Let’s be honest, boomers. We have been cranking music in our cars for well over forty years now. The methods that we have employed to blare our tunes have changed several times in our lives, but the result has been the same: playing songs that move us to join in. Sometimes, we roll our windows up, and sometimes, if we want to share, we roll them down. I call it the “Car Concert Effect.”

Right now, I have a very cool but understated, VW, GTI Golf. It is white and has the sharpest wheels you have ever seen. It drives like a sports car but looks kind of dorky. I adore it. The radio in it is ok–could be better. The speakers are a tad small for my taste. Nevertheless, I’ll hop into my car, put my seatbelt on and get the lay of the land. “How am I feeling today? Is the traffic bad? Is it sunny or rainy? Hmm…what mood am I in?” With Sirius Radio the selection of musical possibilities are endless and I thoroughly enjoy taking advantage of choice. On a good day, I crank up the Alternative/Pop Hits. I really like IMAGINE DRAGONS, DAVE MATTHEWS BAND and NEON TREES. I like GAVID DEGRAW and ADELE. No–I take that back. I love Adele. Yesterday, I was driving to my chiropractor and ADELE came on. “Crank it up, baby,” I thought. It was “Rumour Has It,” one of my faves. The inevitable question pops up. Do I blatantly sing at the top of my lungs, thereby giving myself away to the drivers of cars in the lane next to me? Do I sing in the back of my throat, and not move my lips–a good trick. Or–do I provide the percussion to this great song, and jiggle my left leg, while tapping the driving wheel of the GTI? No. This was a “sing it” song, and so I belted it out, swaying this way and that in my car. I’m in my own Car Concert, grooving to the lyrics, standing up, out of my imaginary concert chair, dancing to the beat. It’s my own, private Idaho and it numbs me from the car honking behind me, imploring me to speed up.

Back in the 1970’s, my parents let me drive their old, beat up station wagon. It was on its very last legs. Driving to school, it would stall as I stopped at every red light. I learned to keep the car in neutral, revving the engine to keep this from happening. If it stalled out, and the light turned green, I would suffer the fools behind me, who were annoyed at the delay in their morning and anxious to get to work. Hey–I was doing the best that I could do, under the circumstances. “Do you see my car?” I would think, “What do you want?” If all went well, I would reach my right hand over to the radio. A plain affair, it had a knob on the left for volume, and a knob on the right, to turn it on or off. It had FM and AM, which was advanced, because some cars and radios still had only AM radio. AM was mostly talk shows, or the local news and weather. I preferred to groove out to WMMR. This was the best Rock and Roll FM station in Philadelphia. I would bounce in my seat to LED ZEPPELIN, CROSBY STILLS AND NASH, JEFFERSON AIRPLANE, or maybe JANIS JOPLIN. That’s just the beginning. I could go on. Music was seminal and powerful in the early ’70’s. It defined our generation and represented what we were all about. It was “message music” that usually made references to a war we did not want to be a part of, or corrupt politicians, or young love. We felt like we were changing the world and this music was part and parcel of that. I’m not writing anything that we do not already know, but it bears repeating. To this day, when I hear JAMES TAYLOR or NEIL YOUNG, or ERIC CLAPTON I think of peace, rock and roll and saving the planet.

Inevitably, we changed and forgot some of our ideals. For that, I feel some sadness. It was a good time, and I think that we had great intentions and clear ideals. How did this same generation become the “Wolves of Wall Street?” I’m not sure how it all happened, but I was there. Living in NYC in the late 70’s and early 80’s, the Eight Track Tape was king. A bizarre and clunky device, it enabled the listener to pop a tape into a portal in one’s car and listen to albums on tapes that would not scratch like records. These were soon replaced by regular cassettes, which were sleeker, and not as clunky. The tape spooled up and tangled, and you had to use a pencil to unwind it. They were handy, because you could skip listening to the DJ on the radio, and pop in whatever album you wanted, straight into your Car Concert.

