I found myself getting wistful about leaving our house, started pacing around the outside of it looking in, noticing the roses on the side for the first time and how they looked like faces imploring don’t go — even my tractor in the garage, it seemed I never connected with it the way a guy should.
So I got up on the tractor because there was nowhere else to sit in the garage, on the side with the stereo wedged in between an Elliptical and an antique wood stove I bought on the Oregon coast — my Canadian boss called it a $500 candle holder, and she was right.
I noted the tractor’s curves for the first time, its nice lines and proud hood, how the belts fit just right around the mower deck, how the material collection system sat in place with a mere linchpin, all of it bright green and yellow like a superhero’s costume.
I got a hat with the tractor and tried riding it with a beer in the cup holder because that was the thing to do, and rode it on the hillside above the septic leach field which was dangerous because tractors can flip over, but I countered the weight by leaning far to the other side, adding some risk and style to the way I ride.
So even though there’s still lots to do in our house to finish packing up, I lost myself in granular tasks in the garage, putting off the dreaded kids’ rooms, namely their bathroom, for the bad energy that lurks there like a clown inside a drain trap.
After oh, 18 years I finally played one of the micro cassettes I recorded when I was living at my mom and step-dad’s in Pennsylvania. It was my voice on the tape, but it sounded like it was on the wrong speed, too high, like I was sucking helium. It’s me doing a freestyle rap thing against Classical music with our dog Chumley chiming in, me on the phone with my friend Loren (you can hear just my side of the conversation, like a made-up dialogue on stage), me recording crickets, the sound of the traffic on Route 100.
I have tapes like this from climbing Mt. Rainier, enamored by the sound of the snow crunching against plastic boots, the metallic clink of our ice axes and cramp-ons jingling, how a small party can sound like a group of foot soldiers wearing chainmail.
I carried the tapes around with me since the late 90s but never played them because a micro cassette recorder was rarely around and even when it was, the batteries were dead, and so you really had to have the time and interest to hear them, to stop and put all the necessary components together. It’s like carrying around undeveloped film before the digital age, never summoning the effort to develop it, refusing to just throw it out.
And I have a tape from our first night in Marrakech, when I awoke to the sound of the morning prayers not knowing what it was, but a low hum building like a bee hive, and I climbed the spiral stairs to the rooftop terrace with the recorder going and stood there looking across the other rooftops and mosques, how the voices blended in a way you couldn’t really capture on tape.
I’ve gotten cheap about the refrigerator, and insisting we don’t buy anything since we need to whittle it down, and there’s a ham I cooked a few weeks ago before I went to Germany but no one else will eat it, so I’ve started carrying the ham around with me everywhere like my Woobie, taking small slices of it, sometimes frying it in butter, which flies in the face of everything I’ve read about controlling your cholesterol.
Loren has been pestering me for a copy of Colin Newman’s first solo records from the early 80s which are out of print now, and go for around $40 USD on Discogs. The record is called Provisionally Entitled the Singing Fish/Not To, with the first part instrumental, each song titled Fish One, Fish Two, and so on.
It’s not easy-listening but it’s so strange and intricate, it sticks with you. Like everything else, we make music personal when it’s attached to a specific time — for me, driving across Maryland in the middle of the night toward the ocean, where the land flattens out, and listening to it on a cassette with a friend, turning off the headlights so we could drive by the light of the moon and transport ourselves somewhere very far away.