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up the hill backwards by david bowie

maura @ 8:07 am

On the drive down to our annual beach trip we left early to avoid the traffic and ended up hitting the worst snarl we’ve ever experienced on that route. We stopped at a McDonald’s to meet my mom for lunch because it was too early to check in and everyone was starving. Afterward Jonathan and I went to the grocery store to get started on the shopping while my mom took Gus to get the key and open the house. I tried to drive through as many strip mall parking lots as I could to get to the food store, but eventually I had to go back out to the main road and inch along like everyone else.

At some point while we inched we realized that music could make things better, so I started pawing through the more easily-accessible cassettes and picked my very old (20 years?) yet still perfectly functional Aladdin Sane/Scary Monsters tape. Despite all of the hullaballoo about the impermanence of tapes I still have a pile from as far back as high school that work perfectly well, thankyouverymuch.

The tracklisting was written in my long-ago handwriting, so very legible compared to the scrawls of today. Aladdin Sane in red marker, Scary Monsters in blue. Jonathan had just been telling me a few days ago about an article he’d read about Scary Monsters so that was the logical choice. It is a weird record, partly because of the time (which was what the article was about) – 1980 was in-between for so much music, and for Bowie especially given what he’d done before then. I’d written the dates on the tracklisting, too, because I’m a nerd and like to know those things (Aladdin Sane came out in 1973).

I do like the record, despite its weirdness, and especially the A side. Halfway through I realized that I must have listened to the A side much more than the B, because I was far less familiar with the B side songs. The occasional static and pop from the vinyl (which I still own) is well-preserved on the tape. Now that I’m an old lady I’m instantly nostalgic when I hear those imperfections, despite my own clear preference for digital media: when’s the last time I broke out the turntable? And it was such a pain to have to flip the record over. I’m sure that’s why the A side songs are so much easier for me to remember.


i go swimming

maura @ 2:46 pm

Gus is back in swimming lessons. He loves the water and can swim well enough to hang out in the deep end, but he’s still kind of spazzy and doesn’t know the actual strokes. Since we live on an island and he’s getting on in years, we decided it was time for him to really learn how to swim.

I was in 3rd grade when I first took swimming lessons, the second half of 3rd grade during which I went to a Montessori school and we swam once/week with school. (The first half I’d gone to the local Catholic school, which is part of another story.)

I can’t remember much about swimming before then. I don’t think I was afraid of the water. I had a great-aunt who lived at the shore (Ventnor, NJ) so I swam in the ocean every summer. We must have gone swimming in other pools too, at least occasionally, but I don’t really remember.

So I wasn’t exactly a swimming newbie in 3rd grade, but I don’t think I’d ever had lessons and I didn’t know any of the strokes. Even after I could swim enough to head out of the shallow end I must not have had much experience with the deep end or diving boards, because I vividly remember standing on the diving board adamantly NOT wanting to jump in, while the swim instructors encouraged me to.

Did they give me a gentle nudge to push me in? That I can’t say for sure. I thought that’s the way I remembered it, but now that I’m an adult and a parent I’m somewhat skeptical that it really happened that way. I mean, what sane adult would push a scared little kid into the pool?

Another piece of evidence against the pushing is that I don’t remember being particularly afraid of the water afterward, either.

A couple of years later I took swimming lessons again at a local pool in the summer. That must be when I really learned how to swim. I even ended up taking diving lessons in junior high. Yet another blow to the potential reality of the pushing memory?

Now I’m an okay swimmer. I know the strokes and can use them, but I’m not very good. A couple of years when we belonged to a gym with a pool I tried to swim. It’s certainly good exercise — it wore me out much faster than the elliptical or other machines. But chlorine really bothers me so I stopped, then we ended up quitting that gym. I still love swimming in the ocean each summer, though.

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palaces, barricades, threats meet promises

maura @ 6:43 pm

A pal sent me a link the other day to the 120 Minutes Archive, an online compendium of info about the classic late-night MTV show that first aired in 1986. The site is brilliant: the core content is a collection of playlists with each song is linked to a YouTube search. There are still some playlists missing, and I imagine (hope) that the site will continue to grow. But so far I’ve only struck out once trying to watch a video: the Age of Chance cover of “Kiss” (which is just so very awesome and which I could slap on the turntable right now if I weren’t too lazy to go all the way out into the living room).

The section dating 1986-1995 is a treasure. I think I actually had many of these early episodes on videotape until well after college — the playlist for 12/28/87 looks awfully familiar. Be careful when you click that link: it’s easy to lose whole buckets of time watching video after video (The Lucy Show! Siouxsie! Jesus & Mary Chain! Housemartins!). In fact, I started this post last night but spent so much time in nostalgiaville that I didn’t have time to finish it.

It would be hard to overestimate the impact that 120 Minutes had on my musical life. I didn’t really listen to music of my own until the summer before 7th grade, when we moved 1/2way across the country and got a color TV, cable, and a VCR all at the same time. That was the same year MTV launched, and while I did listen to the radio (most notably the show Rock Over London which played the top songs on the British charts), watching MTV was what really got me into music. Yes, I was a classic victim of ’80s new wave + pop music hysteria: Duran Duran, Madonna, Prince, Eurythmics, etc., the whole kit + kaboodle.

When we moved again just before 9th grade, MTV moved with me. Even though I was still mostly a teenybopper I already fancied myself something of a musical connoisseur, scouring record stores for import 12″s and B sides and the like. Because what’s cooler than the song on the B side of the import 12″ 45rpm for Duran Duran’s “Planet Earth?” Nothing, I say!

But, thanks to 120 Minutes (and a British cousin who sent me indie mixtapes), during high school I got a teeny tiny bit (musically) cooler. The show was my introduction to “college rock,” which led to actually listening to college radio and, eventually, co-hosting a college radio show of my own. Yay!

These days we don’t have cable, but of course MTV doesn’t even play music videos anymore anyway. And with the internets we can watch practically any video we want whenever we want to. But this site makes me miss MTV, just a little bit.

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