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It’s finally hit me: I miss record stores!

Recently, a friend and I were going to spend some time in the car driving to an underwater archaeology lecture at a nearby college. We had just seen Bohemian Rhapsody and were dying to listen to Queen.

The only Queen music we both owned was still on cassette, believe it or not.

“So…how are we going to listen to it in the car?” she asked.

I went through a whole thing about streaming on the phone and hooking up the Bluetooth and all of this other complicated stuff. And then it occurred to me, for the first time in probably years, that I could just go to the mall on my lunch break and get a CD!

Then I thought…wait, who still sells CDs around here? FYE is gone, Best Buy’s selection is nil if it even still exists at all, and there are no more specialty stores like Record Town (remember THAT?) or The Wall. I called my housemate Charles, but he really didn’t have too many ideas either—except for Gerosa Records. That was probably worth a shot, but it was too far for me to go on a lunch break.

In the past few years, I haven’t really missed being able to just run out and buy a CD; I’ve gotten incredibly used to Amazon Prime and having them arrive in a day or so or downloading an MP3. I like the new way of doing things: yes, there’s instant gratification, and yes, I can simply purchase only one song and not all of them (there were singles and Cassingles, but most of those were for the popular tunes only. You wanted something that wasn’t released as a single? You had to buy the entire album). But it’s not the same as getting into your car, unwrapping that cellophane and inhaling that plastic and new disc smell, slipping it into your stereo and mmmm.

What did I end up doing? I dashed home after work, downloaded some MP3’s, and burned them to a CD. But I gotta tell ya—nope, just nope. Nothing would have been more magical than to go to a record store at lunch and pick up exactly what I wanted.

Bummer.

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CHEAP THRILLS AT THE CAR WASH

Life in the car wash. Photo by Maureen McFarlane.

When I was four, we spent every Sunday afternoon in West Haven. Quite frankly, every week was torture; I was bored out of my mind and would rather have been home playing. Until one spring day, when Auntie Ree loaded me into her giant Cadillac and took me to the automated car wash. She rolled up the windows and pumped the Sinatra, and the ride-through was magical. After that, I looked forward to Sundays as much as I would a trip to Disney World.

I’d forgotten this until recently. It was a rare beautiful day and my friend Mo and I were going to get our nails done—but apparently, so was everybody else in Danbury; the place didn’t have an opening. “Oh well,” she said. “I wanted to get my car washed anyway.”

My heartbeat quickened as the car cuffed up on the conveyor belt and Mo pegged the stereo, which she’d cued to Train’s “Save Me San Francisco.” Water and soap shrouded the windows, brushes thrummed on the windshield, the car shimmied—all as we slowly advanced toward the glowing portal of the exit.

Just about everyone I know—including me—seems to be undergoing transformation. There is moving, breaking up, starting over, career change, new direction. These changes, while ultimately positive, are often fraught with complicated issues and feel as though they take forever to get through. Going through the car wash was a reminder that there’s not much we can do to eliminate all the bumps along the way or speed up the process—we’ll get doused with water, beaten with brushes, and pulled on a slow-moving conveyor belt until the process is complete. The thing that’s important to remember is that eventually, we’ll reach the exit—and we’ll be a lot cleaner.

Might as well just turn up the music and enjoy the ride.

Those rag-thingies--I don't think they're called brushes anymore, are they? Anybody have any clue?--smackin' the windshield. Photo: Maureen McFarlane.

Me at the car wash. Photo: Maureen McFarlane.

The light at the end of the tunnel! Photo: Maureen McFarlane.

Maureen.

The mighty sprayers. This is when it really feels like you're inside a cocoon in a storm. Photo: Maureen McFarlane.

Another shot of the sprayers in action. Photo: Maureen McFarlane.

When the water begins to run off. Photo: Maureen McFarlane.

Here are a few songs I hold dear as “Car Wash Favorites” and the links to where you can purchase them as MP3’s from Amazon.com in case you’re interested. Feel free to put some of your own suggestions in the comments area!

“Life is a Highway,” Tom Cochrane

“This Cowboy Song,” Sting

“The Tide Will Rise,” Bruce Hornsby & the Range

“Save Me, San Francisco,” Train

“The Way You Make Me Feel,” Michael Jackson

All clean! Photo: Maureen McFarlane.

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