Monday, October 13, 2008

Car stereos I have loved


Driving to the Harris-Teeter, lost again. I'm in Smart Wife's little economical Honda Civic with Bob Dylan crooning "You Left Me Standing in the Doorway" from Time Out of Mind.

Time has necessarily gone out of my mind on this ever-lengthening ride, since I can't remember what street the Harris-Teeter was located on. I've lived in Durham for two and a half years now and there are some landmarks that I could not tell you how to find. My regular grocery is a Kroger by I-85, but any other supermarkets are consigned to a messy mental void that encompasses the diverse byways of University Highway, Hillsborough Street and Guess Road. We're not talking about a massive city when we speak of Durham; it's under three hundred square miles in area. I'm just slow on the uptake of learning anything other than the simple routes I use to get to a couple regular destinations. My wife will not be able to tell when I start having senior moments, as it won't be much different from the way I am now.

At least there's a stereo in the car. I've had so many cars over the years, and the few that didn't have at least a push button radio were the ones I transferred a giant requisite dislike to. It was hard to be among all that silence, combined with the clattery of my own mind.

I mentioned the Olds Delmont 88 convertible a couple posts ago, and it had the standard Delco AM radio with a big old boomy speaker in the middle of the back seat; now it would probably seem inaudible next to one of today's subwoofin' jeepin' SUVs and king cabs at the intersection.

My dad's Volkswagen was violated with a cheap 8-track player in 1973. One of my co-workers at Reznick's installed it beneath the ashtray, and he hooked up the speakers in the little luggage boot behind the back seat. I had so many 8-tracks. You could find the weird shit, like the first NRBQ or the alternate version of Runt by Todd Rundgren (different songs) for next to nothing. Nice, seamless records like Ummagumma and A Wizard, A True Star were broken into noisy chunks, punctuated by the ca-chunga of switching tracks. Double-tracking was another little annoyance, when the heads would play two channels at a time making an unholy medley. "They" said you could fix it with a head cleaning cartridge and adjusting of the heads with the dial under the tape slot, but it was never for long.

The first car I ever had that had FM radio was a 1977 Datsun 200SX that my Chapel Hill friends may remember. Over the years, the shape of the 200SX modified itself right out of distinction, but the debut year was pretty groovy. Bought new (which was part of a bigger and more horrible story, perhaps for a later time) the yellow Buck-Rogers-ray-gun shaped car was wonderful! Everything worked, at least when I got it; considering the 1972 Toyota Corona that I'd had to back through town in the dead of night to get it to a transmission repairman, functionality was a big bonus. And in Chapel Hill in 1977, you needed FM radio, to get WXYC and WQDR (back when it was the rock station), as opposed to stodgy old WCHL.

The 1968 Pontiac station wagon that took me to Memphis when I quit school had the same Delco operation that the Olds had had, so I was not without tunes on that long run with a loaded-down car, fortunately. AM was still marginally acceptible, but not for much longer.

The years in New York? Who owned a car in New York at that point? The single day I did was the day I left for Los Angeles. Finding a simple place to park near my 14th Street apartment was breakdown material for a guy who just wanted to pack his stuff and go.

The unparkable car was, in this case, a 1963 Rambler American coupe with a pushbutton overdrive that jolted me past Corvettes like I was the guy in "Beep Beep" by the Playmates. It also had its original AM radio that I augmented with a boombox covered in dog stickers, named Lassie which I did to all my boomboxes at that point in my life. On my cross-country trek, I was given a tape made from the new-technology CD of the first two Big Star records. Even on Lassie, the difference was apparent. The future was at hand. I was going to be stuck with as many cassettes as I had been 8-tracks.

My mid-life crisis auto was a bright red '65 Plymouth Barracuda. There was a cassette player in the car, but the engine was often louder than I could get the stereo. One day, as I pulled up to a Continental Drifters' acoustic rehearsal, the clutch spring shot out and clipped my collarbone and fortunately not my eyeball. Otherwise, a pretty cool ride.

