The Elder

#833: Just A Boy

STOPARRETPotentially triggering material ahead.  The following is a work of fiction — or not.

 

Just A Boy

I stepped into the titanium chamber, glowing lightly purple from the inside.  A bare metal seat was firmly bolted to the floor with two control panels, one on either arm.  The seat was its only occupant.  The walls glowed faintly as the mercury pumps worked their strange magic.  I sat.  The door closed automatically, latched shut and hissed with the sound of a vacuum seal made perfect.

On the right control panel, I entered a date.  February 18, 1986.  On the left, my hand flew as I swiped a series of commands.  In my excitement, I forgot to fasten my seatbelt.  With that now tight across my chest, I pulled the red lever on the far left.  My vision blurred.

G-forces assaulted my body but I had no difficulty in breathing.  I saw stars, the kind like when you fall and hit your head.  I heard voices but they were melded together and the words indistinguishable.  White noise but identifiably human.  Then I heard music.  A guitar strummed.  A triangle tinkled.

I was close.

The taste of hot chocolate, but overly sweet and unappealing.

Very close.

The sensation of cold and damp.  Feels like February.  I must be there.

Music again.

For I am just a boy,
Too young to be sailing.
I am just a boy,
And my future is unveiling,
And I’m so frightened of failing.

My eyes opened — I didn’t realize they had been closed.  The chamber door was open ahead of me and I could see white snow, and dark green trees.  I heard the sound of children.  But I could not be seen.  I could not be heard.  In fact I was not really there at all.  A part of me was, but not physically.  I could see, hear, smell and feel my surroundings but not affect them.  The process of travelling back through time had a strange effect on the senses.  To a limited degree, I could also feel what my younger self was experiencing.  The cold, wet feet.  The taste of that awful hot chocolate.  I was in the right place.

This was Mount Mary 1986.

Every year, the Catholic school sent its graduating grade to a week long retreat at Mount Mary.  A few students declined to attend, but only over the loud objections of the Grade 8 teacher.

“Any student I had that didn’t go to Mount Mary either died or went on the drugs!”

For an entire week, I was stuck with those awful kids and the oblivious teachers.  It was a lonely time.  That’s why I had to come back here.

We weren’t allowed to bring anything with us to Mount Mary except our clothes.  No Walkmans, no music.  The night before we left, I absorbed as much Kiss as I could.  Times like this called for my favourite band, and only my favourite band.  I memorised Double Platinum and The Elder the best I could.

That music that I was hearing when I arrived back here?  The songs in my younger self’s head.

I surveyed the landscape.  It felt like I was floating.  I could see my legs, and they hovered inches above the fresh dusting of pure white.  I could move in any direction at any speed I liked.  I just had to think it.  I couldn’t be seen or detected in any way.  Nothing more than a ghost in their world.  A world that disappeared, and transformed over the decades into the one we live in today.

I followed the sound of the children.  Their footsteps were deep in the snow.  The larger prints were from the teachers.  The adults who enabled the bullying.  The people who allowed this trauma to happen under their watch.

“Here we are!  Agony Hill!” said one of the supervisors.  I remember this hike.   The teachers hyped up the forest to us beforehand.  “You’ve never seen trees so dense in your life!” they boasted.  It wasn’t true.  It was the same as the cottage.  Agony Hill was a steep incline that we had to traverse.  This time, I flew.

There!  Just below.  I saw him.  Me.  In the blue coat, blue mittens, and blue jeans.  Why did I always wear blue?

A couple larger kids pushed.  I felt the shove in my back.  I felt the surge of anger and the welling of tears.  I remembered.

I stopped.  I had no idea that time travel would be this intense.  I wasn’t prepared.  The wounds are fresh.  Other memories are flooding back.  An assault of snowballs was still to come, followed by the laughter.

It was time to do this.

I willed my presence ahead and caught up to my younger self.  My face was red.  I was burying as much of it as I could into my coat.  I could see the glistening in my own eyes.  I was utterly alone.  I had a few friends but they were walking in groups with other kids that didn’t like me.  But I wasn’t really alone this time.

