I went for a good long walk tonight. The crisp air and the long late light made it feel like October.
I missed having a working iPod along. I don’t listen to anything when I run, but I do enjoy it when I walk.
The best thing I ever had on my old white iPod (remember those? they’re already starting to seem antiquated) was a 10-minute clip of Alan Freed. With a few pushes of the dial, I could force my magic 21st-century sound machine back into 1956.
Some songs I associate with specific places. But that soundcheck I associate with a general away-from-homeness. I remember listening to it as I waited to board a plane in southern California, and as I walked through neighborhoods five minutes from my house.
Anyway, here’s a piece about night-walking that ran on my old blog in May 2010. Alan Freed’s not in it, but some other stuff is.
This might have been one of the last walks I took with my old companion. It sits mute on my basement desk now; someday I’ll find an electronics recycling day and retire it for good.
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Out for a walk tonight with my balky old friend providing a soundtrack of old radio airchecks again.
Walking down one of the main drags and I hear a rattle and bark from the other side.
“I am the Unafraid, the one who walks alone at night,” I tell myself.
“I am the Unafraid, the one who walks alone at night, and that dog is about to hurdle his hedgerow and come rip my fucking tendons out.”
The DJ my iPod deigns to play is working the overnight shift on an oldies station in New York City, July 1972.
He is just this side of comatose; apparently this was during the Great Words Shortage of ’72 and he’s using as few as possible.
“1957,” he intones reverently. “The Charts.”
As I hear the first few notes of a classic ’50s-style greasy kids’ stuff musical intro, I walk past the laundromat and get assaulted — thwack. — by an olfactory wave of sweet, sweet fabric softener.
It makes me think of the mustiest walk-up apartment in Brooklyn, and of the scent the old lady inside sprays a few times each year to make the place more habitable when the priest comes to visit.
Mr. Mellow gives way to a news broadcast. The lead story is a solar eclipse that will be visible to New Yorkers later that day.
The newsman helpfully notes that two people were permanently blinded by looking directly at the previous solar eclipse, in 1970.
I wonder for a moment where those people are now, and how many years they had to regret their one really stupid decision.
The newsman cuts to an expert who is about to explain the correct way to observe an eclipse.
The recording ends.
Then we’re into the dimly lit backstreets, in time for a melange (medley?) of various New York stations from 1974.
Barely time to think coherently as the aircheck jumps from DJ to DJ, contest to contest, local-town namedrop to local-town namedrop, promotion to promotion.
It’s Labor Day and one channel is running six hours of previously unheard Beatles interviews.
“I always liked singles,” John Lennon says in his owlish Scouse. “I never collected albums. I collected singles.”
Barking dog somewhere to my right; climbing rosebush on the fence to my left.
In defiance I stop and smell the roses, confident that the dog, wherever he is, is constrained.
Walking back toward the main street to the smell of woodsmoke.
Who on this godblessed evening could possibly be having a fire?
Last time I walked down this road it was a Saturday night, and someone was burning leaves and stems, not logs and branches.
I don’t smell that smell very often any more.
Last time it was like smelling beer-soaked carpet.
Back on the main street. My playlist of airchecks is done.
Let’s see. Will it play some selections from Nuggets for me?
No, it won’t.
I am desperate, heading up the hill, so I abandon pop entirely and try Selling England By The Pound instead.
I try to rustle up “Dancing With The Moonlit Knight” but the unifaun and his true love have decamped elsewhere.
Oh, wait, there they are — Peter Gabriel’s voice arrives in my stilled eardrums so suddenly I almost trade in my prize.
You know what the word for these guys is? Stentorian.
I don’t think any other band was ever quite so stentorian.
Especially not when Tony Banks fires up the Hammond organ with one hand and the Mellotron choir sound with the other.
Top of the hill. Will the iPod let me hear “The Cinema Show”?
Entrance to my development. Will the iPod let me hear “Sing This All Together (See What Happens)”?
Nope … it is still shuffling around amidst the columnated ruins of Their Satanic Majesties Request when I get to my front door.
I think I need a new walking companion.