We used to listen to these CDs from the library. In the car. Fucking ring-a-ring-a-rosies. The fucking Wiggles. Bloody Peter Combe. All this shit. You have a car stereo. You have a wee kid. We tried audio-books with stories and for a while it was just fine to listen to The Beatles. Something for the whole family. But then the young lad got hooked on the nursery rhymes. Rotten ear-worms from the apple of my eye. I felt sick to my core.
But one Christmas we received the greatest gift. (We weren’t expecting much from him, he’d only just turned three). And technically ‘we’ weren’t given a thing. And it was just 10c. But it’s the thought that counts. He put a ten-cent piece into the slot of the CD player. I was out on Christmas Eve playing cheesy 80 songs in a bar for a wee bit more than 10 cents. And she rang. A bit out of breath almost. The boy’s done this. He’s killed the stereo. And here he is. He has to talk to you. Has to tell you what he’s done. And he did. He tried. He cried. He said he was sorry. He worried the stereo would ever work again…
And that’s when I realised that something magical might be possible.
I tried my best to be a good dad. Told him not to be sad. Told him tomorrow was Christmas, get a good night’s sleep. Santa was on his way. So no late chance of making the naughty list. Just get some rest.
Next morning I bounded up and out to the car, the edge of that reddish-brown coin just sticking out from the pursed lips of the CD player.
I grabbed a disc and pushed the 10c piece down into the slot, it dropped down as if entering a jukebox. No song came on. But we were now able to play whatever we liked. The 10c piece could live in the stereo. This also meant we could tell a story about how there were certain things we were unable to play. Like, for instance, CDs…
Those first few days we tried to enjoy the radio. When that became a chore, I started sneaking CDs into the car and distracting my son with a wave of a hand, a point out the window, a well-timed opening of some cracker biscuits, a drink, shadow-puppets. Fuck I don’t know. Everything. Anything.
And then quickly the CD would slip into the gap and we’d be off down the road with Bob Dylan or Randy Newman or Aphex Twin coming too. We’d have Suzanne Vega or Joni Mitchell along for the ride. A bit of Idris Muhammad say. (I do say). Some Bernard Purdie next.
It was joyous. Utterly joyous.
And the only catch?
A complicated set of tiny white lies, the car had a hard-drive, a special computer, it had memory see. It could remember all of daddy’s favourite things from when they had first been loaded. Not the library CDs, no. Not the kiddie-things. Just the classics that had been around the block, in some sort of literal sense at least.
He’s six now. And he never asks about the music in the car. Just enjoys it. Or doesn’t. If he does complain I point out that it’s a shame – that time he jammed money in the car stereo. Because it means that sometimes the Miles Davis or Bill Frisell or Buckethead that maybe ain’t no good still just has to play. Because the car can only remember what it is able to remember.
Make every trip a guilt trip, sure. Why not when it’s money well spent. And all for just ten cents.