It felt weird talking to myself.  I put the strangeness aside and spoke.

“Kid,” I started and stumbled.

“I know you can’t hear me.  I can’t hear me.  This is weird.  Let me start over.  Kid, I know what you are going through now feels like an unending series of hellish bad dreams.  I know it because I lived it.  I survived it.  Those kids that have power over you today — power over your fear — won’t be around forever.  You only have to hold out a little longer.  Just a few more months.  And there are good things to look forward to in those months too.  It’s not all doom and gloom.”

“Trust me on this.  You are just at the horizon of experiences that will change your life.  When that happens these kids will be in the past, forever.  They will have no power over you anymore.  They will have no more influence on your life than a bent and creased photograph.  I didn’t realize it before, but seeing you now, you are already on your way.”

“You climbed Agony Hill.  You were breathless by the time you were over the top but you made it.  And guess what?  Your legs and lungs will be stronger tomorrow because of it.”

“This whole time, with all these kids, you’ve been preparing yourself for the better years.  And you are going to cherish and savour every last moment of them.  You are going to use all of this, the good and the bad, to light a fire.  Everything about this time and this place is going to drive you to be an individual.  And that individual is the guy next to you right now.”

I paused my monologue and observed something peculiar.  I saw something flicker on my younger self’s face.  It was like he could hear me.  He shouldn’t be able to.  It turns out, nature is always two steps of humanity.  There is no such thing as a time travel paradox.  Nature wouldn’t allow it.  All I could do was see and feel the past, but I couldn’t interact with it.  The laws of reality are quite firm on this matter.  Yet I could swear I saw my past self react to my own words.  Impossible.

Yet the younger me appeared more relaxed in posture.  I wouldn’t go so far as to use the word “confident”, but there was a visible shift in that direction.

Impossible!  Carry on.

I continued.  “Stay you.  You are going discover some amazing new music, meet people that inspire you to create, and these…”  I trailed off.  No need to encourage my younger self to swear more.  “These little jerks are going to be nothing more than ghosts in your past real soon.  But what they have done by mocking you and belittling your individuality is that they have made you more determined.  Instead of trying to be more like them, you are going to keep pushing to be more like you.”

I had to pause again.  After all, I don’t want to lie to myself.

“It’s not all a bed of roses.  I don’t want to mislead you.  What these kids did to you is going to last and it’s going to take work and time to process it.  Sometimes memories will sneak up on you.  But I’m OK.  I can honestly say that I am OK.  Being an individual makes me happy.  It means people really like me, for being me, not for someone I’m pretending to be.   And guess what?  Tables always turn.  One day, the things you have always loved your whole life are going to be considered cool.  And you are going to be the expert.”

Suddenly my younger self smiled.  I could not believe it.  Coincidence?  I immediately felt the need to cut my visit shorter than I planned.  What if the science had an unseen loophole?  Science always has a way of surprising us.  I didn’t want to change the past, or even take the risk.  Let the theorists argue about it.  I had to go.

“See you round, kid.”  I gently kissed myself on the forehead.  It didn’t seem a weird thing to do.  But I had to go now or I’d never leave.

In a blink I was back in my chair.  I felt the warmth of my tears on my cheeks.  I had to wipe my eyes to set the date back to the present.  Seatbelt on, I pulled the lever.  I saw the stars, and again I heard the music.  Drums now, stuttering through time.

I was so frightened,
I almost ran away.
I didn’t know that I could do,
Anything I needed to.

They said I didn’t stand a chance,
I wouldn’t win no way.
But I’ve got news for you,
There’s nothing I can’t do.

I believe in me.

They say that time travel can be a bit unnerving.  That’s why most people don’t do it.   They try it once, and most folks leave it at that.  Me, I need to recover after this trip.  Home again, my tired eyes closed as I drifted off into a dreamless sleep.


CODA

February 18, 1986.  Mount Mary, Ontario Canada.

