November 10, 2021
One in a series of 25 first-person narratives of offense, outrage, innocent transgression or principled affront, in attire, display, speech or spectacle.
K-TEL TRUCKER TAPE
I was barely cognizant, as a child in the ’70s, of Country music. Besides the occasional crossover hit from, say, Kenny Rogers, Boston radio stations rarely played the stuff. Ringo’s cover of “Act Naturally,” Dylan’s “Lay, Lady, Lay” — this sort of fare is what passed for Country in my family. In July of 1980, though, while fueling up at a truck stop en route to the Alleghenies, my father for some perverse reason purchased 20 Great Truck Drivin’ Songs, a cassette produced by K-Tel.
For the rest of the summer, he and I got a kick out of these novelty songs. “Give Me 40 Acres (To Turn This Rig Around)” was fun because it made unflattering reference to our hometown; so did “Big Wheel from Boston.” The tape conjured up a way of life utterly exotic to this 12-year-old. “Six Days on the Road” celebrated the drug-enabled melding of man and machine: “I got me ten forward gears and a George Overdrive / I’m taking little white pills and my eyes are opened wide.” “Convoy” was a libertarian fantasy of truck drivers protesting government regulations. And Hank Snow’s rapid-fire recital of exotic place-names — “Tampa, Panama, Mattawa, La Paloma / Bangor, Baltimore, Salvador, Amarillo / Tocopilla, Barranquilla, and Padilla” — transformed “I’ve Been Everywhere” into an incantatory spell of the open road.
It was in a sentimental mood, then, that one day in 1986 I would rescue the neglected tape from a box of junk before hoofing it for the inbound train. In those days, my friends and I toted our sticker-covered boomboxes around with us, blasting Minor Threat, Minutemen, Bad Brains, The Smiths, Run DMC, Mantronix, Schoolly D. I boarded the Orange Line train, that day, at my local station — Green Street, on the now-demolished elevated line — and took a seat. I slipped 20 Great Truck Drivin’ Songs into the deck and pressed PLAY. Instantly, I regretted doing so.
Playing Country on one’s boombox while riding the Orange Line, I recognized too late, was a provocation. My neighborhood was, in those days, majority-minority, or nearly so; my fellow train passengers certainly were. So I might as well have been waving a Confederate battle flag around. I should have hit STOP. Yet as we rolled through Egleston, Dudley, and Northampton stations, and the train car filled up, I let the tape keep rolling. To do otherwise, according to the streetwise algorithm that in those days guided my every public action, would have been to show weakness, fear.
This incident remains one of the most inflammatory, offensive things I’ve done… and I wasn’t even trying. I still feel like an asshole about it.
PROJECT:OBJECTIONABLE: INTRODUCTION by Adam McGovern | Adrienne Crew on MAKIN’ BACON | Lynn Peril on BABY’S FIRST ASHTRAY | Lisa Levy on TOILETTE-À-TÊTE | Maria Swisher on STEALING GENIUS | Oliver Baer on CTHULHU SEX MAGAZINE | Yelena Tylkina on A DRINK TO DEATH | Elke Claus on URINAL SHRINE | Jeff Lewonczyk on SUSPENDERS OF DISBELIEF | Jenn Mehm on TWIN SKIN | Marlon Stern Lopez on SOUVENIR OF THE LAPD | Lauren Curtis on NAILED IT! | Josh Glenn on K-TEL TRUCKER TAPE | Fran Pado on THE BRIEF LIFE OF FRANCES POTTER | Nikhil Singh on HASHTAG FASHIONPOLICEPROBLEMS | Adam McGovern on PERSONA NON GRATA | Crystal Durant on LICENSE TO SHOCK | Dean Haspiel on DIRTY DOORKNOB | Justin J Bowen on UNKLE KRAMPUS | Annie Nocenti on STICKY FINGERS | Michele Carlo on THE MANY HATS OF CARMEN MOFONGO | Alice Meichi Li on BEDTIME FOR CATWOMAN | Whitney Matheson on GYNECOLOGICAL GOODFELLA | Ran Xia on PROJECT GREENCARD | Mimi Lipson on MEIN KITSCH | Art Wallace on ELECTRIC KOCH.
