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Father Problems: On Playing Loud Music When You Are Home Alone

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Turn it up.

I have always liked to play loud music. The opportunities for doing this for a father are limited, though. So I often find myself eyeing a patch of time in the schedule, when one arises, when I can conspire to be home alone. I have this old stereo receiver that once belonged to a relative, and it is very powerful. I have these modest size Bose speakers that, in spite of their size, are capable of astonshing volume and depth of sound. And so, as they used to say on that archaic television show, “We have the technology.”

It’s the time that is lacking. The time and space.  So I keep an eye out for opportunities to blast music when I am alone in the house. They roll around now and then. I am, as I write, in the midst of one of these spacious episodes. And yet I have not blasted any music, and it is looking like I will not be blasting any music. Nor will I beat on the bongo drum — there is a better word for it, it’s African, but it is not coming to mind, and bongo drum gets the point across. Instead, I sit here in silence. I marinate in silence.

Why is this? By extension, is this a wasted opportunity? Am I squandering something valuable? (This is a condition of being a parent, I have decided, the alertness to signs of waste, to squandering either time or money. Or maybe love. There’s also the alertness to more mundane things like half eaten containers of yogurt that you, the dad, as a kind of all-purpose last line of defense against waste, will eat; or not making extravagant use of the heating or AC when in the house alone, and so forth.

I have noticed a similar dynamic in the car, another instance in which one could, in theory, blast music though it is not as private as being in the house. I should add that I now live, for the first time in my entire life, in a house. Previously, I had always lived in apartments.  There was always an awareness of neighbors.  I am not saying this awareness translated in to a consideration of neighbors, but it was present nonetheless. (A great apartment life with kids story, here.)

Not so in a house. Really, unless your sound system would work for a Deep Purple concert, you are not going to bother the neighbors, as long as the windows are all closed, which in my house they generally are.

There must be a reason for this failure to blast music when home alone. What could it be? I offer the following proposals.

1) Part of the pleasure in blasting music is the sense of return. It’s as though the sheer force of the music and its volume is a kind of tornado clearing out all the psychic underbrush in your head, in the absence of which you can at last see where you are and where you have been. You can connect the two. It’s not regressive, exactly, because it’s not about pretending to be an age you no longer are. But it does involve reaching into the past.  Except at this point I have accumulated so many pasts I am not sure which one I want to reach. Or, to put it more simply: I  can’t decide what music to play.

2)What I most like about being home alone with the ability to blast music is the condition of looking forward to being home alone with the ability to blast music. However much I might like to actualy blast music, it’s better to feel that I am about to. And so I keep myself in this state of anticipation until the window for opportunity has closed.

3) Maybe the song that I would most like to hear is silence. Maybe that is my new favorite track. Also, silence can be very loud. It has advantages similar to the advantages of loud music — both have an almost cathartic effect on the space you are in, and on your mind. They clear the air. The thing about silence is that once you have listened to it long enough, and loud enough, it has a transformative effect on the sounds that follow. With silence you can be alone with your thoughts. After you’ve had some time alone with your thoughts, interruptions  - such as the oblivious, cacophonous shrieks and cries of the young people crashing in through the front door - become much more welcome.

I am always happy about this moment of arrival but, not to be too sentimental, it is exactly at the moment the window of opportunity to blast music closes that I  most wish I had blasted music. At which point I start looking out for the next opportunity.

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