I can’t sleep.  All I can think about it is that voice I heard today on Agony Hill.  This place is weird.  The shadows on the walls are strange and creepy and these beds feel like army beds.  But what’s keeping me up is that voice.  I’ve never heard a voice like that before.  Was it a ghost?  Is this place haunted?

I’m drifting off, but I hear music:  the music in my head that I memorized before they bussed us off to this awful place.  The beat is still fresh in my head and the words echo into my sleep.  I feel OK.  I feel like I’m going to be OK.

I believe in me.
I believe in rock and roll.
Yes I believe in me.

 


#344: Childhood Recording Sessions

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RECORD STORE TALES Mk II: Getting More Tale
#344: Childhood Recording Sessions

When we were kids in the 1980’s, pre-internet, pre-downloading, the only avenue we had to share music with each other was taping.  If a friend had an album you wanted, you could try to record it.  For example my next door neighbor George had all the Kiss albums, on LP.  All he was missing was The Elder.  What Kiss albums I didn’t own myself (which was most of them) I gradually taped one by one from George.  I’d write down the song titles and make a cassette cover.  When George wrote down the songs, I couldn’t always read them.  When he did get The Elder in ’86, he made a copy for me.  For a little while, I thought Kiss had a song on it called “Escape from the Ish”.

One Sunday afternoon in ’85 I went over to his place with a 60 minute tape, intending to record Unmasked.  George dusted off the LP, dropped the needle and hit “record”.  At the same time, he also decided to play bass along to the whole album.  Somehow, his bass bled through to the tape recorder.

I didn’t find an original copy of Unmasked for two more years.  Until that time, all I had to listen to was my taped copy, complete with George’s bass “overdubbed” on top of Gene’s!  If I think back and remember really hard, I can still hear in my mind how George kept playing through the song fade outs!

Other recording sessions were far more elaborate.  When George acquired Kiss’ Animalize Live Uncensored on VHS tape, he brought it over along with his own VCR, so we could dub a copy, VCR to VCR.  On other occasions I would bring our VCR over to my best friend Bob’s place, and record there.  My parents hated it when I disconnected the VCR!  My dad always seemed to fear we’d never get it hooked up properly again!  Or that we’d lose the controller, or worse, break it.  But then, if we were recording at my house, my dad would always walk in and mock the bands.  “What’s wrong with that man?” my dad said of Bruce Dickinson.  “He keeps on screaming as if he’s in terrible pain!”

Copying music improved greatly in the 1990’s.  The durability of the blank tapes improved, and dubbing from CD was infinitely better than recording tape to tape.  Because of the improvements in quality, the cassettes we dubbed in the 90’s are still playable.  Still, there is no comparison in sound to a CD.  Finally in 2001, I purchased my first CD burner, enabling me to create the best possible sounding copies of music.

None of those improvements in technology, nor the advent of the CD-R, swayed me from owning an original CD or LP.  I may have had a burned copy of the Sultans of Ping F.C., but there’s nothing better than an original.  Somebody could send me a CD rip of some amazing rare bonus tracks by bands I like, which is great…but not as great as owning the original.

Why?

I don’t really know.  Certainly I have plenty of friends from every age group who are content not to own any CDs.  They don’t need to own it in order to listen on an iPod.  That’s not good enough for me.  I want the whole experience.  I want the cover art (on paper, not a computer screen), I want the liner notes.  I want to file the new CD on my shelves in the right order, and then gaze upon my collection of a given artist.  I like to handle the artwork, the CD, and take a hard squint at the pictures.  It’s hard to explain.  I can justify it by saying CD just sounds better than an mp3.  And as good as CD gets, sometimes vinyl can sound even better.

Even though I don’t need them anymore, I miss the old days of the Sunday recording sessions.  I miss the social aspects of friends gathering in somebody’s basement or living room to share and discuss and enjoy music (all of which I later bought, anyway).  I miss that feeling of heading home with some new music to listen to, right out of a friend’s collection.  But I don’t miss having only enough money to buy blank tapes, instead of originals.  I’m much happier now with my collection of well loved physical, original music.