I remember wearing a long, black tee shirt, slung down my shoulder. I wore high-top Reeboks and had my hair cut short. This was after my Wall Street phase; at which point I wore starched button-down shirts, pencil skirts and high heels, but that is another story. By this time, I was a wanna-be Downtowner, living on the Upper East Side. I worked for a Small Press on the Lower East Side. I was part of the scene. At that time, I did not have a Car Concert Hall. I was a subway goer who had, instead, a brand new, enormous, first generation, WALKMAN. Oh, how this gadget changed my life. You could clip it to your jeans, but the contraption was so large, it was like walking around with a toolbox. A Walkman had maybe four, or five buttons–very basic; start, stop, forward, back, maybe fast forward. The headphones did not go in your ears. They were foam, and rested on top. You could buy a Walkman with a radio and a tape player, combined. I would play MADONNA, and DEBBIE HARRY and CYNDI LAUPER. It was an age of music by women; the GO-GO’s, LAURA BRANIGAN and ANNIE LENNOX. But then there were the male counterparts: JOE JACKSON, THE POLICE, MICHAEL JACKSON, PRINCE and EARTH, WIND AND FIRE. In addition, there was a lot of Disco music, played by one-hit wonders. This was all great clubbing music, and we would go, especially if we knew the door guy, so that he would let us in ahead of the long lines. THE UNDERGROUND and LIMELIGHT were very popular, as were STUDIO 54 and CBGB’S. Man, this was a fun, fun time. Clubs were thrumming with strobe lights, disco music, dancing and flowing alcohol. Have people forgotten how to dance? Dancing was great. One memorable evening, I went downtown with some great friends in New York City’s blizzard of the last Century. The subway was not running. There were no cars or buses on the street. White snow blanketed all of NYC and Central Park. It was the most beautiful sight I have ever seen. Gone were the grime, and grey, and filth. In its place was a wonderland so vast, and empty and white it took your breath away. We were not going to squander this night. We walked the entire length of Central Park, in at least two to three feet of snow. Like explorers, our footprints were the first ones to mark the ground as we pushed on Downtown in knee-deep snow, determined to arrive at the Limelight. And arrive we did. They were open; a few stalwarts were in attendance. We danced the night away, delirious with joy. Such was the optimism of the time. We could do anything. We would make it in this inhospitable city. We would succeed, and thrive. The music confirmed our dreams and for the first time, we could carry it with us, on our person, in our Walkman toolboxes.

Fast forward to the late 1980’s. Now I have children, and I still want to rock out in my car. What fits the bill? RAFFI, of course. The standard for children’s music, I learned many, many new songs. “Baby Beluga” still gets stuck in my head, as does “De Colores” and “Down By the Bay.” The sign of a good Rock-Out session would involve dropping my daughters off at school, driving away, and still singing at the top of my lungs, to “Tingalayo.” Minutes would go by, before realizing that I could pop the cassette out of the player and listen to “adult” music. The DISCMAN came out sometime in the 1990’s, but I cannot remember when, exactly, because I was sharing my love of music with my children. I was not zoning out to my own Car Concert, or portable music player. Now I had a chorus behind me, in the backseat, who joined in my concerts. My children had adorable, beautiful voices and would sing at the top of their lungs, joining as I played RAFFI on the radio. We would hum to our heart’s content. I smile as I write this. It was a beautiful thing.

I still revel in my Car Concert today, alone again (naturally). I’m becoming older, but I defy it by keeping up with what I think is great music, and attending concerts with my family. There is joy in music. In bad traffic, I love jazz, or classical pieces. They wind me down and cool me out. When I am blue, I adore Frank Sinatra. Life is usually on the up-and-up with Frank and I lose myself in his crooning, ever hopeful, ballads. Sometimes, I listen to CLASSIC REWIND, to capture my youth, and sometimes I listen to what I imagine the younger generations are enjoying, although they would probably laugh at me. “Lady,” they would say, “You don’t get it at all.” But I do get it. I remember that feeling. You know the one–where the world is your oyster and music expresses your hopes and your passions. I can still go there and I do.


IMG_0445It is that time of year; the time of year when, young or old, rich or poor, urban or country dweller, our hearts turn towards bodies of water. They may be the chilly waters of Lake Michigan, or they may be the enclosed, buggy ponds of New England. In many cases, on the East Coast, getaway plans often include the gorgeous, multifaceted coastline of the Atlantic Ocean.

