sitting on the front porch at night.  It was the good kind of memory, the one you get lost in a little bit and forget where you are for a moment.
                The second thought quickly brought fear and panic.  Grocery stores were not bastions of new and hip music and yet here I was singing along.  This brought me back to my childhood.  I was the youngest of three and home alone with my mom while my brother and sister were of school age.  I spend a lot of time running errands with my mom.  The grocery store was my favorite, whether it was Butera or Kohl’s (both long gone from my hometown).  Back then grocery stores played music as well and to me it sounded old, ancient.  Even after I turned sixteen and started driving and volunteered to go to the grocery store (or more likely when there late at night to buy toilet paper to TP my friend’s houses) the music played at the grocery stores seemed ancient.
                As I’ve aged, I use this sort of time calculation to gauge how old things are.  For example, in 1984 when I was 9 years old and the Chicago Cubs made the postseason for the first time since 1945, my mom often mentioned the 1969 Cubs.  In 1984, the 1969 Cubs were fifteen years in the past but to me seemed ancient history.  So, add fifteen to 1984, and thus to someone who was nine years old in 1999, the 1984 Cubs would seem ancient.  This rule applies the same way backwards.
                Hey Jealousy came out in 1992.  Its 2010 today, so that song is 18 years old.  Take 18 years off of 1992, which brings us to 1974, ancient history, before I was born. 
                What it comes down to is that both memories make me feel older.  A lot older.  It makes my stomach nervous older.
                What it proves is how music is tied so much to memories of what was going on at the time.  The good news is that now when I heard Hey Jealousy, whether on the classic rock station or over the grocery store speakers, I now think of the time my son told me to stop singing it.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Dear Cyclist circling at the red light,

Don't worry.  It's okay.  There is something I know that you don't know and once I tell you, everything is going to be okay. The street, the blacktop, no matter how hot it gets during the summer in Chicago, will not turn to lava.  You can put your feet down and your shoe will not melt away.  You don't have slowly turn in circles waiting for the light to change, trying to keep your balance as you move slower and slower, blocking the sidewalk so pedestrians can't safely cross.  Just put your foot down.

You aren't even wearing clip in shoes.  You don't even have toe clips on your bike.  You are going to get stuck at the next light anyway, doing the same circle (maybe you are coordinated and circle clockwise at one red light and counter-clockwise at the next).  Do you accelerate that much faster when you don't stop?  In the grand scheme of things, are those few seconds that important?  Yes, I know I floor my car so I can be first at the next red light, too.

Maybe it's a game.  Each day you see how far you can get without your feet hitting the group. Maybe your goal is to get all the way home.  Maybe this keeps you entertained on your way home.  Maybe you should juggle bean bags while you are doing it so you entertain those of us in our cars stuck at the same light.

Maybe it's jealousy.  Maybe I want to sneak through the intersection when there is no cross traffic, even though the light is red.  Maybe every day I see you pass me, and while I might catch you by the next light, you leave me far behind, stopping every two blocks, taking forty minutes to go the seven miles home during evening rush hour.  Maybe the AC in my car is broken and its been 90 degrees with 90 percent humidity all summer.  Maybe I am stewing in my own sweat, hot air blowing at me, no breeze through the windows because I am stopped and watching you circle, circle, circle, your helmet, your sunglasses, your bike a modified grandma bike.

Crap, the guy behind me just honked because I'm watching you and now the light is green and I haven't moved.  You pedal away, your feet never hitting the ground.