When I was about 10? Maybe? I used to play Where in the World is Carmen San Diego on our family’s IBM. The den’s dark wooden shutters would be closed, and I’d put on headphones and listen to Simon and Garfunkel while tracking down a villain with a punny name, a copy of Fodor’s close by just in case I needed help with a clue.

Those earphones—cans, you might call them—were probably 20 years old. I think Dad got them when he was in the Navy. When I wore them, the painted fabric ear cushions would peel, the black fabric paint tearing off in little pieces and sticking to my sweaty cheeks.

I must’ve looked ridiculous wearing those giant things with the 6-foot-long coil plugged into the 1970-something receiver, sitting on a bookcase with a 6-cd changer, a tape deck, and a reel-to-reel.

I realize only now those were noise cancelling headphones, and I loved them so much because I was alone in my happy place listening to Simon and Garfunkel sing anti-war, anti-The Man poetry with some of the most beautiful harmonies ever recorded.

Dad had a 3-CD set. I want to say it was a collection of all of Simon and Garfunkel’s studio albums, but I could be wrong. What I do remember is the CD case was hunter green and the cover was a booklet with lyrics to everything.

In those days, I thought the whole world had learned something about war and authoritarianism and every adult was a hippie and went to Woodstock. I didn’t know I was naive. That even my own parents were squares, actually. 

I didn’t know that I was the only fourth-grader on the planet who had not only heard S&G’s deepest cuts but could sing them by heart.

Anyway, Dan talked me into buying noise cancelling earbuds from Amazon this week. We needed new filters for the cat bubbler* and they had the earbuds on sale.

I put the earbuds in and played “Sparrow.”

For the first time in 30 years, I heard everything. I thought I couldn’t enjoy music in that way anymore. Not since the brain tumor, but it turns out I just wasn’t listening the way I needed to. I teared up.

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*”Bubbler” is what folks from Milwaukee call a drinking fountain. I guess now I do too.

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