Summer Snippets

    Mine won’t be the usual lament about the end of summer. The season did not zip by. No flings that thanks to the heat’s affect on our emotional states ballooned into unwieldy romances pricked by calming September’s inevitability.

    There’s nothing I wished I’d done. Since the season did not present me with opportunities, none slipped away.

    Maybe as an adolescent I may’ve regretted the passing of yearly unstructured seasonal idylls. Today, though, an adult, I have much greater appreciation of idling.

    However, what Summer 2012 lacked, the last several actually, is the absence of accidental street music. (That, as well as the chatter which accessorized it.) If loud enough, then the insistence of incidental thrum and declaim. Ear buds and the prevalence of automobile air conditioning have mightily limned the noise.

    No more ghetto blasters. Far fewer rolling boom boxes.

    Today’s aural pleasures are mostly encased. Now it really is rare catching snippets of new or fond or weird melodies. Ambulatory music lovers prefer risking tinnitus. Rare are passengers and drivers who ride windows down.

    In their heyday, who didn’t appreciate ghetto blasters? Before relentless innovation transformed musical enjoyment into encapsulated entertainment, “portable” stereo systems the breadth and heft of roll-on luggage jarred eardrums of any within range.

    Outside of pop culture museums, Spike Lee’s 1989 movie Do the Right Thing contains one of the finer examples of such obsolete technology. Set in a Brooklyn of legend, that is a borough before gentrification, artisanal everything and hipsters, its tribes chafed. A film of rage, the soundtrack to Do the Right Thing incited instead of soothed.

    Intentionally truth-to-power as the music was, decibels and messenger magnified the mood. Radio Raheem, the owner of the movie’s infernal sound device, himself embodied the era’s fear of dark urban menace. Then, the rap group Public Enemy promoted such unease as “fear of a black planet.” Radio Raheem toting a belligerent clarion alarmed the comfortable, the unsuspecting, of an impending quake.

    Which demonstrates the marketing’s effectiveness. Americans are so docile. The worry here a stratum could rise and rampage, rend societal fabric a la some European country whose complacent majority had perilously ignored its second or third generation immigrant-derived citizens only illustrated the tenuous curtain between faking superiority and hiding vulnerability.

    Okay. Not everybody back then lugged musical overnight bags blaring unsettling tunes. Thankfully. The cacophony would’ve rendered us harder of hearing than we already are. Besides, Radio Raheem was an exaggeration. One who preyed and played on dominant culture guilt.

    I took past musical snatches to be surveys. During the day, what was fast-paced on the way to frenetic. Figures. Outdoors under the sun the tempo should match longer sunlight and better weather.

    Night selections predominately favored harmonies geared toward intimacies. Or at least the hope of an intimate encounter. Didn’t longing ballads about aching, requited and unrequited, further moisten already sultry evenings? If pouring from car open car windows, then the vehicles’ listeners either anticipated or sought gratification.

    Same thing with those daylight incidental sidewalk greetings. In the right neighborhoods, those grow into full-fledged, well-attended summits. Their nocturnal counterparts are richer. Although based on age-old premises, finding relief in or socializing under cooler night air, these shadowy hours foment deeper involvement.

    Invariably daytime voices are bellicose. The volume often heightens the discourse. Usually absurd topics on the way to ridiculous.

    Evening’s closeness compels significant exchanges and interpersonal intensity day’s clarity diffuses. At night, aren’t our voices are generally lower because of the discussions sensitive or, better, conspiratorial natures?

    Day and night yield two aspects of camaraderie.

    Whatever music heard during these occasions filled the cracks. Maybe a highlight for the passerby or the bystander. Unless he or she stops and enters the conversation, the pedestrian brushes through context-free talk and music excerpts. Cars obeying traffic offer at best fleeting verses and disjointed riffs; at worst passengers speaking frustratingly low, too low to properly decipher, and ear candies which have crested into their sweetest crescendos — get snapped off because changing lights let traffic resume flowing.

    Pedestrians and bystanders are afforded bites through which they can contemplate cobbling together situations from the overheard snatches. From there he or she could possibly inject him or herself into the narrative.

    Every man and woman a Zelig.

    I wish my favorite instance of unpredictable aural immersion referenced The One. (The One? The one with whom I should’ve pledged troth. Exchanged vows. Jumped the broom.) Even summer of 1969, the Woodstock/first moon walk/before discovering girls/when I had yet to learn “innocence” just polite usage for “ignorance” sequence nearly suits the requirements.

    About The One, Peaches and Herb’s “Reunited” was her song. The One let no chance pass to sing Peaches portions of it to me. Dumb me. I never took up Herb’s response. Sometimes silence means more than is intended. A lesson gained only after she left.

    If there was a year which should offer a wealth of instantaneous recollections at the drop of a stylus, 1969 is a fine candidate. That summer didn’t we wear down the grooves on three albums: The Temptations’ Cloud Nine and the Beatles eponymous double-disk release? Statues of limitations long expired, I confess we seldom entered any mischief without bolstering from either recordings.

    But no. My most insistent uncalculated remembrance is quite impersonal. As it should be.

    In Tucson. Some dazzling Arizona day (You know. The usual one.) during the earliest 90s. I was strolling, probably trying to move around what remained of the previous evening’s over-indulgence, when out of every mother’s worst fears a familiar rumble pushed up the street.

    Tooling along, stylin’ behind the wheel of a cherry red Beamer ragtop, the smuggest, most self-satisfied young privileged stamper. One likely on his way to becoming one of today’s anti-abortion, obnoxiously vocal “Family Values,” evangelical Republicans. But until that sappy brain shutdown day …

    Then, the only thing my man had on his mind was his Dodgers cap. Booming from his stereo system? Too Live Crew’s “Me So Horny.”

    Perhaps he meant his choice to be accepted as a subversive gesture.

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