cherry red summers
march 1, 2019
words by jenna smith
My dad would drive us down the street to this record shop called Repeat the Beat. At my age (somewhere between 6 and 8) I barely grasped the concept of a record shop or buying music. I had other things on my radar, like swing sets and neighborhood bike races. So I only knew of these moments as “fun times ahead.” When my dad took me to that shop, I knew it was going to be a good day.
A more indie rock and punk-focused place, the walls were completely covered up to the ceiling in posters and paraphernalia. Rows and rows of CDs and records lined the perimeter with more in the middle. The paper dividers, classifying sections alphabetically, were soft and curled from wandering fingers. Artists’ names were haphazardly written in thick black marker. As I spent more time at the shop with my dad, I’d come to recognize the names of some of his preferred artists: The White Stripes, Violent Femmes, The Smiths, and more.
While my father perused for a new CD to play in his car, I would completely engross myself in all the cover art. Slowly, I’d thumb through albums in awe, blown away by the uniqueness of each one. I remember albums with detailed illustrations of crazy, gory chaos. There were covers with violence, sex, trippy shit, collages, political commentary, and sometimes just some really weird stuff I couldn’t even comprehend. It was fascinating.
Dad would wrap up the trip with a handful of new CDs and wrangle me back under his supervision. We’d head outside for Part Two of this Amazing Adventure: The Drive.
I’d gleefully hop into his cherry red ‘88 two-door Saab, knowing this is when the fun really began. “Which one should we listen to first?” he’d ask as he fanned out the CDs in his hand. I’d pick one using the best criteria I had at the time: cover art. Then, with the windows down and the sun saturating every inch of us, we’d go on what my father called a “Cool Cat Cruise.”
I’d like to equivalate our Cool Cat Cruises to the modern day c-whip -- the PG version of course. We’d drive around aimlessly and blast every album from start to finish, letting the music, the breeze, the sun, and the laughter blend into a few blurred hours of pure euphoria. “Who is this?” I’d ask excitedly, buzzing with energy from a catchy song. “It’s called the Sweater Song by Weezer,” my dad would reply.
This act of heading to the record shop, scooping up new music, and going on our Cool Cat Cruise became a cherished ritual to me. I’d find myself singing Beck’s “Devil’s Haircut” to myself in the bathroom in fourth grade when all the stalls were empty. I’d ask my dad to put on that Simon and Garfunkel album… again. If he had to run into the gas station, I’d scramble to put on “Light My Fire” before he came back. I was starting to develop a taste for music whether I realized it or not.
Eventually, Repeat the Beat went out of business and was replaced by a slur of other joints. As of the last ten years or something, it’s been a Jimmy Johns. Woof.
My dad had to sell the Saab and we both got busier as I got into sports and other extracurriculars. But the CD collection always remained, as with the memories. These memories have become strongholds in my life and I believe largely impacted every step of me becoming “me.” They were catalysts in developing not just my taste and interest in music, but in all aspects of life.
I am forever grateful for such positive and refreshing childhood experiences. I look back on those memories in the red Saab and always catch myself smiling.