EASY ED’S BROADSIDE: Riding Along in My Automobile
Photo by Easy Ed
First built as a wooden plank road in 1888 from the top of The Bronx into the hamlets and villages north of the city, the section of Central Park Avenue that runs from Yonkers to White Plains is showing its age. A prime example of zoning commissions run amok with little to no planning that has led to suburban blight, the five-mile stretch is a hodgepodge of last-century architecture, shopping centers built in the 1940s and ’50s filled with dollar stores, empty supermarkets, big box retailers that probably won’t live beyond another Christmas or two, and ethnic food restaurants leaning heavy to pizza and Chinese buffets. There are still a few Greek-owned diners with 40-page menus. The avenue is a well-traveled thoroughfare and has its own Wikipedia page that is so detailed you’d think it was actually more important than nuclear fission, which doesn’t get nearly as much space. Believe me, I checked.
The other day I was in my car driving to Shake Shack for my monthly burger and fries binge when a flash of red neon caught my eye. The sign hanging in the window read CAR STE REO, with a mysterious space between the E and R. Immediately it took my thoughts right back to the late ’60s, when such places sprouted across America as if seeded by an army of eight-track tape sales reps. Back then you’d buy a car and it came with an AM radio with two upfront speakers. If you wanted the extra FM stereo band with additional rear speakers, it would cost you extra. One of your first stops after leaving the dealership was straight to the local auto stereo shop, where you’d pick out your eight-track or cassette deck and watch a bunch of stoned employees punch a hole into your dashboard and install it. When they finished you might have sat next to them in the front seat, perhaps sharing a bowl or blunt, as they taught you how to use it and demonstrated maximum volume with a Deep Purple or Foghat tape.
Jamming on my brakes, I pulled over across the street from that shop on Central Avenue (we’ve long since dropped “Park” from its name) and took a quick pic with my iPhone, which currently holds about 50,000 songs with easy access to another 45 million just in case I get bored. “Hey Siri … play me songs with a diminished D9th chord in 6/8 time.” And despite the 11,865 pictures that also reside inside the device, I rarely use the camera app, nor do I take or make calls. It’s basically my personal jukebox, holding all sorts of music, from the early days of the 20th century to yesterday’s new releases. I’m a searcher, seeker, and streamer, and hardly a day goes by when I don’t add a few albums to my library. This week marks two years since I made the decision to become a subscriber who leases his music versus a buyer who owns, and I haven’t looked back.
I had just finished my second burger, no cheese or condiments except for salt, when I realized why that CAR STE REO shop was still in business. You know those cars or trucks that pull up next to you at the stoplight and all you can hear is the sound of a bass guitar playing notes as fast as bullets fly out of an AK-47? Hell, they still go to these shops to buy speakers the size of refrigerators that get put inside the trunks. There’s a website called Noise Free America that has a section devoted to these sound systems, and I read about a crew in Phoenix that is customizing a Ford Bronco with a car stereo designed to pump out a whopping 175 decibels, according to Wired magazine. The Bronco’s 48,000-watt system would be eight times louder than a 747 jet. It seems a bit strange to me that people want to listen to music so loud that it’ll damage their ears until they won’t be able to hear it anymore. There must be a psychological term for this, beyond “sheer stupidity.”
When I put “listening to music in your car” into the Google search bar, I got over 449,000,000 results. There are so many playlist suggestions that it boggles the mind. Songs for stressed out moms, freeway commuters, one-armed sports fans, old people with fatal heart disease, young folks, singles, couples, teens, tweens, the betwixt and between. Music that will test your speakers, shake your nerves, and rattle your brains. Lists of radio stations by geography, signal strength, position on the dial, format, genre, educational, and commercial. How to use Bluetooth, the many ways to hardwire, and the benefits of SiriusXM’s 3,000 stations.
Listening to music in my car: paradise by the dashboard light.
Many of my past columns, articles, and essays can be accessed here and at my own site, therealeasyed.com. I also aggregate news and videos on both Flipboard and Facebook as The Real Easy Ed: Americana and Roots Music Daily. My Twitter handle is @therealeasyed and my email address is firstname.lastname@example.org