Tuesday, July 13, 2010

the bridge

I can almost see it: my seventeen-year-old self. Brown, frizzy hair. Black leggings and a painted black t-shirt of David Sylvian. Red Chuck Taylors (that I still own, so how pathetic am I?). I am listening to the radio in the car (Wang Chung, most likely), and my mother asks politely for me to turn it down, if not turn it off completely.

"You always liked The Beatles," I note, inferring that she preferred her older children's musical preferences, especially since they rehearsed day and night in the garage. "How come you don't like my music?"
"I like some of your music," she confesses. "Not all of it."

And here is where I make my declaration: I am never going to let the generation gap get in the way. I am going to like all of the music of the future.

Yeah. That expired in 1995, I think, with the exception of John Mayer. I stopped listening to the radio. I stopped paying attention. And somewhere along the way, I not only stopped liking the new music, but lost interest in it. I don't know why. Maybe because I'm a creature of habit. I read the same books, watch the same movies and TV shows. I surround myself with what I like, what I know. Always have. I do the same when I write, too. I write about coffeeshops and books and beaches and guys who look like former teen idols.

I've been hanging out in various coffeeshops, as is my summer custom (or rather, my year-round custom). One in particular has been playing music from the 70s and 80s, and it's like coming home for a homecooked meal. It struck me the other day that they're called "oldies". In my day, "oldies" included songs like "Rock Around the Clock" and basically any band with a member that played an upright bass. But now I belong to that generation. One that used phones with cords, record players, and computers when the floppy disks were really floppy. Mine is the generation who memorized Gordon Gekko's "Greed is good" speech from Wall Street, which we now watch with sadness every time we see the Twin Towers standing tall and so seemingly untouchable. My incoming college freshman students, on the other hand, will be the first generation that has never known (or can't remember) a world without cellphones, without CDs, without email, without an MTV that actually featured music.

My students and I tease each other -- I chide them on "that stuff" they listen to, while they laugh in disgrace when I confess that I'd start dancing right there in the classroom if someone started playing "Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go". Little do they know that the real reason I'm laughing is because somewhere, in the back of my memory, there is a seventeen-year-old girl shaking her head saying, "What happened to you? You promised!"

Yes. I failed my seventeen-year-old self. But those oldies I listen to are the fountain of youth without all the emotional upheaval that came with it. It's the way I get to go home even though my childhood house belongs to someone else now. It's a part of novel-writing I love--whether they are the inspiration, or the splashes of color that I include just for me, they are the bridge to a life of contentment.

I should really get rid of those Chuck Taylors, though. Especially since they have holes in them.


Elspeth Antonelli said...

There is nothing more heart-stoppingly nasty than realizing that 'your music' is now only being played on the oldies stations. Welcome to my world. I had the same thought when I was younger; I'd always keep up with the current music. Did it happen? That would be a no.

How lovely that you can incorporate music or fashion that makes you smile and that you identify with into your stories. It would make for such a personal connection with your work. I'm jealous.

Elisa said...

Thanks, Beth. On the other hand, I could never do the kind of historical fiction you do -- I simply don't have the patience for or knowledge of such detail -- and I admire you greatly for that!