Good Luck

January 20th, 2021
L&T Opinions Page

earl watt mugL&T Publisher Earl Watt


Heather and my daughters went to a weekend softball tournament in McPherson, and that left me with Heather’s car.

As a product of the ’80s, I am connected to my music, and driving the Blazer left me a little wanting for the sound.

I’ve never driven the fanciest of vehicles in my day, but I always had a sound system that could make you forget the kind of car you were driving and appreciate the tunes.

In high school I drove a Ford Courier pickup. It was a smaller truck, like the Chevy Luv of its day, and there was no carpet. The stock system had one speaker in the middle of the dash, and that was it.

That simply wouldn’t do.

I replaced the stock AM/FM stereo with cutting edge technology. At that time, it meant an auto reverse cassette deck. CD players came just after that. I added speakers, which was somewhat limited in the small cab of the Courier. But I added what could fit, and that included a set of Jensen TriAx speakers under the seats. We didn’t have subwoofers quite yet, so the 6x9 tri ax speakers were pinnacle for the time.

Friday and Saturday nights were about cruising Main, and while I may not have had the hottest car, I had quality tunes, and I had no problem getting a buddy or two to ride along.

Over the years, I have always customized the stereo system in my vehicles except my current one. It came with a Bose system, and while it may not have the thump provided by an add-on subwoofer, it is about as solid of a pre-package unit as you can get.

But the Blazer needed something, and so I added the subwoofer over the weekend.

It took a while to get it all dialed in, but once it was, I was impressed on how that one add-on changed the entire dynamic.

A few years ago I had already replaced all the speakers throughout Heather’s vehicle, and  that helped, but it still left a bit of a void.

That was filled, and as the sun sat on the 100-plus degree day I chose to work on the car, I was pleased with the results and headed inside to cool off.

Soon I realized that I was missing out on the entire point of enhancing the sound system in the first place — to listen to music.

Since I was on my own, I decided I could use a soft drink from the drive thru, and that gave me a reason to get back in the car.

In my high school days, all we could do was play a cassette and usually listen to one group playing their newest tunes.

For me, I also had some K-Tel tapes that played some of the hottest hits of the day. When you are a teen on a budget, it works.

We didn't have a lot growing up, and whatever we did have we had to work for it ourselves.

I never felt shorted. My grandparents were blue collar folks, and grandma ran the house while my grandpa worked to pay the bills. I never expected them to buy me a car.

So when I had enough lawn money to buy my truck, I was happy with it. It was mine, and I made the best with what I had.

After all, if the grass is greener on the other side, you should be taking better care of your grass.

My truck was what it was, but the sound would be as good as any.

We used to dub songs from each other until the cassette tape companies got smart and made the copies come out wavy.

Not only did I have auto reverse on my old cassette deck, but it also had automatic music search, so you could fast forward, and it would automatically stop when it reached the next song.

After I got my drink at the drive thru in Heather’s car, and the tunes were still thumpin’, I decided the night wasn’t over yet. I headed to Kansas Avenue and discovered another benefit of the modern era when it came to cruising. Any song. Any time.

Thanks to the modern conveniences provided by our friends at Apple, all I had to do was type the song in my phone and play it.

Up and down Kansas I went, playing one tune from the ’80s to another, and sometimes into another decade.

I’d jump around a bit to test out the system, from Metallica’s “Enter Sandman” to AC/DC’s “Thunderstruck” and others.

From Michael Jackson to Milli Vanilli, they all sounded good.

With the thump of the sound and the dark of the night, who would know if I decided to break out in song? Yeah, I was a rock star with an audience of none, but it felt good.

I was stopped at a light when some younger guys pulled up in the next lane in a much newer car with surely a more modern sound system, and even though all my windows were up, they could hear my tunes. Billy Idol. “Dancing with Myself.” I thought it was appropriate. The passenger gave me a look. I just flashed the “rock on” sign and a smile as the light turned green, and I continued on my one-man concert tour.

Before I knew it, I had been driving around the streets of Liberal for an hour and a half.

My drink was nothing but ice, and I could have gone another hour and a half. But church was coming in the morning, and it was time to head home.

I pulled the old girl into the drive, and it wouldn’t have mattered if it was a Blazer or a Ferrari. As long as it sounded good, I was proud of it.

It was a nice diversion from the routine, and I never understood why teens today don’t enjoy the ancient concept of dragging Main.

And I realized that being in my last year of life before 50, there’s nothing wrong with getting behind the wheel on a summer’s night and jamming to some tunes while driving up and down Kansas Avenue.

The storefronts have changed, and the turnarounds at each end are a bit different.

Cars have changed as well, and the way we listen to music isn’t the same.

But the experience was kind of familiar — a driver and his music hitting the strip.

It was a rare moment of alone time during this pandemic, and I will be looking for another reason soon for a late night ride.

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L&T Publisher Earl Watt


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