Sunday, February 06, 2011

Things To Do On Long Car Trips

Today I took the kid to my Grandmother's house for Chinese New Year. The trip is about an hour long and I decided to bring my wife's iTouch with us. Why? Because I can load it with Caillou and she can watch a few episodes on the way. Worked like a charm. She watches movies and I can listen to Howard Stern without her hearing anything inappropriate.

It got me thinking about how I handled long trips in the car when I was a kid. I'll tell you we did a lot of long trips. Every Sunday, we'd be at my grandparents for dinner. That's one hour. After dinner, we'd drive my aunt to her dorm room at UCLA, then home, that's a good 90 minutes. Then twice a year, we'd travel 6 hours to San Francisco.

There's was nothing to do in the car. The radio was alway set to the news or classical music. BORING! Reading made us car sick and with six people in the car, it was alway cramped and uncomfortable.

I remember only one thing that made the time pass quickly. It was a device that we called the "Tape Recorder." Good old tape recorder. It was one of those small handhelds. I used the tape recorder three ways:

1. Bootlegging music. Long ago KFI was a top 40 station. In the morning was the comedy duo, Lohmen and Barkley. I'd just record the show and music onto the tape. I could edit out songs that I didn't like and have 60 or 90 minutes of musical pleasure. Illegal yes, but it provided monoral bliss.

2. Bootlegging movies. Junior high was the only time in my life that we had cable television. There was this movie channel called Showtime. I decided to tape record the sound from movies on Showtime. My ambitious plan only allowed me to record only one movie. Only one? Yes, most movies where rated R and I never had the time to sit for 90 minutes and record uninterrupted. My parents usually wanted to watch something else. What was that movie?

The World's Greatest Lover

Starred Gene Wilder as a wannabe Rudy Valentino. I can still remember bits of audio from that movie. Part of me still wishes, I had recorded The Bad News Bears.

3. My Own Radio Show. One day, I discovered that if I plugged our headphones into the microphone input of our stereo, I had a fully functional microphone. This began my first foray into radio broadcasting. I'd grab my parents 70's music albums and spin the hits. I must have made at least 10 broadcasts.

With the handheld recorder, I would also record shows on those long trips. It annoyed my family. They hated to hear me make them and worse, they hated hearing it over again in the same trip.

Thank God for portable DVD players and Satellite radio. But at the same time, this passive viewing of entertainment really does nothing to stimulate creativity in my child, like it did for me 35 years ago.