There are currently a couple of commercials for a luxury vehicle in which a woman arrives home — ostensibly after a tough day — only to confront some form of chaos happening there.
In one version, it appears to be her aging and hip — but annoying — parents exercising in her living room. In another, her children appear to be intent on destroying the home through various forms of bad behavior.
In each case, the woman retreats to the sanctuary of said vehicle and locks herself inside.
I can relate. Right now my car is my sanctuary for 90 minutes a day as I travel a lonely stretch of Route 11. My trip is 45 minutes from my front door to the office and 45 minutes back, unless weather becomes a factor. But that never happens around here.
My car has roughly 150,000 miles on it and is littered with random items salvaged from a previous office space and, well, actual litter. Because unlike a lot of Ohioans, I don’t just throw stuff I no longer need out of an open window as I drive along.
But despite the clutter — a co-worker opined that it appears as though I live in the car — I’ve come to view those 90 minutes in the car every day as an escape of sorts.
No bills. No complaints. No fires to put out. No calls.
(The latter is especially important because one Cleveland suburb takes safety seriously, as I learned the hard way about a year ago when an incoming phone call did not properly go through my car’s bluetooth setup and I happened to answer the old-fashioned way while driving through one city on my way to a better one. Not that I’m bitter about my $395 “donation” or anything.)
But I digress.
All I need to relax is some time alone in my aging, not-so-luxury vehicle and — most importantly — some tunes. And when I say “tunes” I do not mean what passes for “hit” music on today’s FM stations.
(You had to know that this column was eventually going to end up in things-were-better-in-the-old-days territory, right? Either way, I’m going to ask you to get off my lawn.)
The best thing about new technology is being able to easily listen to what I like in my car during that daily commute. No more making mix tapes or burning CDs. But there are a couple dozen CDs still rattling around in the car, just in case I ever need them.
Ride with me and you’re in for a steady diet of music of a certain vintage. Just ask my daughter, who really didn’t have a choice growing up. She spent a significant part of her life strapped into a car seat for a musical education.
One of my proudest moments as a dad was when we attended Billy Joel’s 2017 concert at Progressive Field and my only child sang along on his deepest cuts. That sort of musical knowledge once got me in trouble with my mother-in-law, who was curious how and why 7-year-old Erin knew all the words to “Captain Jack.”
I know this sounds like old-man-yells-at-cloud stuff, but aside from a handful of today’s songs, I really prefer to listen to music from decades ago. And this cuts across multiple genres. Pop, rock, country, rap — the old-school stuff is almost always better across the board.
I can almost hear a chorus of “OK, Boomer” comments coming. Just for the record, despite all the gray hair and my crotchety nature, I’m not a baby boomer. I’m part of Generation X.
There is some truth to the notion that every aging generation thinks its cultural icons — musicians, actors or athletes — were better than what passes for current talent.
Maybe my dad’s icons were better than mine. Maybe not. But can anyone really make an argument for Justin Bieber, Ed Sheeran or Portugal, The Man over Prince, Joel or U2?
(By the way, until I looked up Portugal, The Man, I had no idea it wasn’t just one guy. Similarly, I also spent some years believing that Pablo Cruise was one guy.)
Unless you’re a confirmed millennial, can you really prefer Beyonce, Lady Gaga or Taylor Swift over Whitney Houston, Linda Ronstadt or Natalie Merchant?
Former colleague Tom Williams can’t stand The Steve Miller Band — “When they come on, I just change the station,” he says — but I’ll take “Abracadabra” over anything in current top-40 rotation on the radio.
(When Tom turned 60 a couple years ago, we made sure SMB’s greatest hits album was one of his birthday gifts.)
Ultimately, though, your musical escape is your choice. Even I can agree that music appreciation is as subjective as it gets. The beauty of my commute is that it’s mine and I control the background music.
Barry Manilow might write the songs, but I decide if they’re heard in my car. I can listen to — or and sing along with — “Billy, Don’t Be a Hero” or “Seasons in the Sun” if the mood strikes.
No that I’d actually do that, of course. I have standards. Some songs just don’t belong on any playlist.
Ed Puskas is Editor of The Star Beacon. Write him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter, @Ed_Puskas.