Em & M Live!

“So my mom texted and asked me to check in on my dad.”

“Oh oh. Everything alright?”

“Well, yeah. You know. It’s my dad. So… She was just looking for a second opinion, I guess.”

“They back together now?”

“God no. That’s never going to happen, M. They’ve got a perfectly good arrangement. They like each other. Just can’t live under the same roof. You know. Their houses are just down the street from each other.”

“Oh, right. Seems amicable and all that?”

“Oh yeah. Friendly even. Bit of rough patch right now though. Mom’s dating her pickleball partner who used to be dad’s squash partner back in the day. You know, when everybody could still actually run.”

“Crazy kids, eh?”


“So what was your mom worried about?”

“Well, she was out the other night walking the dog.”

“Do they share custody?”

“Of Leo?”

“That the dog’s name?”

“Yeah. Leo. And no. Leo’s mom’s. Dad’s a cat guy.”

“Oh, that’s right. And how many does he have these days?”

“Four, I think. At least that’s how many I saw when I went over.”

“Huh. And what was going on? Why’d your mom want you to check in with him?

“Like I said, she was out walking the dog.”


“Yeah, Leo. And apparently, when she was walking past dad’s place, it was really loud, music blaring. She thought he was having a party but when she snuck up to take a peak, there was nobody else there but dad.”

“She snuck up to have a peak? Like, through a window?”

“I guess. I didn’t ask.”

“Kinda weird, isn’t it, Em? Your mom peeping Tom through your dad’s windows?”

“I never said their relationship was without quirks.”

“For sure. I mean, whose is?”

“Right? Anyways, according to my mom, dad was just sitting on the couch listening to music really loud. Really, really loud.”

“Huh. Maybe he’s losing his hearing. That happens as you age.”

“Sure. But the concerning thing for my mom, apparently, was that dad was singing along to the really, really loud music, using a pepper mill as a microphone. Mom thought it was Todd… Rundgren? That right? Todd Rundgren?”

“There is a musician named Todd Rundgren, yes. Musician. Producer.”

“OK. Dad was singing along to Todd Rundgren.”

“Using a pepper mill for a microphone.”

“That’s what mom said, yeah.”


“Turns out dad’s on some sort of live album bender, I found out when I went over.”

“A what now?”

“Live albums. Dad told me they were really big when he was growing up. He’s still got lots from back then. Listening to them in high rotation, apparently. Created a playlist more than 50 hours long when he wants to listen to them on random. Over 600 songs. Likes the element of surprise he told me.”

“Wow! That’s… uhhh… Everybody needs a hobby, I guess.”

“But he’s really, really into it right now. Really into it.”

“Tripping down memory lane, you think?”

“Who knows? He told me I wouldn’t understand because kids these days just can’t fathom how vital live albums were to his generation.”

“Kids these days.”

“Yep. Unless you were actually at the concert, there was no other way to hear or see a band live. Not back then. Not until Saturday Night Light. They didn’t have the YouTubes and streaming services like kids these days have.”

“What about Ed Sullivan. The Beatles. Elvis from the waist up.”

“I said that. Apparently it was all canned, dad claims. Piped in and they just lip synched. Not the real deal. Ma-a-a-a-n. And could you imagine Iggy and the Stooges on Ed Sullivan, dad asked me. Ma-a-a-a-n. What’s an Iggy and the Stooges, M?”

“A Detroit boy band.”

“How about a Mott the Hoople?”

“Walking with a Moun-tain. Ma-a-a-a-n. I’m in the Hoople loop. Maybe it’s just a phase. You know how old people go through their phases.”

“He went on and on about how it’s different these days, our relationship with music. We don’t have the emotional tactility to it they did. The emotional tactility.”

“He said that?”

“Exact words. Their long playing albums with their cool cover art design and graphics—”

“Roger Dean, Barney Bubbles, yeah.”

“Sure, OK. The liner notes with the lyrics, like pages of poetry. Studied them with a fine-tooth comb. Committed the lyrics to memory, Emma! he shouted at me over some interminable guitar solo. Like, it went on and on and on, M! For 10 minutes!”

“How about some of those drum solos too.”

“Right? What the hell?”

“Gave people time to get a beer, go to the bathroom.”

“Then dad started talking Hayek and Mises and marginalist economics, for god’s sake. How putting out four bucks or whatever for one album – Don’t scoff, Emma. Four dollars was a lot of money when you were only getting twenty-five cents for your weekly chores. Do you know what chores were, Emma?—”

“He did not.”

“He was dad joking, sort of. Having to make those hard decisions, when you could only afford a couple albums a month. Made you passionate about your music. It let the world know who you were. Beatles or the Stones. Ma-a-a-a-n. Igster and the Stupids versus Mott’s Clamato.”

“Now, you’re just embarrassing yourself.”

“Whatever. It was a bit much.”

“Well, I will say that your dad’s on to something with that.”

“With what?”

“Well, value and the marginalists.”

“Uh huh.”

“No seriously. You drop, what? Ten dollars a month for some music streaming service—”

“A buck and change in 70s dollars.”

“OK. And you have access to pretty much the world’s musical library. Almost anything and everything ever recorded and then digitized. So much to choose from at a negligible cost that any choice you make winds up being next to meaningless. That’s before you even factor in the ease of playing music these days. A click of the mouse. Don’t like what you’re hearing? Click on the next song. So what’s the value of that music to you, Em? Arguably, approaching value-less, yeah?”

“Five billion Swifties would like to have a word.”

“Tell them to bring up with the marginalists. Or your dad.”

“It’s just… all so cliched, M. Old Man Rocks Out To The Music Of His Youth, Bemoans The Passage Of Time.”

“I don’t know. Nothing intrinsically wrong with mourning the loss of something that was special for you. A rite of passage on your way to death. Compile the soundtrack of your life. The music that made you who you are. Don’t tell me you haven’t started that list.”

“That list?”

“The playlist you want for your funeral.”

“… I’ve been busy… not planning the details of my own death.”

“Never too early. You don’t want to be struck down, out of the blue, and have somebody else be picking your songs. I mean… let me see… Something from Matchbox 20?”

“There’s nothing wrong with… And anyway, I see my thing—”

“Funeral. Your funeral. We’re all going to die, Em.”

“Off the top of my head, I see my… memorial flowing more with poetry than music.”

“Somebody’s going to want to hear some music. I’m just stating a fact here.”

“Tell you what. If I predecease you, as they say, I’ll have it in the will that you get to pick the music for my… Celebration of Life! How’s that?”

“Your funeral, as they say.”

“I’ll be dead. And I’m fine with Matchbox 20, wise guy.”

“What about a drum solo? A twenty-minute version of something or other from the Allman Brothers at Fillmore East?”

“Like I said, I’ll be dead, M.”


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