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Unless you count NPR, I haven’t listened to the radio in this century. Probably wouldn’t have started listening now, if iTunes hadn’t wiped out my 7,000-plus songs while syncing with my computer the other day, but we won’t go into the evilness of that here.

car radio

So, I am back to cruising the car radio dial for rock ’n’ roll. The first place it took me was back to my parents’ car, where I would be pushing buttons during our vacations, trying to find something my dad would allow. Then came memories of stealthily listening to the radio after I was sent to bed.

Those were great adventures, with stations coming in from faraway places no one I knew had ever even been, like Chicago and Phoenix. This vicarious traveling was even better than settling on a station until I discovered the ultimate one — Wolfman Jack broadcasting from just over the Mexican border. It was perfect rock ’n’ roll because it was pirate radio, and my parents didn’t even know it existed.

Returning to the 21st century and radio today, it’s a familiar place. Lots more stations, which doesn’t surprise me. (But how do they fit them all in?) All that selection made it dangerous to channel surf until I recalled my car is, thankfully, equipped with hands-free technology. Over the stations I went, pausing here and there to listen to a song, news, sports report, wacko interview, and even a commercial or two. Finally, I settled on a few stations I like and with those saved in the system, and I have background music again.

It isn’t the soundtrack of my life that I had programmed, but it’s good sounds and something even better than what I had before — variety. Songs that I enjoy, but not prescribed by me. No, they aren’t new; they are all oldies. These are just new to me in this century, and they brought back wonderful memories of times I had forgotten along with those songs.

Eventually, I found my old iPod with all my playlists intact. Surprisingly, I haven’t ditched the radio, especially my old habit of scanning the dial when traveling. Yes, most of the formats are the same now, but the local news and commercials are different. In an odd way, it heightens the distance from home. It adds to the feeling I’m back on the road again, maybe not as aimless as before, but still capable of enjoying a little something unanticipated, along the dial or around the bend.

Scott Funk lives, works, and writes (and gardens) in Vermont. His Boomer Funk columns are available at www.VermontFunk.com, as are his blogs and archived Aging in Place columns.


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