Radio Road Music (Stevie Ray Vaughn & Nelson Mandela)

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Speeding through the dark, I love listening to the radio on the four hour drive from Syracuse to New York, mostly because I never that I am in full control as to what I am going to get. I scan around looking for NPR or anything with a beat to keep me awake and moving. I’ll listen to anything for awhile. I’m proud to say it. Lady Gaga, Aerosmith, country, Bruno Mars, Christian radio, Glenn Beck, Billy Idol, Nicki Manaj. But there’s a lot of dull radio out there in rural America, so you flip around and don’t really settle down into a single groove. And then it all comes together –thought, sound, and speed– somewhere after I’ve crossed the Pennsylvania-New Jersey state line, coming down the descent on rt 80 somewhere after Netcong when the New York radio stations come into range. Last Thursday, a CD of Papo Vazquez and the Pirate Troubadours’ Afro-Caribbean jazz trombone got me pretty much through the dead radio zone north and south of Scranton, followed by a long bit of Man Man live from Philadelphia combined with studio interviews. With a growl of happy recognition from the back of my throat, I caught the opening guitar chords of Stevie Ray Vaughan’s Sweet Little Thing, and that was it. I thought some more about a roundtable conversation I’ll be moderating at the Association of Jewish Studies conference and finally figured, in an instant, out just how to put together my syllabus for the seminar next spring semester. Joan Osborne’s St. Teresa and Beethoven’s Violin Concerto in D took me pretty much the rest of the way home. Pure happiness. Somewhere close to Binghamton, a barely articulate undergraduate had announced on the university radio station the news that Nelson Mandela had died earlier that day. I caught up with news coming in fast over the George Washington, and then tuned into something else, glad to be home.

About zjb

Zachary Braiterman is Professor of Religion in the Department of Religion at Syracuse University. His specialization is modern Jewish thought and philosophical aesthetics.
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