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#5 Rotary Dial (Excerpt + Music)

This is what I've been working on.

In August (hopefully) a CD with 9 original tracks *and* a companion book will be available. The book is a collection of prose inspired the songs--back stories/lofty questions/meandering soliloquies.... If you're into that kind of thing.

Here is a link to the recorded track, Rotary Dial. Following is the book's Rotary Dial chapter.

Track features Kat Darling (djembe, shaker, harmony vocal) & Aaron Short (harmonica) from The High Crest.

ROTARY DIAL (Demo Recording)


I’m gonna trade my cell for a rotary dial

Curly cord 10 feet from the kitchen wall

I may go weeks without talking at all

I’m gonna trade my cell for a rotary dial.

I’m gonna trade email for a note on the door

Love so-and-so, I’ll stop back after 4

I may go weeks without writing at all

I’m gonna trade email for a note on the door.

I’m gonna trade TV for a hill with a view

I’ll take a nap in the grass if I choose

I may go weeks without hearing the news

I’m gonna trade TV for a hill with a view.

I’m gonna trade this world for the one in my soul

World says I need more but I’m already full

I may go weeks without leaving at all

I’m gonna trade this world for the one in my soul.

I do not like to talk on the phone. I don’t hear well on the phone. Social cues are missing or distorted. When is it my turn to talk? When is it your turn to talk? When is it time for both of us to please stop talking? How am I to know this if I can’t see your face? It’s too complicated. In my world, the advent of the cell phone—a telephone that follows you around everywhere you go—was not welcome.

I also don’t like texting. I have a hard time being that succinct, and there are an excessive number of buttons that need pushing. Currently, my phone—the unsmart kind—is about a half step above a flip phone. My “m” button (because it is a button) is on the fritz, and it either doesn’t work at all, or it machine gun fires 8 mmmmmmmm’s right in the mmmmmmmiddle of my word. I’ve stopped correcting it, which makes all of my texts read like I’m eating something delicious while learning Spanish.

I have no problem detaching from my phone. In fact, I lose it frequently. At this exact moment in time, I believe it is on the floor of my car. I am not certain, and I do not care. Other times, I forget I have it, and it sits in the bottom of my purse holding old messages hostage while losing its juice.

Unfortunately, I lose track of friends this way.

Sometimes I think about upgrading to a Smart Phone, but the thought of introducing another gadget into my day makes me tired. I have an iPod. I have a digital camera. I have Garage Band on my laptop. I have a portable GPS thingy for the car. I know all the basics and a handful of fancies. I know how to use them for their major intended purposes; but I don’t know how to use all 80 billion of their features. I don’t know how to link them together and sync them and share them and choreograph them and make sweet gadgety love to them. If you start talking to me about cloud technology, I will bleed from the ears.

Inventorying my gadget fatigue makes me feel completely overwhelmed by the speed at which technology seems to be advancing. The world, in general, seems to be breaking its own neck with gratuitous hurry. Why so much hurry?

I still buy CDs. I still use maps—the kinds with creases slicing through major tributaries and national parks. I still buy books—real ones, printed on paper. Sometimes I just borrow them from the library, complete with a stranger’s spittle on the back cover. Am I blowing your mind?

I am 40. Or 90. I am your grandmother. Unless your grandmother is cooler than me and has an Instagram account. This Twitter business: I don’t understand it. Does your granny tweet?

All of this brings me—in a meandering fashion—to the Brass Armadillo, an antique mall on the north edge of Des Moines.

The only thing I really miss from my 20’s is the freedom to wander. I’d set out in the morning with some kind of itch in my soul, and I’d wander until it went away. Sometimes it didn’t go away. I needed to go farther. So I’d get in my car and drive. I don’t know what any of this was about; I just know that it felt like a search.

After I got married and started a career, I rarely wandered anymore. Once my son, Fisher, came along, I stopped all together. Maybe it’s because I found what I was looking for. Maybe it’s because life got busy. Maybe it’s because I always had crusty old baby barf on a sleeve. Leaving the house lost its appeal.

As life progresses, a file cabinet shaped cloud forms above your head, and you can’t go anywhere without hearing the papers shuffle around inside (Even my head resists paperless technology.). In Busy Life, wandering feels more like neglecting what needs doing than tending to a soul that needs feeding. What a shame.

One particular day, I thought about all of this and decided to wander, just to see if it felt the same. I went to the Brass Armadillo. I paced the aisles, all named after states. Somewhere at the end of Michigan Avenue, I saw a rotary dial telephone.

It wasn’t one of the really really really old ones with the crank handle and the mini megaphone. It was a regularly old one, the kind your (great) grandma had. She turned the dialing wheel with the eraser end of a pencil. The receiver sat in a cradle on a table next to a phone book (the paper kind). She scribbled notes on the Yellow Pages in her ornate old lady handwriting.

The sight of that rotary dial telephone made me cry.

I missed my childhood. I missed my grandparents. I missed my purple, rusty, hand-me-down bike with the banana seat. I missed my big dumb sisters and my stuffed animals. I missed my dad’s awful mustache and calling my mom at work after school to fret about the spider I saw in the living room. I missed lying to my piano teacher about how many hours I’d practiced that week. I missed my unrealistic childhood ambitions and Sweet Valley High teen romances. I missed Kelly Garrett, Kris Munroe, Sabrina Duncan, and all the dangerous criminals they caught with beauty and super spy necklaces that were secretly cameras. I missed singing at the top of my lungs. I missed a computer-less house and a Facebook-free existence. I’d lost something important. I’d lost simplicity, and I wanted it back so badly that I cried in public.

Does every generation feel this way?

On a recent road trip we spent the night in a hotel room, and my 2.5-year-old son didn’t know what the room telephone was. He saw a large square device with pushy buttons and a curly cord, and he said, “What’s this?” It made me sad. My son will never know a world without a 24/7 hyperlink.

Do they still teach map reading in school? I will have to teach him.

But it’s not just about the technology. The sight of that rotary dial telephone shot me back to childhood. I didn’t have a mortgage then. I wasn’t trying to navigate a career or plan for retirement. All of my family was alive. There were no cancers, no heart attacks, no ALS. We weren’t tip-toeing around grief canyons at Christmas. My sisters, cousins, and I, smiled brilliantly into camera lenses, completely certain of our invincibility.

Technology is a memory trigger. Relics remind us of simpler times. I know not everyone has the luxury of a simple childhood; but I did. My childhood was simple, and I didn’t even have the wherewithal to appreciate it before it was gone.

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