MOVIE OBJECTS: INTRODUCTION | Ramona Lyons on EYE OF THE SERPENT (CONAN THE BARBARIAN) | Faythe Levine on BEDKNOB (BEDKNOBS AND BROOMSTICKS) | Gerald Peary on CUP OF COFFEE (THE BIG HEAT) | Christopher Orr on TOM’S HAT (MILLER’S CROSSING) | Lynn Peril on TRANSISTOR RADIO (DR. STRANGELOVE) | & 20 MORE.
LOST OBJECTS (vol. 2): INTRODUCTION | Joe Yonan on MACRAMÉ ART (ill. Theo Ellsworth) | Ben Katchor on LUCITE CARRYING CASE | Debbie Millman on GLASS POODLE | Lydia Millet on ROCKY HORROR NOVEL (ill. Berta Valló) | Ben Greenman on WARHOL CAN (ill. Clara Selina Bach) | & 20 MORE.
FETISHES: INTRODUCTION | Josh Foer on DEATH MASK | Beth Lisick on MURDERED-OUT KFC BUCKET | Christina Couch on LEECH ACTION FIGURE | Kenneth Goldsmith on THEWLIS SOCK | Abby Rapoport on MAGNATILES | & 20 MORE.
FOSSILS: INTRODUCTION | Allegra Huston on SKATAWAY JACKET | Kevin Obsatz on HOMEMADE NUNCHUKS | Ian Bogost on DESKTOP TELEPHONE | Jeff Lewonczyk on CHA-CHA JACKET SCRAP | Kelly Horan on VOLVO KEY | & 20 MORE.
FLAIR: INTRODUCTION | Cliff Kuang on ROLEX DATEJUST | Ethan Zuckerman on LAPTOP STICKERS | Ann Shoket on LEATHER JACKET | Kembrew McLeod on KEMBREW MERCH | Paola Antonelli on MERMAID TEARS | & 20 MORE.
LOST OBJECTS (vol. 1): INTRODUCTION | Kate Bernheimer on MULLET WIG (ill. Amy Evans) | Dan Piepenbring on COLOGNE (ill. Josh Neufeld) | Doug Dorst on STRATOCASTER (ill. John Holbo) | Paul Lukas on VANILLA BEAN (ill. Allison Bamcat) | Mimi Lipson on DODGE DART (ill. Mister Reusch) | & 20 MORE.
ILLICIT OBJECTS: INTRODUCTION | Kio Stark on PEEPSHOW TOKEN | Sari Wilson on TOMBSTONE PARTS | Annalee Newitz on CAR-BOMB REMNANT | Tito Bottitta on MOONINITE DEVICE | Eric Bennett on DIRTY MAGAZINE | & 20 MORE.
TALISMANIC OBJECTS: INTRODUCTION | Veda Hille on CROCHET SHEEP | Gary Panter on DINOSAUR BONES | Jami Attenberg on SELENITE CRYSTAL | Annie Nocenti on MINIATURE DICE | Wayne Curtis on CLOCK WINDING KEY | & 20 MORE.
POLITICAL OBJECTS: INTRODUCTION | Luc Sante on CAMPAIGN PAMPHLETS | Lydia Millet on PVC POLAR BEAR | Ben Greenman on MATCHBOX CAR | Rob Baedeker on PRESIDENTS PLACEMAT | L.A. Kauffman on WHEATPASTE POSTER | & 20 MORE.
ALSO SEE: PROJECT:OBJECT homepage | POLITICAL OBJECTS (1Q2017) | TALISMANIC OBJECTS (2Q2017) | ILLICIT OBJECTS (3Q2017) | LOST OBJECTS vol. 1 (4Q2017) | FLAIR (2Q2018) | FOSSILS (4Q2018) | FETISHES (2Q2019) | LOST OBJECTS vol. 2 (4Q2019) | MOVIE OBJECTS (2Q2020) | SEMIO OBJECTS (2Q2021) | SIGNIFICANT OBJECTS (cross-posted from Significant Objects website). ALSO SEE: SIGNIFICANT OBJECTS website | LOST OBJECTS (Hat & Beard Press, 2022) | SIGNIFICANT OBJECTS collection, ed. Rob Walker and Josh Glenn (Fantagraphics, 2012) | TAKING THINGS SERIOUSLY, ed. Josh Glenn (Princeton Architectural Press, 2007) | TAKING THINGS SERIOUSLY excerpts.