in their chairs, the most serious of them all
said it was his car,
being in it alone, his tape deck playing
things he’d chosen, and others knew the truth
had been spoken
and began speaking about their rooms,
their hiding places, but the car kept coming up,
the car in motion,
music filling it, and sometimes one other person
who understood the bright altar of the dashboard
and how far away
a car could take him from the need
to speak, or to answer, the key
in having a key
and putting it in, and going.
“The Sacred” by Stephen Dunn
My first car was a red, 4-speed Volkswagon diesel Rabbit. My dad put a small headlight in the middle of the grill so that it would be distinct from every other car on the road. The sound system (if you can call it that) was minimal: a dial radio / tape deck with two working speakers- the front left and rear right. Songs sounded different because one of sides of the stereo (as opposed to mono) was absent. This resulted in words, guitar rifs, beats and other musical elements that went unspoken.
As a teenager growing up in Akron, Ohio, having a soundsytem in your car meant something. Rappers like DJ Quik, NWA, and 2 Live Crew made music explicitly (pardon the pun) for bass speakers. Much of this music was lost in my car. In fact, having a diesel engine only deadened the music.
But I can still remember the sacredness of driving with the radio on. Whatever fad song I was listening to at the time- Metallica, Beastie Boys, Vanilla Ice, Petra, that theme song to “Robin Hood”- I was enveloped. I was free. I was shifting gears like Mario Andretti, driving up Reed Avenue or down Brown Street, going to youth group off of Route 8- lost in a soundtrack that only had every other word and every other beat.