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When I’m walking, I strut my stuff

I have mentioned in the past that Green Bay is a radio wasteland and I think nothing demonstrates this simple truth more than the fact that I had to move from this city of more than a hundred thousand to the sleepy little college town of Stevens Point in order to experience my first truly wonderful radio station. Located three blocks from my dorm, WWSP provided the soundtrack for that eighteen-month stretch of my life. I would wind around the surrounding farmland and embark deep into the national forest, just to have an excuse to listen to the radio on the tinny speakers of my red Chevrolet Monza. Yes, that’s right. A Monza. To this day, I’m still not sure what a Monza is supposed to be, animal or mineral, earthly or otherwise, English or maybe some other rich Corinthian leather of a language. I used to imagine that ‘Monza’ was perhaps slang for a form of venereal disease, perhaps named after the exotic hooker who was first diagnosed with the disease. Suffice to say, however, the Monza lived up to its name in that it was shaped like a suppository, rode about three inches off the ground, and was plagued by a weird miasma of mechanical problems until the transmission decided that it had had enough of this bullshit and completely dropped out of the car at a neat 90,001 miles. They don’t make them like they used to, for which we should all be thankful.

But for what it was worth, the Monza played its role in shaping my musical tastes. I just didn’t think it was possible that there were other people out there who liked to listen to the same kind of music that I did, the tapes that I had stashed around my room, the songs that they played at the dry punk club where we hung out and sweated off our midnight runs to Taco Bell. It didn’t seem possible, and yet, there it was. Which meant that the cretins in Green Bay who were adamantly playing the Paula Abdul and Bel Biv Devoe on not one, not three, but eighteen bagillion stations, were doing so not because the FCC would not allow them to play music by the Violent Femmes or The Replacements or The Cure, but because they WANTED to. Such disillusionment.

And so, I made mix tapes. Most of them have long since been lost, the victims to many messy moves, and thus when I discovered Napster back in, oh, 1998 or something, I quickly and without guilt set forth trying to recreate all of my mix tapes from my college years. These mix tapes, the Napster of their day, were taped from the radio to my boom box. Ah boom boxes. How quaint a word. I can’t imagine what my 18-year-old self would think of my iPod.

The problem with this is that my mixed tapes were just snippets of my listening pleasure during those brief few lovely months in Point, and then my recreation of said mix tapes were limited to only the artists and song titles I knew or could remember.

However, recently, due to the divine intervention of iTunes and their deliciously addictive music store, I have rediscovered a lost pearl. Peter Murphy’s Cuts You Up. Oh yes, Peter, yes. The moment I hit the preview and heard those haunting strings, it was like my head had transported back to May 1990, on my way out to a beach party, my hair in pigtails and my sunglasses on, a pair of long black leggings pulled over my swimsuit because there would be boys (during winter months, I cultivate a proper Victorian consumptive pallor) and also because May in Wisconsin is not always the warmest of months. And the sun was shining and there were overly charred 99-cent turkey dogs and possibly some underage drinking about to happen and I had the lucky coincidence of being the adored freshman roommate of a very popular and beautiful upperclassman, so it was an automatic in to hang out with guys who looked like actual men, who shaved and smoked and had bartending gigs and played guitars. And it cuts you up. La duh da da da DA da duh da da ladadadadadaaaah.

Thanks to reader Barbara, who has been sending me free Pepsi iTunes, I snagged that bad boy up before I even had a chance to consider it. And then, 1990? You’re soaking in it.

The song may have been released earlier than 1990, but because of radio free Green Bay, I never heard it until it was played on constant thirty minute loop on WWSP (the down low of the low end) and then never heard it again when I moved back to Green Bay. Peter Murphy disappeared from my brain, like the last name of my friend Karen and my old dorm room number (but my phone number was 345-6464! Still know that one! Because the health center was 346-4646 (and maybe still is), but on campus callers only dialed the last four digits and I’d regularly get calls requesting test results and bottles of Rid. This is why I never slept with anyone from that school’ I’m pretty sure that they all had raging cases of clap and genital lice). And then, just like that, he was back. Finding me in the morning, after dreams of distant signs. And this, my friends, was a delightful and unexpected find. A glimpse back in time, something I haven’t made banal through overplay and introspection. Sure, it’s only a matter of time before the cobwebs are cleared and I have new memories associated with it, the way that ‘Just Like Heaven’ now makes me think of my wedding weekend and how ‘All Out Of Love’ makes me think of hugging strangers-turned-best-friends at bar time. But for now, it’s there. I’m 18, fresh from my first professional writing gig, an entirety of college and life and possibilities stretching out like a Get Out Of Adolescence Free card and I have just discovered that there are people out there who like the same things I do, in just the same way. And that is a wonderful thing.

The comments section wants to know which songs are your musical time capsules.

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