A Weekly Column

By Joseph Walker



I donít know about you, but Iím tired today. No, I take that backó Iím exhausted. I blame it on the needle. You knowóthe one on our record player.

A couple of years ago our old needle wore out. Do you have any idea how hard it is to find a phonograph needle these days? We didnít find one until yesterday. So last night I put on the headphones and kicked back for some tuneful R&R (rock and relaxation). I stayed with it until about 3 a.m., working my way through the musical soundtrack of my life, with vinyl-ized performances by the Association, the Beach Boys, the BeeGees, the Carpenters and Chicago.

The music took me back through time to people, places and feelings I had almost forgotten. For example, "Cherish" by the Association took me back to 7th grade and a summer party in Jan Davisí backyard. All of a sudden, Iím standing there like an idiotóagainóhelplessly watching Alan Burningham steal Gayle Hayes out from under my adolescent noseóagainóbecause he has sideburns, an Adamís apple and long hair, and he knows how to slow dance (and it doesnít hurt that heís an 8th graderóyou know how women love older men).

"How Can You Mend A Broken Heart?" by the BeeGees took me to the Taco Hut at a local amusement park, where I worked the summer it was popular. I could just see the crowds of people. I could hear the carousel playing the local high school fight song over and over again. I could feel the steam heat rising from the serving table. I could even smell that . . . meat or whatever it was we were putting in the tacos that year. And it still makes me nauseous 28 years later.

Then I heard "The Warmth of the Sun" by the Beach Boys and found myself in a darkened gym at Millcreek Junior High. My hands are sweaty. My stomach is in knots. My knees are trembling. Slowly, I start walking toward Heidi Van Ert. Iím going to ask her. Iím going to do it. Iím going to walk right up and ask her . . . ask her . . . ask her . . .

"So, Heidi . . . uh . . . how did you do on Mr. Tooneís math test?"

OK, so even after all these years I still couldnít bring myself to ask the most popular girl in the 9th grade to dance. Itís still a fun memory. At least, I think it is. I mean, life was simpler then, wasnít it? There was less stress. Less frustration. We were carefree. Werenít we?

Well, werenít we?

Until I took my musical journey back through time Iíd forgotten how hard it was to be young. While itís true that adolescent angst seems trivial and inconsequential from the perspective of adulthood, when youíre a kid, childhood trauma is still . . . well . . . traumatic. Remember bullies? Remember pop quizzes? Remember pouring out your deepest heart-felt feelings in a carefully worded note, and then waiting anxiously for the response? Remember zits?

Such things may be fun to remember, but they werenít especially fun to live. When it comes right down to it, the good old days werenít all that great. For every joyful memory to which we nostalgically cling, there is pain tucked away that we tend to forget. And thatís OK, I guess, as long as we donít diminish our attention to "today" by giving "yesterday" more credit than it deserves. The way I see it, "today" is the only day that really counts, because itís the only day we can do anything about. "Yesterday" is gone; "tomorrow" hasnít arrived. But today is hereóright nowóand itís clean and fresh and full of possibility. Live it. Love it. Seize it.

With or without a musical soundtrack.

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--- (c) Joseph Walker


Look for Joe's book, "How Can You Mend a Broken Spleen? Home Remedies for an Ailing World." It is available on-line through and