On The Radio

Not everything always fits together the way you would imagine it should.

Early this summer my dad came to pick me up from staff orientation at the summer camp I work at, to drive me down to college orientation at the school I was transferring to. The drive between the camp and the college was about 4 hours, and I was already somewhere in the state of perpetual exhaustion that just seems to settle over your body the minute you step through the camp gates.  Dad was trying to talk, but I was tired and surly and not in the mood for idle chatter about Rabbis he knew would be visiting over the summer or the pathetic excuse for a tan that my pale skin was already taking on.

Dad has an app on his phone for the internet radio site Pandora. If you’ve never heard of it before, Pandora lets you plug in music you like, and creates a station centered around that. It works really remarkably well. You can thumb up or thumb down songs, based on if you like them or not, and the station will slowly evolve to fit exactly your tastes.

So stuck in that car, with a few hours left in front of us, dad and I decided we would create a Pandora station, each plugging in a few artists we liked, so we could find some music that both of us would enjoy. I put in some of my favorites- Jukebox the Ghost, Vampire Weekend, Mountain Goats, Regina Spektor; dad added some people he liked whose names I couldn’t pick off a list- lots of angsty dudes with blues guitars and raspy voices.

I think maybe we broke the app.

As the playlist started it played a few songs that were totally in my wheelhouse that dad didn’t really enjoy. Lots of upbeat indie pop. Lots of paino and dulcet female voices and catchy smart lyrics. Soon it switched completely. We were firmly in the category of men who’s cowboy hats and boots I could hear through the speakers. There was definite back and forth, but there wasn’t any blend. The songs just rotated between things he enjoyed and things that I did.

I was annoyed. I wanted to sit quietly and listen to some music that even if it wasn’t my favorite, was at least agreeable, and we couldn’t even manage to pull that off. I think somewhere around an hour and a half in I gave up and fell asleep.

oh how I love and hate you
My father is endlessly patient with me, which speaks a lot to how wonderful he is and an unfortunate amount to the bad situations I create for myself in which his patience really shines. I wasn’t exactly the best driving companion on that trip, but he sat there with me, kindly, anyway.

We’ve tried using that Pandora station a few more times, and it still can’t quite figure out what to do with us. Mostly, at this point, dad and I just alternate typing the names of songs we like in to youtube.

I guess it kind of makes sense. Dad’s music and my music are fairly fundamentally different sounds. I want more piano, he wants more twang, and the middle ground doesn’t really seem to exist.

But we keep trying. We keep attempting to find a way to make it work and play something that both of us want to hear. And when we realize that isn’t working, we both manage to take a hit on our pride, and even if it’s grudgingly, let the other get what they want for a little while. That’s what family does. They compromise, and love each other, even if they think the other person has really weird music tastes.

I’m not saying I’m happy when I’m stuck in the car listening to Lyle Lovett for the millionth time, but I am saying it’s good to see my dad happy. And if I can help create a little bit of that happiness, why wouldn’t I?

I mean, as long as I still get to play “Let’s Dance to Joy Division” at least once.

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