Ghosts Next Door

Ghosts Next Door
by Lopaka Kapanui

Dec 3, 2014

Time Travel

I suppose that, if time travel were possible, it would have to be done through a method that is least expected.  Everything we know about time travel thus far has been taught to us via science fiction, mainly because of Star Trek.  My friends, the most common mode of time travel has literally been at our disposal on a daily basis and we have consistently overlooked it.  Its availability has been handy to us on our morning and afternoon commute to and from work or while dropping off and picking our children up after school.  We can find it in almost every store and bank.  We can even find it in the occasional television commercial.  Have you figured it out?

No, it’s not your car.

It’s music.

I mention this because this afternoon, as my wife and I were driving with the kids in the car, I had my playlist of music from my phone blaring on the car speakers.  Our son Dillon guessed that we were first listening to the Beatles then, later as Steely Dan came on, he began to listen to the lyrics of “Rikki Don’t Lose That Number.”

Listening to the song, Dillon attempted to interpret what he thought the song meant.  He shared that he thought the song was for a girl and that it was important that she not lose the number she was given.

He had no idea how close he was to the truth!  I laugh now when I think about it.  According to a 2006 interview with Entertainment Weekly, the ‘Rikki’ of the title is Rikki Ducornet, a New York writer and artist.  Steely Dan co-front, Donald Fagen, met her while both were attending Bard College, a small liberal arts college located in Annandale-on-Hudson, New York.  Ducornet says they met at a college party and, even though she was both pregnant and married at the time, he gave her his number, however not in the same context as the song.  Ducornet was intrigued by Fagen and was tempted to call him but she decided against it.

When this song was released in 1974, I was 12 years old and living on Pupukahi Street in Waipahu.  It was a golden time in my young life and it seemed that all the songs of that year were specifically written to tickle a young man’s heart and to stimulate his mind.  My brother Paul lived two floors above of us with his then wife, Patty, my nephew Shorty and little Jimmy who would come later.

Four doors down from where our apartment was located lived two fourteen-year-old guys who were stoners and they did nothing but smoke weed and play records of all the latest bands.  Their names were Dale and Tim.  Dale was Japanese with long hair parted down the middle and he always wore blue colored sunglasses.  Tim was half white, half black and he was built like a short, oversized refrigerator.  His sunglasses were colored orange and I don’t ever recall a time when the two of them were ever without their shades.  When I think about it now, I don’t even remember ever seeing their parents around.  They also played a lot of Cheech and Chong records too.  They would let me hang out with them mainly because of the fact that I would just sit there and read every single comic in their collection without bothering them.  One summer day we had just gotten through the fifth round of listening to “Sister Mary Elephant” when Dale stood up and went to his closet.  He pulled out a brand new record album that still had the plastic wrapping on it, I could barely make out the cover but it seemed to me as if something interesting was about to happen.  And it did.

Dale placed the LP on the record player, which was hooked up to a brand new pair of speakers.  The crackle and pop of the vinyl disc permeated the room before the first track started.  It began with a somewhat low piano key and carried a dun, dun dun, dun dun, dun dun tune with it, from that point the song exploded in a fusion of jazz and pop.  It was funky and had a certain feel to it.  I realized that we were listening to something that was not only new and innovative but also very unique.

We hear you're leaving, that's okay
I thought our little wild time had just begun
I guess you kind of scared yourself, you turn and run
But if you have a change of heart

Rikki don't lose that number
You don't want to call nobody else
Send it off in a letter to yourself
Rikki don't lose that number
It's the only one you own
You might use it if you feel better
When you get home

I have a friend in town; he's heard your name
We can go out driving on Slow Hand Row
We could stay inside and play games, I don't know
And you could have a change of heart

You tell yourself you're not my kind
But you don't even know your mind
And you could have a change of heart

This afternoon, as our son Dillon exemplified his best effort at translating the meaning of a song from 1974, I found that the song itself became a time machine that transported me to a place where the world and not yet crossed the cusp of young adulthood.  I could feel the texture of my favorite screen-printed Bruce Lee shirt on my body and the soothing fabric of my blue, corduroy jeans on my legs.  My favorite pair of hippy sandals fit so well that, at times, I would forget I had them on my feet -- I only wore them because I recalled seeing a picture of Bruce Lee wearing them while on the set of some movie.  Once the song ended and my wife disconnected the auxiliary cord, the last part of my journey in time was witnessing Dale and Tim fight over an Iron Fist comic that both claimed was theirs.  The two of them had forgotten that they owned their own individual copies.  Their friendship broke up after that, even though they lived right next door to one another.

It’s a great invention of technology these direct smartphone downloads and playlists all at the touch of a button.  Instant time travel.  Amazing.