Every day, I hear cars driving down Gay Street. Buses and trucks are very loud, and have at times been so loud as to interfere with my ability to hear people talking on the phone. Every few days I get treated to some serious Black Rage when rap fans stop at the red light on Gay and Union, and the sound reverberates up and down the street, rattling the poorly-mounted windows on the front of my office while testing the limits of their subwoofers. This is all part of life in an urban environment, and even though Knoxville is not the biggest city I’ve ever been in you do get some urban phenomena in the square mile or so that we call “downtown Knox,” particularly on Gay Street where the taller buildings are lined up in a scaled-down version of the concrete canyons found in larger cities.
Now, for the past two months or so, every afternoon, some time between two-thirty and five o’clock, someone drives down Gay Street, playing the Eagles’ “Hotel California” (the 1976 studio version) at top volume. Now, I kind of like the song, I think the performers demonstrated virtuoso skill in recording it, and as a teenager it was one of my favorite songs of all. I particularly enjoyed playing it, back when I still played the guitar.
But even then, I realized that one needs a little bit of variety in one’s musical diet. A steady diet of nothing but “Hotel California” is a bit monotonous. He drove by again about ten minutes later today, playing “New Kid In Town,” so I guess that’s kind of like switching from a steady diet of ribeye steaks to a T-bone every once in a while. Maybe the guy is on the musical equivalent of the Atkins Diet.
I wonder about the person who does this. I’m going to make three gross, completely speculative generalizations here, and concede that there may be some room for error in these generalizations. First, people tend to lose their appetite for ear-splitting volume as they age; so this is likely to be someone who was not born when the song was first released. Second, people who listen to music that loud tend to be male rather than female. And third, people who like the Eagles tend to be white rather than black. While I realize these thoughts are not founded on any particular data, I still feel safe in assuming that the driver of the vehicle that plays “Hotel California” at top volume every day is under the age of thirty, white, and male.
Having fun with my unfounded generalizations yet? Good. Now, take it a step further – what kind of under-thirty white guy listens obsessively to the Eagles? There’s two good choices there: a guitar nerd or a frequent taster of the sacrament with a “420” bumper sticker somewhere on the car. The lyrics include a reference, after all – “the warm smell of colitas,* rising up through the air.” Now, I tried to be a guitar nerd when I was younger, but just wasn’t fast enough at my scales or strong enough to hold barre chords to be much good. But being a guitar nerd and a habitual dope-smoker are hardly incompatible. Another half-decent guess is that this guy believes the song is about Satanism and is trying to be antisocial – although if so, he is looking for something that just isn’t there and is likely oblivious to the real meaning of the song.
What have we learned from this? That there’s some deluded dude sparking up and driving down the busiest street in Knoxville every afternoon, distracted while thinking about something other than the traffic in front of him. Maybe this place isn’t so different than Los Angeles after all.
* Successful Google Image Searches used for this entry included "Hotel California Album Cover" and "Distracted Driver." An unsuccessful GIS was for "colitas." First of all, Microsoft Word automatically corrects the spelling of the word “colitas” to the word “colitis.” A GIS for “colitas” produces some photographs of girls of various ages, as well as some cigars. I strongly advise Loyal Readers to avoid doing a Google Image Search for “colitis.”