The natural progression of things: Boy gets stereo. Boy gets car. Boy gets car stereo. It's a story I know well, and it is currently getting another play in our driveway. This makes sense, since car stereo is the place where I would fully expect to intersect with my son's love of cars. For months now, my eyes have glazed over as my son has described all the moving parts of the automobile he would eventually own. He has entertained all kinds of notions about mufflers and ignitions and wheels and all manner of other modifications he could make to his once and future car. I changed some spark plugs back in the day, and certainly added my share of oil to the crankcase of my Chevrolet Vega, but I would not have labeled myself as a grease monkey.
I did, however, spend a good deal of time and energy connecting speakers and equalizers and cassette players and radios to the interiors of cars that I owned as wells as those of my friends and family. This was an extension of the enthusiasm I had for home stereo systems, generated in large part by hanging around with my older brother who was fascinated by all things tweeter, woofer, and component. Finding new and louder ways to play music at home and in our cars was our prime directive. The seventies and eighties were a magical time when it came to portable stereo. Not the Walkman kind, but the Carman kind. A couple of my friends offered to come over and help me install my new Jensen triaxial speakers in that misbegotten Vega. It took six hours and as many hacksaw blades, but they finally found a way to get them effectively mounted on the inside of my car. It was a traumatic experience, and I swore that if anyone was going to tear up the vinyl of my car, it was going to be me.
I added a graphic equalizer, then upgraded the radio and cassette player. I stayed busy connecting wires: blue to blue, red to red, and what's this green wire with a black stripe? I made them all work, eventually. More often than not, the stereo equipment in cars that I owned far outstripped the value of the cars themselves. As I have mentioned here from time to time, I don't really like to drive. But I do like to listen to music. By taking that music out of the house, my parents weren't there to tell me to turn it down.
That's why I went out in front of our house this past weekend to watch my son move his own music out to the streets. There was some mild frustration, and some equally mild cursing, but mostly the scene was familiar. I wanted to get my head up under the dashboard and start snipping and splicing, but I knew this was not my time. Not my car. Instead, I went inside and burned a CD for my son to test his new system: Aerosmith, Van Halen, Judas Priest. His car. My music. Once everything was hooked up and ready to go, he did the right thing. He turned it up.