Let’s don’t forget about it

Today I had to drop off a cable box at a customer service center. The place was empty, which I had never seen before in this location. People seem to love their cable TV, and there are always long lines of people whenever I have gone there in the past. But today was a nice change of pace.

As I explained to the lady working behind the counter what my issue was, the TV that was on in the room had a CNN story about guns, asking whether we would ever be able to find some common ground about what to do with them. The lady behind the counter asked me what I thought about guns, and in particular the story of the fire fighters who were killed while responding to a fire alarm in western New York. The lull in business to the customer service center made this conversation possible, and I was glad it did. As anyone who knows me or reads my blog can attest, I’m always happy to share my opinions.

I told her that it was a tragedy for the families of the firefighters, and for us a nation as well. On the heels of the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary in Connecticut, it proves that something needs to be done. What exactly that is isn’t clear, but we can’t accept the status quo any more.

I also told her that news outlets like CNN are part of the problem. The 24-hour news cycle that makes an event from three days ago feel like ancient history allows us all to forget about things like firefighters killed in the line of duty. Life doesn’t ever return to normal for the victims of these crimes and their surviving families, but as soon as a big storm comes along, or a political scandal takes place, or any of a hundred other distractions occurs, we’re focused on that, instead of remembering the tragedy that just took place. Until, of course, the next gun tragedy comes along, just as it always does.

The lady behind the service window agreed with me, and told me that we need to keep this issue in the forefront of people’s minds. We parted by wishing each other a good day, and a happy new year as well. It sucks that such a set of circumstances had to occur in order to have a conversation like this with a stranger, but it’s one that I’m happy to have had.

I walked out of the service center, and thought about the ending of Santana’s song “Smooth.” It’s one of my favorite songs, from one of my favorite albums, and I’ve not written about it before in this space. Near the end of the song, Rob Thomas–who wrote the song, but only sang it after Carlos Santana suggested it–sings “let’s don’t forget about it” over and over again.

It’s Thomas’ frenetic insistence that helps to bring a truly great song to its conclusion. I didn’t want to forget my conversation with the lady, whose name I didn’t even learn, because we forget about important things too readily in our society.

Gun violence keeps on happening, and when we forget about this–or become sidetracked by what Lindsay Lohan is doing, or other such trivial matters–then assault rifles will continue to be sold to civilians, high-capacity magazines will continue to be stockpiled, and the NRA will keep working to normalize guns in our society. We’ve let it happen for too long already, so let’s stop it while we’re already far, far behind. Or as Rob Thomas suggests, “Let’s don’t forget about it.”

Back to the 80s, briefly

Tonight I had a few moments on my hands. The house was empty, and I had to get some laundry folded before the family would come home with all of their usual distractions. So I brought the laundry basket upstairs and turned on the TV, but not for the reason you might think.

Television has been expunged from my life this year. I have no interest in any shows, or any people on said shows, or any news or sports or anything else that the screen might want to bring into my house. It feels like I’ve turned my back on that medium, and have embraced the online world with the same enthusiasm that was once reserved for Happy Days and One Day at a Time and all of their ilk. And it’s more than a fair trade, if you ask me.

A byproduct of this action is the removal of cable TV. In its place, there are Roku devices, which allow for streaming of services such as Hulu and Netflix. The rest of my family watches them, but I have no interest in them whatsoever.

So why turn the TV on? Because the Roku allows for streaming Pandora, which is an internet-based radio service. No DJs, no commercials, just music. I’m not sure how they make any money at it, because the artists will surely want some royalties for the use of their songs, but that doesn’t concern me, either. I just know it’s there, and that’s enough for me.

Pandora is arranged by various stations, where music either by or similar to any artist you could think of is played. There were many pop music stations already set up, and I scrolled through the list, looking for something worthwhile. By some miracle, similar to something I wrote about last year, I found a station called AC/DC Radio and clicked on it. I was greeted by three of my favorite songs (this one, followed by this one, and topped off by this one) which helped me to fold the laundry.

As I was listening to the music, I realized that the music that really speaks to me all came out in a narrow window of time, concentrated mostly between 1980 (when I was in middle school) and 1988 or 1989 (when I was in my last years of college). I appreciate some of the music on either side of these dates, but not very much.

As my own children are coming into those middle school-to-college years in their lives, I’m hopeful that some day, when they’re older than they can ever imagine being right now, they’ll have a few minutes to themselves, and some way of hearing a few songs that mean something to them. And I hope they’ll appreciate that moment as much as I did this evening. It’s a sign, at least in my mind, of the power that music has to return us ¬†to a time in our lives that might not otherwise seem very evident.

Rock and roll will never die, as AC/DC asserted in the first of my 80s trio tonight, but all of us who once owned the song on vinyl as confused¬†adolescents will die, on some unknown date in the future. Until that happens, we’ll have Pandora–and other services like it–to remind us of those days when the music was still new. And this will help to keep us young, at least in spirit.