On my way from room to room, I search for something. How could it have gotten away from me? I just had it in my hand.
Memory fails me in this way, a spasm of short-term thought process. I am one rung removed from leaving bread crumbs to find my way home.
With that, however, I can cite with some assurance the placement of furniture in a house where I lived more than a half-century ago.
In my mind’s eye, I see the stereo cabinet, a great wooden box held up by legs that looked barely capable of supporting a chicken. It resided along a wall on the far end of our living room, out of the way but seeming like a centerpiece of cultural outreach.
Often leaning against those spindly legs, a box of record albums waited for my mother to lift some vinyl onto the turntable. That box now rests in my basement, largely untouched for decades.
It seems like an odd purchase for my household back then, an extravagance of which we seldom saw. The 10 albums in the box deem themselves as a “collector’s edition,” a fitting enough claim, with the title, “The Great Band Era.”
Reader’s Digest offered the compilation in 1965 for its subscribers, and my mother no doubt ordered it to have music in the house and possibly stir some nostalgia. I’m proud that my mother, selfless to a fault, did something for herself.
Having recently come across this set while on a cleaning jag, I dropped a couple of these records on my turntable and felt rich with the sounds of the 1930s and ‘40s, Tommy Dorsey playing “On the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe” and Duke Ellington instructing listeners to “Take the ‘A’ Train.”
Artie Shaw and his Orchestra, along with vocalist Imogene Lynn, unleashed an effervescent version of “Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate the Positive” while Benny Goodman and Martha Tilton conspired on “I Let a Song Go Out of my Heart.”
The songs sounded like something that should be in a movie soundtrack about World War II USO performers or one of the ballroom favorites from that creepy hotel in “The Shining.”
My mom had been separated from these songs by about 30 years. By comparison, I often listen to songs from which I’m 50 years removed. Everybody has an itch to be drawn back. Music can do that.
Not everything else can.
I’ve made peace with not existing in simpler times for the same reason I accept not every day being a low-humidity 72 degrees. That is to say, I can’t make either one of those things happen.
When people lament the scourge of political correctness, I think they miss times of not having to think hard about what they say.
Television programs scored big with casual misogyny. Late-night hosts suffered no pushback for anti-gay humor. It came as part of the social contract that some people (the divisions being gender and race) “knew their place.”
Who wants to go back to those “good ol’ days,” the less equitable past?
Yet some parts of yore have an appeal. Civility might be something to yearn for. Perhaps just a little decorum. If good manners made a comeback, would anybody complain? What about political discourse minus the shouting?
I can get behind that nostalgia.
Also, the music could keep us grounded, maybe Glenn Miller and Sammy Kaye for my mother’s generation and The Who and the Rolling Stones for me.
An unusual number of big band songs contain the word “sentimental.” Maybe the turntable has made me misty.