Chocolate heaven and nostalgia

We’re still in Lisboa, and this morning it was my turn to walk to the bakery and get breakfast. I asked about the ingredients of various empadas (round, pastry-encased goodies), and had wrapped up my order when an employee walked past with a tray of chocolate cakes that had just come out of the oven. You know those cartoons where a person’s nose twitches as a yummy scent curls under it, and then their whole body lifts up and floats through the air, pulled by the nose, which is following the scent? Yeah, it was like that. The employee laughed at me as I immediately added one — no wait, two! — cakes to my order. When I got back to our flat, they were still steaming. Heaven.

So I’ve been sitting in the last of the morning sun, watching the brilliance of the sunlight on the Rio Tejo as the boat traffic floats by, munching empadas and chocolate cakes and catching up on the news. And I ran across this, from an article in Salon:

The song I loved the most on that tape was “Didn’t We Almost Have It All.” Fourth song, first side. I would perform the song to the wall, then rewind it and perform it again. Play, rewind, repeat. I can still hear the squiggle of the tape in my head as I pressed on the jam-box button just long enough to find the song’s opening once more. This is a lost art in the age of the iPod, but back then, knowing how many seconds to rewind a cassette was a sign you truly understood its rhythms. You had literally learned the music backward and forward.

Yes! I had forgotten about that, but it’s true! I, too, had cassette tapes that I could rewind to precisely the moment I wanted to start again. Not just the beginnings of certain songs — that was easy — but even to specific moments of a song, such as a killer drum solo or some guitar crescendo, or a perfect moment of harmonizing.

Then I got a new cassette deck, which had the amazing technological advance of a fast forward/rewind function that could sense the beginning or end of a song, so you could just hit the button and sit back while it automatically stopped at the next track. That was luxurious. And then there were the newfangled cassette decks with dual playing heads, which would automatically start playing the other side of the tape after finishing Side One. No longer did we have to stop the tape, pull it out, flip it over, stick it back in and hit play again.

Ah, that was a nice little burst of nostalgia.

Hey, remember threading the tape through your reel-to-reel player, giving the other reel a few turns by hand to seat the tape properly, and flipping the huge lever to start it playing? Remember the thwap thwap thwap sound of the tape end flapping around when you rewound the tape all the way to the beginning and it was all on a single reel again?

Probably not…

Why is nostalgia so often accompanied by the sense of rapidly advancing age?


About Fletcher DeLancey

Socialist heathen and Mac-using author of the Chronicles of Alsea, who enjoys pondering science, politics, well-honed satire (though sarcastic humor can work, too) and all things geeky.
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10 Responses to Chocolate heaven and nostalgia

  1. Alma says:

    Ah yes, the lost art of cassette tapes. Our old car had a cassette player that flipped the tapes over automatically when one side ended, I can still remember the succession of clonking sounds. And I do recall the thwapping of old “slim tape film” (the Swedish term for it in translation) from movies in primary school. Seems I’m getting old too…

    I talked with my dad and sister the other day as my nephew was playing with my portable speakers and pretenting they were a telephone. We realized that he will never know the reason for the expression “hang up”, and when he learns of ordinary phones – the ones with cords both to the wall and the receiver and circular dials that have to be spun all the way around to make a 9 – he will stare in amazement and wonder how we coped with the bulkiness and never being able to leave the room (let alone the house!) while talking on them. To him, a phone is flat, rectangular and has a large poke-friendly screen.

    • oregon expat says:

      Until I moved to Portugal, I always kept an old analogue phone around the house, because I lived in an area with frequent storm-related power outages. Since phone lines carry their own power, the old analogue phones are the only ones that work during an outage. Mobile phones have made that less necessary these days…

      The other great thing about those old phones: the receiver could be comfortably tucked between your head and shoulder. You could still use your hands to get things done while you talked. Has anyone figured out how to comfortably hold a mobile phone without using a hand? They’re miserable.

      • Alma says:

        Yep, a power outage nowadays would be pretty devastating for communication what with the one-day battery times on cell phones. And I don’t know anyone under the age of forty who owns a landline telephone.

        Hands-free! Although they’re their own kind of miserable, tangled cords and all.

  2. Inge says:

    Or when you had to type stuff out instead of having a word processor on your pc, which can correct stuff. If you made a mistake in the past, you had to retype it all. That was such a pain.. pfff.

  3. Letty Cooper says:

    I remember 8 track tape players from the late 60’s. We thought we were in heaven when we could actually order different songs from different artist and albums recorded in one single 8 track tape. How old am I again?

  4. Ana_ñ says:

    Speaking of the lost art of cassette tapes, we had a small car with a terrible radio cassette player. It was an extractable anti-theft model. You were supposed to take the thing out by pulling the handle and take it with you, but it was so big and heavy that we left it under the seat. Over time, after countless times in and out, the connections were loose: a little pothole and it went off. I managed to master a special technique for listening to music smoothly. 🙂

    • oregon expat says:

      Right, I remember those anti-theft stereos! Nobody ever actually lugged them around. Good in theory, bad in practice.

      Personally I’ve found that the best anti-theft stereo is the one that came with the car. They’re crappy stereos that nobody wants.

  5. xenatuba says:

    I recently saw a picture of a pencil, with eraser, and a cassette tape with the caption “soon, the relationship between these two items will be lost forever.” I cannot tell how many times I had to extract the tape from my portable cassette player and rewind via the eraser…

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