Have you ever noticed how the classic rock station always plays the same songs? I realize there aren’t any new classic rock songs for them to put on, but there have to be some neglected gems. I was thinking about this the other day, while I was in my dad’s wood shop sharpening a hoe.
I was preparing to take on the waist high buttercups in the raspberry patch, and needed to turn that hoe from a bludgeoning instrument into a chopping one.
“Dad?” I asked, “How do I sharpen a hoe?”
He was on the phone with the repair shop that had his truck. “Flat file,” he hissed. I went out to his shop. I switched on the lights, and the radio came on too, as it always does. It was tuned, as it always is, to the classic rock station. KZOK FM. I dug around in my dad’s toolbox for something I might call a flat file, and began rasping away on the hoe blade. Literally. Luckily, my dad came out a minute later.
“That’s a rasp. For wood. See the big teeth? You need a file, like this.” And he put the hoe in a vise, showed me the right angle and stroke with the file, warned me not to knick my knuckles, and wandered out again.
I set to filing. On the radio, a guitar solo was trying to blow my mind. It was wasted on me, like the genius of a mosquito or a lawnmower is wasted on me. The shop smelled like sawdust and linseed oil and garbage. One of the dogs was lying in the sawdust pile, the other nosing around the trash can. It’s been like this forever, I thought. The same smells, the same music, my dad. All of my life, my dad has been listening to the same 150 songs.
Except for a brief time in the ’90’s when he had a Peruvian panpipe album he’d bought at Folklife and a didgeridoo CD we used to clean the house to, to my knowledge my dad has pretty much just listened to classic rock. Also, there was the period, after my dad got in a fender-bender, when his little silver Saab hatchback named Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang was stuck on the classical station and wouldn’t turn off. This was before he had the truck, so when he had firewood he wanted to bring in he had to load it into Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang. I remember being down on the road heaving rounds of wood into that snazzy little car, my dad chainsawing up a downed tree, opera blaring. The neighbors drove by real slow in their trucks. We’ve never quite blended in in this neighborhood.
But even during the opera period, the radio in my dad’s shop was tuned to KZOK. Those same 150 songs. As if it isn’t music, but an identity, a canon of belonging, the soundtrack that ties my father in his shop to all the other men in their shops, and this year to last year and to those long ago years when that music wasn’t classic rock at all but a bunch of guys blowing my dad’s young mind with their electric guitars. And maybe I’m just feeling some Father’s Day sentimentality, but I hope my dad is still listening to those songs and tinkering in his shop when he’s and old, old man.