Somewhere in all the alienation and ennui of modernity and adulthood, I lost the magic of solitude. In the age of pandemic, it clings to me with a sense of claustrophobia, sticking to me like a film of sweat on my skin that I can never quite wash clean. The house, the city, the country, the world are suffocating. I search in desperation for the moments and quiet places where I can catch my breath.
1988, Friday nights home alone, in my bedroom with the radio on, huddled beneath a blanket fort with my action figures or my books. The scholastic bookfair edition, dumbed down, violence and sexuality toned down, edition of Dracula, with a drawing of an open grave, spider crawling across a wooden casket with a skeletal, vampiric hand was my favorite.
Power 96, weekend Power Mix live DJ sets coming from the clock radio on the dresser, yellow streetlight sneaking through the slats in the shutters. I felt at home in the night, even back then. At the most ease underneath my skin with nobody else around. My parents watched TV and smoked cigarettes in the living room, maybe Dateline or 20/20, until it was time for bed. I set the sleep timer on the radio for an hour. My mother tucked me into bed, always leaving the door open just a crack with the hall light on. I would lay awake, listening to the radio, watching the light through the shutters, the shadows dance across the floor when a breeze caught the tree outside my window. Late night DJs to keep me company, the solace of sound to lull me to sleep.
A boombox with a strap, I carried the radio with me Saturday mornings, off to the park beneath the powerlines before the world woke up. The Powerlines, all the kids called the park, a mile long, double figure 8 bike path cut through big open fields ensconced on all sides by suburbs. A concrete and high-tension wire canyon cut through South Florida swamp land. The omnipresent hum of electricity above, transmission towers stretching across the horizon, as far as the eye could see, into infinity. Tropical parrots made their nests in the crossbeams, their calls occasionally cutting through the constant hum.
I rode the loop slowly, a copy of Vital Idol dubbed from a neighbor’s older sister in my boombox. While White Wedding seemed so brooding and scary (Gimme a break! I was 7!), and Dancing with Myself to this day remains one of the first songs I ever connected to on an emotional level, AND, I will admit to having come up with a dance routine for Hot in the City, which I performed for my parents, on the kitchen counter, clad only in a pair of blue jeans and a tiny blue denim jacket with no shirt on underneath (I’ve always wondered what kind of nervous post-bedtime conversations between my parents that inspired). The remix of Catch My Fall at the end of the album was my favorite song, and continues to be a song I love to this day.
The song hit, Sitting in an empty playground, watching big, ominous South Florida skylines, wondering where the powerlines ended, imagining the electricity buzzing above me carried to some vast urban elsewhere. A place where gritty city lights never turn out for the night, and there is always a current of excitement in the air. Where there is always music playing and everyone looks cool, leaning against a wall, possibly going nowhere.
A storm rolled off the ocean from the west. Thunder rumbled. Lightning flashed in the distance. Always a sign that it was time to head home. As if on cue, a transformer exploded on one of the lines across the lake. A flash and a bang, the houses just beneath it went dark. The wind picked up, and I heard sirens in the distance. I put one foot in front of the other and pedaled home.