On my way to Washington D.C. this past weekend, Q104.3 (at this point in the trip just background noise) stopped playing classic rock and turned into gargles of static that no turning of any knob would fix. My parents and I hadn’t noticed until we heard fuzzy chunks of some unrecognizable Police song that tickled our ears with enough familiarity to make us crave music once again. In movies or like that Toyota Highlander commercial, parents are always singing an obnoxious song off of an even more obnoxious album. Luckily an old Bob Marley was in the armrest, left over from a previous excursion Upstate, mixed in with Silvio Rodriguez and Salsa/Calypso mixtapes.
My father initially objected, but tired and reluctant to argue from the demanding drive, he succumbed to the idea. “No woman, no cry,” starts Bob, consoling the masses at a live concert, goosebumps on my skin, raising from the dead some memories I hadn’t touched in a while. I could feel in our shared silent indulgence, that we all sat and remembered what this song meant to us individually.
Ricardo, my older brother by exactly a day and a year, and I bought that album in the basement of what used to be Nobody Beats the Wiz on Steinway street in Astoria. It was our mother’s birthday present. Big chain music stores don’t really exist like that anymore. I remember F.Y.E. was a block south and if they didn’t have what you wanted there you could hop on the R train and pick it up on 82nd street in Jackson Heights. I used to love Virgin Mega Store at Union Square during the summer. I’d walk in and hope to find something good on sale to spend my money on instead of buying bottled water; the store was always cool. I miss it in Times Square too, before it became Forever 21. I took those escalators up and down a million times over and checked out all their Vinyl, all their eclectic aisles. I could have lived there when they started letting us scan CD barcodes for 30-second previews of every song. I was madly in love with music.
When the song ends we all come back and smile. The silence between the songs is filled up by silent humminh of “no woman, no cry.” When the next track starts it hopes to have the same effect, but we just sing along this time, enjoying a CD for the first time since we bought an iPod.