I am made up of this briny, salty water. It courses through my veins as blood courses through the veins of others. It is where I spent my childhood. It is where I learned to swim and where I spent countless hours diving, body surfing and rafting. It is where I was stung by a Man-O-War, caught countless crabs for dinner and fished for dark, oily fish that I would eat for dinner. I would turn very brown, never used sunscreen, wore the same three swimsuits in succession and clambered off to the same small movie theater on rainy days. I would eat an ice cream or two from Springers, or decide that I was more in the mood for soft-serve ice cream with the frozen chocolate shell surrounding the luscious custard cream. Many early evenings, I would forage the cheap, Five and Dime stores, looking for shell bracelets or other similar treasures. My bicycle was my ticket to freedom, and I would careen around my neighborhood, or into town, one hand on a handlebar, the other hand feeling the wind blow through my fingers, or ringing the bell attached to my bike, warning those in front of me to move aside. If I had enough cash, I would buy a Fifth Avenue chocolate bar as a treat, somehow never gaining an ounce from my endless sweet tooth.

I would spend my formative summers right ON the beach. An unheard of extravagance now, it was a treat then, to be sure, but not out of the question. As a typical child, I took much of it for granted, until years later. Of course everyone goes to the beach, I would think. This is just what you do in the summer. My parents carted my brother and me to our beach house directly following the end of the school year. Shucking our tunics, jerseys and khakis, we threw on shorts and polo shirts and scrambled in the back of our family station wagon; a large, clunky car with plenty of room on the back for two kids to roll around with comic books, crayons and coloring books and mad libs in hand. Seat belts? Huh?? Car seats? Wha? This was fun. This was staring out of the back window at the drivers of the cars behind us, making silly faces, tickling each other in the ribs, or reading Archie and Veronica to one another. Our excitement would build as we crossed the first of many bridges that would lead us to the Jersey Shore; as will say in Philadelphia, “down the shore.”

Our house was a glass-fronted, modern affair. All of our rooms faced the ocean, paying homage to the vast sea beyond. I would wake up in the early morning to the sound of the surf pounding in my ears, yards from my bedroom. Waxing and waning, it called me like a siren as I scurried out of bed, eager to get outside. Having to wait until 9am before feeling the sand between my toes was torture. My torture included delicious, cream-filled donuts with which I would stuff my face each morning and the brand new, just invented, Lego set with which I would build wonderful model homes. Still, the sea called me, as it called Aeneas into its cold embrace. Come to me, it would seem to say. Hear my roar, feel the coolness of my water, feel the warmth of the sun on our back. Smell the salt air. There has been nothing quite like it, in my life.

Am I at the shore now? Do you assume that my passion for the sea continued throughout my life? Right on the second count. Wrong on the first. I made a fatal mistake; I fell in love with a wonderful, bear of a man. His family hails from the Midwest. He despises eating fish. Body surfing does not come easily to him. His swimming prowess is, well, so-so. Don’t get me wrong. There are many things he does well. He played football in college like a pro. He is a pretty good cook. He thinks with numbers instead of words; a skill I find impressive and intoxicating as it is something I cannot do. He loves children, animals and family. He loves golf. I mean–he LOVES golf. His love for golf is a crazy love, spawned from childhood. His family would drop him off at the course in the morning and pick him up at the end of the day. The schedule has not changed; or should I say, he drops his family off at home in the morning and picks them up at night. Just as the ocean was the backdrop to my life growing up, so the lush greens and brutal bunkers of the golf course were his. “So what?” you say. “Your marriage is fifty-fifty,” you say. “You should be at the sea while your love is on the course.” Yes-I might answer. But the course is near the city, and it is one of the best in the world. One cannot find a course even close to its excellence, down the shore. And the shore–it takes an hour or so to drive there, and the costs of home ownership and rentals have gone through the roof. These costs extend everywhere: not just here, but up and down the coast, from Florida, South Carolina and Georgia, all the way up to the rocky shoals of Maine. One family, right now–at least, this family–cannot have both golf and salt water. If I am lucky, I might carve a week here or there out of my summer to obtain my fix. My lucky husband, on the other hand, keeps his clubs in the car and hightails it to the course every weekend. My backdrop is not as portable as his and yet its scarcity gives it a more magical quality.

