Grace Slick, like the World Trade Center, is the Hook
I’m in fifth grade and there’s a certain kind of poetry to the lyrics “someone’s always playing corporation games” and to the chorus “we built this city on rock and roll”, despite the fact that this song reflects the airplane’s final descent. But my mom’s driving us to the pool in her white 1980 Ford Fiesta and my story, and my own memories are foregrounded, and they achieve a velocity that becomes far more important than the archival evidence of the Airplane’s demise.
Grace Slick, like the World Trade Center, is the hook, the mnemonic marker, but my own memories are ultimately more interesting. My trip started out externally-directed, and about someone else’s narrative, or our collective narrative, and it ended up pushing me deeper into my own storehouse consciousness.
I snap out of it, and think about “We Built This City” as a triumphant song in the Journey “Don’t Stop Believin’” vein, and in the moment, in the fifth grade moment, it feels as real and as powerful (because in fifth grade I wasn’t aware of the airplane’s history and formidable back catalog). I flash to a-ha’s “Take on Me”. The video is about a man who’s a race car driver who gets trapped in a cartoon world and can’t get back to reality. Love ultimately saves him. It feels somehow appropriate.
I watch the Challenger explode and I remember being in the cafeteria of James Buchanan Elementary school in Lancaster, Pennsylvania when it happened, and then I search for “Three Mile Island”, the other defining disaster of my childhood, but all I see is a guy driving around the back roads of Harrisburg and listening to Pink Floyd.
I remember when my friends in elementary school where talking about their families’ well-constructed emergency evacuation plans. I went home and asked my mom what our plan was. She said there was our German Shepard, Lydia, my Mom, my dad, my brother and I, my dad’s girlfriend, and her yellow two-seater Karmann Ghia. No other cars ran in our divorced/extended family. So we waited it out and we’re all still here.