01 May 2013

In 1964

I’m re-viewing the situation:
In 1964, I purchased my first rock n’ roll album: Meet the Beatles. I would then have been a junior in high school, and the date would put me at seventeen years old. I thought I knew a few things, but I probably I didn’t know all that much. I can remember entering Floyd’s Department Store (a very, very early incarnation of what Wal-Mart et al. would become) with the purchase price of less than $3.00 for the album in my pocket. I am fairly certain of that price because years later when I actually earned an adult income as a teacher of $7,300.00 (!) a year, every two weeks I would invest $10.00 of my take-home teacher salary at Sam Goody’s Music Store to establish my essential collection of rock n’ roll albums. In 1969, one learned a great deal about a person then by perusing through the record albums stacked about on wooden shelves that were held up on concrete blocks. Then, I was building my image and my collection, or vice versa.
But of 1964: I don’t now remember whence the money derived: it is doubtful that my parents would have given me the money to buy an album of what they referred to as these flop-headed British lads whose very appearance threatened my parent’s neat little fictitious world. I do not remember ever being assigned an allowance, nor did I have some other source of income. Even if I had been assigned an allowance allotment, my father’s preoccupations with economic and psychic survival forever led him to forget to give it to me. Sometimes, I think, he didn’t even have sufficient funds in his pocket to afford an allowance. It was certain that I did not have a regular paying job, though sometimes I somehow managed to acquire some funds. The Beatles album was released in January and so the money might have come from having shoveled snow out of neighborhood driveways, though I do not recall that this endeavor ever resulted in much employment or income. Certainly that the money was not earned in our driveway was clear: this onerous job was just something for which as a family member I was responsible as was my father for going to work and my mother for maintaining the household, though my father often failed in business and my mother maintained a full time housecleaner. Indeed, shoveling snow was actually the only household chore to which I might have been regularly assigned, though I do seem to recall a brief turn at a paper route delivering either Newsday or The Long Island Press, the latter one of many now defunct newspapers. Of that enterprise I remember only a single household where two shiny pennies served for my weekly tip! Two pieces of Bazooka bubble gum could be purchased with the two cents, but my dentist with whom I was all-too-familiar frowned upon such purchase.
Anyway, somehow I carried wadded in my pocket into Floyd’s Department Store a quantity of money mysteriously obtained sufficient to purchase the album: I had determined to meet the Beatles. At this remove my motives are vague: I cannot recall if it was their ubiquity or their music that appealed to me most, or if it just seemed to be the moment that I had chosen to enter the youth album culture. I had previously owned only 45rpm discs, and though I know how they were played, I do not remembering every playing them except perhaps at make-out parties on Friday and Saturday nights. I preferred the radio, and the Beatles’ music had been flooding the radio airwaves that year--WMCA’s Murray the K and WABC’s Cousin Brucie were the most obvious and popular disseminators of the music—and “I Want to Hold Your Hand” sounded everywhere. I wanted someone’s hand to hold, or for lack of that, to at least have someone express my longing. I really don’t remember what exactly inspired me to purchase Meet the Beatles, but I am attaching not a small piece of rebellion to the acquisition: this album represented a sustained experience—it was a whole thirty-minute album—at which many parents looked askance or with alarm or with condescending bemusement. I purchased Meet the Beatles, but I do not have clear memories of listening to it all that much: I think it was the purchase and not the product that was important. The album remains stacked neatly downstairs in the basement, but I no longer own a turntable on which it might be played, and it was not one of the albums I replaced with its compact disc. Now, I want much more than merely to hold someone’s hand.
That I recall this purchase suggests that I have attached some significance to it, an importance that the event has developed even if the memory is not now accompanied by any strong feeling. But perhaps it can be that somehow importance becomes separated from strength of feeling by defense mechanisms. I am seeking some connection between the feeling and the event. Or perhaps I mean to create one. Patricia Hampl says that the real job of the memoirist—and this essay is part of the memoirist project—is to stalk the relationship “seeking the congruence between stored image and hidden emotion.” Of course, I recognize that one can be physically and legally restrained from being a stalker, and my psychic defenses are sensitive to the approach of dangerous knowledge and would shift immediately into protective positions. Proust and his madeleine notwithstanding, I think that when an emotion is hidden it means to stay concealed, and it becomes revealed often serendipitously in action (for example, eating the innocent cookies) or in some random word or scene, and the memory’s emotion begins first in the body and becomes only then named in reflection. Hence, the composition of Remembrance of Things Past. The emotion I realize will be not discovered but re-experienced and I will then name it.
            I am reviewing the situation.


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