Barry Smith: Irrelativity
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
It’s my birthday this week.
I wish I could say that I’m excited, but every year I get older I find myself plagued by this one nagging regret. As I start my forty-third trip around the sun it’s worse than ever. You see, there was this one day, years ago, which I failed to properly seize, and I just can’t seem to let it go.
Maybe sharing my tale will allow you to learn from my mistakes.
I went to Montclair High School in Montclair, Calif., a town 40 miles east of L.A. At MHS they would play music over the campus PA system exactly one minute before each bell. You hear music playing, you know that you have 60 seconds to get to class. The system was automated, with the music coming from an integrated cassette player.
For most of my high school years the cassette in the player was Queen’s 1980 album, “The Game.” I’ve heard that album many, many times, in 60-second bursts. There’s nothing quite like hearing “Another One Bites The Dust” as you race to class to take your final.
I remember being in the office for some reason or another and actually seeing this automated music/bell contraption in the corner, right there in plain view. It looked like a pretty simple device ” kinda like a tape player. Hmmm …
Meanwhile, back at home, my brother Bryan (who also has a birthday this week ” Happy Birthday, Bryan!) and I had discovered the joy of recording our flatulence. I set up a little “recording studio,” a boom box in the corner of my bedroom with the tape always cued up to the right spot, so that when nature called (or at least knocked) one need merely make their way quickly to the corner, press record, and, you know, express yourself.
Soon it was no longer enough to just record flatulence, we had to give it context. Sing a little song, for instance, a song that could be punctuated by a funny rumbling/squeaking sound. Oldies seemed to work best. We continued to expand from there. Bryan raised the bar further with cartoon quotes, like Marvin the Martian saying, “I’m going to blow up the Earth,” followed by the sound of, you know, the Earth blowing up.
I’m trying to be mature and clinical about it, but man, it was funny. Really funny. I was 15, Bryan was 9, and if there’s anything funnier than recording yourself pooting at that age then I want to know what it is. We listened to this tape over and over, and knowing what was about to happen did not make it any less funny. Nor did listening to it every day, several times a day. For months. Whew. Good stuff.
Then one day I had an idea ” what if I took this tape and secretly swapped it out with the school’s “Queen” tape? Oh my God! Yes! Suddenly I had a goal in life.
I obsessed on this beautiful scenario for weeks. Can you imagine it? Instead of hearing 60 seconds of “Dragon Attack” for the umpteenth time, the entire school ” 2,000 students! ” would be scrambling to class to the sounds of me saying, “A womp bomp a loo bomp, a womp bam … pffffffffthhhhhhhh,” followed by me and my brother giggling. Then Bryan would come in with, “Well it’s a one for the money, two for the show, three to … pffffffthhhhhh…” and on and on until the bell.
The thought of this made me dizzy with happiness. It still kinda does, if I’m being totally honest.
A girl in my history class was on student council, so she did some work in the office. I quizzed her on the music/bell system like I was planning a bank heist. How many feet from the door to the tape player? Should I tunnel? Can you get me a floor plan? She told me that if I gave her a tape, she would swap it out for me, no problem. I didn’t mention what was on the tape, of course.
Yes, really. It was that simple. I was one tape-handing-to-someone-else away from realizing my dream.
And … I just never did it. I never gave her the tape. I chickened out. This could have been a tale of triumph ” my flatulence echoing through the halls of MHS for 60 glorious seconds, getting called to the office after the student council girl narced me off, having a counselor conference with my Dad (!), grounding, detention, being called “Fart Boy” for the rest of my high school years ” oh, it would have made for such a great story.
But instead of going for it I, well … I held it in.
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For the past five-plus years I have sat in a big chair in a small office on Hyman Avenue watching life in Aspen and the Roaring Fork Valley play out in front of me.