How strong, you ask, is love? I guess it must be strong. Because I sit here, alone, on a sunny hot day, dreaming of my beach. I picture a bike with fat tires and a basket on the front. I picture myself in a frumpy black bathing suit, cover up and straw hat. I see myself pedaling to the waterfront, flip-flops on my feet, towel in hand, umbrella collapsed in my other arm. I have the Sunday New York Times crossword puzzle in my beach bag, along with a beach read, my phone and my needlepoint. I have already slathered myself with70 SPF sunscreen. I am in heaven as I pick my way among throngs of beach goers, finding a spot on the sand to call my own. Dream. I close my eyes and dream of such wonders. Dream a little dream….

We all have our dreams, our fixes; memories that will last well past our ability to enjoy them in reality. Will my dream comfort me in my old age, as I sit in a nursing home, remembering my youth? Probably. I am damned lucky to have these visions, these memories. I have my youth and my parents to thank for them. In the meantime, I try each year to love golf in the same way that my husband loves the game. If you cannot beat them, join them? Maybe? I try. Maybe one day I will be on par with my husband. Maybe? I try. I hold out though. I hold out for my ship to come in, for the hidden treasure to be discovered, for the winning lottery ticket. One never knows. One can always dream. I hear the surf pounding in my ears seventy-four miles away. I don’t have to be next to it, to know that it is there.


“Hello honey,” she said, just as I would have said to my son.“Where are you right now?” she continued, with a sense of urgency. This piqued my interest. It was an unusual question to provoke such angst. I leaned forward in my blue printed chair and looked through the contents of the bag at my feet, ostensibly looking for a book, a pen, maybe my iPad, or a magazine.

“Uh, huh, ok,” she said quickly. “If you are there and you plan to stay, here is what I want you to do. No hanging around Melvin. He is no good. And no staying past 8 o’clock. No good will come of that either. Don’t’ want you getting into trouble. You hear?”
The train slowed as it crossed over the bridge in Trenton, and then gathered momentum, swaying side to side. The car smelled of disinfectant and sweat. My chair sagged from much use. I shifted, trying to find a more comfortable position.
“And what are you wearing?” she continued, speaking softly, but intently. “Yeah, you know I don’t like you wearing that. It worries me. I have told you before.”
There was a pause. What was he wearing? I flipped open my magazine and studied the perfume ad. It showed two extravagantly dressed, beautiful young models, riding a horse bareback across an open field. Her arms wound tightly around his waist, and she rested her head on his strong shoulder. They wore Wellington boots, providing a stark contrast to the tuxedo, the evening dress.
“Take the hoodie off. Take it off right now. You want to make sure that everyone can see your face. Did you shave today? What you doing with your hoodie on and what you doing with Melvin?” She was whispering loudly now. I could hear her clearly if I leaned my head to the left of my seat and rested it against the glass window. The wheels of the Amtrak car screeched, drumming against the track that bore it to New York City.
“Yeah, and then what will you do? Call me when you get home, please. Right away. I will be back later tonight. I want to see you in the house when I get home. In the house. When I get home.”
She sounded agitated; a mother, worried about her child. The hoodie–it reminded me of another story: a boy, with skittles–a neighborhood vigilante, racial profiling, and then a shooting. The boy had been only seventeen. One year younger than my son. I sat up straight, closing my magazine.
“And will you stay there, for now? Or will you be somewhere else before you come home? Oh yeah? No, I don’t think so. I really don’t think so. don’t go there, Earl. Please. At least you are safe in Center City, until it gets darker. Was that Melvin’s idea? I don’t like him.”
My felt felt warm and a dizziness washed over me. My boy was probably sitting in a large classroom right now, or sleeping in the secure dorm room of the University. The campus was protected by an interior quadrangle, security staff, emergency phone boxes on every corner and required card identification slots for all entrances and exits. He was privileged, and white. He would be relatively clean. We had purchased a few new articles of clothing from a shop before he headed up to school earlier that fall. They would probably be wrinkled now–maybe dirty. We would meet at a vegan restaurant on 117th and Broadway. The dizziness passed. I pressed my lips together and closed my eyes.
“So, Earl,” the woman continued, softly. “You know that I would be there, if I could. Have you heard from your father? No? I see. You take good care of yourself. You know that I love you. I want to see you when I get home. Goodbye, Earl.”
Focusing on my glossy magazine, I skimmed over a story about making your life the best that it can be. I heard the woman on the phone stuff her phone in a bag and inhale. A newspaper snapped open, and she exhaled.