Let’s begin at the beginning, shall we?

I like to blame my dad for this rock and roll problem that’s plagued my quality of life for the last twenty-two years. It’s not a complaint – quite the opposite, actually. I just like to give my dad a hard time. When I was a kid, I used to make fun of his male pattern baldness. I voted for Dukakis in my first grade mock election because Dad voted for Bush, then proudly announced my choice at the dinner table, gleefully satisfied by his facetious sneer. I’ve always adored him, and this type of bullshit is how I show love. I am an unrepentant smart-ass and have been since birth.

Truthfully, he bequeathed to me a passion that would survive my teen years and irreversibly shape my adulthood. My life’s pretty awesome, and I’m thankful to him. You hear that? Thanks, Dad. It’s still your fault.

___

Houston, 1986:

I’m four years old, and we’re on our way to the zoo. I love the zoo – not because of the animals, they all seem depressed. I’m looking forward to riding the little train that spins around the place at five miles an hour. Damn, that train’s fun. I’m also partial to the gift shop and the prospect of needling my parents into buying me a new stuffed animal. The morning sun’s blasting through the car window, and I’m watching the badlands of Main Street whizz by, utterly content.

My dad is listening to the classic rock station, the only station he ever chooses. A song comes on that I haven’t heard before. The lyrics are a story. An astronaut is about to blast off into space. Ground control wishes him well, and off he goes. The astronaut is psyched. He seems to really dig his cozy space ship and the beautiful view.

He sounds a little off in the second verse. I’ve seen enough adult television to know that, “Tell my wife I love her very much,” generally foreshadows doom. My interest is seriously piqued, and given the astronaut’s pretty, delicate voice, I’m sympathetic and begin to worry for the protagonist. There’s something wrong, they tell him. The circuit’s dead? I’m now anxious as hell.

Suddenly, my lip’s quivering, tears are streaming down my cheeks, and I’m thinking, “Answer them, Major Tom! Answer them!” The planet Earth is still blue, and the song ends without any reassurance from the astronaut. He’s lost in space. I cry silently for a minute or two, wipe my cheeks clean, blow my nose on one of the tissues stashed in my pocket, and my parents never notice.

Next week: The History of Glorious Rock and Roll as told by my dad, usually on the way home from a Mexican restaurant when my mother is not in the car.

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