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