Thursday, November 6, 2014

Where music dwells

Unless I'm trying to sleep, complete silence makes me antsy.

From elementary school to university to now, I always have some music (or a hockey game) playing quietly in the background so that I can focus on whatever I'm doing. If it's too quiet, I can't concentrate, which is why I was often found studying in the campus libraries with my yellow Sports Walkman.

Yes, a Walkman. With cassette tapes. I really am that old.


Why do you have to turn on a radio every time you enter a room, my husband now asks when we're at my mom's house. I'm waiting for him to ask the inevitable, why do you even have a radio in every room, but he never does.


My listening tastes seem to change as often as my hair colour, or my dress size, for that matter.

At age six, I'm in bed listening to my Rainbow Brite  Paint a Rainbow in your Heart tape in my cassette player. I don't have headphones, so I hide the player under the covers so as not to be discovered. I love this tape, and it helps me to fall asleep. Make Room for a Rainbow Inside is one of my favourites.

At nine, I want to be Dolly Parton. I want her voice, her laugh, her waistline. But not her breasts. How are those even functional? I have a twenty dollar bill in hand and walk over to the nearby Zellers store, back when there was still a Zellers and when Meadowlark really fit the description of a shopping mall. My sole intention is to purchase Dolly Parton's Greatest Hits, simply because I love the Islands in the Stream duet with Kenny Rogers. I listen to the entire cassette, from  9-to-5  to  Two Doors Down  to  I Will Always Love You, and I pretend that I'm a farm girl, like Laura Ingalls, because that's the simple life I dream of living.

At eleven, I discover boy bands. The New Kids on the Block send me into hysterics, and I spend a small fortune buying teen magazines at Coles in Meadowlark, just so I can cover my bedroom walls with their pictures and hopefully find out about Donnie Wahlberg's favourite foods. I'm told, these days, that he's a big fan of burgers.

At fourteen, I leave all my friends and choose to attend a different high school that's better suited for me. During this time of discovery, I stop listening to John Garabedian's Open House Party radio show on Saturday nights, and I instead change the dial back to CISN country. I always have a blank cassette tape ready in my tape recorder in case Garth Brooks' The River begins to play on the radio.

At eighteen, I still love country music, but I'm in university and my tastes are broadening again. When my mood dictates it, I change the radio station in my bedroom to Mix 96 and listen to some hot adult contemporary music. Because that's what I am now, an adult. (But not really hot.) Alanis Morissette, Sarah McLachlan, and Jewel help to see me through the college years, but I still don't stray too far from country all that often.

At twenty-eight, I'm pretty much listening to only country music, except for when I'm at work and forced to listen to the very tame music on satellite radio. But I'm strong and confident and growing tired of the hi-jinks on CISN, so I switch over to Big Earl 96.3, which is some welcome competition in the FM country stations. For some reason, CISN won't play Eric Church's music, but Big Earl will! And so it's Earl that wins my heart.

At thirty, I'm married and finally in a job I like. Big Earl has gone under and so CISN is again my only option for country music on the FM dial. But I hate it. It's juvenile, there are too many commercial breaks that last too long, and they just don't play the oldies anymore that I still love. So I take the plunge and switch to AM listening. CFCW has my heart now, and I stop and marvel each time I hear Glen Campbell's Gentle on My Mind.

At thirty-two, I'm a parent for the first time, and my life is all Dora and Elmo and Twinkle Twinkle Little Star. I've heard Jewel's version of this song on repeat at least 3 million times, which is only a small exaggeration. But this isn't a complaint. I'm grateful that my daughter loves music and that Jewel thought to make an album of lullabies for families to enjoy. But when I'm not in mommy mode, I'm still listening to CFCW and doing what I can to win their Recipe of the Morning food contest.

At thirty-six, I'm a mother for the second time, but my beloved CFCW is changing. And at this age and hormonal frame of mind, I don't handle change all that well anymore. (Did I ever?) Danny Hooper left the morning show a year ago, and now Sharon Mallon has announced her retirement. But how will I make it through the day without her stories? Or the Recipe of the Morning?

I've grown to love this station because its announcers are real. They share their lives with the listeners and don't waste my time playing juvenile games. But that seems to be changing now. While I really do love the new morning show hosts, I hate the call-in aspect that they've now incorporated to their program. As in, If you've ever brought shame to your family while on vacation, call us now! We want to hear about it!  Or something like that. Every damn morning. I just hate it, and it's a big part of what drove me away from being a CISN listener.

Frankly, this sort of thing is just a time filler and is a mediocre replacement for genuine story telling. It's like the announcers are just phoning it in. Pun intended.

But I'll still stick with CFCW. And I'll still read Sharon Mallon's blog, because she really is the best storyteller I've ever encountered. And when she finally publishes her book, I'll be sure to read that, too, albeit with the radio playing quietly in the background so that I can concentrate.

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