Wednesday, July 11, 2012


When I was sixteen, my father gave me a ripped copy of Getz/Gilberto and I fell in love.  This week "The Girl from Ipanema" is turning 50, NPR informs me as stomp up to my little kitchen and punch on my Sony boombox. I have to adjust the antenna because some irresponsible past apprentice broke off the end, and the silly contraption likes to gargle and waver as I walk to and fro making dinner. I'm flattered that it sounds clearest when I'm standing near. Yes, I'm so starved for attention, living by myself on the fringe of the pinewoods, that I anthropomorphize an archaic hunk of electrical wiring and plastic. I call him Phil. We have a great time.

But I digress.

My father, as I said, gave me a copy of the CD, title scrawled in Sharpie when I was sixteen and even though I know it's one of the best selling jazz albums ever and you're a total philistine if you don't know "Girl from Ipanema," I still feel like it's my little secret when I slip it into the stereo and pad around kitchen like I did when I was sixteen and enamored with Chinese cuisine and jazz. In an alternate universe, I would either be a theoretical physicist of a jazz singer. In this universe, an unfortunate lack of mathematic or vocal talent has limited me to the world of the written word. At sixteen, I fell in love with jazz for its paradoxical boldness and interiority, its smallness, its nuance, its texture, its brassy and seductive keen. It's my personal soundtrack to solitude. "The Girl from Ipanema" by Getz and Gilberto does all of that with a flair which may be matched but certainly not surpassed, and as I listen to it crackle through my radio tonight, it still holds me.

At its best, jazz a celebration of the mundane and in a world of high def, I still think its heard best of the cantankerous crackle of a jacked-up radio, the way I'd listen to it during late-night car trips home, dizzy with sleep and the heavy stutter of the radio host--That*shuffle shuffle*...Astrud Gilberto on vocals. That voice crooned my eyes shut at six, and then sixteen, and now again at twenty because even though I have the CDs (yes, I know: I'm a technological cavewoman) and I can have whatever music I want instantly, I still love the radio best.

Here on the farm, I wake up to the news, I eat lunch to "Afternoon Classics," and I make dinner to the tune of "Evening Edition" and the growl of Terry Gross. Some days I can count the number of words I speak on my fingers (maybe throw in a couple of toes), but my Sony boombox is a faithful and chatty companion. Sometimes I get annoyed with it because I flip it on halfway through my favorite show and my little PowerBook G4 won't play podcasts so I know I'll never hear the beginning of that fascinating interview with some film director. But I like to think that you can have a conversation with a radio precisely because you can't control it. It plays what it plays, and you can switch stations but the archipelago of clarity between the static waves is limited. Limitation is the space where love happens.


  1. The laundromat I go to, the one with the sign saying to take the bullets out of your pockets before putting your clothes in the wash (, is called the Impanema laundromat. That was my first experience with the word. Hi, my name is Betsy, and I'm a Philistine. And I don't think we could be friends if you were a physicist, so I'm glad you're bad at math.

  2. NPR is the best medicine. My day wouldn't be complete without it.

  3. Bravo..for both Radio (pronounce those five letters with a bit of staccato and it sounds like an old high school fight song)
    the (your) written word!