Small Wonders: Where more than wild things are

May 17, 2013|By Patrick Caneday | By Patrick Caneday
  • Columnist Patrick Caneday
Columnist Patrick Caneday

Don't venture under the bed lightly. More than wild things await you there.

I looked under my bed not long ago and got more than I expected. Among the picture frames, lost socks and dust brontosaurs, I came across a collection of cassette tapes.

Remember cassettes? Before CDs and after eight-track-tapes? Those things that, once warbled and snagged in the player, were tossed from car windows in streams of festive, brownish-gray ribbon to line the freeway in a symbol of urban angst?

They were in a handy crate, the kind we kept in our cars to hold the entirety of our mobile music libraries; an anthology that now fits on a silicon chip the size of an atom in an iPod. And in this crate was a brief glimpse of my youth: Night Ranger. The Police. Genesis. Toto and more.

The '80s called and I answered by pulling out Men at Work, the Aussie band that introduced us to the vegemite sandwich. Alas, my search for a cassette player in our home proved fruitless. Tossed some time ago with my pet rock, View-Master and Rubik's Cube.


So I did the next best thing. I typed "men at work" into Pandora and let Internet radio play me a mix-tape to my adolescence.

Have you ever listened to a song from your childhood decades later, only to hear the words for the first time? An acoustic version of the song "Overkill" came on, performed by lead man Colin Hay. And only now, 30-some years later, with time and life and history behind me, did I understand the song.

I can't get to sleep / I think about the implications / Of diving in too deep / And possibly the complications

Especially at night / I worry over situations / I know I'll be all right / Perhaps it's just imagination

I remember lying in bed late at night, Walkman on 11, air guitar screaming, listening to this song. And it meant nothing more than another on a long list of songs to enjoy.

Day after day it reappears / Night after night my heartbeat shows the fear / Ghosts appear and fade away

Heartbeats that belie dread, apparitions come to haunt and terrorize. That I knew. And it had nothing to do with a teenager's inability to fall asleep. It had everything to do with all that happens when you take the headphones off and walk through the years with responsibility and bills and kids and jobs and the stuff of life for which there is no schooling.

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