When the radio fails us, as it does most mornings, with ads coinciding with the brief 15 minutes window of time from our house to school in time to be only slightly late for N’s first class, we must turn to the only tape we have in the car. There have been a few. In preschool and kindergarten it was a tape made of the Beatles’ Red album, which I think is a compilation album of sort of early Beatles songs. It was made by this Indian guy in K’s first year at architecture school. I think he went mad or something, or maybe he just left in a hurry at the end of the year, and K somehow ended up with this tape. The sides of the record did not fit easily on the sides of the tape, so on one side you get half of a song, which then starts up again from the beginning on the next side. And there are a few songs you end up hearing twice. It is a hard tape to memorize, but the kids did it. K played this tape in his car when drove the kids to school. My car had no tape player. So my familiarity with this tape stems from trips up to Mount Lassen when the kids were young to go cross-country skiing. Bad food and repeating Beatles tape and mountains and mountains of cold cold snow. That’s what that tape makes me think of.
The next tape I remember is a Robyn Hitchcock tape. I don’t know where we got it, but we had it when N was born, because I remember my best friend L coming to visit when N was three months old, and we played it over and over. I told L that I never listened to music anymore, and she said, “but you’ve been playing that tape three times a day! What are you talking about?” She was kind of right, and I was kind of right, because outside of that tape I had listened to nothing at all for months. Eventually that tape was resurrected and we listened to it for years driving N and M to school. By this point, I had the car with the tape deck. The songs all sounded creepier (it’s the one with the Chinese Bones song, and the song about spiders under your skin– Globe of Frogs, I guess it’s called), but N especially likes “Flesh Number One (Beatle Dennis)”, which we all know as “There’s a house burning down.” My memory of this tape is hearing that song at the corner of Milvia and University, rushing N to gym class freshman year.
The third tape I remember is a tape that has Jimmy Hendrix on one side and the Doors on the other. None of us like Jimmy Hendrix much. Although we have really tried, we find him sort of boring. But we’ve grown to like the Doors. This is the tape that currently lives in the car, and although we’ve heard it five million times, we were forced to turn to it again this morning. It was on the Jimmy Hendrix side.
“But it’s the end of Jimmy Hendrix, unless you’ve been listening to the tape without telling me,” said N.
“No, I haven’t.”
And shortly Hendrix came to an end, and “Roadhouse Blues” came on.
“We’ve heard this so many times,” said N.
“Yes,” I said, “and for the rest of your life you’re going to hear this album and think of this corner (school campus, edge of football field).” And this part of your life, I thought but did not say.
“Yes,” said N.
And I remembered, but did not say, that K had made this tape when I was 19, and we were planning to drive across the country to harvest peas for the summer, and we wanted music for the drive. I’m sure that K made this tape, since he was much more careful about matching artists on both sides of the tape, and also, I don’t really like Hendrix. I don’t think I really liked the Doors much, either. I’m sure I never imagined, when making those tapes, that one day I would be listening to them in the car with my kid, who would be nearly as old as I was, and that this tape would be part of her formative memories.
“It’s Monday,” I said.
N sighed. “And a five day week.”
“The first in a long string of them.”
“Yes.” But, I thought, but did not say, it’s almost easier when there’s a long string of five day weeks, because then you just get used to them and get through them. It’s almost easier than when you have vacations popping up here and there to remind you of what life is like when you don’t have school or work. Best not to think about it.
And for the first time in a long time we were not late to school or work.