It came out of nowhere. I was sitting in Janine’s study, chatting with her about making an exchange at Bed, Bath & Beyond. We had purchased a shower caddy last week and discovered it was too long; hanging from the shower head, the bottom of the caddy fell directly in front of the water control valve. And then I began singing:
Daisy, Daisy, give me your answer true
I’m half crazy over the love of you
It won’t be a stylish marriage
I can’t afford a carriage
But you’ll look sweet
Upon the seat
Of a bicycle built for two
I have no idea where that came from, but it triggered a memory of the first time I heard music through computer speakers.
We were living in Chicago at the time, having moved there from Houston in 1985. We spent the first year or two in a high-rise building in a one-bedroom apartment on East Ohio, just a few blocks east of Michigan Avenue. Then, we moved to a two bedroom condo on Sheridan Road, just a few blocks west of Lakeshore Drive. It was there that I heard the music.
I bought my first computer, a Compaq portable with an optional 10 Meg hard drive, from Inacomp, a computer store on Michigan Avenue about half a block south of East Ohio. It looked a bit like a portable sewing machine; the keyboard was affixed in front of the tiny little screen and served as a base when the computer was not in use. After we moved to Sheridan Road, I set the computer up in the second bedroom, the one we used as an office/study.
I liked to play around with the computer, trying to figure out what it was good for and trying expose myself to the growing functionality of computers. I am not sure there are any such animals any longer, but at the time (this would have been 1987 or thereabouts), a bulletin board system (BBS) was about the only way (that I knew of) to connect to other computer users and to upload and download software, communicate with other people, etc.
One evening, I got connected to a bulletin board system (BBS) and stumbled across a link to a file that, the description claimed, was a music file. I don’t recall the details, but I managed somehow to get the file to launch. Over the tiny, built-in speakers of my Compaq computer, I heard what sounded like an ancient, scratchy record. What I heard was “Bicycle Built for Two.” I was stunned and amazed and delighted to hear that music! It was not that the tune was anywhere on my list of music I liked…it was that the sound emerged from a computer! Incredible! I was shocked and beside myself with the notion that technology was allowing me to listen to music, on a computer, that someone else had, somehow, captured and turned into an electronic file that could be shared electronically.
Now, just 27 years or so later, my experience with Bicycle Built for Two seems cute and archaic and otherworldly. But it was cutting edge for the time. I’m not nostalgic for that time. I prefer to take full and complete advance of the latest and greatest capabilities technology has to offer than to live in the bucolic past. But the memory of that night is instructive. It informs me just how quickly the world is changing. It tells me we’re moving faster than, as John Prine might say, “the speed of loneliness.”
Now, as I think back to the revelation that technology was about to upend the world, I think of how we were tied to electrical outlets back then. Daisy would not have been heard had I been sitting on my deck or at the beach, with no access to electricity. Today, batteries and wi-fi drastically reduce the importance of proximity. We’re no longer chained to the desk. Today, Daisy is NOT in chains.