The new and as yet unopened interstate was an broad, empty band of fresh pavement that reared up from around a gentle bend and disappeared around another, heading north and south. We followed the freshly-painted lane lines on the family Schwinns, with me buckled into in my child seat on the back of my mother’s bike and my sister marking an invisible wavy line in a continuous slalom through the dashed lines.
“He’s at it again, Cleve,” my mother said, and my father turned back, slowing down just enough to sidle up and reach over to make sure I was still properly strapped in. Their bikes were a matched pair of metallic blue Deluxe Varsity Tourist models with chromed fenders and bulbous headlamps powered by bottle-shaped generators that tipped into the tires a little electricity, and they gleamed in the sun, aromatic with the scent of metal polish and oil.
“I don’t think he can reach, hon,” he said.
“He’s sure trying, though,” she said, and they chuckled at the sight of me hanging off the back of my Mom’s bike, struggling to do myself an injury. I just looked up, furrowing my brow and glaring at my dad, then went back to that irresistible task of self-mutilation.
We breezed southward in close formation, crossing over where the abandoned track of the old Scaggsville Road was cut off by the new pavement, and went as far as the dam before heading for home with the setting sun warm on our backs. The road was raw and perfect, still almost untouched, an empty place that would soon be roaring with traffic.
In the golden light, I grunted and writhed, struggling furiously against the straps on my seat, trying as hard as I could to jam my feet into the spokes.
The full video of my live stream of an improvised score and off-the-cuff telling of several stories about the anxieties of youth, as originally broadcast on 4 December 2020 via Nick’s International Virtual Garage 2020, an excellent Twitch channel for the work of electronic and electro-acoustic musicians.
If you’re interested in an audio recording of the performance, it’s available on Bandcamp on a choose-your-own-price basis [and I’m content with zero as the price as long as you let people know about it].
Twelve years ago, I got inspired by the potential of podcasting and started two podcast series, Last Night I Dreamed I Was You, a spoken-word podcast for storytelling, philosophical explorations, and rambling narratives inspired by my greatest inspiration, radio novelist, Jean Shepherd, and 12 Minute Travelogues, a series of ambient music experiments. For more focused podcasters with the drive and skill to get their work out there, those were good times, but I never managed to cultivate an audience and social media was then still pretty much just freestanding blogs and Livejournal. I changed careers, got on a busy track, and drifted away from my podcasts, but 2017 is a different climate, and the collective interest in word-of-mouth storytelling is at new heights, so I’m going to try it again.
This one’s the last of the original run of Last Night I Dreamed I Was You, a late-night reflection on endings and how we need them. I’m hoping to get the new series running within the month, working in the mode of telling small stories that add up to a larger narrative.
If you like what you hear, watch this page. When the podcast is ready, I’ll post links to your favorite podcast index as well as embedded players in case you prefer to listen via joebelknapwall.com from your browser.
Here’s a recording of my first reading of five little stories about falling in love with sound and electricity, to the accompaniment of digital sound and signal processing. I performed the pieces on Friday, 5 Sep 2014, as part of the Electro-Music 2014 Conference and Festival in Huguenot NY.