The songs I love most are songs that were written long ago. They have history to me. They connect me to different periods of my life and give depth to the times which I keep in the archives of my memory.
I remember a winter day from my youth. It was cold and rainy. I decided to take a walk to the record store because there was nothing else to do. There was no one else around—and even if there were—no one was interested in walking in the rain.
I was young and my hair was somewhere between boyish and bowl-cut to becoming decidedly long. This was not an easy thing for my parents. They did not like long hair. Most of all, they did not like long hair on me. They did not like the way long hair looked. They said the did not like what it represented . . . but I did.
I was awkward and thin throughout my young life. I looked painfully younger than my age and unthreatening in every way. I saw myself as mouse-like, when in fact; I wanted to be more like a lion. I wanted to be king in this jungle we live in; except being king is not easy when you live in a pint-sized body.
To defend myself and create an image; I tried to act as if. I tried to act as if I was tough—but the truth was obvious. I was not strong by any means. I was not athletic. I could not fight or successfully defend myself and I was easily intimidated.
Often times, I had to switch my group of friends because in my awkwardness, I always tried to compensate for my insecurity, which led to uncomfortable downfalls as the result of my behavior and I was faced to endure the humiliation of my uncovered lies.
I behaved outwardly—outwardly trying to be someone else, and outwardly pretending to be strong and tough, as if nothing bothered me; however, everything bothered me and I always felt raw to the touch.
With no one at home in my house and no one around to talk to, I decided to take whatever money I kept hidden in my small drawer that stood off to the side of my bed. I dressed myself and prepared for the weather. Then I walked to the record store on Front Street and East Meadow Avenue in the Pathmark Shopping Center.
The walk was not very far. Maybe it was close to one mile from my house—give or take a few blocks.
I had taken this walk often because the record store was next to a video arcade called The Wizard of Oz, but it was more accurately known to us kids from the town as, “The Wiz.”
Times were different then. Born in 72, I grew up listening to the music of previous generations. I grew up on the cusp of great songs, which changed when the 80’s came along.
I enjoyed the heavier sounds. I liked the sound of a guitar and its ability to either soothe or create a rush of adrenaline. I began to grow my hair long because this was part of the look that was associated with music I enjoyed.
I suppose my long hair was also a symbol, or an expression of my rebellion. Though I were small and though I was easily intimidated and awkward—I enjoyed the heavy metal image. I enjoyed the feeling I had when listening to the music. I enjoyed the lyrics which somehow spoke best about the way I felt or how I saw the world.
This was a time before technology became what it is. This was before compact disc players, but after 8-track cassettes. Music came either in vinyl forms or on cassette tapes.
Cassette tapes were perfect because the fit in a somewhat small, yet somewhat clunky contraption that we from an older generation once called, “The Walkman.”
I took my Walkman with me and tucked it beneath my jacket to keep it dry from the weather. I left my house and cut through the side streets of my town beneath thick blankets of rainy clouds.
Starting from Merrick Avenue, I backed around through Peters Gate, and then I turned left onto the residential streets at Peters Avenue.
I kept my black jacket zippered with a blue hooded sweatshirt beneath, and the hood was pulled over my head.
I turned right onto Rugby and then left on Wickshire Drive. I passed through my neighborhood streets with modest homes, which appeared to look sleepy. I walked in a lazy rainfall with the sound of swollen raindrops hitting the ground and the hush of a heavy wind blowing passed my young little body.
It was cold, but I did not seem to feel that wet or bothered. Besides, I was on a mission of my own and I was so determined that the weather could not stop me
I walked at a quick pace but my destination seemed farther than usual. It could have been the rain that made me feel this way—or it could have been my anticipation for my destination.
I turned right on Royal and then made another right on Norman Drive, which took me to Grant Avenue. From Grant, I walked straight until I reached the main road of East Meadow Avenue, crossed the street, and then into the parking lot of the Pathmark Shopping Center.
I cut through the automatic doors, finally arriving inside and out from the rain, which had taken its affect and soaked the hood of my blue hooded sweatshirt.
Water leaked through my sneakers and my socks were wet. The front of my jeans was soaked at the thighs and the bottoms of my pant legs were wet at my calves and the back of my ankles.
