Friday, September 19, 2008

In My Room

Continuing with yesterday's entry..

I was in the middle bedroom of a three bedroom house when my fascination with pop/rock and roll began; my sister occupied the front bedroom facing the street. When her husband returned from Vietnam, she moved out and I moved into her old room - after all, things were nicer with a view, even if it was only overlooking 36th Street and the houses across from us.

Then a couple of wonderful things happened. One, my parents were generous enough to buy me a Magnavox stereo record player/radio. I'd been using an old RCA monophonic record player that originally belonged to my grandfather, which didn't have the best fidelity.

The new Magnavox had speakers made of genuine walnut; the combo turntable/receiver was also housed in luxurious walnut as well. The sound from this marvel was way above what I was used to from the old RCA. That stereo, by the way, is still sitting at my parents house.

My buddy Michael Jones and I used to ride our bikes a lot. We'd visit this cool store on Montclair Street near Adams Boulevard called Creator's Playhouse. They had all sort of unusual items there, the coolest of which was this:

That was my first encounter with a lava lamp.

The second wonderful thing that happened was that my parents were generous enough to get me my very own lava lamp. I know, I was spoiled, but I really really appreciate what they did. They don't have a computer so they will never read this, but thanks anyway!

The lava lamp in the picture above is one that I have now. A couple of coworkers gave this to me on my 40th birthday; a most appropriate gift for someone entering mid-life crisis. My original lava lamp had bluish-green liquid and lava inside; stupid me couldn't resist shaking it one day and it never functioned properly after that (ask me if you want to know what happens). It's still keeping the Magnavox company at my parents place.

Changing bedrooms coincided with a change from mainly 45 rpm records to 33 1/3 albums. The lava lamp subtly illumined the room while I sat listening to my music, letting it carry me away into the night that was in view outside the windows.

The most frequently played album back then? Blood Sweat and Tears' first album with David Clayton Thomas as the lead vocalist (technically their second album).

One night I hooked up a speaker to my tape recorder. I had recorded myself laughing at 3 3/4 speed on the tape. I put the speaker on the window sill facing the street and then played back the tape at 1 7/8 speed, resulting in a deep, loud laugh that filled the neighborhood. Immediately my mom came running into the room asking what I was up to, and didn't I realize everyone in the neighborhood could hear that, and what was wrong with me!!??

When we moved to our new surroundings in the Crenshaw district, my bedroom was at the back of the house and the view pretty much non-existent. I continued my practice of listening to music at night by light of the lava lamp, with Crosby Stills and Nash becoming the most frequently played album. Songs like Guinnevere, Wooden Ships, Helplessly Hoping.. everything on that disc fit the night perfectly. No view was needed; I saw plenty with my eyes closed!

In my pre-driving days, I'd listen and long to get out into the night, especially on the weekends. I'd rarely been anywhere at night; it held something magical, just out of reach for me. I don't know how to describe that longing feeling but it was as if everything were happening out there but I was inside, detached, far away from it.

In the eighth grade, my sister had to go to Century City for something, and she took me along that night in her '67 Camaro. The lights I saw along the way and at Century City itself were fascinating and exciting - such a difference from the whitewashed, smoggy daylight.

All the music I'd listen to while sitting in my room took me somewhere out there, away from the confines of that room. Sometimes I'd imagine being part of the band performing the song in front of the crowds; other times it would be the soundtrack for fantasy adventures; and other times I'd simply relax, eyes closed and let the music shape the way I felt inside with no particular thoughts going through my mind.

My MPA's (most-played-albums) from that pre-wheels time:

Crosby Stills and Nash
Blood Sweat and Tears 3
Sweet Baby James
Stephen Stills
Elton John
Deja Vu
Three Dog Night Live at the Forum
Chicago II

My old room at my folks house looks way different now - different furniture is in there and my Keep on Truckin' and blacklight posters are no longer on the walls. Nevertheless I can still picture exactly what it looked like back in those days and nights of more time.

For this guy it was the surf instead of the night..



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