Yes, it’s taken four months to get to a third of the way through. But with all the dauntless vigor of a snail on Quaaludes, I forge ahead!
You might think this question would be much more appropriate than it is, given my absurd daily commute, but you’d be sore mistaken. Especially when it comes to the “to” direction. How else am I going to spend my time from 5:30 am to 7:40 besides trying to nap as well as possible? It’s not as if it’s the most restful sleep ever, leaning my skull against the window (or that slim wall between windows, depending,) and there’s always that fear of sleeping through a stop, and I always have to worry I might talk in my sleep or drool or something — though I never seem to sleep deeply enough for all that — but it is of at least SOME help. That kind of sleep is like caulk. It doesn’t really fix much, but it can fill the gaps and even things out a little.
I used to listen to music sometimes on the way to school, though — particularly in junior high, when I’d take my trusty CD player, probably containing Revolver or Dookie or one of the X-Files soundtracks. It was better than the Top 40 tripe that was usually played on the radio, unless we had one of THOSE drivers. But now, my morning travels are underataken in relative silence.
Even on the way home, I don’t tend to listen to much: I’ll be reading on the Kindle, more likely. Or, as a special Friday treat, listening to one or two of Ann Curzan’s lectures on “The Secret Life of Words.”
Why don’t I listen to music more on the ride home? I honestly don’t know. Maybe it’s because the trip is so long that I fear I’d burn out on whatever I selected. I’m sure the Kindle can hold far more than I’ve put on it so far, mind you, but even assuming I only listen to music for the evening trips, that’s about ten hours a week. I may have more music and a higher threshold of habituation than many other people, but that’s still a tall order to fill.
Also, as the earlier entries show, I tend to forge associations between songs and experiences somewhat easily. Of course, that’s usually moreso for a novel song and a novel experience than for an already-heard song paired up with an already-experienced… experience. Still, do I really want to sally forth with all my favorite things, only for them to remind me of a long cramped bus ride in a few years? Hardly.
Don’t think I haven’t considered it. “Why not use this time to listen to some albums straight through, the way you never do but always intend? The whole of Tommy, or Ziggy Stardust — it’s not like you’re doing anything else with your life for those hours, so why not?” Because, neither now nor in ten years when the memories develop into nostalgia, at no point do I want any music to sound like the bus. Books are safe (so far as I can tell,) and it’s a moot point for lectures, so it’s fine. Same for movies. Could I actually sit down, stare at my Kindle, and finally watch some of those multitudinous classic movies I’ve never managed to see? Surely. Even though the damned thing couldn’t stream it, I could always just download a movie to the device itself, right? But again. I don’t want Casablanca to look like the godsbedamned bus.
So, there’s really no honest answer for this question in the present moment.
But, y’know, those few times a randomized playlist will pull up Green Day’s “Basket Case,” I’ll be damned if there’s not still a little aura of the school bus and my not-even-teenage rebellion there.
It calls up memories of the recurring arguments of “Who’s Better, Green Day Or Boys II Men?” that I used to have with my only-when-nobody-else-could-see-him-talking-to-me friend. Did I really believe at the time that Green Day’s music would sound kickass forever, or even relevant? Doubtful — but I knew what I liked. I knew what sounded like fun, even if I was not altogether certain I was allowed to have any of that fun. And, by liking something that this guy didn’t like, this guy who had a leg up on me in almost every other way, I felt like more of a distinct person — more like my own person.
He could be taller and stronger, he could be conventionally good-looking, he could claim a moral superiority, he could refuse to care about whether or not I was smarter, and he could try to portray himself as better than me in every possible way. He could try to scorn my preadolescent pseudopunk preferences by calling it loud and dumb and crude and offensive — but he couldn’t claim superiority when I said that was exactly what was so much fun about it. He could claim nobody would ever make music like that if they’d been brought up right, with church on Wednesday, twice on Sunday, and a good whuppin’ once in a while. And that only reinforced me, too. Because it seemed to scare him a little. It was some of that troublemaker music his Baptist upbringing wouldn’t allow into his worldview – and here’s me, this weaker, inferior thing, somehow able to withstand it. Who could take in the stuff that he liked, process it, and find it wanting — AND take in the stuff he wasn’t allowed to think about, process it, and find some sort of power in it. He could have his Christian rock and his R&B and his Jock Jams, and I’d just drown him out with a loud, stupid anthem to brokenness. And when you’re stuck on a school bus, on the way to a place where everyone your age seems to hate you, when you’ve already got teenager levels of melancholy and anxiety and angst despite not being out of fourth grade yet… well, you shield your mind with whatever armor you can imagine for yourself, even if it’s already all banged up and rusted and designed for someone way bigger than you.
Basket Case, indeed.