I walked through the double doors and took down my hood. Strands of my long, blondish brown hair were wet and my long bangs were clumped together on the forehead of my little boyish face.
I entered the strip mall with Pathmark’s large opened doors at my left and passed the small pizza shop on my right. I walked passed the card store and the jewelry store and turned right down the “L” shaped corridor.
The ceilings were high and dome-like with stainless steel struts that ran along the curved ceiling. The corridor was made of brown, glossy-like bricks and brown tiles. The hall was echo-like. I could hear the sound of cash registers ringing up in Pathmark. I could hear the crumpling noise of brown paper shopping bags as cashiers shook them open. I could hear the sounds of mothers trying to hush their children as they complained, “I want to go home,” while their mothers paid for their groceries. I could hear everything very clearly—but my walk was so determined that I saw nothing else but my destination which was just around the corner.
I was on my way to purchase my first cassette tape with my own money. How I earned this money escapes my memory; however, I do remember it was mine. No one gave it to me and I was about to spend my money on something I wanted.
The record store was small. Its selection was not the greatest—but they had what I wanted. They sold posters and black-lights too. These were items I would later buy and use to decorate my room. However, on this particular day, I purchased a tape by the band named Black Sabbath. The title of the album and first song was also named, Black Sabbath.
I unsheathed my Walkman as if it were a weapon that I kept hidden on the inside of my jacket. And it was a weapon in this case. I used it to knife myself away from the thoughts which were otherwise dreary like the weather.
I removed the plastic wrap from the cover of my new cassette tape. I removed the tape from its cover, and then I placed the cassette inside the tape deck of my Walkman.
After putting everything in place, I pulled the earphones over my ears and turned the volume to its highest setting. Then I pressed play, slipped the Walkman back to its place on the inside of my jacket, and I began to walk home.
The introduction to the first song on the album is the sound of a thunderstorm. I walked back through the same streets from which I came. I heard the sound from my Walkman. It started with the chattering sound of raindrops hitting the ground and then it sounded out with the deep-based rumble of an angry thunder.
Next, I heard the rage of the guitar and the intro of drums. I felt the surge of its aggression as I returned through the streets of my Long Island town. Suddenly, I was untouchable. The rain did not bother me.
As I listened—I forgot about my wet socks. I forgot about the cold and the wet, saturated hood, which I used to cover my head. I forgot about the long walk ahead of me—which somehow turned quick as my attention ascended to a new height with the sound of rock and roll music
I did not think about my awkwardness. I did not think about the lonesome feeling, which I had when leaving my house and heading out on this venture. Instead, I felt the brought-on adrenaline while listening to my truest introduction of music and what it does to the soul.
I have other memories like this. There are different styles of music which I connect with different parts of my memory’s archive. My taste in music has matured—and like those who enjoy a fine wine, I enjoy the sound of music that was written long ago. I enjoy the anthems of my youth. These are the songs that remind me of victories, of say, watching the sun come up while sitting in a circle, Indian-style, with a group of friends on the football field at a local junior high school.
That record store is long gone now. And worse, no one has the need for stores like this anymore. No one needs to go any further than opening a computer application on their mobile device. Kids today don’t have to leave their own bedroom, let alone their house, and go outside to have an adventure like mine. And I say this is sad.
I say that means no one from this generation will experience the victory I felt—which was a victory I had while in a period of lonesomeness on a rainy day.
In a rough time; I defied the weather. I defied my own sadness and I marched through the rain, landing at a record store, and I came home triumphant.
I came home with a cure — and that cure is music.
I wonder what the anthems of the future generation will sound like. I wonder what my child will hear in her later years and if it will have the same effect on her as perhaps, The Pink Floyd has on me. I wonder if when it rains in her world during the awkwardness of her teenage life—where will she go to escape.
What will she listen to?
What will she know about the miracles of Led Zeppelin, or The Who, or Hendrix, or the healing sensation of listening to the Grateful Dead sing about Uncle John’s Band or their live version of Estimated Prophet at the Capitol Theater in 1977?
I remember the first time I heard the band Rush sing about Tom Sawyer . . .
It was like someone opened up a door for me.