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Musing Magnetic: The Memory Remains

July 8, 2018

Pakol Magnetic

It was hard to stay connected with loved ones during the yearlong stint.  There were a couple of VOIP phones that we shared among the Base occupants and could use when bandwidth allowed.  I tried to talk to my wife and daughter back home roughly weekly. I also rang up my son, who was in his first year away at college, maybe biweekly.  The combination of a highly inconvenient time difference and my exceptionally poor telephone performance meant that the calls were seldom satisfactory.  I regularly heard myself inexplicably leading unnecessary inquests into whether yard work was being done and vehicles serviced or conducting ad hoc financial audits and unsolicited remote arbitration of minor disagreements.  I missed my family immensely and wanted desperately to send and receive love across those fleeting airwaves, but I too seldom found the correct frequency to carry that tune.

My kids grew up hearing music played constantly; in the car, in the house, and everywhere else.  With me, they’d hear rock and metal, and with their mom it was salsa, cumbia, and Top 40.  While I encouraged their own interests in “whatever the kids are listening to these days,” I also actively sought to cultivate in them an appreciation for the head-banging strain.  I loved it when my son caught Metallica fever in his middle school years.  I quickly bought him music lessons and a beautiful flame-top Ibanez SZ-series electric guitar, and then annoyed him endlessly to play Metallica riffs for me as he showed himself to be an incredibly fast-learner.  In later years, watching him rock the axe in high school bands would be some of my proudest vicarious musical moments.

So, when my boy mentioned during one of our globe-crossing calls that Metallica’s World Magnetic Tour would come through his college town, I told him he had to be there.  Unsurprisingly, he did not bristle at the command, accepting happily my instruction to use Dad’s credit card to score the tickets.  (Now that I think back on it, I actually had to give credit card guidance twice as he somehow inadvertently bought Jimmy Buffett vice Metallica tickets on the first online try.  How does one confuse the ‘Margaritaville’ dude with the purveyors of ‘Master of Puppets’?  I’m still flummoxed…)

The upcoming concert became the main topic of our much-improved phone connections through the fall.  As gig day neared, I was as excited as he was, if not more so.  When the actual day hit, I had calculated the time difference and knew just when he would be in the arena.  I got little work done as I daydreamed about the glories he was witnessing.  I felt close to him; I put on headphones and listened to Metallica and believed I could somehow sense his elation.

Within hours of the show ending, I was on the internet looking for reviews or a set list or anything else I could find.  What a wonderful surprise when I found that Metallica’s own site not only put up a set list, but offered for purchase an actual recording of the concert itself.  I double checked; it wasn’t a concert, it was the concert, the actual one my boy had attended.  I couldn’t type in my payment details fast enough.

We had strict rules about our communal satellite internet connection.  There was absolutely no streaming or downloading allowed.  It simply was not fair to use up that much bandwidth given the number of us that had to share it, a point I made to my colleagues regularly.  But I was the boss and I had a special family-related need, right?  I chose the poor-quality, but significantly smaller 128 kbps file option so as to slightly moderate my hypocrisy and started the download at about 0200 hours in hopes it would finish up before the morning online rush.  (Note: It didn’t.  Even opting for the lower bit rate, the full download took over six hours.)

I put the show on my iPod and listened to it repeatedly over the next few weeks, fantasizing I could hear my son within the crowd noise, yelling and singing along throughout the two hours of live metal.  Even though I was alone and using the headphones to block out the real world, it somehow felt like a two-way connection.  I burned the full gig onto a pair of CDs and sent them off on a protracted mail journey to him, but I doubt my son ever really understood how important that “shared” concert experience had been and remains for me.  In the middle of shit, those imagined two-hour turns rocking out with my beloved boy were a much-needed, emotional escape.  We’ve attended many fantastic concerts together before and since, but Metallica in Charlottesville, Virginia, on 17 October 2009 is, to me, the most special of all.

My boy is a man now, and once again we are separated by both distance and demeanor.  He is making me very proud on the other side of the country, achieving much and making his own mark.  He has unfortunately inherited my substandard telephone manner, however, which means the airwaves once again carry an insufficient charge when we speak.  I miss him dearly and worry he’s not as happy as I would wish him to be.  I want him to know how often I think about him, and I want him to know that the vast majority of those thoughts are thankful and loving, vice judgmental and prescriptive.  Most of all, I want him to know how deeply I pine for our next Metallica moment.

Metallica- Seek and Destroy (live), Charlottesville, Virginia; 17 Oct 2009:

From → Family, Music

  1. Great concert memories, shame you couldn’t have been there with your son, that would probably have been totally mind blowing.

  2. So much to enjoy and appreciate here. (Or hear?)

    Love ‘fleeting airwaves’. Somehow reminds me of Tim Buckley’s ‘Morning glory’ and his fleeting house. The post has something of that song’s tension between yearning and distance, too. The love so strong it is sometimes pain. As my boy is infiltrated by teenagehood I feel different currents between us, sometimes. Ah, Vic. I think I’ll have another glass of Sav Blanc.

    And I think that one day I should get a Metallica album.

    • Thanks for your beyond-the-pale endorsement of this one, VC. Much appreciated.

      Re the Metallica addition, don’t be swayed by the naysayers. Get yourself some Lulu post haste. That’s the one for you, sincerely. It’ll fit nicely with the other acquired tastes among your treasures. You need it for your Lou Reed section if nothing else.

  3. I once wrote a list of conversational topics to aid my telephonic communication. Didn’t help. Perhaps the best use I found for the phone was to hold it up at a concert after yelling out something like ‘listen to Jim Keyes’.

    • Ha! I’ve absolutely done that concert call! I imagine there are tips for improving phone performance — likely including your attempted fix — all over the internet, but looking up and implementing them seems too forced. What we really need is a perceptive AI to handle the phone for us, managing a smooth conversational flow and preemptively saying/sharing all the things we would have otherwise kicked ourselves for missing afterwards.

      • AI chip a byte too far for me
        (sorry, can’t resist a pun).

  4. I loved this post, despite the presence of emotions and feelings in it. Alas! my son is impervious to THE ROCK! I can quite understand that yearning, geographically amplified in your case, for a shared experience and I think you hit upon a great solution.

    I love the idea of you hassling your family about yard work from another continent – what a hard ass!

  5. To echo a couple of the other comments here, I absolutely loved this. The shared love of music… of a particular band… the desire to throw your lad the opportunity to go see them… that there is what it’s all about.

    My two kids are still very young… but the wee lad is showing an interest in all the things that his daddy likes (last night when I got home he asked if we could listen to a record… I smiled… he pulled some Junior Kimbrough from the shelf and planted himself on the couch). I look forward to one day purchasing tickets for him to go see whichever band we share a fondness for and going and sharing that experience… or if I can’t make it, making sure he can… and hoping that there’s a recording of it.

    Thanks for sharing this.

    • Your youngster is on a pretty amazing life path if he’s pulling out the Junior Kimbrough to listen to with daddy. Thanks a ton for your positive reinforcement, J. And thanks for sharing right back at ya.

      • I like to think he’ll stick to the stuff he’s picked up from me… at least the life-affirming stuff!

  6. Now this, this is music writing done right. Damn! Man, what a story you tell. Fantastic post and I’m so impressed with your vicarious connection to being at the show and with your Lad. The Metallica family may not have intended exactly this level of kismet when they launched that download live bootleg thing but my my my that’s a legacy the internet can be proud of (even on such feeble Bandwidth)

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