“I remember when gas was less than $5 a gallon,” I’ll be saying to my grandchildren when gas is $48 a gallon. And they’ll say to me, “Grandpa, you’re so old. What’s gas?” And then they’ll strap on their hydrogen jet packs and fly off to the virtual master brain for the fourth dimensional sensory simulation unit.
Until then, I can rest comfortably knowing that gas is well below $50 a gallon and that it only costs $200 to drive a rented Ford Explorer from Los Angeles to Las Vegas for a semi-annual weekend getaway. At least there were four of us that split the gas this last weekend, although two of these passengers subjected the driver, yours truly, to a two-hour ‘N Sync marathon.
For those of you who are my age, ‘N Sync is like New Kids on the Block, but with Justin Timberlake. And I believe that starting in Barstow we listened to every song ‘N Sync ever lip-synced, mercifully skipping the Christmas songs.
The way these trips work is that on the way to Vegas the girls get to listen to their Ipods, and on the way back, I get to listen to mine. I take my opportunity with the radio to teach these kids about my generation’s music. I like to think of myself as a tour bus, cruising down the musical freeway known as the mid-nineties. If I can get these young ones to crack open and crawl out of their MTV shells, then maybe we can not only have fun, but perhaps learn something as well.
But as usual, by the time we were two tracks in to Wildflowers everyone was asleep.
Halfway through the trip back I discovered that the Explorer was equipped with satellite radio. I quickly found my favorite station, Backspin. Backspin played all of the rap music I listened to in junior high and high school-- Naughty by Nature, Public Enemy, KRS 1, NWA, etc. I tried to impress Camille by naming the artist and title of every song that came on.
“Back when I was in high school,” I told her, “I had over 200 rap tapes.”
“On 8 track?” she asked.
Listening to all of my old music made me think about how rap used to be so notorious. And then I remembered that back in those days, even The Simpsons was controversial. When I was in junior high, Bart Simpson shirts were banned from some high schools.
But I didn’t feel old until the DJ, Kurtis Blow, said “This is Backspin, the station playing the dope cuts from back in the day.” And that’s the speed of life. One day you’re in high school cruising down the strip in Greencastle, Indiana bumpin’ 2 Live Crew in your dad’s truck, the next you’re listening to some old rapper tell you that, yes, it’s been fifteen years and your youth belongs to a time that is now referred to as "back in the day. "