Fast forward past the Ford F-150 pickup and a few Volvo 240's. I drove a Chevy van that had only one side of the tape deck working. That was actually sort of fantastic, especially with the hard-panned Beatle stereo mixes and various Booker T. and the singular MG tracks I played. "Talk Talk" by the Music Machine was a big favorite, vocals and really loud tambourine on the one side, everyone else on the other. In a car, I think that kind of mixing makes sense, but it's probably less listenable in the home stereo stiuation.

The Subaru Legacy wagon we bought in a rush in Pennsylvania after Katrina drove us northward had a CD player in it, but it never worked so we listened only to the radio; one of the things we never got around to doing was going back and having a word with the guy who sold us the car. Smart Wife's VW Diesel Rabbit had cassette and radio, however we didn't own any cassettes anymore so we never were able to be sure if that part worked.

Now we have the Eurovan, into which we had installed a new-fangled CD/radio which also allows us to play our iPods through a short cord. That's pretty great, I must say, although the price of gas and the Euro's fuelhoggishness has made driving the VW more of a liability (not to mention that it needs a few tweaks mechanically and a current inspection sticker).

Which also brings us back to the Civic. The cord that connects the radio is broken, so we're just listening to CDs. In this time of economic uncertainty, malevolance on the campaign trail and general bad news, maybe being backed into the single, non-updatable sound source is a handy form of enforced mental relaxation on the part of the anxious driver.

Then again, maybe that's why I'm lost, searching for Harris-Teeter.

8 comments:

man with a bass 4 kids and a wife said...

Hi Peter;
Your writing is really entertaining (good).
You have to be a good writer to get somebody to read about your old car stereos. I read the whole thing and liked it. Maybe someone would pay you for this stuff.
Again I enjoyed your reading from Ann's book and the songs. The one about Sam was right on the mark for all of us that hung out at Sam's Guitar Shop. It was like Floyd's barbershop. The new one was cool. I could relate to it. Congrads on freeing yourself from face space.

Donna Lethal said...

Dammit you had a Barracuda?!

Anonymous said...

The Carolina Blue VW bug was the best...like the "Little Medicine Droppers" that the Bobbitt's delivery boys used.
hee hee

Jeff Hart said...

the barracuda is definitely an eye catcher. no "big black truck"?

nice to see you never had to resort to an fm converter like i did with my '71 chevy impala. that's the car i was driving the night john lennon was shot. the converter wasn't working, and a.m. radio held no interest for me, so i went to bed that night not knowing about the bad news.

spadamchrist said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
joanna lynne said...

nice 'cuda

Anonymous said...

好秘书 中国呼吸网 肿瘤网 中国皮肤网 癌症康复网 中国公文网 工作总结 个人工作总结 半年工作总结 年终工作总结 单位工作总结 教师工作总结 教学工作总结 学校工作总结 德育工作总结 财务工作总结 医务工作总结 安全工作总结 乡镇工作总结 党员工作总结 团委工作总结 公司工作总结 实习工作总结 班主任工作总结 党支部工作总结 办公室工作总结 学生会工作总结 工作报告 政府报告 述职报告 述职述廉 考察报告 自查报告 情况报告 调研报告 调查报告 申请报告 辞职报告 实习报告 验收报告 评估报告 工作汇报 思想汇报 汇报材料 情况通报 情况汇报 心得体会 学习体会 工作体会 培训体会 读后感 领导讲话 庆典致辞 节日致辞 开业开幕 演讲稿 竞聘演讲 就职演讲 比赛演讲 征文演讲 节日演讲 演讲技巧 工作意见 活动策划 工作方案 整改方案 实施方案 企划文案 营销方案 培训方案 应急预案 规章制度 法律法规 事迹材料 先进事迹 个人事迹 申报材料 学习材料 考察材料 经验材料 交流材料 自我鉴定 工作计划 工作规划 年度工作计划 学校工作计划 个人工作计划 团委工作计划 工会工作计划 单位工作计划 党支部工作计划 民主生活会 入党志愿书 入党申请书 入团申请书 转正申请书 党性分析材料 先教活动 整改措施 剖析材料 公告通知 模板范例 贺电贺词 常用书信 合同范本 社交礼仪 法律文书 论文

Donna Lethal said...

i was just responding to that comment above but i lost my train of thought.